Real Wild Child: An Insider’s Tales From The rage Couch by Narelle Gee
As head programmer of rage – ABC TV’s late-night music video fixture since April 1987 – for nearly 14 years (1995-2008), Narelle Gee is well-placed to report from behind the camera lens trained upon some of music’s best-known names, while they hold forth from ‘Australia’s most famous couch’ as rage guest programmers.
In Real Wild Child, Gee – a former print journalist – paints herself as more of a music fan than a professional television programmer. It’s a style that suits the book, whose study of artists’ off-stage personalities is frustratingly shallow. Too often, the author glosses over important information that would otherwise form unique insights into world-famous artists. The book seems skewed toward the casual music fan – or in rage terms, those viewers who stumble upon the television program.
Judging by the brevity of most chapters, Gee didn’t apply her journalistic background during her rage tenure by taking notes or keeping a journal, as much of Real Wild Child’s content focuses upon the artists' music video selections and the resultant conversations. Such observations could be gleaned by watching archive footage of each band’s to-camera footage and glancing at their playlist; in short, hardly the ‘insider’s tales’ stated on the cover.
Gee’s writing approach becomes tired and mechanical as the book progresses. Halfway through, a sense of tedium creeps into the narrative, and her writing formula devolves into linearity: a short anecdote about filming the act in question, a short list of some of the songs they chose, and a couple of quotes from their shoot. Too much fuss is made of the author’s hazy memory due to intoxication – usually at an after-party with the artist/s in question; likewise, the regularity with which musicians are said to nurse hangovers during their shoot. Every second artist seems to have chosen an ‘eclectic mix’, too.
“I’ve met numerous famous musicians and I’ve got used to the idea that, no matter how famous, they are still simply human beings. I don’t really tend to get stagestruck – unless they are a particular hero of mine,” Gee writes in a chapter concerning iconic rock performer Alice Cooper. Such a statement contradicts the book’s second chapter starring Mike Patton from US alternative band Faith No More, wherein Gee describes barely containing herself from the desire to “lick his face like an excited puppy”.
In a chapter regarding British rock act Placebo, Gee gushes, “Some people wouldn’t think that Placebo would be such unpretentious, funny, cool guys. But stranger things have happened, and rock stars don’t always conform to their images.” Gee writes glowingly about the acts she admires - the hip-hop chapters are the most enjoyable, as unsurprisingly, the author is a long-time hip-hop fan – yet her reverential awe for some artists often results in languid prose, or, in the case of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs chapter, sheer inanity. Conversely, the artists Gee finds frustrating to film – like The Dandy Warhols and Weezer – star in some of the book’s most vivid passages.
The book serves its purpose as a light-hearted, warp-speed trip through snapshots in the lives of famous musicians. By any other measure it’s a failure, as upon completion, there’s no reason to ever return. Despite the array of interesting, creative subjects on hand, Gee’s Real Wild Child isn’t nearly as exciting as it could be.
Andrew McMillen is a music journalist who writes for Rolling Stone, Triple J Mag, The Weekend Australian and other outlets.