Menindee to Milperra: A Musical Dilemma

From Thomas: In what is the third guest post this blog has had, I have an entry from The Ombudsman, recently returned for the school holidays. It would seem that he has a lot of free time on his hands, but at least he still had a creative mind during these times off from work, and in ‘the big smoke’. Whatever the case might be, I am very much appreciative for this post. So, without further ado, I give you …

Menindee to Milperra: A Musical Dilemma

By The Ombudsman

Young Thomas has often invited me to contribute to his blog in my official capacity as Ombudsman. I now seek leave to take advantage of his generous offer.

At the end of each school term, I drive from Menindee to Sydney at the conclusion of the school day. Picking the music for this adventure is crucial. As the journey takes approximately 14 hours, it is important to pick music that will stimulate your mind in order to help keep you awake. In this sense, the selection of music can be a life and death issue. The journey is littered with perils. These dangers include capricious kangaroos, wandering ‘shoats’ (a Menindee colloquialism for the crossbreed sheep-goat), trying to change CDs at 110 kph, Wilcannia (generally), sleep deprivation, talking on the mobile phone, having to flick the car’s high-beam on and off so as to not enrage truckies and keeping track of speed limits in the Blue Mountains (is it 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 – who would know?) all after having driven for hours on end.

So as you see, it is a matter of life and death that the musical smorgasbord stimulates the brain. As most people know, my musical tastes fall into three distinct categories – musical theatre, film scores and 80s/disco music. As I left the dust of Menindee, I went for ‘Crazy for You’, the Broadway musical of 1992 featuring Gershwin songs. The explosive overture seemed to propel me out of the town and suddenly I had made it to Broken Hill.

Considering the lack of anything visually exciting from Broken Hill to Dubbo, I knew that I needed some stimulating film scores that I knew back to front so that my whistling could keep my mind active (and alive). For this mind-numbing part of the journey, I chose ‘Independence Day’, the score from the 1996 film. The score is very much John Williams-esque (Star Wars, E.T., Superman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, etc for the uninitiated). It served its purpose and I enjoyed listening to it (as I always do). I then continued the trip with ‘Batman’, the score from the 1989 film. No, this was not a collection of Prince songs, but the film score by Danny Elfman. The dark themes in the music created an ominous mood as the sun began to set and the shoats came out to stare at me.

Feeling that I needed a bit of a lift after two instrumental albums, I selected ‘A Chorus Line’ (the 1975 musical). My wife has previously derided this show. In her critical analysis of this piece of theatre, she opined “all they did was stand in a line and go blah, blah, blah”. Not to question Mrs Ombudsman’s taste, but ‘A Chorus Line’ is a fine show. It also gave me the chance to sing rather than whistle, thus stimulating my mind in a different way. I then followed this up with a Susan Egan album which featured songs from a variety of musicals. Who is Susan Egan? She was the actress who played the original ‘Belle’ in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ on Broadway. So now you know…(I thought everyone knew!).

I wished I had my musical theatre version of ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ but settled for the film score (which is totally different in style). This led on to ‘Follies’ which I had never really listened to all the way through before and ‘Jekyll and Hyde: Resurrection’. The most famous song from the show, ‘This is the Moment’, inspired me to increase my speed to 130 kph. Wow! What a song!

Around 3am, I encountered a problem. I found myself falling asleep. Determined not to lose time with a useless thing like a rest break (stop-revive-survive every two hours? you’ve got to be kidding – who has the time?), I needed an immediate injection of quality melody (the M&Ms and PepsiMax wasn’t doing the job). I found solace in the movie soundtrack of ‘Hairspray’, which had me singing and whistling (and car-dancing) almost all the way home. I was totally surprised at the extent to which this album gave me the energy to break through the sleep deprivation barrier. However, that CD ended in the middle of the Blue Mountains, meaning I had one final selection to make. As I drive down the Blue Mountains towards Sydney at the end of each school term, I feel a little majestic and privileged to have returned once again. To reinforce this mood, I selected my John Williams CD which contains themes from a good variety of his films. Nothing beats the ‘Imperial March’ when coming home. This was only interrupted to call young Thomas at 4:10am, which I had promised to do a few days earlier.

What is the moral to the story? Music selection for long trips is not something to be considered lightly, especially when driving on your own. It can mean the difference between falling asleep at the wheel and arriving home with all your limbs still connected. I was lucky to have had ‘Hairspray’ with me…



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