From a child yelling my guts out in church, then to pubs and then touring nationally and internationally. I was happy to ‘backup’ anyone, from Canadian Neil Diamond impersonator Bobby Bruce to internationally renowned Tina Arena. Just happy to sing, thankful to travel and meet great people. I didn’t need centre stage. I soon burnt out, getting too emotional from irregular living and excessive drinking. One day, my good friend who’d been like a Rock & Roll dad to me and who had been looking out for me since doing backing vocals’s for my first headline act, Billy Thorpe, dropped in to visit me to deliver the news. The big ‘C’ he put it! Everyone’s world ends at least once whilst alive on this earth and these words ended my world. I’d lived through relationship breakups and yes at the time they were crushing but this was different. I still have both of my parents alive and at the time I’d not lost my 15 year old dog Max. I’d never had to face losing someone that close! Norm had carried my guitar, amp and ME home for years. You carry on, life as usual. Being strong for your mate and their friends and their family. We would want to ‘try’ new things and we wished he wasn’t so stubborn. Then we’d have to ‘Let Go’ and accept it wasn’t our life or our decision. Just be and let be! And love him! That’s it. It’s his life and his choice but at times I know he felt that he had no choice at all.
So Norm had the right to say whatever he wanted, after all he was leaving. He was going to have his say!
Shortly before he left, Norm told me how he really felt about me and my life choices. My singing. My career and my drinking.
Others had said similar before but I was addicted to my hurts and emotions and held them close. However it was his words that reverberated through my body. ‘We all like a drink love but that night, (referring to a gig we’d done at Randwick Racecourse, he had carried me and my friend home from) “I’ve never seen someone so stupid. Why are you trying to kill yourself?” “Well sort it out ya bloody idgithead! (Idiot)” “You is a bloody idgithead and I loves ya!” “And also (he hadn’t finished) Why the hell are you hiding behind others? You should be singing out the front. You’ve paid too many dues. Stop being gutless and stupid and bloody well sing and write and record! I just don’t understand you! Sort it out!” That was Norms LAST coherent day on this earth!
I was meant to hear those words. I had sometime before anticipated Norm’s departure date and written to Adam Brand in Nashville (who I was consistently touring with nationally at the time) about taking that time off. I wanted to be close to home and not regional or interstate. If I hadn’t of made that decision, I would have missed his last days and words. It’s a big decision pulling out of a tour, even for a short while. A musician does not make it lightly and in fact most would consider they had no choice at all. So I set about absorbing Norm’s words on ALL levels. I joined a yoga group. I rang the Dr. I went to a therapist. I did acupuncture and kinesiology. I searched for the ‘me’ as I was born to be and let go of the ‘me’ I had become. This is an everyday process and a personal one. It doesn’t finish. As long as you’re being honest with yourself, it’s whatever works for you.
Some friends and I gathered together to play some tunes. Tuesdays at Zapata. We chose songs that were related to Norm. Either he’d worked for the writer/artist, or they were his mates. Hence Brian Cadd’s ‘Let Go’ which has been a staple theme throughout this whole process and indeed my life (that’s another story). Spectrum’s ‘I’ll Be Gone’ and Max Merritt’s ‘Slippin Away’.
Sometime later I was looking at the songs and didn’t feel right Norm didn’t have his own song. So, Doug and I wrote ‘One For The Roadie’. Originally I’d included a track called ‘Billy’, which I wrote the day after Billy Thorpe’s heart attack. I was in Cairns at the time and wanted to come home desperately. Norm wouldn’t let me. “You stay and be professional, you idgit!” he said. “Thorpe would want that”. Well in light of how that particular tour ended, (ripped off, financially and morally) fed my decision for staying close to Norm. There was no choice. Life is limited and you can’t go back to change anything. I had to be with Norm. A few days later, he said goodbye. Norm had the best hair. Long, grey, thick, shiny, beautiful hair. It was accessorized with his long feathered earrings.
To lose his crowning glory was his first visual step of dealing with the indignities of cancer.
On one of his final visits to hospital he was deeply saddened by the kids suffering the same fate as him but who hadn't yet had the opportunity for life that he had had. He wished they’d had more memories in their life.
As a tribute to him, I will shave my head for charity.
Details will be on www.chrisethomas.com So, I have addressed deep seeded hurts and habits that made me hide and I will continually choose to do so. I welcome change.
I am writing again. I will not be gutless and take the easy chair.