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May 2001

Song of the South

Australian Mick Dixon and his pals cover only the good stuff

Musically speaking, Australia owes the world a huge apology. First they inflicted the Bee Gees upon us, then Olivia Newton-John and finally Kylie, “the singing budgie” Minogue. On behalf of his country, Mick Dixon would like to apologize formally. “Sorry,” says the rangy, laid-back singer. “I mean that sincerely. We are truly sorry, but we’ll try to make it up to you.” Dixon is big on irony. Most Australians are. It’s a national characteristic, like drinking beer and talking out of the side of the mouth. And when Dixon talks, the conversation rockets easily from topic to topic. “The thing is, Australia has some outstanding musicians, but you rarely hear about them. Instead, the only ones that receive any press [in Germany] are those like Kylie and when they tour, Aussies living locally cop the flow on. I always get heaps of work after Kylie tours — but hey, I’ll live.”

Known as “Dicko” to his friends, Dixon’s passion in life is sports. A physical education teacher at the Munich International School in Starnberg, he also plays representative tennis for the Schäftlarn Tennis Club, coaches junior tennis, is the organizer of the Munich Kangaroos Australian Rules Football Club and continues to play the occasional game of soccer—a sport he has enjoyed since he was nine years old. But while his primary focus has always been sports, he says music has been the linchpin of his life. “I grew up in a big family of boys, and there wasn’t a hell of a lot for us to do except fight among ourselves,” he explains. “To keep us busy and preserve their sanity, my parents encouraged us to play sports and to take up music and those two elements have been the two constants in my life.”

Dixon, 39, was on an around-the-world trip when, in 1990, he met Birgit Menninger at a party in Frankfurt. The couple later married and moved to Munich because of his wife’s family ties. After beginning his work at MIS, Dixon went in search of an outlet for his musical side. Roy, a cover band active in Upper Bavaria for more than 20 years, was looking for a new member. He auditioned and quickly found himself not only playing keyboards and the guitar, but also acting as lead singer. “Nope, had no problems with it. Loved it in fact,” he answered, when asked if he was surprised at being thrust into the front-man role. “It was great just to be playing and, although you’ve probably never heard of them, the band has a steady series of annual gigs in and around Munich. Some of these are quite large, including street festivals. We also supported the Spider Murphy Gang in Andechs a few years back and that was a night to remember. The whole beer tent was absolutely vibrating.”

Two years ago, Dixon realized a personal dream when he and some friends formed a band dedicated to playing Down Under covers. Australia and New Zealand have a strong rock tradition, boasting such bands as The Easybeats, Midnight Oil, INXS, AC/DC, Crowded House and, more recently, Savage Garden. “Those are only some of the groups that play a rich, distinctive Australian style of music. Many other bands as good or even better never cracked the international market,” explains Dixon. “We thought it would be fun to give some of these songs an airing. So we hired a hall, got dressed up as Australian icons—Dame Edna Everage, Mad Max, Captain Cook and so on—and opened the doors.”

The group had expected little reaction. As Dixon describes it, the band “thought a man and his dog would turn up.” Instead, the hall, which was licensed to hold 250 people, was filled to capacity within half an hour.

The night, billed as the Down Under Ball, has since become an annual fixture for the Munich Australian and New Zealander community. The band, known as MIA (Made in Australia), found themselves in demand to play in pubs, concerts and other events. They were even approached to play at the 2000 Expo in Hanover and at the official send off for the German Para-Olympic team—but by then Dixon had had enough. “After ten years of life in Germany, I needed a change, so my wife and I packed up the boys (Yannick and Christopher, twins, aged eight) and we headed back to Oz for a year,” he said.

Now back in Munich and already into the tennis and football seasons, Dixon is looking forward to his first gig with MIA at the third Down Under Ball. “It is usually a great night and this time we have several guest musicians and groups who will be appearing as well,’’ he said. And I promise there will be no Kylie songs.”

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