uncertain cities

words and sequences of them by Rhett Davis


There is a song I heard once on a Melbourne radio station in the mid-90s. I was driving in my yellow Gemini through Northcote and it was dark and the trams or the tram tracks sparkled. It was raining, maybe, and the shards on the windscreen and I was leaning forward slightly the way I did whenever I drove that car, nervously compelling it not to break down again, not here, not at this intersection, not here please you bastard. It was my first car and I had no money. I replaced spark plugs and alternators and changed the oil and headlights and tyres and the radiator fluid in that car. I did more to that car myself than I’ve done to any since. Now I take it to a service centre and point at it and say, can you look at it, and they do, and I pay them money and I drive away, and so far that’s worked fine. I’ve never had a car since I’ve felt so secure in yet so terrified by. It broke down on the Geelong to Melbourne road more times than it should have, and without a mobile phone this made things difficult. It broke down at unsavoury intersections in Footscray in the middle of the night, and driving it through the Melbourne CBD to get home on the weekend was something of a dice with death. 

Anyway, there was this song on the radio on this dark night road. Perhaps the road was called Queens Parade, but I don’t know and I’m not looking it up. The DJ said it was a song that a lot of people would probably be getting married to. I remember it being a fabulous raucous song with a chorus that shouted out something like, “Just marry me, marry me, marry me” in that charming yet petulant way of certain British outfits in that period. Or perhaps they were Irish. I remember it was a song that sent a shiver down my spine. It made me wonder what it would be like to feel that way about someone. I’d never heard it before and I’ve never heard it since. I missed the back announcement and so I missed it forever. I half-heartedly tried to find it, but Google in the early 2000s struggled with the vague recollections of a few very common words of a song heard on a radio in Melbourne in the nineties. The few years I spent in Melbourne in my twenties are thick and condensed like clear gelatin and echo more than they should. They don’t make much sense to me anymore. I wouldn’t want that car anymore, I wouldn’t want to live in that run-down house in Fitzroy North, and I don’t want to know what that song is.


After I wrote the paragraphs above I went and talked to Tara about what I had written. I don’t do that very often, but I did today. She asked me if I remembered any of the words to the song. I said, yes, but not many. She said, what were they. I said, marry me, marry me, marry me, and then I put my shoes on. She said, is it this song? She’s good at finding lost things. She played it, and for something I’d thought I’d only heard once it was incredibly familiar. They sounded American, and they were. It was less Britpop than nineties faux punk. It was a little desperate and disturbed. How could I have thought it was a love song? I have convinced myself of so many truths. I sat down. Yes. That’s it, I said.