Why you can’t get your hands on Paul Kelly’s earlier albums
If you want to hear Paul Kelly's really old stuff, you are out of luck unless you possess the original recordings.
Author Stuart Coupe, who managed the national treasure in the 80s, reveals in his new book Paul Kelly: The Man, The Music and The Life In-Between, Kelly refuses to reissue his first two records, Talk and Manila, or release them to streaming services.
Kelly, who has released nine records in the past decade, finally claimed his first No. 1 with the 2017 record Life Is Fine and is a fixture at alternative music festivals where a new generation of fans sing along to his classics including To Her Door, Before Too Long and Dumb Things.
But those young fans hoping to dive into his back catalogue to hear early favourites such as Billy Baxter would have to buy a good-quality second-hand vinyl edition for about $100.
"Those records remind Paul of a time and place where he sort of doesn't want to be taken back to," Coupe told News Corp Australia.
"And so every time he hears those records, he thinks about the disarray of his personal life, the drugs, the endless six or seven shows a week grind that he was going through in Melbourne.
"And he's not a big fan of his voice or the production of both of those records."
The new book chronicles Kelly's rise from inner-Melbourne indie rock aspirant through to the chart-topping artist who stages his own sold-out mini-festival each year in honour of his accidental Christmas anthem How To Make Gravy.
While worshipped as a solo artist, the book also shines a light on the invaluable contribution he has made by collaborating with revered indigenous songwriters Archie Roach and Kev Carmody, country superstar Kasey Chambers, recent No. 1 debutantes Vika and Linda Bull and rising star Thelma Plum.
His daughters Maddy and Memphis Kelly have also entered the family business, working with their father and on their own band projects.
He released his latest record Please Leave A Light On with jazz supremo Paul Grabowsky this week and will perform a song from it on the new live music show The Sound tomorrow.
"Paul doesn't have wasted hours. Everything is working towards something else," Coupe said.
"He's now at the peak of his popularity and creativity and when you look at the How To Make Gravy shows which have become an institution on the festival calendar in a couple of years, anyone who wasn't as precise about where they were going, would get a bunch of bands from the 80s on the bill.
"Paul is clearly a voracious listener and he brings artists like Courtney Barnett and Marlon Williams and Kate Miller-Heidke to the stage.
"And he is very genuine about it; he will sit down with those people and be able to discuss in great detail their music with affection and understanding."
Coupe's book also reveals how the Life Is Fine musician was a "functioning" heroin user through several years of his career, with his good mate and touring buddy Neil Finn sharing an anecdote about being beaten at tennis while Kelly was under the influence.
"They have an incredible friendship but also an incredible competitiveness and Neil tells this story that they would play tennis a lot," Coupe said.
"They were playing tennis late one afternoon on the court in Neil's backyard and Paul beat him convincingly.
"Neil asked if he wanted to stay for a lamb roast dinner. When the food came out, Paul turned several shades of green and said he couldn't eat.
"Neil asked him why and Paul told him he had used heroin before he came over. Neil said it was incredibly bad manners, extremely rude and he got beaten by someone who was on heroin."
Paul Kelly: The Man, The Music and The Life In-Between is out on July 28 via Hachette.
Originally published as Why you can't get your hands on Paul Kelly's earlier albums