Rob Snarski of The Blackeyed Susans reflects on the power of Nancy Sinatra's 'Bang Bang'
“From day one, I’d always been in someone else’s shadow,” Rob Snarksi says.
“Whether it be my brother in [1980s Perth rock band] Chad’s Tree or Dave McComb and Phil Kakulas in The Blackeyed Susans.”
Rob Snarski admits to having to tread his own path, at his own pace, to finally arrive at a critical realisation.
“That whole thing of comparing yourself to other people has to end at some point for you to be yourself and have confidence enough to create,” he says.
In his first book, You’re Not Rob Snarski: Crumbs from the Cake, The Blackeyed Susans’ front man recalls the events and people – both familial and musical – who have contributed to shaping his life.
He also tells a harrowing and touching story of shattered childhood innocence. The devastating loss of a beloved, woolly family pet called Lambsie, slaughtered for a family meal.
But there was a broader context and experience behind this event.
“A lot went on with my family,” Snarski explains. “Both my parents were Polish refugees, they had a lengthy time when food was scarce. My mother has stories of wandering through snowfields, trying to find cow pats and opening them up to find a meagre seed that she could eat. You know, really harsh tales.
“So, they were doing the opposite. They were trying to provide us with enough food and sustenance as a way of coping with what they went through. So, in my family there was always food. And not just meagre bits of food, there was food everywhere. And growing up on an orchard, there was food growing around us, there was food walking around us, and sometimes dangling.”
Growing up picking fruit on the family’s orchard, Rob remembers hearing songs on his father’s favourite gold hits radio station and reckons that was how he first came across the song that still fills him with quiet, chilling, awe.
“In terms of the perfect pop song, I always think that Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ is about as perfect as you’re ever going to get,” he says.
“It’s bittersweet, there’s beautiful singing, there’s an absolute tragedy when it comes to the story and the narrative, and a delicious tremolo guitar. So lonesome and sad. I just think it’s incredible. It has everything in three minutes.”
The song, written by Sonny Bono in 1966, tells the tale of the broken dreams of childhood sweethearts, their love unavowed at the altar on their wedding day. The sparse arrangement, the resonant guitar and forsaken voice of Nancy Sinatra make this tale a haunting listen.
Its appeal is in the way it contrasts life and death with the innocence of young love destroyed by the disappointment, unfulfilled expectations and promises of adulthood. Its story is so defined but it leaves you wondering how its protagonists – much like the young Snarski brothers at the family dinner table – must be feeling.
These combined qualities give the best stories the added texture to linger on vividly and meaningfully in our imaginations.
“It’s crushing, but it’s done in such a beautiful, melodic, bittersweet way,” Snarksi says. “It’s perfect.”
Hear more about the song that changed it all for Rob Snarski on Don't Look Back.