Anecdotes From Iva
Spellbound - Vol II Iss II
© May 1995

When we spoke with Iva concerning his current activities, he hold us a few stories that we felt were well worth printing for everyone to read. So curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a mug of cocoa while Iva tells us some stories… oh, and if you're reading this near your bedtime, you may want to leave the last story for tomorrow…

The Berlin Incident

Your dad said we should ask you about the story concerning the costumes.

I had a definite image in mind for my own character and the character of the band, in a way, which involved a Forties zoot suit type of thing. We were obliged to shoot these preliminary photos in order to assemble things like subscription brochures. Graeme Murphy hired a graphic designer who ultimately did the lay-up. By default he became the stylist for the photograph shoot. He obviously wasn't a professional stylist but having dealt with that sort of thing I led him around. He had various ideas where we might find the appropriate clothing. I had various ideas and we researched those and came up with a list. We decided to spend a day running around lots of places including various theatrical costume places. I had in the back of my mind though that this wouldn't work. At the end of the day, it didn't. We went all over the place. It was a horrible day; it was about 43 degrees and it was hot in the van. I wasn't enjoying it a lot at all. We found a few things that were pretty ratty and pretty horrible, things that were almost it but not really.

Eventually, in desperation… the photograph shoot was the next morning and we had to have it fixed! We got to the end of the day and didn't really have it worked out at all. We only had these fairly poor examples of what we needed. So I went into the lock-up and went ratting around in there because I knew I had some things in there. Eventually I came up with some things which I've owned for at least 14 years. I took all of this stuff that we'd hired and these things that I'd had and arrived at the photograph shoot the next morning. Graeme Murphy looked at them all and, of course, being Murphy's law, the ones which were the ones that we needed were in fact the ones that I had had in mothballs for 14 years! They were, surprisingly enough, a suit that I wore which was from my suits period of Primitive Man. It was in fact the suit that I wore in the "Hey Little Girl" film clip. That is the suit that I am wearing.

Always Bring A Book

I can remember one story with "Stay Close Tonight." I remember writing those lyrics because it was a particular picture I had in my mind. When I lived in Leichardt there was an Italian restaurant on the corner. I was on my own at that point and had this fair idea of what I wanted to do. I decided to go and have dinner at this Italian restaurant. It was a very quiet place; there was virtually only me and so I took my pieces of paper and pencil down to this Italian restaurant and wrote the lyrics while I was having dinner on my own, so that I wouldn't look conspicuous in that I had nobody to talk to and nothing to do. If you've ever been on tour you learn these various devices on how to survive touring. One of the most embarrassing things is actually going to a restaurant and eating on your own. You sort of sit there twiddling your thumbs. The absolute requirement for going and eating on your own in a public place is to take a book with you! What you do is you go and you take a book and you look very involved in it. That gives you an excuse for sitting at a table on your own.

So in lieu of taking a book, I had to write some lyrics so I thought, "Well, I'll go and write lyrics." So I wrote lyrics over a bowl of spaghetti. So the funny upshot of that story was there was nobody in the restaurant except one other table. There was a fellow there with his wife. During the middle of this I was sort of involved in writing my lyrics and my spaghetti when this fellow piped up from across the room, "That guy used to sell shirts next door to me!" As it transpired, this guy had actually managed a record store which was next to the Pal Joey's clothes store that I managed for long time. He was actually a nice fellow. I think he ended up working for Double J. It was just odd that in the middle of nowhere in this restaurant with only me and this other table this fellow turned up and got great glee in undoing my myth to the walls. Him going, "I remember you when you sold shirts!"

Out of all the gin joints in the world…

Yeah, really! You had to pick this one.

The Icehouse

There were in fact two houses. It was the old house in Lindfield. When I joined the ABC Training Orchestra, it had its rehearsals in a big Masonic Hall in Lindfield, which is a very British suburb. Old money, big old estates originally. Beautiful big old houses and very quiet and leafy. Very British, almost Empire. It so happened that around the corner from this Masonic Hall where the training orchestra rehearsed there was a big old house. It was owned by a middle-aged woman who was a patron of the training orchestra. In respect of that, she had subdivided this house into three flats - an upstairs, front and back downstairs - and rented it very cheaply to the members of the training orchestra, all of whom were just really students. So I ended up moving into one of these flats with a French horn player. That was how I got in there. I ended up staying for many, many years and things changed over the period. Originally it was just full of musicians and complete cacophony. I think upstairs there was another French horn player, a clarinetist, a violinist, and out the back there was a trumpet player, a trombone player, and a cellist. At any given hour of the day it sounded like a zoo because there were people practicing all over the place.

There's a long story behind this place. Behind it was a set of tennis courts and next to it was a squash court. Now this entire slab of this corner was in fact owned by a very, very old lady who had been an international tennis star way back. She had a son, and the son had married a woman, and the son and the woman were given this house, which was part of this estate. Somewhere along the line the son died and left the house to this woman. The woman had moved out and had since remarried and left it as a "patron of the arts" rental place. I lived in there with a French horn player and a few other people and then Afghan happened in that house. I lived with Danny there, and eventually ended up living there on my own for a very long time. During that period I met Keith and that was where Flowers started. So this was sort of the hub. The peculiarity about this particular flat that I lived in, although it was very beautiful, was that it was also amazingly cold. It was cold to the point of being completely unnatural. It was a beautiful house with a sunny, leafy sort of yard. It had enormous seven foot French windows all through my flat. Nonetheless, it was freezing. It was so cold and I didn't have any money. I used to go and buy coal and have coal fires because it still had fireplaces in it. I remember this was the only thing that kept me from freezing. Eventually, even though I had no money, in desperation one day I went and bought a heater which was very expensive and a great extravagance. I bought an electric heater and I used to literally sit on the heater.

Lots of people were peculiarly affected by this house. One notable example of that was John Lloyd, who, when he joined the band, moved up from Melbourne and thought it would be convenient to move into Lindfield. He moved into an apartment with his girlfriend which was really only a hundred yards away. Having moved into there, he came down to visit me and he walked in the front door of my flat. He looked around him and said, "I don't like it in here," and he walked out and he never ever came back. Never ever set foot in that house again.

Well, lots of other funny, peculiar things happened in that place when I lived in there. On one given night, with one girlfriend that I lived with there prior to Flowers, three mirrors spontaneously fell off the wall during the middle of the night and busted. Twenty-one years bad luck in one night! No reason whatsoever. Asleep in bed and there were these enormous crashes. These huge mirrors that I'd hung up all came down, one at a time.

The period I was there, which was about six years, at least three people were found dead on my front lawn. That was one thing. Very strange.

I spent a lot of time in that house on my own and a lot of the time I was up all night. I just happened to be like that in those days. There was another very old house across the street. A two story, old Empire type house, but it looked a bit disheveled. It was past glory faded, bits hanging off here and there. The thing was that it fascinated me in a way because, apart from anything else, the first thing I noticed was despite the fact that I was probably the only living known creature to be awake at four in the morning on the North Shore - it's a very quiet suburb - the lights were always on in this house. Always, every night. This was peculiar, I thought. The other thing was that the population of the people who lived there seemed to be people who weren't employed and they always looked a little bit odd. They seemed to wander up the road at eleven in the morning, come back with a paper, and then you'd see this go on for a couple of months. Then there'd be a different person. So this was all very odd, too. Somewhere around about during that period, I wrote that song. It was partly because I was living in this one house but I was looking at this other house all the time. That's where it came from. I knew there was something peculiar going on but I couldn't put my finger on it.

It wasn't until quite a long time later, in fact when Flowers were playing lots of shows around the Northern Beaches, that an incident occurred whereby I was once again up at four in the morning and there was a knock on my door, which was an odd time of the morning to have a knock on the door. During that period there were quite a few funny things going on. People sometimes followed me home and slept on the front lawn. I was horribly exposed; it was like being in a fish bowl because there were huge French windows everywhere and sometimes I'd actually open a curtain and there'd be a face pressed up against the window - things like that, so it was a bit disconcerting. I always felt kind of paranoid in there. So it wasn't that odd, I guess, that somebody knocked on my door at four in the morning. I opened it and there was a girl standing there and she was a full punk with the white pancake, black hair, black lipstick, and all that sort of stuff. She simply said to me, "Oh, we just thought you'd like a cup of tea." Now I might be kinda stupid but I was the one inside and she was knocking on my door at four in the morning! She said, "I thought you might like a cup of tea," so I thought, "Hmm… this one's a live one." She then said, "Don't worry, I'm not one of the nuts." I went, "What?" What transpired was that in actual fact the house across the road was a half-way psychiatric home. It was there to reinstall people who had been through treatment into society. She and her friend, who were avid punks and gig goers, were actually nurses who were living there. Obviously the nurses had a turnover of every few months or so! I don't think any of them lasted too long. But, she was a nurse. Having already written the song, I did, at four in the morning, get to wander over and have a cup of tea in that house, which was very strange as well.

The whole suburb had this very strange atmosphere about it in that it looked so pristine and sedate and old and charming on the outside. But if you scratched anywhere under the surface you'd find these really peculiar things going on. That was one really peculiar thing, the story about another similar old house where there were three old sisters. One had died and the other two sisters had simply locked her bedroom and that had gone on for a couple of years! Then another one died and etc., etc. They didn't discover it until somebody broke in one day. A bit grisly.

There are lots and lots of stories like that. For example, living in this same street there was an old couple who had had a retarded son who should have been institutionalized because he was dangerous. Because they were fairly wealthy they had managed to keep him to the point that he was a grown man sort of basically locked up. Nobody spoke about any of these things. Everybody knew something was going on in this house or that house. There were all these peculiar stories. All was not what it seemed in that suburb.

The house tried to destroy me in the end. It made one final last ditch effort to kill me. It had tried freezing me to death. It had tried killing me of consumption and tuberculosis, which I had during that period, just because it was cold and damp. I was sick the whole time I was there. It made one final last gesture, which was fairly spectacular. It's a strange story. When we were to go away on our first international tour, I knew that I was going to be away a fair while. Although I didn't really want to leave, it made no sense for me to stay there. I'd been there for I don't know how many years, seven years or something. It became obvious that I'd have to move out. I didn't really know where I was going to go. Also, everything was happening very quickly at that point so I was literally on the road and driving from Adelaide one day and then I was due to be on a plane to London in two days. So I didn't really have any time to move out. The plan was that my parents were going to come in and pack everything up and put it into storage, which they subsequently did. What happened was I'd been out running around doing last minute things like getting passports all day and I didn't get home until just pretty much about an hour before sunset. I was going to London the next day and it was the first time. I hadn't had the chance to pack anything or do anything and I was going to be away for six months. The front door of the parlor of this place was frosted glass in an old set of doors, which opened out on a small covered landing. In this landing were all of the fuse boxes for the power for all the various flats. It was only some frosted glass between that and where I sat on the telephone in the parlor. Having got back home, I was having a conversation prior to leaving with my parents. I was on the phone and all of a sudden there was this sort of amazing banging and sparking outside the door that I could see. I said to my parents, "Can you hang on a second? There's something funny going on." I put the phone down and I opened the door and the entire fuse box was alight. All the lights started flickering on and off, which was pretty wacky. Within a few moments, all the lights went out and that was it. It was sunset by then and it was getting dark. The thing was still alight so I came back onto the phone and I said to my parents, "I think I better go now, there's a fire!" So I hung up on them and eventually the fire went out by itself. I rang the SCC, which is the Sydney County Council, which is in charge of electricity. They came out and they said, "Well, that's it. All the wires in this house are burnt out and they've burnt out all the way back into the walls through your entire flat." Only my flat, nobody else's flat. That's it, there was just going to have to be new wiring through the whole place. So I actually packed with a torch. That was my last night there. I didn't have anything to eat because nothing worked, the stove didn't work. I had no hot water for shower. I didn't have a cup of tea in the morning. That was my last night in that house. It was its last parting gesture.

Did you ever get a sense of what was there?

No, although one thing I would love to discover is the circumstances behind the death of the only son, whose house it was. It's not the sort of thing you go nosing around. I would be intrigued to know what the circumstances were.

We do have to ask: after all of this, why did you stay there for so long?

Well, everybody else asked me the same question… continually! [laughter]

What's wrong with you?!

Well, part of it, I know, because I'm not a highly suspicious person. I guess there was enough of an inference for me to be annoyed by the possibility and I was annoyed by the possibility to the extent that I was not going to acknowledge it. In some way, that was part of the perverse reason for remaining there. It was a case of, "It's not really happening and I'm going to stay here to prove it's not really happening. And I'm going to win!" I'm still here to tell the story!

So, you won…

But it nearly won.