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by Dino Scatena - Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 14 August 1997

"I thought 'oh God, I've written so many songs. Maybe I should do something else'."

Probably the most memorable image associated with Stephen Cummings' debut solo album Senso back in 1984 was the po-faced, white haired singer surrounded by bulky musclemen and women in the videoclip to his minor hit Gymnasium.

It was a somewhat different image earlier this year when a slightly older Cummings found himself spending much of his time walking up and down a swimming pool surrounded by frail geriatrics.

What made everything even more dour was that this time it was real-life; Cummings was forced to attend aqautic-gymnasium classes daily to heal a busted back. "I used to go up the other end by myself," Cummings recalled of those pool-faring days.

"They were all down there doing their water-aerobics and I used to have to walk back and forward, walk back and forward.

"It was a really surreal time."

Everything suddenly went bad for Cummings one Sunday morning late last year during his weekly kick of a footy with friends at his local neighbourhood park in Melbourne.

He got home, jumped in the shower, reached for his toothbrush and, clunk, his back was out.

The next three weeks were spent motionless, doped up on valium. It would be another three months before Cummings could leave his bed with any regularity.

"It was horrible," he said. "The only thing that ever happened to me like that in my life. I never want it to happen again."

Everything in Cummings' life was put on indefinite hold, including work on his second novel, Stay Away From Lightning Girl.

The follow-up to Wonderboy, Lightning Girl tells the story of a songwriter who is forced to leave Canada and return home to Melbourne when his mother suffers a stroke.

Featuring an evil set of twins and a few digs at the local music industry, Cummings said the story was inspired by a conversation he had with a friend's partner some time back.

The girl spoke with some vitriol about her sister who had been struck by lightning three times. Voila! A tome was born.

Stay Away From Lightning Girl was originally scheduled to have been published by now but, because of his back, Cummings has only recently moved into the editing phase of the project. It's been rescheduled for a February release.

However, due out in the next couple of weeks are two separate compilations documenting the depth of Cummings' musical endeavours.

The first is a two-CD set, The Complete Anthology, which extensively covers Cummings' work with his old band from the '70s, the Sports. The other is a greatest hits set covering his solo career and featuring three new songs. Together, the two records make for an incredible document of his 20-year career.

The whole idea that it's been two decades still freaks Cummings out a bit.

"It kind of boggled my mind in a negative way at first," he said.

"I thought 'Oh God, I've written so many songs. Maybe I should do something else and forget about it'.

"But the fact is I really like music and it's the main thing that I've always liked.

"Now I feel like I can't believe I've written so many songs. Now I'm more happy with the fact that I've done all these things.

"It kind of seems like, 'Wow, I'm not as slack as I thought I was because that's a lot of song'. I feel good about it."

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