Who Sang Gladstone Pier? Redgum

Release information
Release Date: 1984-8
Genre: Folk, World, & Country
length: 7:45
Lyrics
Peter was a sailor
Swarthy lean and proud
He could take a schooner through a big sea swell
Aloof in the mainland crowd

She loved his quiet laughter
Like a boy he'd shrug and grin
The beach stretched wide at Port Mackay
With dreams upon the wind

He wore her name in a rose tattoo
Long weekends of gins and lime
She lived in Cairns, made plans to move
Checkout girl part-time
And rumour said, "There's a boom ahead,
You can make your future here
By the Gladstone Pier"

A two-roomed fibro shelter
Empty hopes, the damp, the flies
Prices hiked, her face grew tight
And conversation died

And the foreman at the smelter said "You're much too old
Try the canefields furthers north"
And the clerk at the market said "We don't buy trouble
There's a strike down at the port"

Then a six-day shift in a filthy pit
The drag lines gouging coal
The black dust gnaws at your lungs and pores
And the anger rots your soul
And the queue round the block waits for you to drop
Can you take it for another year?
By the Gladstone Pier

Every Sunday he'd walk alone
Casting pebbles at the passing waves
Plunge in brine, cleanse his pride
And a stronger man remains

The crunch of shale and distant sails
Ached within his bones
Seeing ships upon the tide
Bound for ports unknown

Soon he drank for comfort
She grew bitter in the weeks between
The nights of beer and hollow cheer
When love became routine

They fought, she left him crying
Angry words in a last café
In desperation on a lonely night
She took the bus to Cairns next day

Gladstone couples break that way
Mutual blame and no regrets
Boomtown blues just fade to grey
And all that's left are debts -
He cried, "I've got to leave this dirty old town
and the rattle of broken men
Break these chains, wash the pain
And put to sea again
I drained all my passion, my anger and my fears
And sank them in a flagon
under Gladstone Pier"

She saw him through the Greyhound window
As the dawn glowed on the chrome
Standing by the pier under sullen skies
Sea winds calling home

From Surfers up to Townsville
Past the high-rise colonies
Fast food, cheap motels
And two more boomtown refugees

I'd immersed myself in the social history of Gladstone in the 1970s. The context was realistic, but the characters were invented. When we toured, it turned out that so was the pier. There's a lot of deep feeling, but this song about social circumstances tearing a relationship apart seemed to compose itself. It was a strange experience of sleep-writing. When my first wife and I split a few weeks later, I woke up. -MA

Tracklist
Vinyl 1
  • 1 I've Been to Bali Too
  • 2 ASIO
  • 3 Friday Night
  • 4 Spirit of the Land
  • 5 Gladstone Pier
  • 6 Spark of the Heart
  • 7 Still Life
  • 8 Working Girls
  • 9 Beyond Reason
  • 10 Hira

  • Release information
    label: Epic
    country(area): Australia
    format: Vinyl
    script: Latin