Going home

Tim Rogers
Dimensions, ABC-TV
Aired: 30-04-03

Becoming a rock and roll star - if we’re honest, it’s a dream most of us have harboured at some point in our lives. The glamour, the money, being on the road and all the fans sounds pretty good. But what’s it like in reality? Tim Rogers is the charismatic lead singer of You Am I. He’s living the dream and we take him back to where he grew up to find out where the dream began.

GEORGE NEGUS: Is it where you were born or simply where you've lived the longest? Our early years play a heck of a big part in determining our outlook on life later on. Take Tim Rogers. He's a really good example of just that. Tim's the lead singer with the rock group You Am I and during his 33 years Tim's been a bit of a nomad. But tonight, with our own Brendan Hutchens in tow, Tim goes back to his roots.

BRENDAN HUTCHENS, REPORTER: They are the quiet achievers of the rock world, yet they're punchy, raw and rash - not exactly how you'd describe the formative years of You Am I's lead singer, Tim Rogers.

TIM ROGERS: The house used to face the, um...school and, er, my brother and I used to sell lemons out the front of the house. Yeah, and then they come and it's all torn down and something new put up... Yeah, pretty disappointing.


TIM ROGERS: I rang my old man and told him about it and...yeah, you know?

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: Tim Rogers is taking us back, first to Perth and the utter normality of suburban Applecross where he went to primary school.

TIM ROGERS: In those kind of brushes up on the left-hand side of the footy oval was where we used to do our little wing commander impressions and muck about as...as kids. (Mimics engine whooshing) That's essentially what it was.

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: And then, even further back in time to the beginnings.

TIM ROGERS: When people ask, "Where are you from?" to say that I am West Australian does mean something to me. And when I meet someone that is West Australian, I will... for some retarded reason, you know, want to hear a bit more about them or... And, you know, if they're from Kalgoorlie then, you know...then... "Oh, come here!". It's why, I guess, I carry on about Kal so much, and why it's so important to me, because it's...you know, it's, um... it's something about me that I know is kind of...unique. Along with, you know, the rest of the folks here. And I sort of desperately kind of cling to it.

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: Well, this is Kalgoorlie, right in the heart of the WA goldfields - a town that's grown up around mining. And you also might have heard of the colourful nightlife around Hay Street. It's also the place where, 33 years ago, Tim Rogers was born. Did you think as a kid, "Wouldn't mind go off and work in the mines and..."?

TIM ROGERS: No, it was kind of like, er...just...at that stage, I guess, just anyone who was bigger than you was just infinitely cool, whether they were kind of like the postman or... I remember really wanting to be a taxi driver pretty early, probably just because a guy driving a taxi was bigger than me, you know?

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: These days, the kid of Kalgoorlie stands at 6'3" and he's the one being looked up to. You Am I have achieved more than most bands can dream of - numerous awards, a string of hit albums - but there's one thing missing.

TIM ROGERS: I think, actually, our biggest success is that we haven't had a hit single. If you have a hit single you're damned. It can give you a leg-up but there's not one song that we're particularly known for.

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: So how did the kid from the WA goldfields end up as a bohemian rock star?

TIM ROGERS: When I was 13 I was getting my teeth drilled in a mobile dentist in Adelaide and 'Start Me Up' by the Stones came on. It was their '81 single. And, er...the opening chords rang out and I just...just delirious. Maybe it was the gas - I don't know. But just kind of ran home and just pleaded with mum. I said, "I'll do anything to get a guitar!" And just got an old gutiar string and, um...and it just went from there. But until the band took off, I never thought it was possible. It was like, "How do you do that? How do you become that mysterious?" Because rock bands for me were like superheroes, you know?

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: That superhero dream was put on hold for a while. Tim tried law, sold records, pizza. He tried to find himself and in the end he did. Did you write when you were young?

TIM ROGERS: No, no. Not at all. And thank God I found it, because before I was writing and playing regularly, I didn't know what to do with it. And I was kind of... (Punches the air) ..or... Really having a lot of problems knowing what to do with all that energy and...and emotion, really. Predominantly emotion, you know? I was very weepy as a child. (Laughs)

BRENDAN HUTCHENS: The sun's set at the end of a long day and this is what it's all been building up to - a gig at the Kalgoorlie Hotel, Tim's hometown. And so the journey is complete - playing on stage in the place where you were born. If, like Tim Rogers, your roots are important, it doesn't get much better than this.

TIM ROGERS: (Sings) # Can you help me find the words for sadness now?
# All my explanations leave me like dirty water out from a... #

GEORGE NEGUS: Brendan Hutchens there, going back home with Tim Rogers, and they weren't bad with that egg-shaped thing they were kicking around.