At fourteen years of age, my partner Katrina relocated from Dublin to Melbourne. It was difficult. Finding herself in Diamond Creek, she experienced a full-blown culture shock exacerbated by incessant sunlight, the threat of reptiles and, of course, Mike Brady. The first time Katrina heard ‘Up There Cazaly’, she’d no idea what a ‘cazaly’ was. As best as she could tell, ‘Up There Cazaly’ was a uniquely Australian way of saying, if not ‘up your jumper’, then up somewhere else located a short distance away. She didn’t know the half of it.
Some disputes are interminable. They endure long past the point of common sense and exhaust everyone involved. But whilst geo-political tugs of war get all the limelight, there are lesser-known rivalries that simmer way for decades almost without anyone noticing. Then, without warning, some small shift sees all hell, if not break loose, then ruffle its feathers and puff out its chest. I’m speaking of ‘Mike Brady Presents: The Songs of Football’s Greatest Sons’ by (somewhat unsurprisingly) Mike Brady.
Until recently, I had no quarrel with Mike Brady. Instead, my conflict was with my brother, Cameron, and our dispute centered on ownership of the Mike’s classic album ‘Mike Brady Presents: The Songs of Football’s Greatest Sons’. More than just a piece of vinyl with a collection of highly hummable but deeply specific tunes about football players, the album is the centerpiece of our shared childhood. If I’m honest, it’s possibly the album we listened to most when we were growing up.
Our father brought it home from work. He did that sometimes. When you least expected it, he’d arrive with something amazing. I can still remember the day he appeared with ‘The Smurf Song’ as a single. We played it for hours. I may have painted one of my brothers blue just to see what would happen. It was a hugely transformative moment. Indeed, I thought that was the greatest day of my life. Until, that is, Mike Brady turned up.
If I’m being honest, I’d never heard of most of the players Mike decided to honour in song. Kevin Murray, Keith Greg, Graeme ‘Polly’ Farmer and Peter Hudson were each sung about with great gusto and although I was unfamiliar with their work as footballers, Mike’s songs transformed them into grand mythical figures. These were not men anymore but gods and heroes. The songs had high-drama, tragedy and success against the odds. The album made most operas seem as pedestrian as a trip down to the shops. It was a triumph.
We played the record often. At some point, my brother upped the ante, finding a microphone and plugging it in to the stereo, wailing along to ‘Flying High To Glory’ – a tune celebrating John Coleman – in a way that was so profoundly tuneless that our chickens stopped laying eggs for a time.
We loved the record as kids. It’s fair to say that in the history of recorded music, there’s been no other like it. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is all well and good, but none of the songs mention Mr. Football, Teddy Whitten. Granted, Led Zeppelin rocks like a three-legged chair but they never wrote a song called ‘Bobby Dazzler’ about South Melbourne’s three-time Brownlow medalist, Bob Skilton. More’s the pity.
In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that an album about footballers peaked at a relatively modest forty-four on the charts, especially when ‘Baby Shark’ is the world’s most-watched YouTube video. It makes no sense. But as much fun as we had, we (eventually) grew up and put Mike Brady’s masterpiece quietly to one side. There it might have remained, had Mike Brady himself not intervened.
The record belongs to my father but, for some time, my brother has been positioning himself as the rightful heir. These manoeuvres can only be described as ‘Machiavellian’ in nature and make ‘Succession’ look like a veritable tea party by comparison. For the most part, I have suffered this with good grace, until I received a message on my phone. From Mike Brady.
It was a video. In it, Mike addressed me directly, telling me that my brother, not I, should inherit his album and that I should come to terms with this reality. I was incensed. In a futile attempt to calm down, I immediately played ‘The Smurf Song’ at full volume but it was no use. How dare he! Mike Brady’s decision to interfere with the internal affairs of the broader McCullough family was nothing short of an outrage. I’d half a mind to tell him to take his opinions and shove them fair up his Cazaly.
Cam, on the other hand, is cock-a-hoop. He believes that enlisting Mike Brady to adjudicate our petty squabble is the ultimate power move. He may be right. But although he may one day have possession of ‘Mike Brady Presents: The Songs of Football’s Greatest Sons’, there’s one thing he doesn’t have – a turntable on which to play it. I’ll only say that if it stops him from singing along, it’s for the best. I’m sure Mike would agree with that much.