More Cowbell, Jack! — School Talent Quest, 2022

At the end of term, the Two Man Play-Doh Band (feat. Charlie and Archie) played the primary school talent quest. Our son Jack was on cowbell, Play-doh MIDI and clapping. See video.

The Two Man Play Doh Band has had a big six months.

It began when our son, Jack, 11, who has CP, explained to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews how his music teacher Simon Lewis had bought a Play-doh MIDI instrument for him so they could form a band. Jack named their duo ‘The Two Man Play Doh-Band’.

His aide, Meg Kossatz, produced their merch.

Then, in October, 2MPDB played the school fete (Fiesta!) and Jack proved himself an enthusiastic singer and MIDIist, as well as a master of stage banter and communal clapping. ‘Westgarth, we love you!’ was his sign off, as well as a hefty ‘Good night!’ despite it being just after 1pm in the afternoon.

In terms three and four, 2MPDB sessions became a regular thing. They’d meet at lunchtime three times a week, and Simon tuned the MIDI to the key of Jack’s favourite songs. They learned everything from Tom Petty’s ‘Freefalling’ to The Doors’ ‘Riders on the Storm’ to Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’. Jack was very insistent that it be ‘the clean version' which took the edge off its power as an antiauthoritarian anthem.

Good one, Wilson!
Rage without the rage — 'Have to do what they tell ya!'
Watch now (5 min) | Jack’s always had a strange relationship with swearing. We first noticed it when he was a very little baby, and Tam locked herself out of the house, and she ran around trying all the windows with Jack in a Baby Bjorn, saying ‘fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck’ and he just collapsed into giggles. It actually led us to recording this video, ‘My baby finds swearing f…
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It is during one of these lunchtime sessions that Jack and Simon meet two fellow rock ‘n rollers, Archie and Charlie, also from grade 5. Archie and Charlie are learning ‘Seven Nation Army’ which is an easy choice for Archie because he’s been learning piano for just six months, and it’s the first song he mastered. Charlie is on guitar, and the duo have their sights set on the Student Representative Council’s end of year talent quest.

When they hear Jack and his Play-doh, they are impressed. The 2MPDB’s people talk to Charlie and Archie’s people.

Okay it’s the same person, Simon, talking to himself.

Negotiations conclude. Deals are done. It’s unclear, to use the nomenclature of the era, whether it’s going to be Charlie and Archie (feat. 2MPDB) or the 2MPDB (feat. Charlie and Archie). What is clear is that it’s a (feat.) The boys are suddenly a four-piece. And importantly for their chances, the man on bass is an adult music professional who’s studied about nine instruments at the Victorian College of the Arts and has a band residency at the St Kilda baths every Sunday.

Jack is very happy with Charlie and Archie’s song choice. He has a YouTube playlist at home called ‘White Stripes full shows’ and asks all the right questions when it comes to the complicated relationship between Meg and Jack White (public siblings and private spouses before hitting the big time; public exes, unrelated, afterwards). He also loves ‘Seven Nation Army’ because we sing it after every goal at Melbourne Victory games, back when fans were trusted to watch games without hitting goalkeepers with bins.

This clip is a bit short but you get the idea:

The boys rehearse only once, and it’s decided that Jack is in charge of stage banter, Play-doh midi, vocals and cowbell. When Simon tells me this, I involuntarily exclaim — ‘More cowbell!

Simon looks at me strangely, as if I’m trying to boost my child and interfere with the arrangement.

‘You know, the SNL sketch, ‘More Cowbell’?

‘No,’ he says.

‘You know. Will Ferrrell. “If Bruce Dickinson wants more cowbell, we should probably give him more cowbell!’” I say.

‘No’ he says.

I tell him how much the sketch means to me, and how pleased I am that my son is on cowbell.

It’s a strange declaration.

Anyway, here it is blog readers. Christopher Walken as ‘The Bruce Dickinson’. Chris Kattan, Chris Parnell, and Horatio Sanz as the Blue Oyster Cult. Will Ferrell on cowbell. You’re welcome.

“"I got a fever. And the only prescription is more cow bell"

How prophetic the sketch turned out to be.

If you watch the talent quest video below (or at top of page), Jack is given the job of counting everyone in (‘a one, a two, a one, two, three, four!’) and then he’s supposed to give everyone the required amount of cowbell.

But what’s this? After just six strikes of the cowbell, Jack tosses his aside and raises both arms to the heavens (this is good OT, by the way). ‘Come on, clap along everybody!’ he shouts, sensing crowd energy levels need a Jack injection. He then starts his perfect in-time clapping, intersperses it with some rock screaming, and it’s only after his aide Steph crawls surreptitiously along the floor to retrieve the stick that he returns to cowbell.

Archie and Charlie are on an impeccable groove throughout and hit every note.

Jack brings the stage craft, the whoops, and the cheering.

The performance closes a talent quest that has straddled ballet, gymnastics, magic tricks, a Green Day cover, a cellist, and Murray doing a balancing act of a broom on his nose.

The Student Representative Council casts its 3-2-1 votes. The decision is nearly unanimous.

It must have been close for Murray.

But they’ve all experienced just the right amount of cowbell.


Thanks for the lovely response I’ve had to these Jack music posts. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Picture books for sale here. These ones are back stories to nursery rhymes, aimed 2-6 years.