Meet The Fourth Estate, a spirited group of Top End journalists who throw their type writers into Darwin Harbour but still belt out a great sound.

DRIVING through Darwin in late November or December it is not unusual to see motorists stopping at the lights, alighting from their vehicles and hitting each other. Presumably this is due to road rage exacerbated by the “build up”, that intolerable season of heat and humidity which drags on for months before the relief of January’s monsoonal rain. People go “troppo”; suicides increase; many individuals can be seen walking through the Smith Street mall muttering oaths to no-one in particular. Acts of extreme lunacy take place. People drink even more alcohol than the normal two and a half times the national average. The condition is most noticeable among long-term Darwin residents.

MANGO MADNESS AFFLICTS EVERYONE UP THERE

Top end journalists are not immune from “mango madness”. Some years ago (so the story goes) during this uncomfortable period one prominent newshound, prior to sexual congress, placed a metal ring around his penis in order to maintain an erection for an extended period. In his fevered state he apparently thought it was a good idea. It was not. Sadly, subsequent to the act of coitus, the engorged member would not subside and became discoloured and painful so the fellow had to face the embarrassment of Royal Darwin Hospital. Even more sadly, there was nothing the medical experts could do, so they called in the fire brigade which successfully used a “certain device” (A pair of pliers? A hacksaw? The Jaws of Life?) to remove the ring before gangrene could set in.

JOURNOS AND POLLIES RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

While that journalist left Darwin years ago, others carry on the tradition. For example, Max Ortmann, “the strangler”, is by no means the only political figure to use physical means to terminate a journalist’s interview. Persistent scribes have been punched at Alice Springs airport and outside Northern Territory House by Top End politicians foregoing the usual niceties of debate. Another, in a bar known as “Sweaty Passions”, removed his teeth prior to head-butting a journo and stretching him out for the count on the beer-soaked carpet. One former journo, a government spin-doctor, has been punched out twice – once in the now defunct Darwin Press Club (by a rival press sec) and later at the Darwin races (by a colleague). Politics in the top end, especially where journos are concerned, is bloody and violent.

TALK ABOUT BURYING THE LEAD: ED

Which brings me, by the long route, to The Fourth Estate. This is a band made up, among real musicians, of three journalists who are long-term top-enders and have apparently narrowly survived one build up season too many. The instruments they play are large typewriters of the massive upright kind upon which many of us learned the trade. The sound they make is a type of semi-rhythmic snippety-thunk clack ping that more or less follows the beat of the admittedly fine session musicians that, for reasons hard to fathom, agreed to join a band that was ill-conceived and is clearly doomed to oblivion. The journalists wrote the songs, which feature the themes of betrayal, lust, greed, corruption, ignorance, racism, drunkenness, violence and stupidity – yes, you guessed it, politics in the Northern Territory. Other songs, however, celebrate the finer things of life in doleful ballads, up-tempo rock, driving R&B. All accompanied by those fucking typewriters. The Fourth Estate sees itself as a sort of 21st century The Who, where large typewriters are hurled into Darwin harbour after the gig, rather than the more costly activity of guitar smashing. But, thanks to the dynamic performances of the non-journo members of the Fourth Estate, the result is sensational.

The first album of the Fourth Estate is highly recommended and can be purchased on CD, for $20, from:

Green Ant Research and Publishing P/L

PH: 08 8948 0193
FAX: 08 8949 3001

– Jeremy Thompson is one of the Today Tonight journalists sacked for daring to pursue Jeff Kennett’s share dealings. He also managed to get Max Ortman out of NT politics for strangling him during an interview. Thommo is now spinning in Canberra, god help him.