Music in my life: a timeline

Me with a toy drum c 1970

I was born in 1967 so that’s a great place to start. There was always music around me as a baby. My father was a music teacher and my mother sang in choirs and they were both active in the music theatre world specifically Gilbert & Sullivan.

The record cabinet was a constant source of fascination for me. At first it was just the different album covers and then it was about the music. I distinctly remember the Herb Alpert Tijuana Brass “Whipped Cream and other Delights” cover. What boy of that era doesn’t? But what really got my attention was the back cover of the Henry Jerome “Brazen Brass Goes Latin”. It had the detailed sound stage recording plan of the instruments and the type of microphone used. I loved it.

A makeshift drum kit c 1972

We also had a healthy dose of The Beatles as my uncle was living with us during the late 60s and early 70s. “I am the Walrus” was much loved by me and my brother probably because the lyrics were so silly. By far the stand out 45 (7” single) was “Casatschok” by Dimitri Dourakine. The B side was “Toi Toi Toi”, basically the same as the A side with slightly different arranging. We would dance around the living room like lunatics to this song and attempt Russian Cossack dancing!

Earliest Memories

My earliest memory of loving something with drums in it is “Colonel Hathi’s March” from the Jungle Book movie. The B side was Sousa’s “Washington Post March”. But, as I was to discover many years later, the version I loved was NOT the original from the soundtrack. The movie version is much slower and lacks the excellent drum corps breaks I so loved. Mine was the Crown Records version by the Tinseltown Players.

RSM Brass Band

Classical music was also to be found in the collection too. I had my own record of popular classical/march favourites called “Conduct Your Own Orchestra”. It came with a baton which got lost but I still own the LP. But my hands-down favourite was Bizet’s “L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1”. I still love it. The other I had a hard time remembering…well kind of. I had remembered the melody and then found it was the original ABC TV Four Corners theme. It wasn’t until I phoned my father that he told me that yes, it was that theme, but it was taken from the Tchaikovsky “Italian Capriccio”. So, I was right, it was indeed a classical piece after all. Turns out that it was my father’s earliest recalled music. His sister Pat had it on 78 rpm record.

Me and Robert Cossum in Iolanthe 1979

Listening to records was not the only source of music though. My father was in the Returned Servicemen’s Memorial Band and we often went to listen to them in the park. A few tunes stand out as memorable and I still associate them with these outings. “Georgie Girl” by the Seekers is one and “Puppet on a String” is another. Around this time, I also remember hearing “Up, up and Away” and “Windy” both of which I found out later the Wrecking Crew played the sessions for.

1975 to 1979

Army Band drum kit with Tama Techstar pads

In 1975 I started taking drum lessons. Initially these were at Allan’s Music in Liverpool Street, Hobart with Ross Sutton. I soon changed to Hobart College of Music on the corner of Murray and Warwick Streets where I had Alf Properjohn for a few lessons until Eric Johnstone started. This would change my listening forever. I was now introduced to transcriptions of Top 40 pop songs. I think the first one was “Get Off of My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones. That didn’t really do it for me but the next few did. Chicago’s “Anyway You Want” is particularly memorable as it had the count off to the song which they get wrong. It was also my first memory of hearing music through headphones. They were these huge ones with volume control on the ear pieces. I’m pretty sure they were K-Mart brand, but the sound was exquisite.

Radio Tunes

I have some very distinct radio memories from this era. I was sick in bed and off school and I remember hearing “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille and the Elton John/Kiki Dee “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. There is something about these two songs that evokes happy memories of lying in the sunny corner of our living room in Arthur Street on the couch.

2MD Drum Corps 1991
Those big old 70s headphones

Probably the biggest and most profound influence on my playing came on the Christmas of 1976. My father got the Brian May and the ABC Melbourne Showband’s “Hits of the 40s” record. This was basically a greatest hits of all the big band tunes. It contained not one but two drum features, “Sing, Sing, Sing” and the lesser know “Golden Wedding”. I instantly fell in love with “Golden Wedding”. The bonus was that my father could play it on clarinet, so we played it together in my drum room (which was also the laundry!). I vowed that one day I would be able to play Ron Sandilands’ solo note-for-note. I achieved this and the first time I played it with a band was when I was in the Band of the Fourth Military District in 1992.  I also snuck it into a recorded drum solo on an original prog rock track that I recorded in 1994. But my association and immense love of this tune doesn’t end there. When I was at the University of Tasmania doing my Bachelor of Music my major thesis and performance was a comparison of the original “Golden Wedding” drum solo by Frankie Carlson with Woody Herman’s Big Band and the Ron Sandilands version. I was even lucky enough to speak to Ron and interview him about the track. Sadly, he died in early 2019.

Ron Sandilands
Me and guitar 1967
Me with tenor horn 1969

Beatles to ABBA

In 1976 I was given my first ever “proper” album, a tape as it happens. It was The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. I loved it and played along to it from start to finish. Not long after this we got the ABBA record “Arrival”. I still love this album as I do with all the ABBA material. Another peculiar favourite of mine from this time was the New Mickey Mouse Club record. What drew me to this was the showtune style arranging of a lot of the songs as well as the 70s Disco treatment of some Mickey Mouse classics. The funky treatment of Joy to The World is still a stand out. The Shadows’ 20 Golden Greats was another cassette I had that got played to death. I knew every tune on that tape, but my favourite was “Rise and Fall of Flingal Bunt”.  A strange title but a killer track with drum features throughout. I got to see The Shadows live in 1987 at the Casino. Great concert.

The next huge and lasting song to come into my life was Boz Scaggs’s “Lido Shuffle”. I learnt how to play this from one of Eric’s transcribed charts. I’m still playing it today with the Blues Brothers Revival Band. Jeff Porcaro’s sublime ghosted shuffle is just something else. The advantage of having lessons with Eric was that he’d bring in charts from the Showband at the Wrest Point Casino and the Ian Hill Showband. One of these was a little-known tune from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack called “Salsation” by David Shire. It is the only transcription I have from my lessons and is appropriately framed in my waiting room.

Grease Is The Word

1978 was a big year in music and in my life. I was in Grade 6 (top of the primary school) and the film Grease came to the cinemas. I was smitten with Olivia Newton-John and wanted to be John Travolta. The hit single from the film “You’re the One That I Want” was the song I played to in my first ever public and solo drum performance. I saw the film eight times but couldn’t afford to buy the double album until a few years later. “Paradise by The Dashboard Lights” was another influential song that year too. Some time around the late 70s I heard the novelty single “Convoy” by CW McCall. It is another one of those quirky songs that has stayed on my playlist ever since.

Around this time my pocket money must have increased because I was able to buy 45 rpm singles all of which I still have. Which brings me to another weird and wonderful memory. When I was learning the drums, it was the mid-70s until the early 80s. No streaming, no iPods, the Walkman wasn’t around yet and I hadn’t worked out how to tape records! So, when I wanted to play along to my collection of 45s, I had to bribe my brother to be my “routiner” as I called it. In other words, I gave my brother a setlist of the records I wanted to play along to, and he acted as my DJ. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the drums were underneath the living room and I had a very long headphone cable running from there to underneath so I couldn’t very well do all this myself. One day I accidently worked out how to tape records and then my bro was out of a job.

Me bashing the piano 1967


Another big gateway into discovering new music was the weekly TV show “Countdown” which aired on Sunday evening before the 7 o’clock news on ABC. We got to see and hear all the big Australian acts of the day as well as the International touring bands. But it was the Top 10 at the end of the show that we all waited for.

In 1979 I moved teaching studios in order to stay with Eric Johnstone. He and two colleagues from Hobart College of Music formed Southern Music. Also, in this year I joined the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra where I got my grounding in the classical side of percussion. Robert Cossum and I, a TYO and Southern Music friend, appeared as drummer boys in the G&S operetta “Iolanthe”.  This was great fun, but I longed to be in the pit which was where I ended up the next year.

1980 to 1984

In 1980 I did my first professional gig. I played in the pit orchestra for The Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s “Pirates of Penzance”. I had to become a Musicians’ Union member too and I think I was paid $175 for the two-week run. For a 12-year-old in 1980 that was a small fortune. The next year I joined the Hobart Highland Pipe Band. I had been obsessed with Pipe Bands since I was a small boy, so this was exciting. I loved the rudimentary drumming and wearing a kilt! This was an on-again, off-again thing until 2014. 1982 saw me cease drum lessons. I don’t remember much around this time, but I was getting into 80s music.

Family jam band 1973
Playing with the Blues Brothers Revival Band 2018

From 1982 to 1984 my brother and I along with two brothers from down the road started a “radio station”. Basically, we recorded cover versions of songs on the radio or from the Two Ronnies which were usually just vocals and very much satirical. There were originals too. My brother and I did a lot of piano/drum tunes that he wrote and Jacob (from down the road) and I did punk songs with vocals and drums. I still have some of these recordings the best of which is “No Shit” by Ijaz and the Mohawks. Every week we would vote on the songs and a Top 40 list would be typed up showing current and former chart positions just like the real ones did at the time. It was great fun. We knew how to entertain ourselves back then.

I Discover The Blues Brothers

1983 was another of those musical turning points. I discovered The Blues Brothers when it was shown as a support film for Psycho 2. I was in awe of what I had seen and more so heard. It was unlike anything I’d heard up until then. I rushed out to get the soundtrack and then hit the library to find all the referenced material in the film. From here I discovered Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Cab Calloway. In 1985 the Blues Brothers Revival Band started a residency at Hadley’s Hotel in Hobart. I snuck in underage to see this music in a live situation. I instantly fell in love with the band and 30 years later was lucky enough to join. I am still playing with them now.

1984 was another huge year for music and musical discoveries. I joined the Hobart City Brass Band and then when I turned 17, the Band of the 6th Military District which is an Army Reserve band. Later that year the Hobart City Wind Ensemble was formed, and I joined that too but had to give up the Pipe Band. The Army bandmaster, Jim Wilkie, took me under his wing and introduced me to the iconic Australian band the Daly Wilson Big Band. He made me a tape of two of their records and I was instantly drawn to “El Boro”, a Latin/Spanish style piece mainly in 3. I was particularly drawn to Warren Daly’s playing and his concert toms. This fascination would be furthered when I got into Phil Collins and Genesis the following year.

1985 to 1990

My “Phil Collins” drum kit 1990

This period of my life saw me really diversifying my musical tastes mainly because I started dating. My first girlfriend came from a musical family so I was introduced to music I never would have listened to. She was into Phil Collins in a big way. I had dismissed him when “In the Air Tonight” came out because he was a drummer who was using a drum machine! How dare he! Anyway, I was bombarded with all three of his albums and found I really liked his music. From there I got into Genesis. They released “Invisible Touch” in 1986 and we went to see them live later that year when they toured. I started buying up all their previous albums and live videos. Around this time, I also discovered Stevie Wonder. I remember hearing “Sir Duke” on the radio and loved it so went to the library to see if they had any of his records. I borrowed “Original Musicquarium Volumes 1 & 2” which was a great introduction to Stevie’s music. From here I dived into the back catalogue of his music and then found how much I loved the 1960s Motown music. This led to Tower of Power through reading record liner notes at the library. I was after any record with a large horn section and ToP had it in spades.

Billy Joel and Otis Redding

Billy Joel was another big discovery in the mid-1980s. I was given his “Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2” for my 18th birthday. My girlfriend was also a huge Billy Joel fan, so I heard a lot of his previous albums at her place. “The Stranger” fast became my favourite album of his and in particular the lengthy cut “Scenes from An Italian Restaurant”. I loved the tempo and style changes as well as the story. Another discovery via the radio was “Dock of The Bay” by Otis Redding. It was on a Sunday night and I couldn’t believe my ears. Such a soulful song. I went out the next week and bought the “Best of Otis Redding” and also Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. A weird combination but that’s life I suppose.

I was working a lot of extra hours at the Army Band room at this time and was put in charge of cataloguing a huge load of albums that were destined for the incinerator but were “rescued” and donated to the band. They were ex-library records and there were some beauties. Some of the better ones made it into my personal collection and amongst these were some classic Buddy Rich albums; Big Swing Face, Swingin’ New Big Band, and Keep the Customer Satisfied. I also picked out Max Roach’s The Drum Also Waltzes and a Dizzy Gillespie be-bop album. Jazz had descended on the Sibson household in a big way. I played to all these records, but my favourite was Buddy’s Keep the Customer Satisfied. Someone at this time introduced me to Maynard Ferguson. A logical path after immersing myself in Daly-Wilson and Buddy Rich. The stand out track from this listening was and still is “Birdland”, and absolute killer arrangement and some monster drumming on it.

Dave Weckl!

In 1988 I began my lifelong obsession with Dave Weckl and the bands he played in and fronted. I think it started when my brother played me a tape of a tape of the Chick Corea Elektric Band. It was their self-titled album. I loved the mix of acoustic and electric drums and the overall production which was by GRP. “Got a Match” was my highlight as it had a lot of great drumming on it as well as a great synth lead line. Later that year someone gave me a bootleg tape and some photocopied pages from the new Dave Weckl drum play-along book Contemporary Drummer + One. I had never seen anything like this before. It was exactly what I needed at that time. Needless to say, I went out and bought myself a copy. The charts were great, and hard! The music was excellent and covered all the bases for that that time. I wore my tape out, literally. I had to sticky-tape it together where it had broken. I still go back and play some of the tunes, “Island Magic” in particular, and I use “Rainy Day” for students.

1988 also saw me start teaching at Hobart College of Music, the same place I had lessons at although now in a different location. This lasted until the end of 1990 when I joined the Regular Army. Steve Gadd started featuring in my listening around the late 80s too. I’d always been aware of him but never got into him, a mistake which was about to be rectified. CDs were becoming the norm after being introduced in 1985. My first CD was the Phillip Glass soundtrack Powaqqatsi with the second one being Dave Weckl’s first solo CD Master Plan. I didn’t even own a CD player at this time either!

1991 to 1994

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