8 things we’ve learned about Bernard Fanning
This year for Songs Of Your Streets, which airs on Monday night as part of Ausmusic Month, Brisbane’s Bernard Fanning had an intimate chat to Double J’s Jacinta Parsons.
Just when you thought you couldn’t love him more… Here are a few gems unearthed during their convo.
1. He was still mowing lawns when Powderfinger released Double Allergic
Growing up, Bernard and his older brother Paul had a lawn-mowing business they’d inherited from their eldest brother. There was always a claim Bernard did less work than Paul, but according to Bernard that’s “absolute bulls**t.”
And he says he wasn’t the only one in the band doing the hard yakka when they released their second album, Double Allergic, in 1996.
“We were all doing jobs. We used to do these traffic surveys, so you’d sit on the side of the road and count cars. It was mind numbing but it was big bucks.”
2. A nun taught him piano
Bernard’s mum taught him for a bit, before Sister Mary Leonard took over for four years.
He says she probably meant well but wasn’t exactly a kind soul.
“I did a theory exam once and I got 100 per cent. And when we were being handed back the exams she was saying, 'Kelly, 95. Doolan, 99. Fanning – FLUKE – 100'.”
Years later, when asked how Powderfinger became so successful, Bernard said:
“No one knows, it’s just a fluke. I mean, Sister Leonard was right, I guess.
“There’s all these flukes that happen but you have to be ready to go to the next step.”
3. He first performed in public because he lost a bet
“We used to go and drink at the Royal Exchange on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
“There was one group, a basketball team I think, they used to lose. Every single game they got absolutely pissed on.
“They knew I was playing guitar and singing songs in my bedroom and they said, ‘OK, if we win a game, you have to get up and play a song'."
"And I was like, ‘OK, no worries’.
" And they f**king won a game.”
4. Powderfinger's got a “Holy Trinity”
These Days. My Happiness. On My Mind.
“We used to call them the holy trinity for a joke.
“At shows, it was, ‘Ah f**k, we’ve got to play the holy trinity at the end of the show'.
“But you have to understand that the whole reason you’re there playing in front of 10,000 people is because of those songs and peoples’ love for them.”
5. He understand the blues
Fanning's eldest brother, John, who introduced him to music, died at 42.
“I would say I that I probably had an understanding of blues for the first time in my life, I mean both the music and the feeling.
“While he was sick we were writing Vulture Street and a few times I went to rehearsal and he was sick, at home dying, and I was like, 'What am I doing here? This is ridiculous being here writing songs, playing rock music'.
"You have feelings of guilt."
He says it was natural to turn to music to help deal with the loss.
“In the end it was the best thing for me.”
6. He played his first original tune to his sister
“That’s a Meatloaf song.”
7. He loves cricket
His favourite cricketing moment was when Queensland won the Sheffield Shield.
“Every other state took so much pleasure in denying us. It was part of the make-up of Australian cricket, to make sure Queensland never won the shield. So when we did, it was glorious.
"I was there, on the hill, shitfaced.”
Powderfinger were also playing backyard cricket during breaks between writing.
There’s a secret song called SS at the end of Double Allergic. It’s about a cricket bat brand.
8. Powderfinger started in an economics class
Fanning met guitarist Ian Haug in an economics class at the University of Queensland.
“I failed. Hauggy passed.”
Thus began 22 years of Powderfinger.
Hear Songs of Your Streets with Bernard Fanning from 6pm Monday 13 November or any time after that at doublej.net.au.
You can also watch Songs of Your Streets on ABC iView and listen again on your local ABC station during Conversations on Friday 17 November.