We went to the same school – North Sydney Boys High – but had only become friends in recent months, as I organised a reunion for my Class of 1979.
Greedy was a 1973 alumnus, and joked that the BBC only wanted to interview him on a Mentals’ 1980’s British tour because he was in the same class as former Australia cricket captain Allan Border.
I invited Greedy to be the special guest at our 40th school reunion dinner in September. He was keen but the evening clashed with a Mentals’ gig, so he sent a video greeting instead, recorded on my iPhone outside a Roseville café.
Becoming mates with Greedy at first felt a little daunting, as hanging out with any celebrity from our youth might. One of the favourite albums from my final year of school was the Mentals’ Get Wet, with the hit single The Nips Are Getting Bigger like a running commentary about our teenage experiments with alcohol.
That same year, Greedy and the Mentals played a concert at our school, in the same hall that hosted the reunion 40 years later.
Mental As Anything always felt accessible as pop stars, with Greedy, Martin Plaza, Reg Mombassa (from Mambo fame), and the rest of the band never appearing to take themselves too seriously, even when they tasted international success with Live It Up. The single, written and sung by Greedy, became a belated hit more than 18 months after its recording, with the release of the Crocodile Dundee film in 1986.
Greedy told me that due to the Mentals’ art-school roots – they formed at the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education in 1976 – they were accidental pop stars, who were never allowed to get too big for their boots.
In recent years, Greedy became the only original member of the Mentals with his co-members all gradually departing, including fellow frontman Martin Plaza, who had a long battle with kidney cancer. Greedy soldiered on with a polished new band, and sang Martin’s hits like If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?, Working For The Man and Berserk Warriors.
I asked him if it was easy to handle his friend’s old tunes, and he replied: “Easy isn’t the right word, but I’m doing my best.”
At our last lunch in Chatswood, I passed him a book on original Little River Band (LRB) lead singer Glenn Shorrock, as part of our ongoing banter about music. Greedy and I discussed working together on a radio project about the early days of Australian pop. Two months earlier, we’d recorded a couple of podcasts about his life and career, reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Mentals’ first album, Get Wet.
Greedy observed that the day after Elvis died – on August 16, 1977 – was when the classic line-up of Mental As Anything, INXS and Midnight Oil, all played their first gigs in Sydney.
After lunch, we walked to Greedy’s Subaru Forester – he was relieved to have avoided a parking ticket – and he insisted on dropping me at my next meeting. As he drove, I remember thinking how cheerful, optimistic and humble he was, the antithesis of the jaded rock star.
I will miss hanging out with my new friend, and feel grateful for simply getting to know him a bit. But I don’t feel sadness, as he lived an incredible life and seemed in such a “lucky” place.
Jason Dasey is a radio and TV broadcaster who runs Cockatoo Media in Brisbane, and a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist.