Words on the passing of a dear friend

The title is one thing … but words cannot express.

Richard Lane was both an enigma and a dear friend and one that I had not encountered nearly enough in the last five or so years, but when I did at gigs or moments there was always an essence of his character and care.

And how he sometimes cared too much.

Like most interesting characters, he was complicated.

I can only speak for my own experiences.

I had often gone to see The Stems when I was a comparative youngster in the ‘80s – places like the Shenton Park Hotel, the Broadway Tavern, The Red Parrot, Curtin Uni and even once with the Hoodoo Gurus at the Perth Entertainment Centre.

Then they broke up seemingly with the world at their winkle pickers and the keys to the kingdom in their possession. The were mysterious, as impossible as that was, for young men who hailed from Perth.

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Richard Lane and The Stems at another Fremantle legend: Tarantellas.

A couple of years later I fell upon a dream gig as the local music writer at X-Press Magazine, which had started in 1985 and by the time I arrived was considered the first and often last word in Perth music. Allegedly. You can believe that or not, but I had a lot to live up to.

Richard, by this time, worked there selling advertising whilst working up his own, new musical endeavours. Since The Stems he had already helped to co-found The Chevelles, then left with some acrimony, and was starting his own new venture, The Rosebuds.

Orson Welles’ prop/trope from Citizen Kane – the sled named Rosebud – came to be a calling card for Richard. From The Stems’ track (Could You Be My) Rosebud to his own sign-off on notes or messages. In my mind and experience he became Ricky Rosebud.

Ricky Rosebud, in my formative music journalism years, pushed me to greet the good. To sense the promise in bands who had it, didn’t quite have it yet, or were out of the stratosphere we thought we we’re dealing with.

He also questioned my tastes and that either moved me to reconsider them or fight to defend them. I was simply in awe of the fact that I even knew him, he was an indie-legend who gave his time to an up-and-comer and after not that long at all, we became great friends.

Richard had his own indie label back then called Idaho Records. He generously engaged me to help co-curate two WEA power-pop compilation albums, Bedtime Beats You Brainless (1993) and Breakfast Beats Your Bongo (1994). Idaho Records also put out releases by The Jackals, A Month of Sundays, No Flowers No Wedding Dress, RAWKUS and more in the ‘90s.

During this time, I also became acquainted with Dom Mariani, the leader of The Stems, and Richard’s mentor, friend, colleague and … nemesis. They had infamously fallen out and continued to do so over the years – and I often found myself at different times hearing either/I-the/opposing sides of the story.

The Stems_Cliff Street, Freo

I felt both honoured and conflicted to be the sounding board. Lots of it and often – post break-up, during the reunion years (1998 and off-and-on until 2009) and following the updated Stems line-ups that featured Ash Naylor and You Am I’d Davey Lane in the last five or so years.

The namesake factor was not lost on Richard. “DOM’S IN THE WRONG FUCKING LANE!’ Richard texted me upon that particular development. Davey was and is a fan. Dom was, I guess, carrying on. People still love that music.

It was and had been a typically combative rock’n’roll partnership. I recall being at the launch of The Stems’ comeback album, Heads Up, at Fremantle’s old Fly By Night Club in 2008.

The evening’s MC, General Justice – who had managed The Stems for a time in the ‘80s – introduced their set. In welcoming the band members, he proclaimed Dom Mariani and Richard Lane as “the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Perth music scene”.

He wasn’t wrong, but it’s not clear which one was Mick, and which was Keith. Looking back, I’d like to declare that Richard was, at any time, either or both.

For a time in the late 90s, Richard moved to Sydney to pursue a career in advertising.

He had a lot of nous in that area – and a slick haircut to match – but her returned in the 2000s, picking up music again and returning to X-Press. The Stems resumed and his hair grew out again.

TheStems _Freo Harbour

And we had so many laughs. He was the most sincere, caring musical friend I’ve had in this business.

And he always played music. He always championed artists. New and old. He wanted talented people to be given their due. And he worked with them, behind them and sometimes without their knowledge, to boost their stocks. To endeavour to give them a chance to propel.

Richard had a marriage behind him when he met Cathy in the early 2000s. They seemed like soulmates (that’s not for me to say, but it certainly seemed that way. Always). They gave birth to a beautifully, perfectly-named daughter, Penny. Eventually they started a music school in Fremantle called Penny Lanes Music Workshop.

Richard always kept playing and performing, be it for the kids in the workshop or playing gigs with The Painkillers, or solo moments and guitar-supportive stints with his many friends.

He passed away two weeks ago, following one, last rehearsal, with Big Bossman.

When news filtered through the following Monday, I was stunned. To Cathy (Baba Lala) and Penny, my heart bursts for you. I am so sorry and my very being aches for your hearts and your sadness.

I’ll miss you, Ricky Rosebud. I wish we’d seen each other more in the last few years, but life is like that – as we get older we grow regrets, but I’ll always be thankful for knowing you.

We did some living and laughing, didn’t we? My tears have all the colours. Paisley and black, mainly.


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