Christo and the Plunderers

One Sunday afternoon in early 1989, I was lying in bed watching a documentary on the ABC about the large-scale installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Yes, there was a TV sat at the end of the bed. Those were the days you could stay in bed all day long. I opened up my songbook and started doing a drawing of Christo and writing some stuff down, which led to a song. It’s about a girl who is such a fan of Christo, she volunteers to help him create his latest project and dreaming of taking the artist back to her place and ‘setting him up near the phone’.

The Plunderers booked some time at Electric Avenue in Balmain to record the A sides for our next two releases. We were planning ahead. With Rob Younger producing and my old school friend Adam Chapman engineering, we recorded my new song “Christo” as well as another recent number of ours we’d made up at rehearsal called “Sarah’s Not Falling In Love”.

The “Sarah” ten inch came out in March 1990 followed by “Christo” (backed with Stevie’s incredible “Peggy” on the flip) in September. Even though we were on a ‘high-profile’ local label like Citadel, we still had to do a lot of the promotion ourselves for our new single. So, it was freaky good timing that there was a massive Christo exhibition in Sydney during the same month we released the seven inch – including a wrap-around front page in the Sydney Morning Herald as well as many TV news and current affairs segments. There was even a paragraph in the Herald’s Column Eight about the coincidence of our single and the exhibition, despite me being called Nik in the piece. Yuk! But best of all was that Christo was coming out to Australia to open the exhibition and give a talk. No way!

On Wednesday 12th September, sitting there at the bar at the Lansdowne, clutching my ‘wrapped’ copies of the single (like Christo, I’d covered about fifty copies in black plastic),  I had a nerve-building beer and then announced to my friends, “I’m off to the art gallery to give Christo a copy of the single!” I walked all the way from Broadway to the Art Gallery Of New South Wales and found a seat about halfway in the lecture theatre and listened to his talk and a few gallery dignitaries who gave their little speeches. I worked out I would easily be able to hand him the single on his way out. Then one of the gallery suits leaned into the microphone and made an announcement: “Christo has to suddenly leave to catch his plane.” And they all ducked out a side door. Shit!

The audience started to get up to leave by the exits at the back of the room. I ran across the stage and followed the Christo pack out the side door. A security guard yelled at me. Stop! I turned and waved my single at him and kept running, catching up to Christo along a corridor. “Christo!” I said, huffing and puffing. “Excuse me, Mr Christo.” He stopped and turned. The security guard, who had been chasing  me, stood back with the gallery folk.

“My band the Plunderers just put out this single about you,” I blurted out as I gave him the singles. Christo didn’t look surprised or confused. Just a bemused smile came across his face as he looked down at the square piece of plastic in his hands. “Thank you,” he said, “and I must now catch my plane.” And off he went. Stupid me: I should have given him an unwrapped copy with the cover artwork I’d done, which clearly has his name on the front and the clouds being put in boxes. Now I was confused. He acted like he already knew about this local Sydney band and their song all about him.

What I didn’t know was that earlier that week, or that day – maybe even just hours before – Paul Clarke from Countdown Revolution had gone up to Christo at his press conference, armed with a boombox and played him the song. No wonder he didn’t seem surprised. Christo was already in the Plundee Club! I found this out months later when footage of it was used as an introduction to the Plunderers “Christo” film clip, made for us by the ABC. Not only did the ABC make the video, Stevie, Geoff and I also got paid one hundred dollars each! We were driven to Little Bay where Christo had famously wrapped the rocks back in 1969 and we mimed over and over again to the song. Whilst there, I had a poke around on the ocean rockface and found – wedged in a crevice – a huge rusty pin with some orange twine attached.

Relics hidden away since the original wrap.

– Nic Dalton, May 2020