David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 314: Icehouse (Crazy)

January 2, 2024

Bear with me on this one. It's going to take me awhile to get there, but eventually this blog will be about Icehouse's "Crazy." Or, more accurately, it will address "Crazy."

I am currently reading The Running Grave, by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling), the seventh novel in her series about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, private investigators. The series has been fantastic, often more for the character arcs than the individual mysteries, and so as soon as I opened this tome of a Christmas present (over 900 pages), I couldn't wait to read it.

However, it didn't take long for me to develop a not-yet-understood dread as I was reading. I associated most of my dread with the plot, which has Robin going undercover inside a cult to try and help find and "free" a client's son. I initially appropriated my dread to the sexist notion that I didn't want the female heroine in an environment where mind control, forced-sex, and potentially abuse were going to occur. I guess after six books, while Cormoran may be too bull-headed to realize how much he loves Robin, I as a reader certainly know how much I do. And when she enters the cult's compound around page 200, I figure I now have to bear at least 600 pages of her in there. Galbraith certainly loves her too much as a character to have too much happen to her while infiltrating the cult, but that hasn't stopped me from setting the book down after every couple of chapters to find a distraction.

However, early in her time in the cult, my real dread came out when she is asked to complete a 10-page questionnaire where new members must mark their agreement with a set of statements, such as "I prefer to work at my own pace," which if nothing else dredges up horrible memories of every personality test I have taken at work.

And, all of a sudden I remember vividly the first of those damn tests I ever took: standing outside and then later inside a Scientology recruiting office in Adelaide, Australia, in 1987. I was in Adelaide that summer ostensibly doing an independent study for Indiana University's Ph.D. program. The truth was, I was staying with my parents who were there on sabbatical, reading a lot of Australian literature (to the credits I would earn), but also enjoying being the stranger in the strange land. My father's contacts provided me lots of opportunity to participate in various realms of Aussie culture, and so on that particular blue-sky day, I had gotten off the tram at the southern point of Adelaide and was working my way several blocks on King William Street to a bus stop that would have take me to the stadium to meet some folks for my first Australian-rules football game.

That's when the polite young man, standing out among the various beatniks loitering on King William Street, asked if I would take a short survey. Nice guy that I am, I agree. It's maybe ten questions, takes me maybe two minutes, and I hand it back to him. He then asks if I would be willing to step inside the building (in appearances, a boring bank building) to talk with someone about the results.

I know, you are all thinking: I hope you said "no thanks," and hustled to get to your bus.

Which part of the "nice guy that I am" did you miss?

This is why Robin's situation with the Universal Humanitarian Church in The Running Grave is so crippling for me to read. I understand the mind games they are trying to play. A little later after she has completed the survey, she and the other new entrees are asked a series of questions that no honest man or woman could ever say "no" to: "Who here has sometimes been prey to shame, or guilt?" "Who here sometimes feels anxious and overwhelmed?" We are all susceptible to our humanity, and there are plenty of people wanting to take advantage of that (as I signed in to write this blog, one of my feeds from Pocket was "Why are we naturally pessimists?" I did not click to find out a potential solution.)

When I went into that building, figuring I could give the guy 5-10 more minutes, I had already taken a huge step into their web. It was in there that someone else, Carol, gave me what in my memory is the 10-page survey Robin gets, and, again, nice guy that I am, I think I can whip through it, listen for a minute and get the hell out of Down-Under-Dodge. However, as soon as I set the pencil down, Carol looked at my results, murmured a few "interesting" and "fascinating" and then went in with those same kind of "have you ever . . ." questions. I answered truthfully, and the part of me that didn't want to get to the game, wondered what she had to say. Once they get a hook into our doubts and insecurities, they are ready to reel us in.

The hardest thing for me to admit here, although I admitted it to family and friends later after I finally told Carol to bugger off (in some kind of nice guy way), is that I was pretty down that summer, fighting an unrequited love with someone who wasn't even in Bloomington, let alone Adelaide. I was vulnerable and they found their low-hanging fruit. Well, kind of. I allowed the branch to bend, but eventually I found my courage and left. Either Robin will be able to do that, or Cormoran will save her in time, but why are so many people not able to resist as I did? I am pretty sure that question is going to dog me for the next 700 pages of this book.

So, what does any of this have to do with Icehouse? Well, besides this incident, one of my other most valued memories of that time in Australia was seeing Icehouse in concert.

The more pop-music savvy of you will know that summer and fall 1987 was the time Icehouse broke big, both in their native Australia, and all over the world, behind their two biggest hits, "Crazy" and "Electric Blue." "Crazy" might have been high on the Australian charts that day I almost became a Scientologist. I don't remember knowing "Crazy" yet (my music listening was still confined to a few cassettes brought from Indiana, some REM, Warren Zevon, and Talking Heads) that summer, but when another of my father's friends invited me to a concert, who was I to say "no?" (Remember the nice guy label.) When I returned to America and saw Iva Davies and the band exploding on MTV, I must have gone around crowing, "hey, I saw them just last summer." Until The Running Grave triggered a whole series of Australia 1987 memories, I remained rock solid in my memory that I saw Icehouse at the University of Adelaide.

However, I can find no record that they played in Adelaide that summer (if this blog now reeks of Deja Vu, it's because it could be The BoDeans post). And if they were expanding from relatively-little known local band to mega-stars across the world, it seems very unlikely they were playing a small club at the University of Adelaide. So, who did I see? Who have I remembered as the wrong band? With my parents dead, I can't even ask them if they have contact information for Rae who took me to the concert, which assumes her memory is any better than mine (she's probably in her mid-70s anyway, and seeing how my 61-year old memory serves me . . . ).

This inability to confirm what I am so damn sure is true becomes another flaw of humankind that a good cult leader exploits: "No, you are not going 'crazy,' David. Sometimes our realities and our fantasies are meant to be indistinguishable. It's the [insert crazy religious deity] way of enlightenment." However, if this never-occurred concert has been a false memory for close to thirty-six years, then I have long been the persona at the heart of "Crazy," with "my head in the clouds/king of fools." The kind of fool susceptible to clean-cut young men and Carols. And since at the time I wondered if I was good enough for someone else's love, since "you got to be crazy, baby, to want a guy like me," "you gotta be out of your mind crazy," then I was set to be putty in the hands of an Adelaide Scientologists.

So, how can I remember so much about this interaction and not a concert? Do bad memories carry more momentum than good? That must be somewhat true. It also didn't hurt that Mom and Dad sent me articles about the Scientologists' battle with Australian authorities long after I was back in Bloomington. It's not like Mom sent anything about ___ band that played at the Uni. (The funny thing is that I can find some information about concerts at the University of Adelaide that summer, but they are of punk bands. David is never crazy enough to misremember a punk band as a soft rock/new wave band. Sorry, Iva.)

Ultimately, Iva, you are a footnote for me here, which wasn't the case with Carol. However you existed in my experiences, you can't hold a note to evil Carol, whom I had to exorcise in a Fall 1987 poem.

Adelaide Scientologists

I thought I was safest

Walking these streets under the sun

Pulsing from southern skies:

A street poet

(Who we all know is harmless),

a tenor sax of the near-blind,

Or the acoustic latter-day hippies,

And even a near-extinct native

Blowing tribal incantations

On instruments I can’t pronounce.


But even the laziest of cities

On this island so pastoral

Has its lurking shadows and shapes:

Nice-looking chap pushing clipboard

Asks only for a minute –

Never mind, hours -

Which click away in the sterile office

“just two doors off King William Street,”

And now I am face-to-face

With the devil incarnate – Carol -


Who shows me lines on a hastily-sketched graph,

High points in my life, (only one or two

She hastens to add), low points highlighted

With black ink, again, and again;

She uses big and ugly words,

“Depression,” “Suicide” –


Words new and suddenly alive, again,

At such a small cost: nine dollars.


Ah Carol, I don’t think you understand

The implications of your trick questions

Which want to get into that dark interior

Of people whose darkest interior is their land,

And their history, thus, their souls.

Your sci-fi God wants to capture the world,

Must this last continent go, too.

In time, I will forget my hot anger,

Which the greatest control barely hides,

For the fear of what you might do.


Six months later and that fear continues to grow

With each air-mailed Advertiser news clipping

Sent from the ties wrapped around this world:

City councils can’t deter you,

Even fine you.

All I lost that Sunday was footy game,

Brilliant Southern afternoon sun,

And a belief in polite behavior.

Now, secure in middle America,

I worry about the rest of the world.

As for this mis-memory of seeing you in concert, Iva, I guess this blog is that exorcism. If it is any solace, your lyric still speaks to me. I still worry. I guess I am crazy, Iva, and I can only hope Cormoran gets Robin out before she starts to doubt herself. Doubt is normal. The craziest of us refuse to accept it. But there are lots of people that want guys like you and me. Many just don't have the best intentions.

Icehouse. "Crazy." Man Of Colours. Chrysalis, 1987. Link here.

Day 313: Johnny Paycheck "Take This Job And Shove It"

Day 315: Mark Olson & The Creekdippers "One Eyed Black Dog Moses"

See complete list here.