Greg Appel’s ‘Confessions Of A Lighthouse Keeper’ is a story for music fans of many stripes

Greg Appel’s ‘Confessions Of A Lighthouse Keeper’ is a story for music fans of many stripes

Photo via Wollongong Libraries
Words by Chris Lambie

A memoir that's more than an insider's account of a mid-eighties Australian independent band.

Santa often gifts me a music memoir or biography. I was somewhat bemused and confused one year on receiving ‘The Boy From Oz’, Stephen MacLean’s Peter Allen bio. I thought, ‘OK. Different, unusual…random!’ In fact, it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. On receiving author Greg Appel’s chunky tome, I wondered what it might offer. I was aware of, but not very familiar with his Sydney-bred band The Lighthouse Keepers. As it happens, I was hooked from the book’s engaging preface.

Confessions Of A Lighthouse Keeper is a story for music fans of many stripes. It evokes the quirky essence of times and places. At the same time, it describes a timeless and universal journey. We learn how future band members form their music tastes and talents. Magic happens when like-minded comrades enter their orbit with shared aspirations. Relationships, households, bands and fans come and go between dole cheques and paid gigs. The indie quartet make records, tour Europe and attain cult status.

In a mixtape of dreams, drama and downtime Appel is both self-effacing and proudly affectionate. He includes accounts of the band’s history from other players in and around the action – some fond, others not so much. Anecdotes and reflections are often laugh-out-loud funny, with character descriptions prompting the reader to reminisce, ‘I had a friend like that’.

Laid out as a compendium of sorts, the main text nestles between photos, diary entries, lyrics, lists, artwork, interviews and assorted memorabilia. It’s a cornucopia of written and visual sketches, seasoned with more side-bar fun than Mad Magazine. From band tales the story continues onto Appel’s wider work in the Arts including documentary making and theatre production.

I spent the 80s between then NT, inner Melbourne and country Victoria. Consequently, The Lighthouse Keepers were a mere flicker on my horizon. But I’m so glad to have learnt more about this band, often fondly discussed in the same breath as The Triffids and The Go-Betweens. Fans old and new should enjoy online videos and a podcast being made to accompany the book’s publication.

A frank, fun and feel-good read.

You can purchase Confessions Of A Lighthouse Keeper via Amazon.