IT was a humbling moment for
an Australian rock'n'roll icon. Walking along
the street in his native
Melbourne recently, Tim Rogers - he of sideburns,
shades, You Am I and enduring rock cred - was
confronted by a young woman leaving a pub.
She looked him up and down, then, with a derogatory
shake of the head, said: "Sheesh. Are you
gonna be my girl..."
The implication was that Rogers, with his studiously
unkempt demeanour, was aping Melbourne's present
rock'n'roll darlings, Jet, whose song Are You
Gonna Be My Girl? is a ubiquitous hit.
It was like she was saying: 'Who do you think
you're trying to look like?"' says an amused
Rogers, holding court in a Sydney cafe.
Jet's line-up was still in primary school when
Rogers and You Am I burst on to the Australian
landscape in 1989. His rock credentials are entirely
his own and he looks the same now as he has throughout
As with his wardrobe, both You Am I and Rogers
the solo artist have survived the numerous music
trends that have come and gone in the meantime.
But while You Am I, with albums such as Hi Fi
Way and Hourly, Daily, became one of the most
significant Australian rock bands of the 1990s,
some critics and fans have written them off in
the past few years.
Flying solo ... Rogers gets
back to his roots with Spit Polish.
with international record companies did not help them develop
their career overseas and similar frustrations existed
in Australia. They have severed all such ties, opting to
go it alone as an independent operation.
They're certainly not dead yet. You Am I are supporting one of their strongest
influences, the Who, when the British rock veterans return to Australia in July.
Following that they will tour Europe, then begin recording a new album.
Supporting the Who completes a unique double. You Am I opened for the Rolling
Stones in Melbourne last year. Now they're looking forward to sharing the stage
with the Who's original two-pronged attack of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.
In what must be a worrying development for those who still see rock'n'roll as
an anti-establishment, confrontational art form, Rogers says he will be minding
his language when he fronts up for the Who performances.
" We got told after the first Stones gig that we would be thrown off if
we didn't watch our language," he recalls. "They got 83 complaints
on the first night."
Rogers is not complaining, however, about the prospect of mixing in such illustrious
company for the second time.
" It's just one of those things you can enjoy the hell out of," he
says. "We're just going to live it up and hopefully we won't get kicked
off the tour. On the Stones weekend last year we just had a whale of a time.
It was just fantasy stuff. It was one of those times when you look around at
each other and say: 'I like this job."'
Or perhaps "I like this f---ing job", as he might have said last week.
One gets the feeling Rogers says that to himself a lot. His genuine passion for
music oozes out of him, not just in his playing and writing but in the way he
enthuses in interviews about his idols, such as those two headliners and an array
of rock, blues and country performers stretching across continents and generations.
His personal life too has been stretched across continents lately. He and his
Spanish wife, Rocio, have spent some of the past year living in Madrid with their
three-year-old daughter, Ruby.
Right now, however, he's talking 'bout his generation and about his solo career,
which kicks up a gear on Monday. He and his touring band, the Temperance Union,
are going out on the road to promote Spit Polish, his just released second solo
His family plays a part on the album. They are pictured on its cover and it was
during a family trip to Kalgoorlie, Rogers's birthplace, that ideas for the album
were formulated. Much like its solo predecessor What Rhymes With Cars and Girls,
Spit Polish is a step back from the rock bluster of You Am I, with elements of
country, blues and folk in its mix.
Central to this is "a diet of gin and tonics" during the recording
process, an admission that only helps shine his rock pig halo.
The record admittedly has a swagger that backs up his theory. But songs such
as Fiction, Goldfieldsblues and King of the Hill betray a growing stature as
a songwriter. Amid the rock star guitar histrionics of You Am I there's a more
mellow, thoughtful balladeer trying to get out.
Recent side projects, such as compiling and writing material for the soundtrack
to the film Dirty Deeds, have enhanced his reputation as a songwriter outside
of the rock framework. What's more, he has become something of a one-man operation.
" I don't have a manager so it's all a bit daunting," he says. Since
recording Spit Polish with producer and guitarist Shane O'Mara, Rogers has been
doing the hard graft of trying to sell himself overseas.
" I've been drafting off letters to overseas labels. It's all very: 'Hi,
my name is Tim and I have a band called You Am I. Will you release my record?"'
One such, to famed English independent label Cooking Vinyl, proved successful. "They
sent back a letter saying, 'Love to, please send it now,"' Rogers says in
That's because, he says, during You Am I's heyday "these things took so
long to get to that stage. Why? It's that simple."
Such simplicity and the plaudits that have come with the album's release are
confirmation, he believes, that he's getting closer to perfecting his art.
I'm so proud that what I went in to do came out
exactly the way I wanted," he says of Spit
Polish. "It's like I know how to do it now."
By Iain Shedden