A MONTH ago Tim Freedman received back a cassette tape which undoubtedly changed his life and that of his band The Whitlams.
It was the original first recording of No Aphrodisiac, made in 1996 for Freedman's then girlfriend.
The iconic opening lines of, "A letter to you on a cassette/ 'Cause we don't write anymore/ Gotta make it up quickly/ There's people asleep on the second floor," basically summed up No Aphrodisiac's creation.
Freedman, then 32, had returned home late after a night of drinking Irish whiskey with friend Chris Abrahams, of jazz trio The Necks.
After Abrahams staggered upstairs to sleep, Freedman decided to pen a lonely piano ballad for his Melbourne-based girlfriend, recorded on his Sony pro cassette recorder.
No Aphrodisiac was later finished with contributions from Machine Gun Fellatio's Pinky Beecroft and Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab and became The Whitlams' biggest hit.
It was triple j's Hottest 100 winner for 1997 and helped The Whitlams dominate the 1998 ARIA Awards with honours for Song of the Year, Best Group and Best Independent Release.
For the first time that initial 93-second demo of No Aphrodisiac, when a lonely and drunk Freedman whispered his feelings into his cassette recorder, is available to the public on the 25th anniversary edition of Eternal Nightcap.
"That's the moment I wrote it, so it's an interesting little time capsule," Freedman recalls.
"I'm whispering because Chris is asleep upstairs.
"I'm glad I had the cassette player that night because I wouldn't have remembered it. I was as full as a private school."
No Aphrodisiac and Eternal Nightcap's other beloved songs like You Sound Like Louis Burdett and Melbourne were written at a crisis point for both Freedman personally, and The Whitlams.
The Sydney three-piece of Freedman (piano, vocals), Stevie Plunder (guitar, vocals) and Andy Lewis (bass) had released two albums Introducing The Whitlams (1993) and Undeniably The Whitlams (1995) without finding mainstream success.
In January 1996 Plunder was found dead at the base of Wentworth Falls.
Freedman was determined to carry on The Whitlams. He broadened the band's sound with "my late-night Tom Waits or Randy Newman doodles", but the constantly changing personnel and financial constraints threatened Eternal Nightcap's gestation.
"[Producer] Rob Taylor and myself were making the album on a shoestring," Freedman says. "In reality I was at the end of my tether. It was my last roll of the die.
"It was probably time for me to go back to university and become a teacher, to be honest, when this one failed.
"As you can imagine when this one got a life of its own and I had to pinch myself. The light had shone through in the darkest part of the night."
Freedman and his current Whitlams bandmates Jak Housden (guitar), Terepai Richmond (drums) and Ian Peres (bass, keyboards) are performing Eternal Nightcap in its entirety to celebrate the record's 25th anniversary.
While The Whitlams regularly play much of the album, this latest tour will aim to recapture the sound of the 1997 release.
"Basically we're bringing the songs back to where they were on the album, whereas the live show in the last 10 years they had moved more towards a four-piece muscular rendition," Freedman says.
"We're taking a few steps back and it's fun, because it's back to the pure ethos of the recording."
The tour also sees The Whitlams return to larger venues like Newcastle's Civic Theatre and Sydney's Enmore Theatre.
"I'm in one of those funny vocations where you actually get better with age, as opposed to being a rugby league player," he says.
"We've just been doing it for longer and know what to do. As you get older you cherish the little pockets in show biz when everything is going well and it would be a crime to waste them with anything but your very best efforts."
The Whitlams Eternal Nightcap 25th anniversary tour comes to Newcastle's Civic Theatre with Custard on Thursday, followed shows at Canberra Theatre (September 21), Anita's Theatre in Thirroul (September 22) and Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre in Nowra (September 23).
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