‘ TV just can’t af­ford me’

Ra­dio’s orig­i­nal good guy was a hand­ful as a school­boy, writes David Meddows

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

Ra­dio sta star Bren­dan Jones o on why he wo wouldn’t do break­fast tele­vi­sion

Bren­dan “Jonesy” Jones might be one of the most like­able blokes on ra­dio, but the WSFM break­fast pre­sen­ter has been liv­ing with a dark se­cret — a hid­den crime — for nearly 40 years.

Be­hind that dis­tinc­tive voice and trade­mark leather jacket is a man who lives ev­ery day with the mem­ory that he contributed to one of the darker days of The Shire’s his­tory.

“You hear about peo­ple who com­mit crimes in their lives and they live it ev­ery day,” he says, star­ing off into the dis­tance. “That’s me.”

As a young Year 6 stu­dent at De La Salle Col­lege in Car­ing­bah, Jones and his posse of Catholic school mis­fits thought it would be a smash­ing idea to drag a mas­sive metal roller from Woolooware Oval and see how it road tested.

For the unini­ti­ated, Jones ex­plains that the piece of equip­ment, which is used to flat­ten cricket pitches, was about the size of a Holden Ba­rina and weighed al­most as much.

“We pushed it up to the road and it hit the con­crete gut­ter where we thought it would stop, but in­stead it bounced over the gut­ter, down a drive­way and takes out this guy’s car­port,” he re­calls.

“It missed his car but it took out the pole and the car­port fell down.”

In a mo­ment rem­i­nis­cent of Stand By Me, the boys stood frozen and mute, paral­ysed by the car­nage they had just un­wit­tingly caused.

One of the young­sters even­tu­ally re­gained some level of com­po­sure and de­liv­ered some sage ad­vice to the rest of the group: “RUN!”

The boys re­grouped and quickly got their sto­ries straight: “We were sit­ting on it and it just took off.” Sim­ple.

It may have seemed like an ex­cuse only slightly more plau­si­ble than the clas­sic “dog ate my home­work”, but it ac­tu­ally worked and the lit­tle car­port de­stroy­ers got off scot-free.

School was a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod for Jones, whose book Fifty Shades Of 50 is re­leased today. His dis­il­lu­sion with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was shaped early, when he started school in Eng­land where his pi­lot dad was posted.

Sent to what sounds like a posher, scarier ver­sion of Hog­warts, the young boy from Down Un­der didn’t take well to his new sur­rounds.

“I re­mem­ber Mum say­ing I’d en­joy it. If by ‘en­joy’ she meant hate ev­ery minute of it, then yes, I cer­tainly en­joyed it,” he writes in the book.

A few years af­ter re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia, Jones was en­rolled at De La Salle in Year 5, where he be­gan a rocky six-year re­la­tion­ship at a time when sport­ing prow­ess was your ticket to an easy ride and cre­ativ­ity was seen as a weak­ness.

“My his­tory at De La Salle is not very good. In the book I’m quite scathing of the school — and quite rightly so, be­cause in those days if you were in any way cre­ative, or you read, you were con­sid­ered some sort of ‘poof’,” he says.

Head­ing back to the school with In­sider for the first time since leav­ing in the early ’80s, Jones was ner­vous about the re­cep­tion he might get.

Maths and PE teacher Kevin Nielsen, who re­tired ear­lier this year, was at the en­trance to meet his for­mer pupil and was soon spilling on what the younger Jones was like back in the day.

“He was a man of mixed for­tunes — some­times ev­ery­one thought he was won­der­ful and then other times they thought he was ter­ri­ble. It was def­i­nitely a fifty-fifty split,” Nielsen says.

“For­get­ting stuff was one of his big­gest things. Ev­ery­one was torn be­tween ‘Is he re­ally that for­get­ful or is he just not do­ing things on pur­pose.”

School of­fi­cials ba­si­cally told Jones’ par­ents his only real op­tion was to leave school and take on a trade but he never gave up on his dream of one day work­ing in ra­dio.

Af­ter leav­ing school be­hind and try­ing his hand at art school — where he had a brief in­fat­u­a­tion with the daugh­ter of renowned Syd­ney un­der­world fig­ure Abe Saf­fron — he got his first break in ra­dio at Bankstown com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion 2BCR be­fore his first paid gig in the “back­woods of north­west West­ern Aus­tralia”.

He then slowly made his way up the ra­dio lad­der to­wards the sta­tion of his youth­ful dreams: Triple M.

He met Amanda Keller — “the hot sci­ence chick from Be­yond 2000” — on his first day at the sta­tion, un­aware at the time the pair would later form one of the most suc­cess­ful ra­dio duos in the most com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

They’ve clocked up 12 years to­gether now and have just signed on for an­other three.

Asked what makes him so re­lat­able to his lis­ten­ers, Keller (in­set with Jones) points to a fact that is made ev­i­dent in the book — Jones is one of the good guys.

“He’s the real deal in terms of be­ing a real hu­man be­ing in that he has a very nor­mal sub­ur­ban life. He rides his mo­tor­bike but his fam­ily’s his big thing,” she says. “He goes to the pub with his mates; if he has too many drinks he’ll take the train home. He lives a very reg­u­lar life and that’s the mak­ing of him.”

Jonesy hams it up out­side the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice at his old school, De La Salle Col­lege in Car­ing­bah. Pic­tures: Sam Rut­tyn

Boy­hood im­ages of Bren­dan Jones and (right) a re­union with Kevin Nielsen, one of his teach­ers at De La Salle in Car­ing­bah.


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