HOW TO RAISE A ROCK STAR
With the wonderful response Spellbound received for Neville Davies' "Anecdotes For Father's Day," and with Mr. Davies joining Spellbound's staff, we thought it only fitting that we should have an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Davies. There were so many questions to be asked as to what exactly it was that made Iva who and what he is. Of course the only place to get the answers to many of these questions would be with his parents, Neville and Dorothy Davies.
We started our interview by asking Mr. and Mrs. Davies to tell us of their respective family origins, beginning with the Sage family.
Spellbound: Mrs. Davies, where did the Sage family come from and where were you born?
Mrs. Davies: The Sage family settled in South Australia and took up land there. My great-grandfather grew grapes and made wine, also grew fruit and had some kind of jam factory. Later, my grandfather moved to a new area which was near Mildura in Victoria. At the river was a town called Wentworth and a little further along there was a new settlement called Curlwaa and my grandfather took up land there and raised his family. They had orchards there and then the First World War came and my father, the only son, went to the war. He married before he went to the war and my mother had Charlie from "Charlie's Sky" there and looked after him as a bub while my father was at the war. Then she had inherited a property at a town called Mathoura. If you look at the map of Victoria and New South Wales you might find Mathoura on it but it's north of a place called Echuca. Echuca is in Victoria, and there's another place called Deniliquin, which is further inland and Mathoura, the town where I grew up, was in between the two. So, we're very "tiny town" people. I was not born there, I was born in Melbourne because my mother's mother lived in Melbourne and she went down to be near her mother to have the baby, because things were pretty primitive in these tiny towns in those days. So there you are.
Spellbound: What was it like growing up then for you as a child?
Mrs. Davies: Like any child in the country, I suppose. I roamed free all over the property and it was a varied kind of property. We had an orchard, and my father had glass houses where he grew summer crops in the winter. He had a heating system and was able to heat the glass houses so we got summer tomatoes in mid-winter which brought a fairly good price. Charlie, five years older than I, had a little sister tagging along whenever he did anything, so he taught me to shoot at a very early age, and climb trees. I climbed up all right but I was always terrified of getting down. It was very pleasant, we had relatives and friends on farms in the country and we'd visit on weekends, all those sort of things. A very free kind of childhood, I suppose.
Spellbound: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Mrs. Davies: First of all I wanted to be a missionary, and then when I outgrew that I wanted to be a doctor. I think I would have made a good doctor. But my father, very much an old-school man, said, "No job for a woman," and that was the end of that. So, because I could draw or paint a bit I drifted into being an art teacher which was quite acceptable because my mother had been a teacher before me.
Spellbound: So you became an art teacher. When did you receive your first acclaim as an artist?
Mrs. Davies: Not till many years later, really. I had been through Melbourne's Teachers College and graduated from there and began teaching high school children. I really didn't start seriously painting pictures suitable for exhibitions and things until after Iva was born, so that was quite a long time.
Spellbound: Do you remember your first painting that was shown in a gallery?
Mrs. Davies: Don't know that I do, actually. The first painting that was shown in a gallery that would be Wagga, wouldn't it? What about "The Wheatfield?" Yeah, that one, and that was burnt in 1975. Somebody bought it, and it was burnt in a fire.
Spellbound: Oh, how sad.
Mrs. Davies: Was a bit sad, wasn't it.
Spellbound: Mr. Davies, where did the Davies family come from, and where were you born?
Mr. Davies: The Davies family originated from Wales and they migrated to Australia to the South Coast of New South Wales. I was born at Kiama, on the South Coast of New South Wales. My father was born near Woolongong, and when he went to the First World War he brought back an English war bride. He started a store at Kiama and that's where my two brothers and I were born.
Spellbound: What was your childhood like then in Kiama?
Mr. Davies: It was good. We played all those sorts of games that little boys did like Cowboys and Indians, we went swimming, and in between times we went to school.
Spellbound: When you had the time you went to school
Mr. Davies: Yeah.
Spellbound: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Mr. Davies: I suppose a number of things at various stages of my life. I suppose I really did want to be an opera singer, but I don't think I would have quite made the grade there. I wanted to be a lawyer but I was talked out of that, so I ended up studying science and ended up as a forester.
Spellbound: How did the both of you meet?
Mrs. Davies: At a concert.
Mr. Davies: That's right. I was stationed down in the town of Mathoura and I entered into a concert that was being held to raise money for a war memorial in the town and both of us were performing in this concert. I was singing and my future wife was playing the piano.
Spellbound: Was it love at first sight?
Mrs. Davies: Pretty much so I think but we didn't rush into anything.
Spellbound: We remember you telling us that you called each other by your surnames for quite some time after you met, and we thought that was really sweet. So, once you got married, then Mr. Davies continued on as a forester?
Mrs. Davies: That's right.
Mr. Davies: Yeah.
Spellbound: Was that your profession throughout your married life?
Mrs. Davies: We moved away from the town then. Dad was posted you see, we just had to go.
Mr. Davies: I spent the first half of my working life in the country and finally finished up in Sydney.
Spellbound: So were you posted around the Wauchope area?
Mr. Davies: Yes, I was in Wauchope or a little bit up in the mountains out of Wauchope in a forestry settlement.
Mrs. Davies: That was the first move from Mathoura. We roamed around a bit.
Spellbound: Iva was born around the Wauchope area.
Mrs. Davies: He was born in the Wauchope Hospital.
Spellbound: What was Iva like as a child?
Mrs. Davies: I wouldn't differentiate between him and any of the other children because they were all quite good children, easy enough to handle. We didn't have tantrums and we didn't have those sorts of things. I don't know whether it was the children or maybe it was us. I don't know what it was but they were all very biddable children. He perhaps was much more intense than any of the others. He was a very serious child. And whilst he romped around with his friends and played rugby and did all sorts of ordinary little boy things too, he was very very serious.
Spellbound: Wonder what made him so seriously intense, or intensely serious?
Mr. Davies: It's probably in the genes.
Mrs. Davies: Oh, dear.
Spellbound: When did Iva's musical talent first show itself?
Mrs. Davies: Immediately. When he was five months old sitting up in the cot he could beat time to music much like his daughter. She bopped to music practically immediately too. So that's in the genes as well, I would guess.
Spellbound: Was classical music the first that he was around then, classical or opera?
Mrs. Davies: Opera, ballads, yes, classical mostly, but also lighter music. In the area where we lived, people in those days didn't have TV and they spent a lot of their time in the evening standing around the piano singing. Night after night when we lived at the forestry settlement in Bellangry we had a house full of people who sang from teatime till ten o'clock.
Mr. Davies: We did have a record player, too.
Mrs. Davies: Yes we did have a record player, and we had a radio.
Spellbound: Andrew and Jill [Iva's brother and sister] would have been listening to music as well. He would have perhaps heard their music, whatever that might have been.
Mrs. Davies: Andrew in his youth became very interested in the classical guitar, and learned to play that. I taught the three of them, but not very seriously, to play the piano. They learned their notes, they learned how to hold their hands and that kind of thing, but I didn't thrash them with music lessons because I felt it had to be a personal choice, and neither Andrew nor Jill ever became dedicated to it but Iva did.
Spellbound: What kind of music did Jill and Andrew listen to?
Mrs. Davies: Well, she went to the Conservatorium for a hobby when she was at University and learned to play the violin. But she hasn't played the violin for a very long time. I think their musical tastes range over a very wide area. I don't know about rock so much as, what do you call it, pop? But light classics, I would say. Both Iva and Andrew played in country bands. Andrew played in the brass band, in the Wagga City Band, and Iva played in the Wagga Pipe Band. They used to go off when these various bands had competitions as country bands did in those days to different towns and there was a huge rally that there might have been a dozen to 18 bands competing for the cup. So, Jill not so much, she didn't do any of that kind of thing. She was interested in ballet and had ballet lessons as a small girl. They've been interested in music but on a very wide scale.
Spellbound: What did Iva say as a little boy that he wanted to be when he got older? Was it always music?
Mrs. Davies: Yes, it was. When he was three years old, and we had just arrived recently in Wagga, one of the first outings that we had was at a gymkhana. One of the attractions was the Wagga Pipe Band, and there were all these Scotties in their beautiful kilts and Glengarry caps and looking wonderful and playing this stirring music. We were walking around the grounds of the sports oval and came abreast of the Scotties playing and Iva was absolutely riveted to the ground. We couldn't drag him away! I don't know how long we spent there, ages, because this little thing, three years old, just thought they were so marvelous.
Spellbound: Was that his godmother's influence [Iva's godmother was Scottish], or just maybe that Celtic blood?
Mrs. Davies: I don't know, but when you asked where the Sages came from, my great-grandmother was from Scotland. They came from England and Scotland and settled in Australia, but the Scottish line comes through there. Well, the Welsh played pipes too, you know.
Spellbound: True, so he very thickly had it in his blood, from all sides. So then Iva grew and became a teenager. What was he like as a teenager? Did he continue to be as intense and serious?
Mrs. Davies: Oh, absolutely. Totally devoted to all kinds of music because he went to the Epping Boys High School and they had wonderful music teachers there. But the first music teacher that he had decided that the bagpipes wasn't a very good instrument for school groups, but this teacher's wife was an oboe teacher, and an oboe is very closely related to the pipes, and so that's when Iva switched to the oboe, his first year at the Epping Boys High School.
Spellbound: At what age would this be?
Mrs. Davies: He would have been 13, I suppose.
Spellbound: Did he take to the oboe?
Mrs. Davies: Oh, yes, he did like it.
Spellbound: And then he began to win scholarships because of his oboe playing?
Mr. Davies: Yes, that is true. A scholarship to the Conservatorium.
Mrs. Davies: He took music as his subject for his high school certificate and was fourth in the state.
Spellbound: Aside from the music, what was he like as a student? Was he considered to be very intelligent?
Mrs. Davies: Yes, he was, but I don't know that he overkilled himself with work.
Spellbound: Perhaps he was intelligent enough that it just came easy.
Mr. Davies: He was very oriented to music. He put everything he had he didn't study other subjects nearly as intensely as that.
Mrs. Davies: He passed very well, but music was the thing. And they had very good groups at the school. By this time there was a female teacher at the school and they had all kinds of groups. They had choirs and modern groups and Iva learned to play almost every instrument. Every week we never knew what he'd be bringing home, from a tuba to a set of drums. They all came back into our house. Sometimes he brought other boys and they had impromptu practices. We lived in a block of home units, so we weren't always that popular with our neighbours.
Spellbound: Especially with the drums! So did his education go from Epping Boys High into the Conservatorium?
Mrs. Davies: Yes. It was simultaneous for a while, wasn't it, Neville?
Mr. Davies: He studied oboe at the Conservatorium, and after he finished school he went there full time.
Spellbound: At the Conservatorium would that have been strictly a musical education or do they offer the typical university education there?
Mr. Davies: They do have a high school attached to the Conservatorium which is general education, but Iva never went to that. He was only a post school student.
Spellbound: So through the teenage years he just ate up all the musical instruments he could get his hands on and learned to play everything.
Mrs. Davies: That's right.
We then questioned Iva's parents about a little known fact. Neither Afghan nor Flowers was Iva's first band. He'd been involved with one much earlier in his teenage years. Mr. and Mrs. Davies reminisce about that time in their lives.
Spellbound: When did his exposure to and enjoyment of rock music come in?
Mr. Davies: He had a little group before in high school with a group of fellows. They did mainly folk music.
Mrs. Davies: Folk, that's right.
Spellbound: The name of that band was Lucy Fields, wasn't it?
Mrs. Davies: Yes, because that was the name that was written on a guitar. They bought a second-hand guitar, and the name was scratched on the guitar.
Spellbound: And they played folk music?
Mr. Davies: Yes, they wrote a lot of songs of their own, particularly the chap that did most of the singing, Lindsey. He wrote masses of songs, and they also did their own versions of things like "Old Man River." They were really very good. Iva didn't do any of the singing, much, in that group. He played any number of different instruments, quite a few of which were novelty instruments.
Spellbound: Novelty instruments? Washboards?
Mrs. Davies: Washboards, and bottletops and
Mr. Davies: and the tuba that he'd brought home from the school band
Spellbound: That sounds like a Dixieland sort of band, wearing red and white striped jackets and straw hats
Mrs. Davies: No, they never did anything like that
Mr. Davies: Jug band.
Mrs. Davies: Jug band. And they went, "Wup, wup, wup, wup." A Europeanised didgeridoo!
Spellbound: Too bad you don't have any photos or tapes of this event.
Mrs. Davies: No, we don't have anything like that. Like I said at the beginning, Iva was a very intense child, and that went right through his teenage life, and his dedication to music was always there. There weren't pranks or romps or anything like that that happened. He was very serious and his greatest interest was going and hearing other bands and practicing and trying out, experimenting with music of his own.
Mr. Davies: One instance which you may not have heard about from his high school days: When he was 15, 16, the school had a musical production, a musical comedy, and this particular year they did a performance of "Half of Six-pence." Iva was in the orchestra, he was playing oboe in the school orchestra. But an older man, a member of the staff I think he was, was doing the percussion, had a heart attack the day before the show was to open. Iva volunteered and was given an intensive day's course in the percussions and he did all the percussion for the performances of "Half of Six-pence," much to the delight of his music teacher
Spellbound: So with Iva being so involved with all of the music and being so intense and serious, was there ever time for girlfriends?
Mrs. Davies: From the time he was at primary school, he had a trail of admiring little girls who thought he was wonderful.
Spellbound: He still does!
Mrs. Davies: He liked some of them, too! There was always a girl somewhere around. Dad just reminded me of this too that he was playing in the high school orchestra, but a tiny bit later in order to earn pocket money and so on he used to be part of orchestras for various musical comedy groups all over the city. What they do is - I suppose they do it in your country too - an amateur group gets a musical director to produce "Oklahoma!" or one of these musical comedies. At first they work with a pianist but towards the end of the time they get a little orchestra together, usually people that the musical director knows, or applies to the Conservatorium and all these young folk show up and have a couple rehearsals with the musical comedy team and then perform for the next few nights. And then get paid for that and Iva earned his pocket money with this. There seemed to always be a show somewhere in Sydney.
Spellbound: We would imagine there weren't a lot of oboists in Sydney.
Mrs. Davies: Not at that time there weren't; there seem to be a few more now. People like the clarinet - you don't have to blow so hard. But he was very fond of Pink Floyd at that time, and he had a room that had been a front veranda converted with glass windows and that was his room. And he decided he'd paint the walls of his room which faced out onto the street and there were the most wonderful psychedelic patterns and colours you could ever possibly imagine. And he had one of those strobe lamps, in the front window of our house, out to face the street. So it was very exciting for neighbours, all the cars would slow down as they went by.
With the influence of Lucy Fields and Pink Floyd, we asked the Davies how they felt about the future of their son's classical career.
Spellbound: As he's going through this period of painting his bedroom walls in psychedelic colors and learning all these musical instruments, as parents what did you hope for him? What sort of career did you hope would end up out of this?
Mrs. Davies: Well, we did hope for some sort of classical career. But we recognized very early on that he had this dedication to music and this quite superior talent. I did all my AMEB which is the Australian Musical Examinations Board exams for piano and did all the theory and musical perception exams that went with it. I took music too as an honours year after leaving at school and so I took music for that and passed all those. But I knew that he was so far ahead of whatever I could have been. That he had something that I never had and I could recognise this and told Dad that I could recognise this, so we just waited to see what would happen.
Spellbound: So how did you feel when he was in the Conservatorium in the orchestra doing so wonderfully and then one day he just said, "The heck with this," and walked out?
Mrs. Davies: Stunned. But when he told me what he'd done, I said, "Well, if you think you have a star, you follow it. You have to follow your star." Dad went along with it too, we both agreed that we'd just wait it out and see what would happen.
Spellbound: Is it true that he had a problem with his conductor?
Mrs. Davies: That is true, he did have difficulties. You get two people with strong personalities and strong wills and you're going to get a clash. I think perhaps there was a little more to it than that, but I no fault on Iva's side, but I don't want to say anything about this because we had no proof for anything. The orchestra was the Youth Training Orchestra Neville, you better explain.
Mr. Davies: Yes, well, the Australian Broadcasting Commission had a training orchestra in which they had students that they subsequently recruited to orchestras like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra which was also run and controlled by the Australia Broadcasting Commission. They had orchestras in other capital cities too. So this training orchestra was really the training ground for all of them. Iva did leave the Conservatorium. The course he was doing first, he got a bit disillusioned with that. Then he did take a position in the National Training Orchestra and they were sort of paid as apprentices. It was in the training orchestra that he had the confrontation with the conductor that resulted in his leaving.
Spellbound: There's another little bit of Iva's history that we've heard about but very little. He's mentioned something about receiving an inheritance from the Davies side of the family for various festivals that were sung at and won by the Davies family.
Mr. Davies: The inheritance was gold medals which my grandfather won at eisteddfods in Australia. He migrated to Australia when he was 24 and he was a tenor on the South Coast of New South Wales of some renown for quite a few years. He won prizes in the Woolongong eisteddfods down there and as the prize they had a little medal. These are what Iva now has. I had them for a while, my father gave them to me, and I handed them on to him because he was the most appropriate member of the family to hold them.
We then inquired into the lives of Iva's siblings, Andrew and Jill. Little is known about them so we asked their parents to introduce them to Iva's fans.
Spellbound: A lot of people don't know much about Andrew and Jill, and some people are even surprised to find out that Iva has a brother and sister. Could you tell us a little bit about them?
Mrs. Davies: Jill was a sweet child, a dear little happy girl, very bright, was at University when she was 16½, graduated at 19½. She taught in high schools for a few years and met her husband and they were married and had accepted prior to their marriage a job at a high school in High Prairie, Canada. They lived in Canada and taught there for three years. Then they came home and Jill had two little girls. Garry hadn't finished his university degree at this stage even though he was a junior high school teacher. But he'd found out in Canada if he went back to Canada he could do the rest of his degree in Canada and it would count in Australia and that he could do it much more quickly because they don't have as many holidays in university in Canada as they do here. So that's what they did, they took the little girls back and went to Canada for another two years. During that time we went to Canada and visited them and that was very nice.
Spellbound: What degrees did they have?
Mrs. Davies: They had Bachelors of Education degrees. It's a general thing where they could major in Psychology, or Languages, or Garry chose Mathematics, that sort of thing. The subjects that they were going to teach in the schools, they majored in at the university.
Mr. Davies: Jill was an English Literature and History major.
Mrs. Davies: And Garry was Math and Science. It was a good combination in a situation like going to Canada because they could provide half the subjects in school! They subsequently had two more children and when the third child was on the way, Jill studied and did her Librarian's diploma as well and subsequently she has stopped teaching in high school and she is the librarian in a handicapped children's school in Canberra. That involves a lot of teaching of these handicapped children too, but she's employed as a librarian in the school. So that was what she did. Now Andrew, he walked in the shadow of his sister's brilliance and teachers were inclined to overlook this very shy and quiet boy.
Spellbound: So Jill is older?
Mrs. Davies: A little older, yes, three and a half
years older. So she was halfway through high school before he ever began,
and sometimes teachers can be a bit difficult and they say things like,
"Why don't you do work like your sister?" They kind of make
it difficult particularly for the second child. Anyway, to cut a long
story short, Andrew seemed to be a rather lazy student and we weren't
too sure whether he was academically as clever as he might have been.
We were proven to be quite wrong, but obviously it meant that he wasn't
very energetic as far as his studies were concerned. However, you asked
what we thought of Iva's career. One day, we'd been thinking about Andrew's
career much more, and I'd put a Saturday newspaper with the classified
advertisements for jobs in front of him with a pen and said, "Whether
you could do them or not, mark which jobs you'd like to have." Now,
you have to remember that one of the things he was really keen on was
his Scouting career, a really outdoor boy. Anyway, when he marked all
the jobs and I went through them, I was amazed at how many office jobs
he wanted. It would seem to be totally out of character. Anyway, we went
along and had a talk to the head master at the high school in Wagga and
he told us that there was a job going for a junior at the National Bank.
So, we arranged for Andrew to go and have an interview and then he had
to go up to Sydney from Wagga and have an interview at the head office
and he got the job. And so he started work very very early, and got on
very nicely with the bank. By the time he was 21, he came home one time
and said, "There's a job in the bank in London, but they won't pay
my fare. And I will have to accept the low English salary." And we
said, "Have you got any money saved up?" He said, "I've
got enough for fare one way." And we said, "Okay, you pay your
fare one way and we'll pay for you to come home."
Spellbound: And is he married?
Mrs. Davies: He is married. He was sent back to London a second time, this time the bank paid all his fares. He went to Bahrain and he went to Greece and he went to two cities in America, New York and Los Angeles, each for about three months for experience. During that time in London he met his wife, Helen, who was also working in the National Bank. She's Tasmanian. And they have two daughters, and Jill has three daughters and one son. We only have one grandson. [This interview was conducted before the birth of Evan Davies, grandson #2!]
Spellbound: It seems like all your children turned out very very well.
Mrs. Davies: Well, they're hard workers, and they were serious minded, I suppose.
Mr. Davies: We're very proud of all of them.
Mrs. Davies: People say to me about Iva, "You must be very proud of Iva," but we are just as proud of them for their achievements in their own way.
We asked if there were more stories to be told a lá Mr. Davies' "Anecdotes For Father's Day." The story we heard revealed a character trait in Iva that is still very much persistent to this day.
Spellbound: Are there any funny stories that stick out in your mind of Iva as a child?
Mr. Davies: Well, you did ask earlier about when did he show signs of musical talent. He did start off as a music critic fairly early in his life because of his reactions to my singing.
Spellbound: Yes, your "Anecdotes for Father's Day." That's why we're asking this question actually, because everybody just loved that. So we thought with the both of you together, you could remember a few more stories that people would probably love to hear just as much.
Mrs. Davies: Only about persistence and learning the guitar.
Mr. Davies: When Andrew was learning the guitar, and I think Jill bought an old second-hand guitar
Mrs. Davies: a whole ten dollars worth
Mr. Davies: and handed it on to Andrew to learn to play on. Which he did
Mrs. Davies: but he left it behind when he went to England.
Mr. Davies: Iva got hold of it and spent all his school holidays sitting on his bed, learning to play this guitar. Really the only guitar lessons Iva ever had, he actually gave himself.
Mrs. Davies: He was only about 13, or 14, sitting up there cross-legged on his bed. All day, all evening, for the 14 days of the school holidays. It was just a solid one thing, he didn't do anything else.
Spellbound: Now, that is persistence. What is the age difference between Iva and his brother and sister?
Mr. Davies: There are ten years between Jill and Iva.
Mrs. Davies: There'd be five and a half between Andrew and Iva.
Spellbound: What do they think of how their little brother has turned out?
Mrs. Davies: Oh, I think they're very proud but very amazed that it's something a little brother can do.
Spellbound: That's true, "Oh, my God, look what he's turned out to do!?
Mrs. Davies: "I can't believe it!"
Then we followed Mr. and Mrs. Davies into the time of their lives when Ivor Arthur became Iva and a Flower.
Spellbound: So then time went on and he did Iva Davies and Afghan. How did you feel about it when he started cutting records and recording?
Mrs. Davies: Oh, glued to the radio to see how many times it played!
Spellbound: When did you first realize that he was gaining notoriety in the Sydney area?
Mrs. Davies: When he asked us to come and watch the filming of his first film clip in that car park in Chatswood.
Mr. Davies: "Can't Help Myself."
Mrs. Davies: We saw makeup people floating around and doing things. It was just a very great experience.
Spellbound: What was your impression of the first time you saw Flowers live?
Mrs. Davies: Don't think we ever did.
Spellbound: You didn't?
Mr. Davies: Oh, yes, we snuck in
Mrs. Davies: Did we? Oh, no, I'm thinking of Lucy Fields and Afghan. No, we never saw any of that.
Mr. Davies: No, we sneaked into one hotel in Kings Cross with the aid of one of the fellows on the volunteer road crew and heard them then. We were never even allowed to go to any of his performances in those days.
Mrs. Davies: And none of the classical ones either. He said it would make him nervous.
Mr. Davies: So we didn't see one of those, but probably the first time we ever saw Flowers in concert was after they'd already released their first record and they were supporting XTC at the Capital Theatre in Sydney. We were actually invited to go.
Mrs. Davies: He virtually was saying to us, "I have got my toe on the first rung of the ladder. You can come now."
Mr. Davies: By that time the first album was out and they were quite well known and I think that particular concert line-up was the Divinyls and then Flowers and then XTC.
Spellbound: That was such a far cry from anything classical - were you taken aback at seeing your son up there performing this rock music and hearing the girls scream and that sort of thing?
Mrs. Davies: No, it was wonderful because at this hotel at Kings Cross where we saw them performing that night, the reaction of the people was so exciting. I'd never seen anything like it, it was a whole new world and it was completely thrilling to see the people leaping high in the air and waving their arms. There was one wonderful girl who had great hair that was a mile long and she actually swished her body down towards the floor and her hair dragged along the floor. I'd never seen anything like that in my life. I thought it was wonderful.
Mr. Davies: We were rather amazed. We watched the audience more than we
Mrs. Davies: more than we watched our Iva!
Mr. Davies: Iva or the band generally because we were sitting in a corner in a place where we knew he couldn't see us.
Spellbound: And so he had no idea you were there because you snuck in.
Mrs. Davies: That's right.
Spellbound: The things that parents do. So you were completely comfortable with Iva, who around the Flowers time would have been up there and perhaps wearing a bit of glam-like makeup, a little heavy with the eyeliner
Mrs. Davies: Oh, sure, because we'd been watching Molly Meldrum's show, "Countdown," every Sunday night, and we never missed a "Countdown" after that. So we were used to seeing David Bowie and different people all covered in makeup, so it didn't worry us at all.
Spellbound: In Iva's rock'n'roll career, as parents, what was your proudest moment? You may of course have individual answers.
Mrs. Davies: I don't know, that's a hard one, isn't it. There are all so many things.
Mr. Davies: I think one of our proudest moments would have been when he wrote the second album virtually by himself and it was accepted, or the first one might have been a one-hit-wonder. Then a couple of years later he came out with Primitive Man and it was accepted even more than the first one and we were proud that he'd made the decision to go it alone and try making this album himself, write it himself, entirely on his own. We were proud of his courage.
Spellbound: That persistence again.
Mr. Davies: His mum had another one.
Mrs. Davies: Yes, Boxes, the ballet. Iva performed in that, had the songs and the band on stage so it was still linked with his rock'n'roll but it was a new field again. I was proud of his initiative and the daring and the wonderful night, the last night of the ballet when the whole audience of the Opera House rose to its feet and gave a standing ovation. I've never been so proud about anything all my life as that. It was just a wonderful moment.
Spellbound: It sounds as if you're going to have the chance to have that moment again.
Mrs. Davies: Well, I don't think you can ever repeat a moment quite the same, it'll be a moment of its own, perhaps.
Spellbound: What do you think is your funniest moment with his career, especially with the fans? We're sure the fans love it when they discover they're standing next to you at a concert.
Mrs. Davies: For me, the funniest moment was in that theatre downtown, when a young man came across and said, "Why are you here? Do you know anybody in the band? Have you come to support anybody?" And I said, "Yes." "Which one?" And I told him and he said, "Are you his mother?" And I said, "Yes," and he said, "If I turn around, will you autograph my back?" I thought that was cute.
Spellbound: And Mr. Davies, would it have to be the time the bikies all took you off for a drink?
Mr. Davies: Oh, yes, yes, yes, I never ever told them who I was.
Mr. Davies: Somebody else may have, but I think they were just impressed by such a
Mrs. Davies: an antique. I think that has often been the way with us at these concerts. People haven't known who we are, but the word seems to have got round by the end of the evening, a little bit. But when we've gone in, people generally speaking just assume that it was elderly people coming to see what was going on and were pleased that we'd come. I would like to say to all the fans that have been with us for years and years and have spoken with us, how we did appreciate their kindness and friendliness. Wherever we've been, they've been wonderful.
Spellbound: We have our own funniest moments with Icehouse fans and the both of you. We've just been waiting for the right opportunity to print it in Spellbound and this is the perfect time. When we were all at the Powerhouse Museum, Mr. Davies was sitting behind that engineer's board with the "Great Southern Land" mix and he mixed it perfectly. There was a crowd of several people standing there. They all got quiet and listened and when it was all over and Mr. Davies sat back all pleased, one man said, "He sure knows what he's doing!"
Mr. Davies: Well, that's certainly gratifying, I must say!
Spellbound: For us, that was one of the most brilliant moments of being involved with Icehouse. We wanted so badly to say, "You just don't know who this man is - it's Iva's father!" It was wonderful!
After hearing what "Mum and Dad Icehouse" had to say about their son's fans, we asked them to speculate as to how Iva felt about them.
Spellbound: How do you think Iva feels about his fans? Sometimes he seems to be completely mystified by them.
Mrs. Davies: Well, I think so, because basically at heart he's a very simple and humble man. That might be astonishing but I think it's basically true. He just gets really surprised I don't know how to put it. I can only speak from my point of view. If I paint a picture in a room on my own, I can enjoy painting it, I can enjoy getting it finished, and thinking, "Wow, that's fine!" The next morning, I'll go and look at it and think, "Ugh, that's terrible! Now, what can I do to make it better?" I'll almost start all over again and ultimately get to the stage where I think, "I'd better leave it alone. There's an exhibition soon, I can put it in that." Almost too frightened to go and have a look at it alongside other pictures. And if it should happen to win something, I'm absolutely amazed. And I think it's the same with him. I can't explain it in any other way. You hope like mad that it'll be a success and somebody'll like it, but you never count on it and it always comes as a surprise if it happens.
Spellbound: It's hard when you create something, almost like it's your baby.
Mrs. Davies: And also, if he's got other people out there, critics or know-alls or whoever, and they come along and say, "Hmmm, well that's not up to your usual standard," or, "I've heard you do better, I've seen you do better."
Mr. Davies: "That sounds like Bowie."
Mrs. Davies: "Oh, that looks just like Picasso, or no, not Picasso, it's not good enough for Picasso." You can imagine it's terribly shattering. You want to go away into a little hole and never come out. And then little by little, through the dark of your little hole you can see a little bit of colour outside and it kind of draws you out again and you have another start. Well, that's happened to Iva a lot of times.
Spellbound: Thank goodness!
Mrs. Davies: You do see my point, don't you. Artistic and sensitive people kind of get hurt very easily.
Spellbound: But in a way the music or the painting wouldn't be what it is without that sensitivity.
Mrs. Davies: Oh, no, that's right, that's absolutely right. It just takes a while to recover any time there's a bit of a failure.
We then recollected the time when Mr. Davies had his moment in the correct lighting!
Spellbound: You gained a little bit of stardom, especially you, Mr. Davies, by appearing in the "Man Of Colours" video. Why don't you tell us about both of your experiences?
Mr. Davies: Well, I did push myself into that one.
When I heard that "Man Of Colours" was going to be released
as a single, I asked a question: "Was there going to be a film clip?"
With the answer, "Yes," I said, "Could I play the part
of the old artist?" which the song is about and I assumed there would
be an old artist appearing in the film clip. The idea was whipped up.
Iva thought it was a good idea because I pointed out to him he probably
wouldn't be able to get any other actor that looked like an older version
Spellbound: And Mrs. Davies, you had your paintings in the video and we remember something about a slight mishap with one of them.
Mrs. Davies: Well, it all had to do with this technical business of lighting. Being a fairly subtle painter, I think, I put delicate tints around the portrait of Tonia and there was this head in a beautiful Edwardian hat and the lace collar and trimmings around the top of the frock because it was only a head study but quite a large one, in all these subtle colours that I thought would look fine if it was photographed. But the trouble was, in the studio and the way the filming was to be done, apparently it created a lighting problem because they said that they wouldn't be able to see the shape of the head enough. Then when I came back on the second day there was all of the beautiful, subtle background blotted out with total white paint. It wasn't reflecting the light enough. And then to cap it all, Dad in the film clip had my palette and with all the bright colours on the palette he had to look to be painting the portrait, you see, and they said, "Keep going, keep going, keep going," and my hair was standing on end because I could see him dipping the paintbrush into the red blob of paint on the palette and was applying it to the canvas. So by the time Dad had finished and they'd finished filming that little bit, when I went and had a look at the portrait, that capped all because there were dots of red all over it.
Spellbound: All you needed was some blue and you would have had a very patriotic picture.
Mrs. Davies: Red, white, and blue would be very patriotic, yes. And he had to swirl the brush in the water and all those bits come in on the film. You see, there's no reverence for any of the props. If the props are not exactly what they want, they have to be made to be exactly what they want, is what it was, you see.
We asked this of Iva in his interview so it was only fair to ask his parents. The dreaded "favorites" questions!
Spellbound: Again, these will probably be individual responses: What do you think is your favorite album?
Mr. Davies: What do I think is my favourite album? Code Blue.
Spellbound: Same for you, Mrs. Davies?
Mrs. Davies: Yes, I think so.
Spellbound: What about a favorite song? We know it's tough.
Mrs. Davies: Oh, lots of favourite songs that aren't related necessarily to Code Blue at all, because I like "Trojan Blue," and I love "Girl In The Moon."
Spellbound: And Mr. Davies, any songs spring to mind as your favorites?
Mr. Davies: I think if I had to choose one it would be "Don't Believe Anymore."
Spellbound: Why is that?
Mr. Davies: I just find it so moving.
Spellbound: It is. You can't listen to the song without going, "Wow, that was one of those moments." We remember Bob Kretschmer saying, being in the studio when Iva was recording that song, that it was one of those magical moments when you know something great has just been done. What about a video?
Mrs. Davies: Oh, "Glam."
Spellbound: "Glam?" Really, we just saw that for the first time when we were in Australia and we were just completely blown away by it. Why is it your favorite?
Mrs. Davies: Because it's so artistic, I think. The colour, the glitter. And then the other one I like is I can see it, but I can't think of the name where he starts off by being very square and straight, Neville?
Mr. Davies: "Baby, You're So Strange."
Mrs. Davies: Oh, "Baby, You're So Strange," yes.
Spellbound: That one's got a great sense of humor. And yours?
Mr. Davies: Oh, I should say "Man Of Colours." [Everyone laughed at that.]
Spellbound: Somehow, we knew that! But we were polite and asked. That's fine, you have every right. Out of all the Icehouse albums, which album do you think represents Iva the most - Iva the person?
Mrs. Davies: They all do, but at different stages of his development. Code Blue itself represents entirely all the philosophical levels he'd arrived at through a great deal of reading and feelings for various issues in his own country. And it was your country that really inspired it in the first place. When Iva came back from that last trip to America before Code Blue, I don't know which one it was.
Mr. Davies: It was from the Man Of Colours tour
Mrs. Davies: He was just so impressed at how the American people, even the young children, knew so much about their own country and their country's history and their country's folk stories and their country's colourful characters and we in Australia seem to know so little. This is the thinking that set him about this idea to write an album that would bring Australia's colourful characters and attitudes and things to the people.
Spellbound: Was it about the same time that they discovered the plane in Papua New Guinea?
Mrs. Davies: Yes, that was part of it too but he said, "They all know, they all know about their national days and their national heroes and we don't." He's probably right about that.
Spellbound: Maybe his album did a bit for some people, those who bought it, the Australians who bought it, certainly.
Mr. Davies: I think, if I could name two albums that would be more Iva than the others, I would have to say Code Blue and Primitive Man.
Spellbound: Yes, especially since he did do it all on his own.
We then asked Mr. Davies how the writer in him was doing
Spellbound: Well, Mr. Davies, how about an update on the long awaited and much sought after Icehouse book.
Mr. Davies: Well, what do you mean, an update? It needs to be updated because it's been three or four years since I wrote it.
Mrs. Davies: What it's being used for really is an encyclopaedia, isn't it?
Mr. Davies: Yes, but I will get round to it one day.
Mrs. Davies: Strange kind of book - it's a reference library!
Spellbound: So Icehouse fans can pretty much count on it that one day it will come out.
Mr. Davies: I don't know. There's a song about that called "No Promises" [laughter]
Spellbound: He's become the man of one-liners.
Mrs. Davies: He's always been a man of one-liners!
With Brynn having reached a year old, and so many developments in her growth happening, we asked the proud grandparents to compare son to granddaughter.
Spellbound: What do you see in Brynn that is like Iva at the same age?
Mrs. Davies: Well, they're absolutely identical in their sense of rhythm at that same age. He had a wonderful sense of rhythm and his favourite game when he was just able to walk, he'd have been about six months older than Brynn, from about that time on, round about two, was conducting. He was absolutely flawless in time keeping and he's always been really paranoid about drum tempos and this sort of thing. It's just inbuilt and Brynn is exactly like this. Well, she's not at the stage where she's worried about drum tempos, but she can bounce away in time and as soon as she hears music anywhere she's on the bop, you know. Jumping up and down in her mother's arms or on the floor or wherever she happens to be, she just rocks to the music.
Spellbound: Do you think she's as serious as Iva was?
Mrs. Davies: At the present time, about eating. She loves food. I think that's what she's most serious about. I don't think she's got any other consistently serious things to think.
Spellbound: It'll be very interesting to see with such performance arts mum and dad
Mrs. Davies: Oh, don't worry. She gave us a performance for her birthday too, wearing her fairy dress, doing the ballet movements and lapping up the applause!
Spellbound: Maybe one day she'll star in one of "Mum's choreographed and Dad's written the music" ballets!
Mrs. Davies: Yes, something like that.
Mr. Davies: I guess that's one way in which she might be different than Iva. He was always a very reluctant performer, but she seems to be quite willing.
Mrs. Davies: She thoroughly enjoyed it, yes. It was very difficult to get him to play for anybody or anything like that.
To close the interview, we gave the floor over to Mr. and Mrs. Davies to speak to the fans.
Spellbound: Is there anything else you'd like to say to the fans? Anything else you think should be known?
Mrs. Davies: Well, without fans, the music industry wouldn't be the same, and we are very grateful for the part that they've played in encouraging Iva all this time. Would you add to that, Dad?
Mr. Davies: I would say to the fans - hang in there
Mrs. Davies: there are lots of good things to come
Mr. Davies: while there's an Iva Davies, there'll be music coming forth.
We'd like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Davies for their time and insight into their son. We'd also like to thank them for their kindness towards the fans and for their wonderful support of Spellbound.
© 1994 Spellbound