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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Vale Brendan Mookx Hanley

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Photo by John McCormick: Darmin Cameron and Mookx outside of Bahloo Recording Studios, Coopers Shoot, Byron Bay in the late eighties.

By Darmin Cameron

I was asked by a friend to write about Mookx Brendan Hanley, a north coast identity who recently passed away. This is not an official obituary. I hope to give a feel for the man, these are my reflections on my time spent with Mook, looking at  the impact he had on me, the north coast and the planet. Hard to talk about Mook without mentioning Shanto who also recently passed away. They were a powerful team. Vale Mook and Shanto.

I first met Mook in 1982, I had just got back to Australia from India and was looking for a new home and came to check out Nimbin. It was late in the afternoon and the eastern side of Cullen Street was bathed in golden light. Myself and my partner at the time Prem Devi were standing adjacent to the Freemasons Pub soaking up the innocence of 1982 Nimbin. Two people emerged from the shadows down Sibley Street. They were dressed in the ‘Osho sanyassin-fashion’ of the time, bright orange and red. As was I.

The two were resplendent in their Osho garments, loose robes, sarongs and scarfs all flowing and glowing in the setting sun. These two were exuding something special. They were arm in arm, and obviously in love, they spotted us, and a huge grin spread across their faces. We were pulled together like orbiting planets, we did not know each other from a bar of organic soap, but we rushed to hug each other, laughing and giggling, sharing in the excitement of meeting kindred souls. Mook and Shanto were the best welcoming committee on the planet. I knew I had found my new home and a couple of new buddies.

The pull of the ocean was too great and we all ended up in Byron Bay in the mid-eighties playing music in different bands around the town. Byron Bay was so damned sweet then, mostly populated by Surfies, Hippies and Wannabes and hardly any tourists. The New Age had not arrived and the Meat-works/ex-Humpback whaling station had just closed down and the town no longer smelt of blood and death. Mook and Shanto created the band Bahloo with David Hallet on percussion. Myself and S Sorrensen formed Joe’s World a four piece original rock band. These were great times in Byron Bay, before greed and avarice got out of control. It was one big party and we partied like it was 1999 even though it was only 1985. Mook and Shanto were stars in Byron and wooed audiences with their original music, heartfelt lyrics and Shanto’s min- blowing voice. Shanto could transport you to another world with her voice, she could create feelings in you, you never knew you had and leave you floating. She was a transcendent singer. To be in her presence when she sang was like being blessed by a Goddess. There were very few people in her league.

Mook and Shanto

Mook and Shanto were already kicking goals with their music: spiritually, environmentally and almost commercially. Mookx had written and with Shanto recorded ‘Leave it in the Ground” about the dangers of Uranium, they made a great video clip in the eighties and received some airplay.  These two from Bahloo had very green hearts. Their whole life was dedicated to making Planet Earth a safer and better place to be, using the magic of music, songs and singing. Bahloo also recorded Living on an Island a song a about the sate of the planet. Mook was an early outspoken advocate for legalisation of marijuana and wrote the song Marijuana Australiana which was eventually recorded by the Bushwackers and became quite a hit for them, it all started in the creative mind of Mookie,

Mookx once came along to a Joe’s World rehearsal, his enthusiasm for what we were doing was an overwhelming tsunami of encouragement, we didn’t know we were that good, he made us believe we were the new Beatles. Mook’s enthusiasm was frightening, his positivity electric. If he liked an idea, God help it.

Unfortunately Joe’s World did not become the new Beatles and like most bands, broke up, so in the late eighties I teamed up with Mook and Shanto and we created Bahloo Recording Studio up on Coopers Shoot overlooking Byron Bay, long before Tom Misner and SAE hit town. Mookx was one of the most creative people I have ever met, a creative genius and creativity was my game, so hanging with Mookx was where it was at. Mook was a shit hot record producer. He was the Phil Spector of Byron, he could pull the best out of anyone and had endless stream of production ideas. Neurotic introverted but talented artists could believe in themselves, because Mookie believed in them, and when it came to songwriting his creativity was boundless. He could always make a song better. One highly memorable album Mook produced was Songs of a Green Guerrilla by Permaculture guru and Nimbin singer/songwriter Robyn Francis.

Dolphin Awards were born

Bahloo Recording Studio was bursting with creativity and had its finger on the pulse of the north coast music scene. One lunchtime, while we were sitting around the lunch table, the North Coast Music Industry Association and the Dolphin Awards were born. Again, Mookie’s enthusiasm and infectious positivity helped forge an organisation that is now 26 years old.

While at Bahloo Recording Studio  Mookie wrote the soundtrack music for the award winning documentary Blowpipes and Bulldozers by Jeni Kendall and Paul Tait from Gaia Films. Mookie’s sad haunting soundtrack empasised the tragedy of one of the last remaining tribes in Borneo Malaysia , driven off their land by logging.

Mookie almost made it to Hollywood, he wrote and we recorded at Bahloo studios the original songs for the animated feature film Ferngully the Last Rainforest. But when the Hollywood producers got hold of the film they wanted big names and got people like Elton John to rewrite new songs before the film’s release. That was a big bummer for Mook as his songs were very funny and clever and would have easily captured the hearts minds of children from all over the world.

One of the most ‘interesting’ recording sessions I ever had with Mook and Shanto was when we recorded the Gaia Choir album. The Gaia Choir was an all female choir based in Byron Bay, it had  twenty very good singers lead by choir-mistress, Shanto. The album recording needed a place that had natural ‘cathedral like’ reverb, plus be a quiet place, no traffic or people noises. We eventually found an old abandoned, mushroom factory out in the hills behind Byron, perfect. The recording equipment was set up outside, the choir inside. It was a hot afternoon and things had been going well.

But Mook the producer, wanted a more intimate sound for the next song and I had to reposition the microphones. I went into the Mushroom Factory to be confronted with the sight of twenty naked women huddled around the microphone. It was getting a bit hot in the old windowless building, so, clothes off,  that was how Mook and Shanto rolled, gets too hot, take your clothes off. They were true blue, dyed in the wool, fair dinkum, genuine hippies. Being nude was also a tactic Mook used to scare off proselytizing religious door knockers, they quickly excused themselves at the sight of a naked Mook. Mook had little time for organised religion.

Mook and I had a radio show in the early days of BayFm when it broadcast from a caravan up on St Helena overlooking Byron. Local Nimbin identity Paul Le Bars was the station manager. The show was called the Naked Lunch and Mook and I told listeners we were naked in the studio while broadcasting, that could have been hard to take for some listeners. Luckily, Paul the station manager was open-minded and let us get away with murder, Mookie was a terrorist on the airwaves, nothing was sacred or untouchable. He would rip into politicians, local councillors or anyone who was behaving badly. He was a strident environmental advocate. Mookie especially loved taking the piss out of the ‘blow-in Osho Sanyassins’ that flooded Byron Bay in the nineties. The Caligula Brothers as we were called, were either loved or loathed by listeners. Mookie was an incredibly funny person with a highly developed sense of humour, he could improvise or jam on any topic and burst into song at anytime and write a new song on the spot related to the current topic. He was irrepressible.

NimFM

Mook was also instrumental in the creation of NimFM, Nimbin’s community radio station.

I called Mook up one day and said, ‘Hey Mook! Nimbin needs its own radio station!’

After our experience on BayFM, it seemed silly to both of us that the counter culture capital of the universe, Nimbin did not to have it’s own radio station. He went crazy with the idea, he was an out of control bush-fire on a hot windy day, as far as he was concerned Nimbin would have a radio station.

He organised a public meeting that was held out the back of Birth and Beyond. Mook had the foresight to invite Paul Le Bars who was instrumental in creating BayFM and knew how to create community radio stations. Nimbin now has that once fantasy radio station, created by an idea. Mook was an idea’s man, he could have made it in corporate advertising, instead he choose to try and save the world and live a life about sharing, caring and contributing to his community.

Wherever Mook and Shanto went they created a choirs. They could turn amateurs into polished choir members with their clever arrangements and choice of material.

The Billen Cliffs Community Choir in the nineties was a great example of what the magic of Mook and Shanto could do, it was a real community choir, from three year pre-schoolers to grannies. belting  their hearts out. This choir performed at the Lismore Folk Festival and blew the audience away with their amazing sound, enthusiasm and sense of togetherness.

Not many choirs had three-year-olds performing in them, such was Mook and Shanto’s spirit of inclusivity and community.

The one thing I am eternally grateful for is Mook and Shanto’s generosity and immense musical talent and creativity. While at Bahloo Recording Studio I recorded two albums, Legend of the Golden Dolphin and Guardians of the Legend. Mook and Shanto can be heard liberally sprinkled throughout these two instrumental concept albums, from Shanto’s soaring angelic vocals and Mook’s tin whistle, guitar and vocals, they added so much to these recordings, like they did whenever they came into contact with a creative project.

Mook was not all love and light, like all of us he had a dark side, we called him Black Mookie he was aware of it, but sometimes had no control over it. This part of Mook was intensely dark and not great to be around. Fortunately the good outweighed the bad, but over the years, the bad builds up, this may be some of the reason Shanto choose to leave the relationship. This was a huge blow to Mook and fair enough, Shanto was the love of his life, mother of his children, musical collaborator extraordinaire and just an exquisitely beautiful person in spirit and physical presence. He took a longtime to get over losing Shanto.

Mook was also an amazing astrologer, illustrator. comedian and writer if there was a field to be creative in, Mook was there. He was a highly inspirational person and inspired all who came into contact with him.

Mook and Shanto’s light burnt brightly they were super novas. They both left the north coast and the planet a better place for having been here. I sit here with tears in my eyes as I write this. Thanks Mook and Shanto for absolutely everything, you are gone but will never be forgotten. Mook was one ‘Crazy Diamond’ and his legacy will shine on.


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17 COMMENTS

  1. I worked with Mook and Shanto on many projects throughout the 1980s and was often witness to their talents. There are many things that can be said about those wonderful times but in regard to acknowledgment of Mook’s songwriting abiliites, I have always felt, and still do, that the music he wrote for “Ferngully” was much better than the music that finally made it into the film. The disappointment of this episode must have been profound. It was so undeserved.

  2. A fine and balanced tribute to a life well lived. I connected with Mook via Astrology in the 1980’s at Coorabel and from then on our paths criss-crossed over the years. I would just like to add that I feel his authentic, warts and all, tell it like was, chronicling of his battle with major health issues under trying personal circumstances via FB in his final years was a lasting contribution to this community also. He certainly did squeeze every last drop out of life.

  3. Paul Joseph invited me in to their scene in 1980 or so. Paul was just putting together the Whole Earth Environmental Impact Show with Shanto and Mookie. They also developed a fantastic puppet show for the kids that happened in the afternoon before the evening shows. We traveled up and down the NSW coast with it for a season. It was an exciting, creative time for everyone. With Paul Joseph, Mookie and Shanto in the picture it was part inspiration, many laughs and some rip roaring fights! I remember them all with the greatest fondness.

  4. A great tribute to a true hippie, Darmin. Honoured to have met him later in life. He gave me a USB of some of his vast repertoire (500+ songs) that’s now avilable online. He knew we were in All in One Canoe, Living on an Island. You could get Back To Byron for Fun in the Sun and wash away those Country Backyard Blues with Just Enough Rain after a dry spell. He knew there had Got to Be a Better Way, not Dob the Bastard In and A Clear Road Ahead to the Gypsy Dream. His courage and perseverance (still performing to the end) were admirable. Soothed by Cookie #1.
    But Here and Now when his Island Heart finally gave out we could sing Lay Me Down and are sure to hear Angels All Around.
    Vale Mook.

    • I am from the west so only knew the music from a copy of a cassette tape which was copied from a cassette tape etc. so the quality was not great. I believe the lyrics are comparable to Banjo Paterson and could never believe he was not an Australian Icon.
      If that thumb drive’s contents are on-line I would love to trawl through it. Can you present a link – please.
      Plant em everywhere,
      Jeff

  5. I beautifully fitting tribute to Mook (and Shanto.) Thanks Darmin.

    My husband, Clide, and I moved to Byron Bay in the late 80’s and started a little music store called Sound Waves. Bahloo Recording Studios was in its prime and Mook & Shanto (and you, Darmin, although with a different name back then haha) were in our shop regularly restocking your cassettes. Remember cassettes?

    Anyway, reading this tribute to Mook was like also reading a tribute to life in Byron Bay in the 80s & 90s – because Mook & Shanto were an integral part of that era. Although they walked separately in more recent years, their lives were intertwined and it somehow feels fitting that they both have passed on, so close to each other. Although my sympathy is with their children in bearing the sorrow of both of them passing. Their absence will be felt by many but all the years of good memories will live on and on.

  6. 41 years ago in 1976 ,I returned to OZ after living in Bali for a long time with Phill Thomas musician & artist & rodie with the Doors & owner of the Hand Guitars company. Phill said hey if you see Brendon Hanley aka Bebop ( later on aka Mookx ) in Nimbin give him my love. Phill had lived here & played with Mookx before moving to Bali . It was December 1976 & I had just been to the 1st Down To Earth Fest at the Cotter River (ACT) & got a lift with a beautiful young lady from there to Nimbin & the first person in the main street she introduced me to was Mookx, I said ” O what a coincidence Phill Thomas told me to find you here & sends his love from Bali ” So that’s how I Mookx. Soon after I moved back to Bali & came back to Oz in 1979 & was living in Pittwater Sydney & met & became good friends Wayne Young the producer of Crocodile Dundee & Fern Gully who was also living in Palm Beach Pittwater & was also a good friend of Mookx. Wayne brought Mookx down from Nimbin to do the music for Fern Gully & Wayne organised with me for Mooxy to come stay at my house in Pittwater whist they did the movie music. but because my house only had boat access we decided it was to hard for transport so Mookx stayed over at Palm Beach & they did the movie & Mookx came back to Nimbin & I moved over to Wayne Young’s place at Palm Beach. Soon after Mookx was back down there & he went on the bus that Peter Shenton had organised to drive from Palm Beach to Monky Maia in WA to the Dolphin beach & they made a film about the trip & Mooxy did the music for it,as we waved them farewell they all climbed in to the big bus at our house in Palm Beach & drove to Monkey Maia. I moved back overseas & didn’t see Mookx again till 1993 when I returned to live in Byron shire again ,Mooky & Shanto were then playing in the street in Byron & we connected again & my X was singing also in Shanto,s choir around this time, later on I became a music judge & awards presenter for the Dolphin awards that Mookx had started. Mookx & I were face were friend on facebook & I msg him early this year to tell him our good old friend Phill Thomas the rodie with the Doors was coming to visit & stay with me & that we could all get together & play music at my place. Mookx Jumped at the idea & said “great I would love to play with Phill again he was a great guitarist, singer & song writer” Phill came last April but Mookx had been in & out of hospital at that time & was getting very sick & we had been devastated by the floods so we never got to play with Mooky .I made videos of Phill playing at my place to send to Mookx but unfortunately they got lost from my mobile. Vale Mooky & Shanto

  7. I love this tribute, Darmin. It fills in much of the detail of Moook and Shanto’s life that I wasn’t aware of, having moved away from Nimbin in 1985. But if I may, I’d like to add a wee piece about his and their life(style) before you met them in ’82.

    My family and I were their closest neighbours for 2 or 3 years from 1978, I believe (my long-term memory is poor). We all lived at Numenadi, at the North End of Tuntable Falls. My wife Jane and I had built a small house there in ’77 and experienced the joyous birth of our first daughter, Anna, in the house a few days after we moved in. Within a very short time, perhaps months, Mook and Shanto moved into ‘the cabin’ – a modest one-room dwelling about 30 meters away along a narrow bush track. Julie (as we knew her then) was heavily pregnant with their first child and soon after, gave birth in that cosy wee house, attended by Jane as doula and myself as photographer. Like Anna’s, Nuro’s birth was a beautiful, inspiring and life-affirming event. Both were so incredibly well held by Carole and Norman of the Nimbin Birth & Beyond team. Their work was a rare blend of total professionalism with a strong intrinsic spirituality. Those lucky kids had the best possible beginning to life, which I strongly believe has guided them ever since.

    Life at Tuntable in those early days was beyond idylic, or how did Darmin describe it, imbued with innocence. Mook, Shanto, ourselves and our other neighbours, David and Sally Spain, would hang out a lot with our ever growing tribe of kids – soaking up the sun, swimming in the crystal clear waters of Tuntable Creek, playing music (of course) and smoking dope (of course). We grew much of our own food, shared meals together almost daily, although it must be said, our meals often involved little more than simply ‘grazing’ in the vege garden. Other times, we (well, the girls mostly) would cook up a fine vegetarian storm of a feast.

    I could go on, but want to finish with what for me is my strongest memory of Mook, from that period of so many beautiful memories. He loved kids of course, as much as anyone I ever met. And he was a magnet for them, as he offered them endless time and love and could do cool things like draw funny cartoons, do funny impressions and play funny songs. I remember Anna used to crawl across the above mentioned bush track (where often snakes would lurk) before she could even walk, so that she could hang out with Mook and Shanto for the day. And, here’s that memory, almost every morning, for months or years (I can’t remember), Mook would take Nuro on his back (and later, on his shoulders) and walk down, then back up, Tuntable Valley, serenading the community with banjo and voice. Early morning in the valley was often a magical, magical time. Clouds would hang low below the ridges, birds were in full voice, cows would be gently mooing in the distance. And there was Mook, often with a posse of kids in tow, a true wandering minstrel, and when he pulled out his tin whistle, a true pied piper as well. He was a hero to those kids, and to us as well. He was beyond charismatic. We loved him dearly then, have done so ever since, and will forever hold him dear in our hearts.

    Thanks for the memories, cobber.

  8. I remember falling asleep in unlikely places at Tuntable music night… it has stayed as one of the most comforting ways to fall asleep, the hum of talk and laughter interspersed with guitars and song.

  9. Thanks so much Darmin. It was such a pleasure to get to know and witness in serenade action both Mookx and Shanto while living on Paul and Jen’s farm.

  10. I only met Mook once at the meeting to establish a community radio station in Nimbin. It was a well attended meeting but Mook didn’t stay involved after that meeting. I stayed involved and there were a hard core of four people that formed NIM FM, some months after the initial meeting. I went on to be President of NIM FM for some years and the Nimbin community joined up so we could apply for a temporary broadcast licence. Paul Le Bars came in later and he arrived at the perfect time to pull it all together. After we went to air I left Nimbin for East Timor, but NIM FM just kept on broadcasting with Paul at the helm. Although Mook didn’t stay involved it was that initial meeting, especially for me, that was the spark that started the community radio station in Nimbin. So thanks to Mook and thanks Darmin for that tribute, so sorry to hear he has left us. Russell.

  11. Bebop Julie and the Nimbin Allstars…
    I still perform 2 of their songs today, in 2019…
    Matthew &
    Too Sick and Tired

    Named my first born Matthew coz of this album.
    And always preferred Marijuana Australiana Mook n Shanto style, as opposed to the Bushwackers rendition.
    I never got to meet or see them live, but their music still lives on.

  12. I’m a blast from the past, from 1962 to 1966. Brendan and i were work mates and friends at National Mutual in Melbourne. At that time, he had a band called The Blowflies which was a Beatles send up group, although the screaming teenagers who packed the Melbourne Town Hall for several of their concerts chose to think they were the real thing. Their screaming prevented them from hearing words like.. . …
    “She was just seventeen, not very clean, her eyes were crossed they had a funny stare, How could I dance with her mother, when she had green lice in her hair”….. their send up of the Beatles Seventeen!

    In the band were Hamish Hughes who later become a well known TV actor, an extraordinary quick, talented, bloke with a comedic gift, Jamie (can’t remember his surname, but he, Brendan, and Brendan’s wife Julie, played and sang at my 21st),
    and there was another band member – but put a “re” in front of that as in ” I can’t remember.”

    Brendan (BJ) was mates with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, and also Keith Potiger,. He knew Judith D and Athol Guy too. I went with Brendan one night to a night spot in Melbourne and met Bruce and Keith before fame really came into their lives. Bloody good people.

    I got my first guitar from BJ – it was Julie’s which she didn’t want, and some lessons too. He was also in a jazz band (can’t think of the name) with his brother John (i think he played trumpet) which played somewhere out Ormond way in Melbourne.

    Brendan was highly intillegent, very creative, always the centre of things , strong opinion type, great fun to be with, who could make anything of nothing. Some of the crazy things we did at work would have caused real problems had management discovered them.

    I lost track of BJ when I transferred back to Brisbane in 66, but finally tracked him down to Nimbin just 4 years ago after seeing him on an ABC show, then using the net. I met with him in Nimbin in April 2015 and we reminisced for hours. I left with the promise to come back again. That was my intention today, and I rang to make arrangents. But he did not answer the phone. I am doing my grieving now. He was one of the people who has made a deep impression in my life – someone I remember with as a mate of mine.
    Jim Macdonald 13 July 2019.

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