The Easybeats’ Stevie Wright was born on 20th December and was a massive star in Sixties Australia. Just one news story about The Easybeats would make the front cover of Go-Set in the Sixties and he was mobbed by young women, as The Beatles were mobbed in London. They called them The Easys and Wright had a gift for projecting happy-go-lucky, easy charm. Wright was British and his Beatle DNA is obvious in all the old clips, but The Easybeats’ sound was raw and powerful. Bruce Springsteen would later cover Friday On My Mind. The song reached Number One in Australia and Number Six in Great Britain. Wright’s energy had a lot do with it.
David Bowie and The Easybeats
Later on he would make headlines as an addict, but Stevie Wright has been a massive influence on musicians and been widely covered. In a song that lasted around three minutes (Friday on My Mind), Wright and the Easybeats found a song David Bowie wanted to sing too – and summed up an Australian working class attitude that Jimmy Barnes would attempt with Working Class Man, years later.
Stevie Wright Tributes
Stevie Wright and The Easybeats continue to inspire cover versions and tributes. Easy Fever in December 2017, Australia, is just one example. Something about Wright still speaks to singers and musicians today, beyond David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen who delighted Sydney audiences with his version of Friday.
Wright was a fascinating frontman who also took to the stage in Jesus Christ Superstar. Not the average rocker. Steve Hoffman’s website is an excellent Wright resource about this period.
I’ll Make You Happy
I’ll Make You Happy is just one Easybeats classic which put Australian music on the Sixties international hipster map. It stands the test of time, as does The Divinyls’ blistering cover version which Chrissy Amphlett made her own.
I Give You Love
The Easybeats wrote as they spoke. They created three-minute poems about Australian life in the Sixties which Stevie Wright drilled into the camera, then onto the transistor radios of the time. He was Australia’s first international star. Happy Birthday Stevie.
Mental as Anything first played at The Unicorn Hotel on Oxford Street, Sydney and went on to become one of the country’s best-loved, most critically acclaimed bands.
Guitarist Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) has become the most recognised artist in the band, although the Mentals have also been immortalised by Paul Worstead (1950) a graduate of East Sydney Technical College, where he studied alongside the Mentals . Both Mombassa and Worstead went on to design for Mambo as well as pursuing exhibitions in major Australian galleries. Mombassa’s Australiana is instantly recognisable, below, in a beachside pouch.
The $1950 Vanilla Slice Poster
The vanilla slice poster advertising a gig by Mental as Anything at the Bexley North Hotel is one example and in 2017 the sale price was AUD$1950.
Band Portraits by Paul Worstead
There were two series of posters produced by Paul Worstead to promote Mental as Anything’s Get Wet and Creatures of Leisure albums in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This Australian homage to Andy Warhol is now in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
“They didn’t do anything. Hung around drinking beer at each other’s houses. That’s where the band got its impetus from, all that time listening to records thinking ‘we can do that’. I don’t know where the art came in. Art came in on the t-shirts and album colours later on.”
His brother Reg Mombassa, aka Chris O’Doherty, remembers his family childhood elsewhere, “I drew all the time on little square blocks of butcher’s paper which is a sort of a thin grey paper that my mother bought, with an HB pencil.”
Peter: “As kids he was always drawing dismembered soldiers. That was one of his popular themes.” The idea of themes is important in the work of both brothers and the bands they played in and wrote for. Peter wrote Berserk Warriors, but it is Reg who is in the clip here, part of his general Viking obsession, which later revealed itself in his work for Mambo. The BBC Mental As Anything file is here
Peter was inspired by his childhood enthusiasm for Viking stories to write the satirical tribute to ABBA. ‘Berserk Warriors’, written by Peter and sung by Martin Plaza, was one of three singles to be released on Mental As Anything’s 1981 album, ‘Cats and Dogs’. Peter still performs the song with his brother, Reg Mombassa, in their band Dog Trumpet.
The Mentals in Australian Galleries
Beyond Vikings, Reg Mombassa’s nostalgic and patriotic landscapes and portraits, many inspired by his childhood in New Zealand, are characteristic of his work.
I once met Grant McLennan for lunch in a Thai restaurant in Sydney in 1991 with Annette Shun-Wah (a Queenslander, like him). I didn’t realise he was compiling The Grant McLennan Library at the time.
Annette was hosting the Australian music TV show The Noise for SBS. I was writing about both music and astrology for Elle magazine. Grant was working with Steve Kilbey on Jack Frost.
The restaurant was just down from The Bookshop at 207 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst – and Grant had a suspicious-looking bag under his arm. I suspect one of these mighty tomes, below – perhaps Outback Women? – may have been hidden within. (These is just a small selection of the Grant McLennan library, below, featured on the band’s British website).
THE MAN WITH THE SERIOUS BOOKSHOP HABIT
I’m fairly sure inside Grant’s bag that day, was a book. I know, I know, it might have been drugs. People talk a lot about Grant McLennan’s use of heroin, after Steve Kilbey’s revelations. Never mind the drugs, though, what about the bookshop habit? We now know that Grant left behind 1800 books in his 48 years on the planet, when he passed so suddenly in 2006.
PETER PAN AND PETER CAREY
Nobody knew about Grant’s vast library, until 600 books (many signed, or with autographed bookmarks from Robert Forster) were given away to early purchasers of the G Stands for Go-Betweens box set. Fans were then told there were 1200 more.
Those who were first in the queue to buy the box set sometimes ended up with not one – but two – of Grant’s paperbacks. On Twitter, one fan ended up with this, below (Image @country_mile on Twitter).
ADDICTED TO BOOKS
By my reckoning, that means Grant McLennan was buying one book every week – at least – from the time he first learned to read. Now, that’s quite an addiction.
When Grant’s stash of paperbacks and dog-eared hardbacks was given away, randomly, to the first purchases of the box set G Stands For Go-Betweens, writer Greg Adams was fortunate enough to end up with a signed Angela Carter novel.
Grant McLennan was a songwriter’s writer. Also a reader’s songwriter. This was part of his one-time muse, partner and colleague Amanda Brown’s statement at his funeral:
“Grant’s songs captured an Australia that was influenced by his love for contemporary American writers like Cormac Macarthy, Richard Ford and Raymond Carver and songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. These writers inform his images of Australia, which range from the landscapes tinged with nostalgia and loss (Cattle and Cane and Bye Bye Pride), suburban life (Streets of Your Town), epic narratives (The Wrong Road, Black Mule) and of course, exquisite love songs like Quiet Heart, Stones for You, and Bachelor Kisses.” (The Sydney Morning Herald).
THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC HISTORY INSIDE GRANT’S LIBRARY
What is really interesting about Grant’s vast library is that it’s a window into Australian music history. His own, and the band’s. His interest in everything from the bush, to Ted Hughes, turns up in the songs too. And what songs.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard put a Go-Betweens single on an iPod for former President Barack Obama. The current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was in the audience for the last concert The Go-Betweens ever played.
Years after that lunch with Grant, I found myself joining the campaign for an Australian Music Museum. It was 2013 and like so many other people I was concerned about the way historic venues were being demolished – and everything from rare singles, to rusty old badges – were ending up on eBay, rather than in the nation’s archives.
Grant had been gone for 7 years by then (although of course, the spirit remains). By that time, a copy of People Say, the second single by The Go-Betweens, was selling for hundreds of dollars to private collectors. Not to the nation, though. By 2017 the asking price for People Say was $835. (The current asking price for a vinyl edition of the box set, G Stands For Go-Betweens, is over $2000).
Fortunately, as I write this, it now looks as though we may have a potential home for at least some of The Go-Betweens’ possessions. Melbourne and Sydney have at last begun finding permanent spaces for – what it’s hoped – will be a proper archive.
The Go-Betweens were so much more than a band. Yet – 11 years after he passed and left all those books behind, Grant McLennan’s only presence in Australian galleries, museums and the rest – is a recording of Cattle and Cane in the National Film and Sound Archive, and a handful of photographs held by the State Library of Queensland. This is one of them, taken by Paul O’Brien. It’s wonderful. But really – is that it?
MUSIC FOR OUTSIDERS One of the reasons The Go-Betweens matters, is their role as a channel for outsiders in Australia, from the 1970s onwards. Together with their feminist drummer Lindy Morrison, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan helped to change a nation. Nobody had ever seen a female drummer on the ABC-TV series Countdown until Lindy turned up. I don’t think anyone had seen a man reading what amounted to poetry on Countdown, either.
It went on. Robert dyed his hair Monroe-blonde and occasionally wore corsets. Grant read Angela Carter. We had songs about menstruation and bookshops. Finally, it seemed, Australia had a band to take its place alongside Germaine Greer, on the world stage.
Together with their remarkable drummer, The Go-Betweens were a Mod Squad all of their own, fighting an entire nation’s fixed ideas about what men and women should be. This is another photograph from Paul O’ Brien’s archive, taken from that time.
THE BOOKS BEHIND THE SONGS
Look around Grant’s library, partly distributed with the box set – and it quickly becomes obvious that there are a lot of books behind those songs. I’m sure if you look at the books you will find something that speaks to you personally to the point where it gets you, where you live.
As an astrologer I have always been curious about the lyrics in Quiet Heart: How on earth could Grant McLennan have known so much about one particular sign of the Zodiac on the Ascendant of a natal chart? (Not to mention its association with the Eighth House and reincarnation).
Doesn’t matter how far you come You’ve always got further to go
Lindy Morrison has since confirmed that the Scorpio Rising lover in Quiet Heart was Amanda Brown. Both women were born in November under the zodiac sign of Scorpio.
Grant owned not only The Birthday Letters by the poet and astrologer Ted Hughes, he also owned at least two volumes in Anthony Powell’s cult series, A Dance to the Music of Time.
Hughes was married to the Scorpio, Sylvia Plath. Powell’s central character in the final book in the series, Hearing Secret Harmonies, was an astrologer called Scorpio Murtlock.
The Birthday Letters is partly a collection of poems about fated twists and turns in the horoscopes and lives of Hughes and Plath. You can read more here, by my friend Neil Spencer, in The Guardian.
Neil, the former editor of NME later became the astrologer for The Observer.
The reason I am picking out this tiny detail which tells a long story, is that Grant had a head like a library and someone will always find their life on a Go-Betweens’ old vinyl shelf. He and Robert found each other and also found us, which is why people will queue – and queue – to talk to Robert today, about the band and about the music. At the Louder Than Words weekend event in Manchester in November 2017, Robert invited people in his audience to come and talk after his gig/interview – no matter if they bought a book or not. Needless to say, the queue stretched out of the door and the waiting time was long, because together with Grant, Robert had/has the personal touch. This is intimate music for people who are outsiders in some way. In Manchester, Robert said he was looking for someone like him – and he found him in Grant. They were two students far, far outside the Queensland/Australian mainstream. Maybe that has something to do with the way so many fans of the music feel included. Both men knew what it was like to feel apart from what was around them.
CHRISSY AMPHLETT’S LANE AND LINDY MORRISON’S DRUMS When I met Lindy Morrison to talk about an Australian music museum in May 2014, I was there to discuss Chrissy Amphlett’s Lane (Amphlett Lane, Melbourne) and the planned destruction of the historic Palace Theatre, backing onto the lane. Lindy had known Chrissy, of course. This photograph was taken in 1988 by Tony Mott (Sydney Morning Herald/Twitter). It’s just a moment, on a night, but it’s also this wonderful picture of a certain kind of wake-up call in Australian music, and Australia, at the time…
The Go-Betweens marched to the beat of a different drummer, literally. So – the conversation a while back, about a museum, in Sydney turned to Lindy’s Ludwig drum kit, and where to house it for posterity. This is a conversation which will go on for years in Australia, I guess – about so many other iconic drum kits, and guitars – not to mention wardrobe items, posters and photographs.
GRANT MCLENNAN, PAPERBACK WRITER
Speaking at The Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2017, Robert Forster noted, “Grant was going to write a novel and he never did.”
True, but he did become a paperback writer, in the end. My friend Nick Earls asked Grant to contribute a piece to our Penguin anthology Big Night Out in aid of the charity War Child – and you can still read it today, in the latest anthology in the series, Girls’ Night In – The 10th Anniversary Collection.
Nick Earls’ stage adaptation of his novel about a former rock idol, The True Story of Butterfish, features music from both Robert Forster and Adele Pickvance so the Go-Betweens beat goes on. It probably all started with Nick’s classic Bachelor Kisses, named after the song, though – and you can find it here.
I have in my possession a small mountain of e-mails about Grant McLennan’s involvement in Big Night Out and I’m sure Penguin and Nick do too – but again – the question remains, where in Australia can we find a space to preserve these tiny bits of musical history? There must be so many more. Thousands of saved memories about this crucially important band, some of which may be in your pocket.
Dorothy Parker and Grant’s Party Piece Party Piece by Grant McLennan in our Penguin anthology for War Child, begins like this.
when dorothy parker and lord byron invite you over, you should arrive early and smell like an orchid, be sure to bring some peaches for your horse, because you can never have enough friends at these kinds of things.
Here Lies by Dorothy Parker was also on Grant’s shelves at the end.
BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM In his tremendously sad/funny autobiography Grant and I (Penguin) Robert Forster remembers his old friend habitually carrying records, magazines, novels and poetry books under his arm at university. At the end, Robert remembers (in Manchester in November 2017) Grant ‘walking towards’ a particular destination, thanks to his drinking, noting that we all have friends like that. They get to their forties, and they don’t stop. Grant also had depression, Robert remembers, as so many songwriters, authors and painters do.
“I’d drive over to his place to play guitar and he’d be lying on a bed reading a book. Grant never felt guilt about this. The world turned and worked; he read. That was the first message. He’d offer to make coffee, and I knew – and here’s one of the great luxuries of my life – I knew I could ask him anything, on any artistic frontier, and he’d have an answer. He had an encyclopaedic mind of the arts, with his own personal twist. So, as he worked on the coffee, I could toss in anything I liked – something that had popped up in my life that I needed his angle on. I’d say, “Tell me about Goya,” or, “What do you know about Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry?” or, “Is the Youth Group CD any good?”
The Little Something
Perhaps that is one of the many keys to the success of The Go-Betweens. They had a little something – and it was always intensely personal – no matter if it’s astrology, or Queensland farming, or Eighties haircuts, or heroin, or Frank Brunetti, or feminism – for everyone. When I first heard the line ‘Scorpio Rising’ in Quiet Heart I nearly fell off my chair. And not only that, Grant McLennan actually seemed to know what it meant, as any astrologer would attest. This is one of so many, many personal song stories. I wonder what yours might be? Because…
Australian surfers of a certain age who spent their youth wearing Lee Cooper Jeans and reading Tracks probably feel exactly the same way about the band’s later work – like Surfing Magazines.
It’s The Go-Betweens Effect. It’s from them, to you. Even now, when Grant is physically gone from the world, the music still has that power. Robert and Grant thought the band would be a temporary activity before they moved onto other things, like films. In the end, fans put a stop to that idea. Even after Grant has gone, maybe partly as a result of that, the music seems even more personal and powerful than it ever did.
Queenslander Kriv Stenders’ documentary about The Go-Betweens with unforgettableinterviews with later band members,John Willsteed and Robert Vickers, captures that personal touch, perfectly.
BUILDING BRIDGES AND SAVING BUILDINGS
Other bands have plaques. The Go-Betweens have not only a plaque in Brisbane, but also a bridge. The missing ‘s’ in the name is a minor source of regret for fans – and the band – but otherwise, as Robert Forster has said, it’s a beautiful thing.
Speaking to the ABC, he reflected, “The Go-Between Bridge, it’s almost, well, you know, when Grant and I first sat around in 1978 thinking about the things we’d get from being a rock band, a bridge wasn’t one of them. I can’t remember him saying that. And a bridge is a beautiful thing. It’s better than the Go-Between Sewerage Works.”
At Grant’s funeral, Forster delivered a eulogy in which he said McLennan’s songs would last 1000 years. Acknowledging his friend’s presence in spirit at the service, he quickly added: “Grant’s just told me 10,000.”
It would be nice to think that in 1000 or 10,000 years from now, Australians could still see some of Grant’s mountain of 1800 signed books, safely under dim-lit glass.
The house where Grant McLennan lived, in Highgate Hill, may have gone by then. Nothing may remain of the foundations of 10 Golding Street, Toowong, where he began writing songs with Robert Forster. Even so – there are other ways, to make sure we’ll never forget the books that helped make The House That Jack Kerouac Built. Collect, collect and keep collecting.
Grant & I by Robert Forster is available at Booktopia.
Australian Music T-Shirt Day on 3rd November 2017 was a successful fundraiser for the music charity Support Act which partly gives financial support to musicians with mental health issues. High-profile faces involved included Jimmy Barnes, seen here giving Opposition Leader Bill Shorten a Cold Chisel T-Shirt, while wearing a Midnight Oil classic. (All images: Twitter).
Barnes was celebrating his bestselling memoir for HarperCollins when the opportunity arrived to promote the Support Act fundraiser.
The Easybeats – coming soon to ABC-TV – were a popular choice for T-Shirts on the day (modelled here by Michael Rowland).
As the band who introduced the idea of free T-shirts to Australian vinyl covers, Midnight Oil also found some favourite shirts and wore them to promote the Support Act fundraiser. You can donate to Support Act or find out more about the T-Shirt campaign here.
Chrissy Amphlett was born on 25th October 1959. This is her dog, Holiday, who is immortalised, along with Chrissy’s famous school uniform and Divinyls amplifier, at Amphlett Lane in Melbourne. (Picture: Copyright Charley Drayton/Chrissy Amphlett).
The school uniform she is remembered by was not her only look (see below, in this photograph by Tony Mott for On the Street magazine) but it was her most famous wardrobe branding, helping break Divinyls internationally.
Amphlett Lane, off Little Bourke Street, near Spring Street and Exhibition Street, Melbourne, is where Chrissy Amphlett walked from the stage door of The Princess Theatre, where she starred in the hit musical Boy From Oz.
The Divinyls are also recorded in gig guides as having played a double-bill with Joan Jett at The Palace Theatre, Bourke Street, which is at the back of Amphlett Lane. Both stage doors are steps away from each other.
Chrissy’s husband Charley Drayton, drummer for Cold Chisel, remembers her here, at the opening, along with her cousin Patricia ‘Little Pattie’ Amphlett and members of her family.
One of the last messages Chrissy ever left for her fans was on social media, where she mentions Holiday (below). “My little dog Holiday lays on the end of the bed when I am not feeling great and doesn’t leave my side.”
Amphlett Lane is a permanent tribute to Chrissy Amphlett along with her music – and a campaign for breast cancer awareness, I Touch Myself which Chrissy gave her blessing to, before she passed. She is also remembered in the ARIA Hall of Fame along with one of her most famous songs, Science Fiction. Happy Birthday Chrissy Amphlett!
The City of Melbourne’s movers and shakers want your views on Melbourne – past, present and potential – on their website, now. As the home of Go-Set and Countdown – and today, the home of The Tote, The Old Bar, The Labour in Vain, Cherry Bar, The Espy, AC/DC Lane, Amphlett Lane, The Forum (below) – Victoria’s capital is the nation’s music capital. This is your chance to be heard by Melbourne councillors.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC CITY SHOULD MELBOURNE BE? From SLAM to the Save the Palace campaign, Melbourne has been home to strong protests about live music venues. As the home of new bands as well as some national treasures in the Australian music industry it has a special part to play in Australian life and culture. If you haven’t already made yourself heard on the City of Melbourne’s website, do it now. What kind of music city, should the country’s music capital actually be?
Vale George Young. The passing of the genius behind The Easybeats and a key member of the Young dynasty has generated new interest in AC/DC, the Young brothers and their huge influence on Australia.
THE AC/DC MAP
If you’re visiting Fremantle, Melbourne or Sydney and want to go on a Bon Scott and Angus Young pilgrimage, here are the sacred sites. On the AC/DC Map of Australia, Melbourne has to come first. Why? The band lived there. And Countdown made them famous there – mainly because Bon Scott put on a school uniform too.
AC/DC IN ELSTERNWICK, MELBOURNE
Bon Scott immortalised himself and the band filming Countdown for ABC-TV. These images are from Twitter #ClassicCountdown. Sarah Clarke @ACSarahAC is the source for the 1985 Countdown studio audience pass. Sadly the famous studio has now been sold to a supermarket. And by 1985 AC/DC had become world superstars.
MELBOURNE – ST KILDA
6 Lansdowne Road, East St Kilda. Demolished and replaced (like most of Melbourne music history) but nevertheless, nominated by music magazine Mojo as a contender for music history’s “vilest den of depravity”. There is also a free app if you are interested – put together by Australian music historian Bruce Milne and Music Victoria.
The St. Kilda Kitchen
It wasn’t all depravity, though. Sometimes there was cake. Trudy Worme’s mum used to drop her off at 6 Lansdowne Road on Sunday afternoons so she could cook dinner for them. She also baked Angus his favourite chocolate cakes. That definitely puts her on the AC/DC Map.
The visuals in AC/DC Lane (off Flinders Lane, Melbourne and the home of the ‘musicians’ music venue’ Cherry Bar) change all the time. Even if you’ve been here before, it won’t look the same. AC/DC Lane was the result of lobbying by Music Victoria’s Patrick Donovan (then a journalist with The Age) and James Young, who runs Cherry Bar.
This part of Melbourne is associated with Bon Scott (far right, with hippie band Fraternity) in particular. This is where he lost his flares, found his tight jeans and discovered his voice. You can walk from AC/DC Lane to Swanston Street and see the trail Bon and the band followed for It’s A Long Way to the Top.
The Hard Rock Cafe
The original Hard Rock Cafe was created by former AC/DC manager Michael Browning from the remains of Bertie’s, formerly Victoria and Albert. This is where AC/DC played for $1 and Angus Young fell on the floor and accidentally invented his ‘dying insect’ pose. It stood at 1 Spring Street.
The Australian Music Vault
The Hard Rock Cafe of Seventies legend at 1 Spring Street has now been swallowed up by the corporate towers of Shell (below). If you want to get a feeling for not only AC/DC, but also Melbourne music history though – the place which formed the sound – The Australian Music Vault in The Arts Centre Melbourne (opened December 2017) is a good place to start. Bon’s leather jacket is archived there.
SYDNEY – THE YOUNGS’ HOME
4 Burleigh Street, Burwood was once home to George, Malcolm and Angus Young. George went on to form The Easybeats and Malcolm and Angus went on to form AC/DC. Burwood is less well-known than AC/DC Lane in Melbourne or Bon Scott’s memorial in Fremantle, but it’s a highlight of the AC/DC Map in New South Wales.
Purchased in 1965 by the Youngs’ father, a migrant from Scotland the house at 4 Burleigh Street was home, after the family left Villawood Migrants’ Hostel. The house dates from 1906. Historian Glenn A. Baker successfully lobbied for its preservation (among with other Australian music landmarks) some years ago.
On 19 February 1980 Bon tragically died outside 67 Overhill Road, East Dulwich in London. There is no plaque there, despite a petition by fans – but Bon’s memorial in Fremantle is one of the National Trust’s most visited Australian sites. There is also a statue.
The AC/DC Map of Australia begins in Melbourne with the site of the old Hard Rock Cafe at 1 Spring Street (below) and stretches as far as Bon Scott’s grave in Fremantle. Images: Pinterest/Twitter
Wendy was not only one of the most acclaimed singers Australia has produced, she also wrote for Go-Set and is pictured here with Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum in a staff photograph with a Swinging Sixties mug – and cigarettes all round. Wendy played gigs at Melbourne club, The Thumping Tum, which is where the idea for Go-Set was born. (Photo source: SMH and Clinton Walker).
Answering Cris de Coeur
Writer Jen Jewel Brown: “Her advice column, ”Wendy Saddington takes care of business”, for Go-Set from 1969-71 ”got dozens of genuine cris de coeur each week”, according to then editor Phillip Frazer, and she approached it ”with earnest concern”.
Right Place, Right Time
Wendy Saddington (lesbian) and Ian Meldrum (gay) were the right people, in the right place, at the right time – the Sixties – to steer Australia into a new era. As a strong woman with a powerful voice, Wendy was the musical ‘fit’ for the book everyone had read by the early Seventies – The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer.
From Bon Scott to Cat Stevens
Wendy was one of the hardest-working singers in Australia and was billed alongside some of the biggest names in music at festivals like Pilgrimage for Pop in 1970 and Myponga in 1971. At the latter, she can be found alongside Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens and the young Bon Scott in Fraternity. Gone but never forgotten. Happy Birthday Wendy Saddington!
(I’m) Stranded is the first Australian punk single. Speaking to Andrew P. Street at Faster Louder, Chris Bailey said:
” I know that years ago I refused to play [debut single] ’(I’m) Stranded’ because I thought it was the most boring song I’d ever heard – well, that’s not strictly true, it’s actually an OK tune – but people even had t-shirts printed up that said “Play Stranded, You Bastard” [laughs]. But I remember there was one tour and there were all these Hitler Youth looking kids going “play ‘Stranded’! Play ‘Stranded’!” so we did, and nobody noticed.”
“Then there was the video, which begins with the unintended metaphor of drummer Ivor Hay kicking open a door. The band are playing in an abandoned building on inner city Petrie Terrace, Bailey singing in front of a fireplace with the words “(I’m) Stranded” daubed above in red letters, which would form the backdrop for the cover of the Saints’ debut album of the same name, released in February 1977.”
“One of the things that made punk very valid was, when you consider The Saints were doing the same in Australia at the same time and the Ramones in New York, it was obvious that people wanted to do it all over the world. The Saints were totally removed from everything going on anywhere else. They couldn’t get Sounds or NME in Australia. The synchronicity was amazing.”
“The Saints had a genuine gut level contempt for everything going – it was very Australian, it was very different from the English punk thing. (I’m) Stranded gave me and a lot of people around me a kind of soundtrack to the way we wanted to live, it gave us a licence to behave in a certain way.’
Ed Kuepper: “I was working at Astor Records as a storeman and noticed boxes of private pressings – mostly country tunes by truck drivers. Having our own label seemed like the sensible way to get a record out. We conducted a poll among our fans as to which songs would most likely become a hit and ‘Stranded’ got the most votes. I can’t remember if we rigged the poll.’
All The Punks Bought It
BARRY MILES “All the punks bought it. Bernie Rhodes, the manager of The Clash, had a box of them and gave me one just two weeks after release. “ (London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945)
“I came out of university, and into a recession. I couldn’t see how I could have the life I wanted to have. Anybody that was into rock music in around 1975 had a real sense that something was going to happen. When the first Ramones album came out in 76 I thought, “Whoa, this is it.” I was obsessed with them, and The Saints’ record, I’m Stranded. It’s a great record, the singer just didn’t give a shit.”
Rock historian Glenn A. Baker records how Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof told him: “Rock music in the ’70s was changed by three bands—the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and the Saints”.
Ed Kuepper to Joe Matera, Australian Guitar, 2004
JM: You actually did two sessions for I’m Stranded. Did you use the same gear for both sessions?
EK: “No, the first session we did at Window Studios in Brisbane, was for the single ‘(I’m) Stranded’ b/w ‘No Time’ in June, 1976 about six months before we did the rest of the album. For the single, which was engineered by Mark Moffat, we went in, set-up and recorded it and mixed that same night. Everything was done in about five hours and it’s the original single which appears on the album. On the first session, I used a Fender Twin amp and Gibson SG with no effects whatsoever, I just cranked the amp up.”
CLINTON WALKER – “When Kid Galahad and the Etemals became the Saints back in Brisbane in the mid seventies,there wasn’t even a scene they could crash into. Eventually, with bassist Kym BradShaw in tow, they wound-up playing at parties they would throw themselves.”
MARK MOFFATT “In London, I worked in a guitar shop and people would bring in their amps to sell for cash,” Moffatt recalls. “I could hear this thunderous noise upstairs so I went to see what was making it and bought the amp that afternoon.”
Moffatt, a guitarist in the Carol Lloyd Band, had recorded in Sydney, where he picked up tips about microphone placement.
“There was a cement hallway at the studio, so for The Saints I put a microphone in there. You can hear that in the chorus of No Time where it takes off. I still hear that now and go ‘Wow’.”
THE DOCUMENTARY Great Australian Albums – I’m Stranded
Great Australian Albums – I’m Stranded is free to watch on YouTube.
With interviews with Chris Bailey, Ed Kuepper, Nick Cave, Rob Younger (Radio Birdman), Damien Lovelock (The Celibate Rifles) and many more, this is the definitive documentary on the band, the single and the album. Written by Toby Creswell ; produced by Toby Creswell & Larry Meltzer ; executive producers Martin Fabinyi & Michael Gudinski. Originally screened on SBS-TV.
The Saints are to be honoured in a $60,000 mural on the north side of Upper Roma Street in Brisbane, near the band’s Petrie Terrace share house and rehearsal space, nicknamed Club 76. Rented by Ivor Hay, the original Saints’ house stood opposite the local police station. Ed Kuepper supplied the iconic red graffiti.
The Brisbane Music Trail
The Saints mural will be part of a new Brisbane music trail, including former George Street rock venues (Brisbane’s Curry Shop) and be developed over a decade with venues, practice rooms, apartments, homes, galleries and, of course, musicians – with digital place markers, according to The Brisbane Times.
Fans of The Go-Betweens will recognise Dr John Willsteed as the man behind Brisbane’s new music trail.
Years ago, he was John E, an artist and musician in some of Brisbane’s most inventive bands; Zero, then Xero, then the Go-Betweens and now, Halfway.
Today, Dr Willsteed is the senior lecturer in the Creative Industries faculty at the Queensland University of Technology.
I’m Stranded on the Brisbane Music Trail
The Saints’ famous DIY single, I’m Stranded, laboriously sent out by mail-order by singer Ed Kuepper, sells for $1881 on eBay although it was recorded for around $200 in 1976.
The single – and the site of Club 76 itself – officially makes Brisbane the birthplace of Australian punk, something the Queensland government seems happy to recognise these days, though it was very different when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier.
Former Go-Betweens bass player John Willsteed drove the campaign for The Saint’s Brisbane mural in 2017, persuading Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to put the band on the map.
The Go-Betweens have already been honoured in the city, by the Go Between Bridge, which links Hale Street in Milton to Montague Road in South Brisbane.
The launch of Ed Kuepper Park, also announced recently, at Oxley Road and Lawson Street, was successful after local fan Maurice Murphy drove a petition.
Kuepper’s parents’ garage was the band’s first rehearsal space – and his parents’ home in Oxley provided the contact address for the vinyl. As he was later to suggest on a solo release, the young Kuepper was in fact a Mail Order Bridegroom, giving birth to Australian punk in Queensland. This photograph (below) of the young Saints in North Sydney is from Kuepper’s Twitter feed, photographed by Violet Hamilton.
Petrie Terrace, Brisbane
The Petrie Terrace area of Brisbane is also part of the history of The Go-Betweens, who played Baroona Hall in an early $5 gig. This poster comes from the excellent Live Delay website. Baroona Hall at 15 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace is now heritage listed. The Saint’s Brisbane mural will now add to that heritage.
June 12th, 1976 and the Brisbane Music Trail
The June 12th, 1976 recording of I’m Stranded makes it the first punk single ever released in Australia and one of the first punk recordings anywhere in the world.
Kuepper played through Mark Moffatt’s 1960 Fender Super amp, purchased in London. A microphone placed in a concrete hallway helped the sound, according to Moffatt.
The single was recorded at Window Studios in West End, owned by Bruce Window, in Brisbane. Only 500 copies were pressed. The State Library of Queensland now owns one of them.
The 24-channel desk was purchased by Nick Armstrong and placed in Hobart’s Spectangle Productions in the late Seventies. He paid $4000 for it. Later, it was given free to anyone who wanted it and this piece of Australian history was driven away in a Kingswood by Hobart ABC staff Steve Jay and Graham Himmelhoch-Mutton. It was pronounced ‘rooted’ and was then gutted and sent to the local tip. It remains dormant in Hobart. A punk rock volcano.
The Country Connection
The Saint’s first album was produced by New Zealander Rod Coe who had 40 albums with Slim Dusty to his credit.
Kuepper was working at Astor Records as Sales Representative for Northern Queensland, which meant receiving tapes of country and western music from amateur musicians, and turning them into vinyl. Before that, he had worked in an abbatoir.
It was only when he’d left Astor that he realised that The Saints could do exactly what unknown country and western singers in Queensland were doing and take a DIY, hands-on approach.
Some copies of I’m Stranded would go to Rocking Horse and Discreet Records in Brisbane. Others would be posted to England, notably Sounds, which gave them one of the best-known reviews in music press history (below). John Ingham made it SOUNDS SINGLE OF THIS AND EVERY WEEK on October 16th, 1976 so the stamps from Brisbane had been worth every cent.
Kuepper printed his parents’ address in Oxley as The Saints’ mailing address. Cash envelopes arrived, for the single which had been mastered and pressed in Melbourne at Astor Records, probably cut by Frank Hulbert, according to Kuepper’s source Donat Tahiraj.
Send 90p to Eternal Productions
Anyone in Britain willing to send a 90p postal order to Eternal Productions, Oxley, 4075, Queensland Australia back in October 1976 was making a great investment. Robert Forster, writing in his autobiography Grant and I, was an early Brisbane purchaser (and Saints fan) and says he wished he’d bought multiple copies, if only for the eBay returns.
David Nichols writes – anyone who ordered a copy of I’m Stranded by mail-order in 1976 also received a request to write back, if they were interested in either The Saints – or Sixties bands.
This interest in the Sixties and Fifties was a hallmark of Seventies punk rock, all over the world. The Saints began life as Kid Galahad and the Eternals – a reference to the Elvis Presley Film, Kid Galahad, according to author Clinton Walker. Eternal Productions of Oxley also nodded to the film.
The work of Chris Bailey (in the Church of the Latter-Day Saints) gives people who are new to the band a second-wave experience. The clip below, from Rockarena, is a reminder of a band whose individual members sailed on, having launched their ships all those years ago at Club 76. Buy The Best of the Saints here.