Mark and his Support Professional Fiona have a special bond. They play music together, they talk about music and they share stories. There are a lot of good stories to tell. Mark’s toured with some of the biggest names in music, and spent a lifetime perfecting the art of playing the drums.
Mark tells Fiona about coming to Australia from England 30 years ago. He picked up a spot with the band, Split Endz, who were riding high on hits like ‘History Repeats’ and ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’.
Mark’s gig was stage lighting. And getting up to a mischief with the band.
“I always remember that tour because we put red spots all over Tim Finn’s face – and then silver spots on his guitar,” he recalls.
This colourful play on measles is just one of a rich treasure trove of stories Mark has chalked up on the road with some of the biggest names in rock’n’roll.
Mark started drumming as a young man, making a racket with rulers and a tin, and rapping sticks against a railing in the school yard. Throughout his life he has been beating skins in surprising places.
He played the drums at Phil Collins’ wedding. Phil was also there when Mark and some musician friends would play football on a Saturday, back in England.
“Phil is known for being a great drummer but he’s also a really good football player,” Mark remembers. “He’d tackle your knees and go for your ankles, skills that might come in handy on stage if the crowd gets rowdy!”
Leaving England for what was supposed to be a couple of months, Mark’s decision to tour Australia with Split Endz was a spur of the moment decision that would change his life.
“On tour, I met a lighting designer and we picked up another tour, and another. I just never left.”
It would set the foundations for a career in the Australian music industry. He went on to work with Marcia Hines and on Australian Idol
. He also worked with Genesis and Pink Floyd as well as jazz great, Herbie Hancock.
Growing up as the son of a jazz musician granted Mark a passion for music. Inspired by his own start, Mark began school-based drum clinics that travelled around the country. ‘The Art of Hitting Things’, and ‘Beating Around the Bush’ toured for 27 years, and taught almost 14,000 Australian kids how to drum like the best.
Of all his impressive memories, those of teaching kids how to drum are the most satisfying.
“Kids are just so fun to work with. They know how to have a good time and ask the critical questions,” he says. “They make so much noise and look bewildered when no one tells them to shut up!”
Now in his home in Sydney, Mark is recovering from a recent stroke.
Music therapy is how he and Fiona, his Support Professional, share their love of music.
Afternoons are spent playing the piano, listening to records, or making each other laugh by reading Monty Python scripts.
Their current project is putting together an almighty playlist of the top 100 songs of all time. It’s a slow process: after all, there are plenty of epic tracks to choose from. After concerted debate, Steely Dan is on the list.
“We listen to music. Analyse it. We plonk away and do duets,” Mark says.
When together, Fiona’s passion for musical theatre – and her own background as a music teacher – makes them the perfect duo.
“It’s magnificent. We talk music over cups of tea, and have a good laugh,” he says. “Me and Fiona, we go together like peas and carrots.”
As Neil Young once said, “Rock’n’Roll is here to stay”.
Just Better Care provides support through personal care, respite and lifestyle support for older Australians people living with disability.
This article is from issue 8 of Possible Magazine. Read the complete extended version online now, read it here.