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Another Rock Star Falls into the Shallow Pit that is Fame

This site is all about celebrating the written word, whether it's through my own stories and poems, (or news on my novels), or recognising crafted screenplays (Greatest Written Films). Occasionally I'll recall the work of other writers (such as a series coming soon, 'Famous After Death'), even if that person is a songwriter.

The Australian music scene lost one of its gifted songwriters this week, James Freud, singer and bass-player with The Models. He wrote some of their biggest hits. He was also an author.
James committed suicide in Melbourne after a long struggle with alcoholism. He was 51.

This is a pretty cold way to sum up someone's death. This is the type of thing I've read in the papers and on news sites, but none of them describe his mentality in recent weeks, months or years. Sean Kelly also of The Models said James had 'fallen off the bicycle' when asked why he hadn't appeared at the band's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Did his much publicised absence have a bearing on his mood? It was only the week before.

And yet, if you go back to the song Barbados, one of the band's biggest hits, the lyrics tell the story. 'I am the voice left from drinking,' James sings. This became the title for his 2002 auto-biography, (which I have not read but ordered). He followed it up with another book, 2007's 'I am the Voice left from Re-hab.' I'm sure these books will give much more insight into the man. For now, like those who are left to deal with the suicide of a someone they knew (and this has happened to me too), we are left trying to understand why.
Yet only one person ever really knows. And sometimes not even then. Hasty decisions are made in drunken moments.

It's well documented how the creative person often has to deal with depression and anxiety. It seems that creativity and depression are bedfellows. Some walk on the precipice between each, trying to function normally in society, but are unable to. They medicate themselves with alcohol and/or drugs in order just to get through. Creative people are really narcissists. They explore their perceptions of the world and of themselves through their work. Suicide may be the ultimate narcissistic act. It's an escape, the offer of a way out. Some may argue that it's the easy way out, that we shouldn't feel sorry for those who take their own life. If you look at the clip of Barbados, you see a suicide in the first scene. The rest of the song is about drinking and yet there must be a link. Self-fulfilling prophecy? James appears to be actually drunk, especially in the scene when he's sitting at the bar and looks up at Sean Kelly, whereas the other band members appear to be sober. And yet his talent as a songwriter is nowhere more evident and poignant than in this song.

Maybe - I would blind the girl
Who is drowning - in the silence
She turns the grey - into a cold stare
Into a storm I have to be
Wake up to anger and mixed emotions


For whatever reason, he chose this way, he leaves behind a family in pain, including his young sons whose band he was managing. He also leaves a legacy with his work, particularly in his success in The Models, who enjoyed popularity in the 80's. Prior to joining the band in 1982, James fronted The Radio Stars and had a hit with 'Modern Girl'.

And yet their success was short-lived. The Models split up in 1988 and a solo career was mostly low-key. Famously, Ian Molly Meldrum said to him after a dispute about how James was being presented on TV in 1989 on Countdown Revolution; “You're nothing but a fucking has-been. Look around you. See the new hosts of the show. They are the future of Australian music. You're on your way out now." That must have stung.

They say it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all, but having found success as an artist, only to lose it so quickly must have taken its toll on James. He almost died from alcoholic poisoning in 2001. "I was standing upon the wreckage of my youth; I probably wouldn't make it through the night and as I lay there, I couldn't help but wonder, 'How did I end up like this?'"

Yet he managed to claw his way to sobriety and in 2007 said, 'I'm feeling great. I lead an incredibly healthy lifestyle.'

Whatever drove him to the edge nine years ago, seems to have returned to finally claim him.

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  1. I'm not sure whether I ever saw the Models live, I did buy one of their first eps, Cut Lunch - with no James Freud. I'm not sure, but I thought he was in the band, then went solo, then came back again, and probably went solo again.

    Shame to hear another musician kill himself from that era, with Michael Hutchence being another.

  2. I'm so pleased to see you writing this style of article Tony, it was so interesting. As a friend to MANY creatives, this is all too close to home for me. You wrote this beautifully, with respect for James which I appreciated. I would love to see you writing more pieces like this. I am just about to share it on FB.

    Sal x

  3. I'll also say again how much the books background has changed your page. To me, it's so much warmer and more inviting. Great decision!

  4. That is a tragic story. It's a nice way to honor a special person, though. Thank you.

  5. Good work Anthony.

    Ms_Ozzi :)

  6. OH! I love the new look of your page. About time you upgraded it! It's gr8 :))


  7. Oh my goodness Anthony!! I totally understand what you are saying in this post. How very tragic & what a terrible, terrible loss!
    As a mother of a 23 son with living with mental illness I can see how easy it is for youth suffering from mental illness to slip into substance abuse.
    My son is a very talented and artistic young man. He writes poetry (very dark poetry), is into film production and is a fabulous artist. Actually he is good at manipulating any medium but he is cursed with obtrusive thoughts, which almost led to him becoming addicted to alcohol at an early age.
    Unfortunately many people are unaware of the torturous pain that people living with these illnesses go through.
    Sadly alcohol & or drugs help to numb the pain and herein lies the problem... it is really akin to self-medication!
    Some people will argue that this is an excuse that there are other medicines (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics etc) that they could take to treat these mental illness but what they don't understand is that it can steal away a persons creativity and this can be equally as catastrophic to the person.
    My son has been ill since he was 14 and it took 8 years before we found medications that were effective in treating his illness without turning him into a zombie or stealing away his ability to create. Fortunately for my son, he has a supportive family and is growing up in a time that is slightly more knowledgeable with regards to mental illness. NOTE: I did say slightly ...because there is still such a stigma attached to mental illness!
    I apologize for the long-winded response Anthony but you touched a raw nerve with this post. It is so true what you say about the creative type person & mental illness...they are indeed strange bedfellows!!

  8. I think a sensitive person knows that death sits on her shoulder like a parrot. Most people ingore it and go on with their lives. This only buys one a little time. You can't be afraid of death and you can't embrace him. I've found love is the only cure. You have to find something or someone in this world to give yourself totally to or the parrot will have you for lunch.

  9. I cannot think too much about suicide. I was obsessed with it, being mentally ill and creative at once. I've been ill since I was little. You led me to this page, Anthony. My friend killed himself before he even lived his life. He was 19. That was 14 years ago and the implications it has had on me since that day, Dec 26th 1996 have been tremendous.

    While I am not suicide obsessed and seemed to have recovered with the help of good medicine, I cannot, during normal down periods, allow myself to think on suicide too much or I will try it, again. I almost succeeded when I was 25. I died, they brought me back. I don't feel like that. But if I get to a low point and I obsess who knows what will happen.

    I am a narcissist, I guess because I explore my life through my writing. I guess all great artists do. :-)

    Thanks for posting.

  10. james has been a big part of my life although i didn't know him personally - i woulda seen the models almost 20 times in the 80s
    from mid 1980 to the exciting time when he joined the band, (check out the 'Melbourne' cd c.1982 stuff)sorta got sick of them after hearing 'outa mind outa sight' too many times on the radio... then in early 2000 with his little business 'song zu' and i had a bit to do with him as he produced audio for ads....we lived in caulfield then and saw him often at the shops as he lived nearby... i have both books... 1st one is great & funny. 2nd is depressing and sad... i remember the 2 young boys he had, such a waste when he was 'off his bike' some photos of him from the 80s i took at gigs will scan them oneday....such is life

  11. Cheers Graham - he joined and then the band split up, but he was a friend of Sean Kelly's prior to joining. Michael Hutchence accidentally killed himself.. but that's another story.

    Thanks Sally.. Your support is really appreciated..and thanks for your kind words.

    Cheers Robyn. I know you probably havent heard of them in the US but I hope you had a listen to Barbados. Its a good song.

    Cheers Ms Ozzi.. everytime i tried to change the layout, it cut off the videos - but this new layout didnt..I like the narrow look better.

    Thank you Katherine and I'm sorry your son has had to travel down a hard road. He's lucky to have such a mum like you. There is definetly a link between depression and creativity.. and I totally understand his keeness to hang on to it.. I've gone through the same thing.. It's really another story which I have gone through in more detail in my book, 'Ode to Dead Young Friends' which touches upon some of the issues raised here and in the article.. but alcohol/drugs/creativty and depression is something I know all too well.. As you so rightly point out, people are more aware of these things these days, (a little late for my hard time unfortunately, but I'm still here, thanks to modern help) and yet the stigma is still there. some people will never understand..

    Thanks for dropping by Suzzy.. Your right, i think sensitive people are more in tune with emotions, which is also linked in with creativity..but also leaves you more open to's a vicious cycle..

    Nice to heard from you 'Amateur'. I'm sorry for your friend. These things do have a big impact on us. What I just said to Katherine applys here too, that I cover some of these issues in my book, 'Ode to Dead young Friends.' A friend of mine also killed himself and the impact was enormous. I've also considered it, but havent taken it as far as you have. I hope you continue to fight it off as I do.. because life is worth living, even if it is very painful at times..
    I'm a great narcissist too.. and also explore my feelings through my writing.. and my perceptions of the world.. as much as it can depress me, there is still much joy to be found in people.

    Cheers for your comment too PJB - that's fascinating that you had a close association with James - even though perhaps youd did'nt know him, but that you kept running into him.. I'd love to see those pics when you get them scanned.. let us know..

    thanks again all.. it's been an interesting discussion....more to come on these topics i'm sure...

  12. This is a great article. It is often hard for those who are not creative to really appreciate how hard it must be to live with yourself when you are truely creative. I am often glad I am not creative (although part of me wishes I was) as I can imagine it must be very tiring - it is hard enough living with a creative person....

  13. Another creative and troubled soul added to a long list. great and moving post...


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