The relative value of band members, featuring Queen

First published at Time Out Sydney, 30 May 2014. Art by Robert Polmear.

Andrew P Street explains that band members are not equal. Not even a bit


A certain amount of Queen is coming to Australia later this year, and people are excited about it for reasons that I can’t entirely fathom. Then again, Queen fandom was always slightly out of my reach: I was just a bit too young to love them at the time, and just a bit too old to relive them through a dad’s car best-of, so I was right in their contemporary-with-their-late-period terrible-era sweet spot.

However, let’s be honest: the corpse of Freddie Mercury is more Queen than the rest of Queen – even if bassist John Deacon came back. And the reason for this is simple: regardless of what they say in interviews, no band is a partnership of equals.

In fact, the ranked importance of each member of almost any band in history can be illustrated thusly:

1. Singer
2. Lead guitarist
3. Rhythm guitarist
4. Drummer
5. Bassist
6. Keyboard player/saxophonist/percussionist/whatever

And here is that ranking as a pie chart, because I am very smart and talented:

(“Ringo” is the base unit of musical necessity. Ten Ringos is called a DecaRingo, or one Lennon.)

Note that the lead singer is only slightly less replaceable than all of the members combined. Note also that this is an approximation and does not apply to INXS.

This ranking, incidentally, applies only to bands that play instruments. The rules for boy bands are different: that ranking typically goes Androgynous Hottie, Masculine Hottie, Member With Most Mixed Ethnicity, One You Just Know Will Get Fat, The One Who Writes The Songs.

But back to rock bands: the lead singer is the thing that makes you connect with a band. Instruments are standardised: E major played on a Les Paul through a Marshall stack sounds much the same whether it’s Pete Townshend or your cousin Rebecca. Also, Beccy will take better care of the equipment involved.

However, voices are unique. That’s why bands who replace their singers almost always fail.

Sure, you get the odd AC/DC or Van Halen who keep on having hits, but be honest with yourself: has anyone ever sincerely expressed the sentiment “you know, they really hit their stride with Brian Johnson: Bon Scott was totally holding Acca Dacca back(a)”?

Let me answer that rhetorical-sounding question for you: No. No, they have not.

So let’s go through this one by one.

1. Singer
This is the only person in the band that 90% of fans can identify by name. They stand at the front in photos and have first pick of anyone who wishes to have sex with the band. They might write the songs, but it doesn’t matter, since that voice is the reason why anyone gives a shit. May reform the band after a split and be the only original member, because who honestly cares?
Examples: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Bono, Chris Martin, Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Courtney Love, Damon Albarn, Bryan Ferry, Morrissey, Karen O, Tim Rogers, Billy Corgan, Simon Le Bon, Bernard Fanning, Siouxsie, Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke, Grace Slick, Doc Neeson, Alex Turner, Eddie Vedder, Michael Hutchence…

2. Lead Guitarist
Second pick of the sex, gets near the front in photos, and is the member most likely to be referred to as “the architect of the band”. Statistically, this is the member most likely to either write the songs or co-write with the singer. Is legally obliged to have a largely-ignored solo career and/or do soundtracks.
Examples: Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood, Keith Richards, The Edge, Noel Gallagher, Eddie Van Halen, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Pete Buck, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Slash, Graham Coxon… all the people you know that are in bands but aren’t singers.

3. Rhythm Guitarist
If there are two guitarists, this is the one that stands slightly toward the back and mainly plays chords. If this member is not the main songwriter, they will be fired during the making of the second album and replaced on tour by a hired guitar/keys person. If you’re the second guitarist, you’d better have formed the band, written the biggest hit, or have some amazing dirt on the rest of the band and the steely fearlessness to use it when the time comes.
Examples: Malcolm Young. That’s literally it.

4. Drummer
The member most likely to be called “the heart of the band”. Also the member most likely to keep using drugs when everyone else has cleaned up, have the largest amount of visible tatts, and keep wearing a baseball cap well into middle age. Gets third pick of the sex; second if the band are in their heroin phase. Also is almost always the first member to die.
Examples: Chad Smith, Tommy Lee, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, John Bonham

5. Bassist
Most likely the housemate of the lead singer, or the friend who bought a van. Still there because they came up with the group’s name. The member most likely to be referred to as “who?” All bassists wake from dreams in which they are Flea, and are momentarily filled with hope and joy. Then they remember they’re actually in Weezer or Coldplay or Jane’s Addiction and that if they died on stage their tech would slot in after four bars and not a soul in the room would notice. In band photos, theirs is the face least in focus.
Note: if the bassist is female in an otherwise male band, she is immediately promoted to #2.
Examples: Kim Deal, Kim Gordon, Stephanie Ashworth, Tina Weymouth, some dudes.

6. Any other player whatsoever
The Fauves gave the world’s most eloquent statement on the importance of other players in their definitive rock’n’roll thesis, 1995’s ‘Everybody’s Getting A 3 Piece Together’: “Everyone’s trimming the fat,” Andy Cox powerfully opined. “Keyboards, percussion? Fuck that.”
Examples: none.

7. The audience
Bands sometimes say their audience are a member of the group. Those bands are patronising you. You are not a member of the group, otherwise you’d have got in for free. On the plus side: you will still get more sex than the bassist.

It’ll probably be with the drummer, though.

The seven best corporate mascots for the Australian government

First published in Time Out Sydney 22 May 2014. Art by Robert Polmear

So very responsible!

So very responsible!

Dear the Internet,

You know what changes hearts and minds? Mascots!

That’s why McDonalds have launched their new mascot Happy – a gaping red box, playing on the universal desire of children to be helplessly engulfed by a sentient cube.

Meanwhile the mining industry have come up with their own character – Hector the Healthy Lump of Coal, who was invented by the company that owns Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, looks like a giant, terrifying turd in a safety vest, and has a website that teaches kids all about how to enjoy non-renewable energy.

And in that same spirit of taking something which is objectively harmful and transforming it into something which children will bond with, spend money upon and eventually die as a result of, the government are preparing to launch a range of new fun-loving mascots to help get some popular support for some of their more hard-to-swallow legislation.

Hey, Australia – forget those budget blues and say hello to your new, Coalition-approved BFFs!

Mr Snips, the Federal Funding Scissors
Snippy-snip-snip! That’s the sound of fiscally-responsible Mr Snips, the fun-loving budget scissors as he goes after his two biggest foes: red tape and programmes implemented by the previous government.

He hates inefficiency, duplication of services, oversight committees, non-industrial advisory groups, and anything not mining-related. And with your help, that deficit will be down to zero imaginary dollars in no time! Snippy-snip-snip!

Ol’ Silty, the Barrier Reef Mining Runoff
All Ol’ Silty wants to do is give out big, warm hugs: to you, to your friends, to the coral reefs inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – everyone!

Ol’ Silty is happy to explain that he helps increase the dangerously-low level of particulate matter currently covering in the current ecosystem and how YOU can help keep this unique environment safe for future generations of supertankers and coal transport vessels.
That cough you’ve developed? It’s like a hug for the inside!

Captain Privilege!
Dressed in his trademark cape and fedora and with Shannon Noll’s version of ‘What About Me’ playing on a constant loop through his belly speaker, Captain Privilege! is ready to leap in and ask why white, straight males are being excluded from the conversation, regardless of what the conversation is about.

Feminism? But what about the Captain? Immigration? But what about the Captain? Marriage equality? Indigenous health and poverty? The National Disability Insurance Scheme? Violence against women? Why are you even having these conversations, since they’re not about the Captain? The Captain is bored now! Let’s talk about the Captain!

Slowpoke Moe, the NBN Tortoise
Lovable old Moe is here to explain why Labor’s vision of a national fibre-to-the-premises network is foolish and wrong. Anyway, no-one even uses computers except for secretaries and personal assistants, and why use the internet when you have Foxtel? That’s the tech of the future, right there.

His presentations are scheduled for 30 minutes. They never come anywhere near that length though, despite lengthy pauses and frequent restarts.

The Welfare-Scrounging Palz: Bludgey, Slutsy and Rollaround Sue
One can’t find a job, one can’t keep her legs shut, and the other can’t even be bothered walking!

The Palz just love to carp and moan: Bludgey would go to the doctor, but can’t afford the GP co-payment since he’s probably blown it all on ciggies and middies of beer, while Slutsy is asking where her kids will sleep if she’s evicted. Oh Slutsy: you couldn’t keep a husband, and now you can’t even keep a lease!

Rollaround Sue is ready to jump her wheelchair through hoops to demonstrate she “genuinely” needs her pension – but first she needs to get it up these stairs, of course. Don’t try the accessible toilet either, Sue: Captain Privilege! is using it for storage.

Toot Toot the Border Protection Tugboat
“It’s a sailor’s life for me!” says Toot Toot. He loves the salt in the air, the waves against his hull, and the plausible deniability of accusations of torture at sea as he scoots merrily back and forth across the Indonesian maritime border, keeping Australia safe from wicked asylum seekers who are deviously planning to [INSERT JUSTIFICATION HERE]

Invite Toot Toot to your school, where he’ll hand out delicious Operation Sovereign Burgers to all students who can provide documented proof they were born in Australia. Where will he visit next? That’s an operational secret!

Whitey the Freedom Of Speech Bigot
Well, technically that’s just attorney general George Brandis.

Yours ever,


All of the writing, all of the time

ImageHey, internet. It’s been a while.

I’ve been doing all of the writing lately, hence the long silence on here. But if you’ve been following at TheVine or Time Out then you’d know I’m not as lazy as this appears. Honest. 

For example: only last night I wrote A Thing About The Voice, because I am A Serious Journalist. Want more proof? Here’s this thing about Star Wars. And why everyone should get over the music of the 90s

And there was lots of music and politics writing – the former for Fasterlouder, Australian Guitar, the NME (seriously: the NM freakin’ E) and the Guardian, the latter for TheVine, and both for Time Out. And Navy Outlook, oddly enough, which is really interesting. And a couple of things for Daily Life, like a piece about Nuts Magazine closing and about things wrong with doing air-sex to random women

Like what? Interviews with Something For Kate, Anna Calvi, a live review of Arctic Monkeys, and a load of… you know what? There’s just a lot of stuff.

And I’m working on some longer form things for reasons that are very good. But we’ll talk about those things later.

Honest. I will. 






Play the 2014 Federal Budget home game!

First published in Time Out Sydney 15 May, 2014. Art by Robert Polmear

Dear the Internet,

You’ve probably watched with excitement as the all-dancin’, all-smokin’ treasurer handed down his budget earlier this week and thought “heck, I like the sounds of this massively inequitable and unsubstantiated cut-fest!”

Well, we have some great news: you can bring down your own unnecessary and nationally-damaging budget in the comfort of your own home, simply by playing the Department of Treasury’s exciting new spin-off product: the 45% interactive Diamond Joe Hockey Federal Budget and Class War 2014 game!

aps-hockeyboardUsing the same cardboard and string technology that’s now being rolled out to replace the National Broadband Network, you can recreate all the manufactured panic and pious condescension of your federal government in the comfort of your own home! The rules are below, so don’t wait for the Senate to ratify it: start playing today!


1. The aim of the game is to fix the nation by owning as much of it as possible.

2. Every player starts with $200. That sounds socialist, actually. Scrap that.

3. With the richest person choosing first, every player selects their piece: Mining Magnate, Media Mogul, University Professor, Nurse, Manufacturing Worker, Single Mother, Unemployed Person, and Pensioner. On the box it will say there should be a Disabled Pensioner figure in there, but that’s now been deliberately left out.

4. Mining Magnate and Media Mogul take $5000 each. Everyone else gets $40, except for the pensioner who should have acquired their money before the game began, and the Unemployed Person who has to wait six rounds before getting whatever the Mining Magnate determines is fair ($5 maximum). Single Mother also has to pay a $5 “wanton harlot” levy (not a tax).

5. Everyone gets their wage each time they pass Go (although this requires a $7 co-pay).

6. At the beginning of the game every piece has the choice of paying a $100 upfront education levy (not a tax), or paying 15% of their salary every round. Similarly, there’s a first round $200 “private health cover” payment, or a 30% health levy (not a tax) per round for any player that chooses not to pay.

7. By landing on a property the player has the chance to buy it, although the Mining Magnate can block any purchase by playing her unlimited supply of “fracking” cards.

8. Any purchase must be negotiated with the Bank, except for Mining Magnate or Media Mogul, who can take unsecured no-interest, no-repayment loans from the Bank at any point.

9. Landing on a Utility requires the payment of a $5 fee, unless the utility has been privatised in which case it’s $20, plus a $20 late fee.

10. Every 12th round requires all pieces to pay a flat 30% Contribution Levy (not a tax) for being part of the game. Except for the Mining Magnate and Media Mogul pieces, which for tax purposes are based in Connect Four.

11. The winner is the first person to own the country and become King Patriot. Unless it’s not Mining Magnate, in which case the result will be challenged and Mining Magnate will be declared King Patriot.

RRP: $12 billion (plus $12 billion in operating costs). However, you’ve already paid for it via your forthcoming temporary board game levy.

NOTE: It’s not a tax.

Yours ever,


Your post-budget ABC TV programme guide

Published in Time Out 8 May 2014, art by Robert Polmear

Dear the Internet,

Next week your treasurer Joe Hockey will hand down the Abbott government’s first federal budget, and you can feel the excitement in the air. Will universal health care be destroyed, or merely demolished? Will higher education become the exclusive purview of the super-rich, or will the common-or-garden wealthy still get a look-in? And how generous will the tax concessions to the mining industry be – will they have to make do with free money, or will we finally introduce blood tributes from every Australian family?


One thing that’s certain is that the ABC will be seeing some serious cutbacks, despite that whole no-cuts-to-the-ABC-or-SBS thing that your PM said before the election. To be fair, what he said was deeply ambiguous and opaque:

…so you can see why he’d be annoyed at the way his promise has been misrepresented as being some sort of promise.

In any case, there’s no need to fret about having your national broadcasters taken out behind the bike sheds and given a going over with a tyre iron. We’ve managed to get hold of the ABC board’s top secret post-budget programme line up, and are delighted to see that the broadcasting quality will be deeply efficient.

Enjoy their new Abbott-mandated “commitment to axcellence”!

Social Media Watch
With no budget for newspaper subscriptions, Paul Barry criticises the spelling in his Twitter feed until his phone runs out of battery.

3.6 Corners
The flagship current affairs program gets a 10% cut, and is now filmed in Kerry O’Brien’s garage. The exposé on the appalling storage of old paint cans and Xmas decorations is already tipped to sweep the Walkleys.

Work School
With higher education off the table and pensions only open to those who crack the big seven-zero, it’s important to get children past walking age (of entitlement!) nice and early. Hamble and Big Ted now have casual telemarketing jobs, while Little Ted is a freelance copywriter-slash-barista and Jemima appears on the show for the week per month she’s not rostered on at the Roy Hill iron mine.

Whatever the BBC leave out by the bins
A cavalcade of classic entertainment, lovingly curated by the former housemate of the head of drama, who works near Broadcasting House in London and is happy to check the dumpsters on her way to the bus stop. Just how many series’ of Keeping Up Appearances did they make? Find out after May 13!

With Richard Roxburgh far too expensive, the fifth season now follows the sexy adventures of an actual Bunnings leaf and grass rake. Also filmed in Kerry O’Brien’s garage.

The Test Pattern
This classic ABC favourite makes a long-overdue return to our screens from 7pm to 10am every day of the week. Follow the zany, entirely static adventures on ABC 1, 2, Kids, iView or the new interactive test pattern postcard.

The specks were just too expensive.

Yours ever,