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Introducing: The Undecided

The Undecided play in the New Boardwalk Bar at the Yamba Bowling Club this Friday night June 2, from 8pm; it’s free. Image: Contributed.

In 1965, Roger Daltrey declared, ‘I hope I die before I get old’, as he stuttered his way through The Who’s anthemic ‘My Generation’. Re-declaring those words at the age of 67, while closing the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, could not have entered his imagination at the time; nor could he have imagined he would be bestowed a CBC (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1999.
In the Who’s second single, ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, Daltrey sang ‘I can do anything … anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose’. It was the only song on which Daltrey collaborated with main songwriter Pete Townshend, and one of four he contributed to the band’s catalogue – perhaps these words were more prophetic; but read together with ‘hope I die before I get old’, they throw light onto the conundrum that is rock music in its many guises.
The lesson here is that age is not necessarily a factor when it comes to making contemporary music. So an ethos is established for a band of musicians with more than quarter of a millennium of life experience behind them. But what epithet will satisfy the tastes of four enigmatic souls – Geoff Helisma (vocals, guitar), Bruce Night (guitar), David Goldsworthy (bass) and Peter Nonnenmacher (drums) –, each harbouring decidedly different musical influences?
Helisma’s wife, Julie, once suggested to him that they name the group ‘The Undecided’. At the time it didn’t resonate and was lost in a fog of cognitive dissonance. Months passed as the group slowly built its covers’ repertoire and wrote a handful of songs. Names were bandied about at each rehearsal – too commercial, too trite, too negative, too generic, too corny, too unrepresentative, too lame…
Helisma pipes up: “The Undecided,” he nominates, oblivious to the fact his wife had suggested it months prior. Nevertheless, ‘The Undecided’ was the first name that reached consensus – and it just happens to be the title of the song (a short blast of garage rock written and recorded in a total of 30 minutes) that brought seminal Australian band The Master’s Apprentices to the wider public’s attention in 1966. Coincidentally, the song was called ‘Undecided’ because it didn’t have a name during the rush to cut a fourth track for the group’s four track demo for Astor Records.
There’s nothing new in history; just variations of the same themes; one 1980s British band made that statement when coming up with its name, Pop Will Eat Itself. That group is still performing; as are incarnations of The Who. But, name calling aside, Helisma, Night, Goldsworthy and Nonnenmacher are driven to play music – it’s their lives’ elixir; a painkiller for their aching bones and bodies; a fountain of youth of sorts.
Having been around since the dawn of rock and roll, the group’s members have heard it all at some time during their lives, and it shows in their interpretations of songs from the past. Not unlike Triple J’s Like a Version, The Undecided enjoys the art of reinvention.
Covers cross the genre divide, with Nine Inch Nails’/Johnny Cash’s Hurt, Pink Floyd’s Time, George Ezra’s Budapest and The Sports’ Reckless among songs that have been pulled apart and reconstructed. Also expect to hear songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Iggy Pop/David Bowie, Garry Moore, The Church and U2, among the group’s own songs.
By the way, in 1985 Pete Townshend told Rolling Stone magazine: “My Generation was very much about trying to find a place in society.”