Monday, March 26, 2007

Paul Hester

Don't Dream it's Over

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of the death of Crowded House drummer, Paul Hester (center). Crowded House remains a top five band in the CB household. Temple of Low Men, from 1988, has a permanent place on my CD changer.
(jump to the bottom if you don't want to read the long-winded sea story that follows)

Back in the winter of 1989, I shipped out of Long Beach Harbor aboard USS Gary for a six-month Westpac cruise from Hell that took us to the Persian Gulf and lots of tedious tanker escort duty. We shoved off on a gray day in September, and I wasn't at sea more than five minutes before I hated it. I missed my girlfriend. I hated gray walls and stairs and gray pipes everywhere. I hated the same at-sea routine every day for six friggin' months. I hated the ocean. I feared the sharks, giant squids and awesome destructive power of the sea every time I flew off that rust bucket.

More than anything, I hated the skipper (ship captains hate being called skipper) of that wee lil warship. Schnurrpusch was his name, and he hated aviators. Treated all of us like shat from day one. When we left Subic Bay in the Philippines and started heading for home, he got on the ship's intercom and said, "Now it's time to leave the women we love and go back to our wives and girlfriends." And yeah Smurfy, I still have video somewhere of you running the Gary into the pier and gashing up the hull of the Gary. Yeah you blamed it on a "sudden wind gust" in your report, but I've got the video. F-U for eternity, you Captain Queeg striking bastard.

Crowded House and Tears for Fears cassettes were my escape from life at sea with a psycho sea captain and his cadre of terrified toadies. My roomate was the ship's weapons officer. He was so terrified of Smurfpuss that he slept in his desk chair, afraid that he would be caught in the rack sleeping. Dude had a nervous breakdown and didn't make it the whole six months. I on the other hand loved to escape to my rack to listen to music and watch mini-videos my girlfriend/now wife sent me to watch on my contraband video player. Smurfpuss had outlawed all personal electronic devices before the cruise began. I successfully hid mine.

Getting to the Point
Anyway, years later, my wife and I were travelling to Florida to visit my family and we had a short lay-over in Nashville. It was early on a Saturday morning and we sat down in a coffee shop. Our oldest, then our only, daughter was around nine months old. Soon after we sat down, I noticed a group of three or four scraggly looking folks sitting around 15 feet away. All looked deathly pale and hung over. The guy in the middle of the posse noticed my daughter in her purple polka dotted jumper and immediately perked up. He started making faces and ended up mugging for her for around five minutes. He had her giggling and cooing like crazy.

It was Paul Hester, and I leaned over to my wife and asked her if I should go over and say something. You know, tell him how much his music meant to me, how cool I thought the band was and what a prick Smurfpuss was. I was this close to going groupie and wrecking the whole scene. In the end, I decided to play it cool. Glad I did. And that's how I'll always remember Paul Hester.

Note: Make sure you include some Italian plastic in your festivities if you plan to celebrate Paul's life tomorrow. Crowded House fans will get what I mean.

UPDATE: Found this on a Technorati search this evening. Nice Hessie tribute and a wealth of CH vids.


magnolia_mer said...

Wow! What a great story. I've got a Crowded House fan I'm going to send this link to.

Bill Purdy said...

My kid is at The Wiggles age, and I was a bit taken aback to recognize Hester as one of the bit players on that show (he was the chef, as you know).

My taste in Australian '80s music runs more toward the gritty pub rock of Hunters & Collectors than the immaculate power pop of Crowded House, but I was weaned on Split Enz before I ever even heard "Talking to a Stranger." Yeah, I miss Hessie, too.

Thanks for the cool story.

CasonBlog said...

Thanks Bill. I saw Split Enz as the warmup act for Tom Petty in, I think, 1978. Tim Finn got all the attention at that time, but Neil Finn stole the show when the band broke into "I Got You."

Midnight Oil was pretty cool too.