You could conceivably separate pop-music listeners into two camps: those who have never heard a Paul Kelly album, and Paul Kelly fans. Perhaps I occupy some skewed plane of existence, but I've never heard anyone say a bad thing about the man or his music.
Five, 15, 25 years ago, one common complaint among this legendary Australian pub-rocker/country balladeer/epic storyteller's admirers was his near-absence from American airwaves. While Down Under acts such as Crowded House, INXS and Midnight Oil made various degrees of headway in the States in the 80s and 90s, others — including the Hoodoo Gurus, Hunters & Collectors and Australia's lyrical king, Paul Kelly — were more or less left behind. Oh, there was an occasional video to be caught, and singles heard once or twice on the radio — these wonderful, seemingly rare jewels that prompted thorough searches of record stores.
Nowadays I think Kelly's overseas audience is quite satisfied to keep their little secret to themselves. They keep up with the songwriter's consistently fabulous CD output, and pull a few more fans into the fold with them when Kelly tours abroad every few years.
On observance of Kelly's 30-year anniversary as a solo artist, Famed Australian radio station Triple J hosted two all-star concert nights of tribute on Nov. 13 & 14. I thought I'd do my part by "hosting" one of Paul Kelly & the Messengers' (then named "the Coloured Girls") early videos.
"Before Too Long" was a breakthrough hit for him in 1986, and was the first Kelly single I heard. I remember going down to the store that day to buy the album, Gossip; I literally wore it out.
Happy Anniversary, Mr. Kelly, and may you have 30 more years of songwriting ahead of you.