John James Hackett: more than a passing acquaintance
It was early 1975. I remember warm summer nights and nude swimming in the backyard pool of the house on Nottage Terrace.
There were a few Adelaide locals but mainly twenty-somethings evacuated from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy struck on Christmas Day. A mix of English, Americans and Australians, more than a few fresh from India and the Asian hippie trail.
They had been part of a little Darwin scene that included Chris, a friend of mine from university days and John James (JJ) Hackett, son of Dr Earle Hackett, then deputy chairman of the ABC. You’re welcome to stay at my folks’ place in Adelaide until you get sorted out, JJ said. So a version of the scene re-established itself at the Hackett house in genteel Medindie.
Chris was there and among the other travellers was Steve, a tall, tanned, golden-blond Yorkshireman with an impressive horseshoe moustache and Bud, a curly haired surfer dude from Long Beach, California. And Nick, the brother of Supertramp’s keyboard player Roger Hodgson was there too. ‘Crime of the Century’ seemed to always be on the turntable. JJ was a most genial host—always ready with a smile—and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I guess everyone was just grateful to be safely out of the disaster zone—and in truth it would have been hard to imagine a nicer place to wash up.
I was 21, I had just quit my public service job in Canberra and I had a plane ticket to London. I was staying in a share house at the eastern end of Halifax Street in the city with my old Whyalla mate Span. Another Whyalla friend, former housemate Sue would pick me up and we’d drive over to Medindie in the evening where we would listen to stories from the hippie trail over a few joints and beers and then it would be off with our clothes for a cooling dip in the pool while Bloody Well Right drifted through the trees and up to the starry sky.
Adelaide Oval hosted the fifth Ashes cricket test at the end of January. It was a must-see for the Yorkshireman Steve and a chance to introduce Bud to the arcane mysteries of the game. Chris and JJ and I were all keen as well, so we loaded up the esky and settled down for a day in the sun on the hill under the scoreboard while Dougie Walters and Rod Marsh piled on the runs against the struggling Poms. That’s JJ and the back of Steve’s head in the picture above. And me on the right.
JJ had a drum kit and was learning how to play. When I returned to Adelaide from the UK a couple of years later, he was drumming in Rum Jungle. Formed in mid-77 with Phil Colson out front, James Black on keys and Bruce Sandell on the sax, the band was a fixture at the Lord Melbourne Hotel on Melbourne Street, North Adelaide. Jillian Burt interviewed James and JJ for the second Roadrunner in May 1978, but by the end of the year, having reached the glass ceiling that Adelaide bands have always had to contend with, JJ split for Melbourne where he joined Stars. When they disbanded in late 1979, he was a founding member of party R&B band the Fabulaires. In April 1980, Ross Wilson unveiled a new line-up of Mondo Rock that included James Black and in early March 1981, JJ also joined. They were both in the line-up that recorded the classic Come Said the Boy. JJ was with the band until 1988.
I was saddened and a bit shocked to read this week that JJ had died recently in Adelaide. I’m sure I’d seen him play a few times in the eighties, but hadn’t really spoken to him since that halcyon summer of 75.
It made me think back to those carefree days. A time of anticipation for me, of healing after a broken heart, of setting a direction and waiting to embark on a great adventure after a period of confusion and uncertainty. And some special memories courtesy of the generosity of John James Hackett. My condolences to his friends and family. And as my friend Anne said a few days ago, ‘Too many funerals.’