The Nuclear Disarmament Party was formed in Australia in June 1984 by medical researcher Michael Denborough and Midnight Oil provided the soundtrack. That big year in the band’s life, and the nation’s, is now a documentary.
Ronald Reagan and Bob Hawke
The Russia-America nuclear arms race of 1984 was brought home to Australia, when P.M. Bob Hawke decided to allow the mining of uranium at sites like Roxby Downs.
Peter Garrett, combining his life in Midnight Oil with a new career in politics, took nearly 10% of the vote in New South Wales when he stood for the Nuclear Disarmament Party. He didn’t get in.
It was the year that Medicare arrived. The $100 note was introduced. Vegemite became the first product to be scanned electronically at the checkout. Then, on 19th April, Advance Australia Fair was proclaimed as Australia’s national anthem.
Television show Perfect Match was on screens around the country, but for many Australians in 1984, America and Australia were a perfect mis-match that year, as Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher held power. It was also the year, of the film, of the book – George Orwell’s1984.
Still from Perfect Match below.
New Anthems, New Coins
Beyond Advance Australia Fair, Midnight Oil were also creating anthems and you could buy them on a new album, Red Sails in the Sunset, with a few of the new one dollar coins, you were also using to see 1984 at the cinema. It was the sound of a band who needed the drums nailed to the floor, courtesy of Rob Hirst, when they played. Red Sails in the Sunset continued powerful themes – the American relationship with Australia – first explored on 10, 9, 8, the Midnight Oil album which featured U.S. Forces.
For more on the badges behind the era, look here. An interview with Peter Garrett about his first stint in politics is here. Midnight Oil 1984 director Ray Argall tells the story behind the film here.
Midnight Oil 1984 is released on film and DVD in 2018 in Australia.
So where did it all begin? Synth Australia has an interesting past.
Your interest might be in the Roland sound of Australian Eighties New Wave or the Seventies Fairlight revolution. Maybe you go further back, to the Sixties studio experiments in Doctor Who which were partly down to the brilliant vision of a British-Australian composer . Melbourne is now hosting an exhibition on the latter part of the synth story, until September 2018.
The Quietus – Tristram Cary became the first director of Peter Zinoviev’s Electronic Music Studios upon its foundation in 1969. EMS was the birthplace of the VCS-3, the very first British-designed synthesizer, used by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, White Noise, Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Pete Townsend, Hawkwind, Gong, Klaus Schulze, Georgio Moroder, and Kraftwerk, among many others.
His work with Delia Derbyshire (below) on Doctor Who is well-known. The terror of the Daleks is associated by many fans with the Cary/Derbyshire soundtracks.
Synths at the MAAS
You can also find the history of Synth Australia at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, if you want to know more about the country’s pioneering musicians and developers. ABC-TV has also saved some crucial clips.
This is Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum talking about the cutting-edge Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument) on Countdown, April 10th 1983 with music programmed and performed by Mars Lasar.
The sound of the Eighties in Australian music was also the sound of Essendon Airport – and Andrew Duffield with his Roland keyboard in The Models. The sound of the future – as it was known from 1960-1990 – is now the sound of the past, but the online and real-world exhibitions at the MAAS and The Grainger Museum now finally tell that story. The rest is on YouTube!
Flowers’ classic single I Can’t Help Myself is almost thirty years old. The band became Icehouse and Iva Davies is now famous around the world, but when they started out, they were shooting their film clips in Sydney suburban car parks and playing taverns.
Part of a continuing online exhibition about Australian New Wave.
The New Wave in 1980
Can’t Help Myself was released in May 1980 by Flowers, reaching #10 on the Australian Singles Chart. Flowers were Iva Davies, Michael Hoste, John Lloyd and Keith Welsh. The single was produced by Iva Davies and Cameron Allan.
Iva’s parents, Neville and Dorothy Davies, speaking to Spellbound, remember Flowers –
Spellbound: When did you first realise that he (Iva) was gaining notoriety in the Sydney area?
Mrs. Davies: When he asked us to come and watch the filming of his first film clip in that car park in Chatswood.
Mr. Davies: Can’t Help Myself.
Mrs. Davies: We saw makeup people floating around and doing things. It was just a very great experience.
Mr. Davies: So we didn’t see one of those, but probably the first time we ever saw Flowers in concert was after they’d already released their first record and they were supporting XTC at the Capital Theatre in Sydney. We were actually invited to go.
Mrs. Davies: He virtually was saying to us, “I have got my toe on the first rung of the ladder. You can come now.”
Mr. Davies: By that time the first album was out and they were quite well known and I think that particular concert line-up was the Divinyls and then Flowers and then XTC.
Flowers were part of the New Wave circuit around Australia from the late Seventies to early Eighties, playing small venues with other bands – like The Reels – who specialised in wildly original music, sleeve art work, film clips and styling.
Flowers and New Wave
Flowers, Divinyls, The Numbers, INXS, The Reels, Sports, Mental as Anything and other bands crossing over from post-punk 1978 to the Eighties, were part of the New Wave.
Flowers won the 1980 TV Week / Countdown Rock Awards Johnny O’Keefe New Talent Award, beating INXS before they had to change their name to prevent confusion with the Scottish group, The Flowers. They became Icehouse.
“From the late 1970’s, until its controversial demolition in 1982, Brisbane’s Cloudland Ballroom became a regular venue for rock concerts. Some of the fledgling bands who played at Cloudland during this period went on to achieve chart success and establish longstanding careers in the music industry. One example is the concert of July 28, 1979 featuring three talented up-and-coming bands: XTC, Flowers, and The Numbers. State Library of Queensland is fortunate to hold several photographs taken during this concert.”
Flowers (later known as Icehouse) performing at Cloudland, Brisbane 1979. (Keith Welsh on bass guitar and Iva Davies on leader guitar and vocals). 29127 Paul O’Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY
Iva Davies on the Eighties
Speaking to The Australian, Davies summed up the era: “I know it’s very easy to look back through rose-tinted glasses and say that period was good, but it’s accurate to say it…The energy that came out of the punk movement in England transferred here. When we started we were doing Sex Pistols songs alongside T. Rex songs. It was quite a weird collection of stuff. That whole energy ran into the new synthesiser technology as well.”
The Elvis Costello Songbook
With modern Australian acts like Cut Copy and Jet declaring what an influence Flowers was on them, the band (signed to Regular/Festival, above) remains seminal. But how was the group created?
As a trained musician, Sydney-based Davies was approached to music publishing companies to write the sheet music for Elvis Costello, among others.
Speaking to Stuff, he remembers, “These music publishing companies discovered there was a young fella – me – who could read and write music and they started sending me reel-to-reel recordings of every song in the Australian charts and then lots of international music as well – we’re talking about the days when sheet music was quite in demand, people wanted to buy the music for their favourite song and go home and try to play it. I wrote entire song books for Little River Band, Dragon, Sherbet, Cold Chisel, and then Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads… My life was pulling apart songs and putting them down on paper which was very instructive.”
With Icehouse and in his own right, Davies has become known worldwide for his work, including his composition of the score for the Russell Crowe/Peter Weir film Master and Commander.
Flowers in Roadrunner
Roadrunner is one of the few global music publications from the New Wave era to be published online. Find more on Flowers in this issue – and in their cover issue.
Programmed on Rage by Toby Cresswell, Craig Mathieson and John O’Donnell as an Australian classic, extended to nearly seven minutes since it first appeared in 1983, I Hear Motion is now 35 years old.
From the Top 20 album, The Pleasure of Your Company, produced by the soon-to-be-famous Nick Launay, the single reached number 16 in the Australian charts. Andrew Duffield, James Freud, Sean Kelly and Barton Price found themselves adopted by Countdown and appeared in this film clip on 25th September, 1983, just as the song became an unforgettable Australian summer soundtrack.
The Melbourne Art-Rock Experiment
The most subversively odd pop group in Oz musical history, Models have had more line-up changes than recipe ideas in Nigella Lawson’s head, but Sean Kelly has remained steadfast front and centre stabbing at his stuttering staccato guitar. Originally an art-rock experiment, Models moved into commercial territory without selling out. I suppose they did eventually but that was a few years after this single.
Andrew Duffield has always been my personal favourite amongst keyboardists and the sequenced opening riff to I Feel Motion, nodding in appreciation to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, is some of his finest work. Kelly’s voice is strangled and bursts out after what seems like an argument in his mouth. The chorus is Ebola catchy, the verses peculiar as always.
One of the tracks on the sublime The Pleasure Of Your Company LP, this was Models at their best appealing to pop and rock fans alike. It was a memorable time for Melbourne bands. Hunters and Collectors, Australian Crawl, the list is long.
Michael Witheford is a freelance writer and author. He has been published by RAM, Juke Magazine, On The Street, Beat, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Launceston Examiner, The Melbourne Sunday Sun, Melbourne Times and various periodicals. His novel Buzzed was published by Penguin in 2002.
He wrote songs, played bass guitar and sang in the Fish John West Reject and ARIA nominated Lust In Space, among many bands.
He now lives in Tasmania and is working on a memoir and personal account of the Tasmanian and Melbourne Music scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Paper Giant is conducting the GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives and Museums) Collections Use Survey on behalf of Creative Victoria, the Victorian Government body dedicated to supporting and growing the state’s creative industries.
The Glam Victoria Survey
Hilary Davidson, author and historian, has asked AMMP to pass this on so you can be part of 2018 research into the storing and preservation of our rock/pop music past.This short survey will help build a picture of how cultural, historical and scientific collections are used, both in-person and online, and who engages with and uses these collections. Collections can be anything from paintings on exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, memorabilia brought back from war at your local RSL, historical archives or images found online, to cricket bats that once belonged to a test cricket team.
Obviously as a music fan you may have opinions on The Australian Music Vault or 20th century Australian music archiving in general.The information you provide in the survey will be used to inform Creative Victoria about the use of collections to ascertain the best way to continue to support the sector. The information that is gathered will be treated in complete confidence and none of your responses will be linked back to you.
At the end of this survey you can nominate to participate in further (paid) research to understand more about your use of collections. Only with your consent will we contact you for this purpose.
This is just a small selection of photographs of public tributes to Chrissy Amphlett in both her home towns, Geelong and Melbourne. Pictured are early shots from the first street art at Amphlett Lane, off Little Bourke Street, Melbourne – and at her memorial off James Street, Geelong.
This walking tour will take you from Amphlett Lane to The Vault and give visitors to Victoria all the information they need to find more tributes to Chrissy beyond Melbourne – with expert commentary from very special guests.
Referencing Chrissy’s autobiography (with Larry Writer) Pleasure and Pain, the 30-40 minute Melbourne walk will include important landmarks in her life – from Collins Street to Melbourne’s famous laneways – passing Flinders Street Station – one of the city’s gateways to Geelong, where Chrissy grew up.
Melbourne Lanes in Chrissy’s Life
“It was the most wonderful thing; I don’t know why they don’t do it nowadays. During our lunch hour, we’d see bands such as The Easybeats, The Wild Cherries, The Purple Hearts and The Loved Ones.” Mary Renshaw, Live Wire, Allen & Unwin 2015.
Mary Renshaw was a close companion of Bon Scott’s in the same era that Chrissy Amphlett was discovering Melbourne’s inner-city music. Mary was visiting clubs like 10th Avenue on Bourke Street, and The Bowl, beneath a bowling alley in Degraves Street, near Flinders Street Station, en route to today’s Music Vault.
It was at 10th Avenue that Mary made friends with Bon Scott and made him hippie beads and a velvet bolero, while he was in The Valentines’ share house with Vince Lovegrove (later to manage Chrissy and Divinyls).
As part of Chrissy’s tour, you’ll be passing the Flinders Street and Swanston Street intersection that was immortalised by AC/DC in their flatbed-truck clip for (It’s A) Long Way to The Top.
Also on the map – Spring Street, which fronts onto Little Bourke Street, off Amphlett Lane. It was at 1 Spring Street that AC/DC had a residency at Bertie’s. It opened, alcohol-free, in 1967 to ringing endorsements from someone who could come to know Chrissy well – Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum.
“I can only say that in my vast experience in the disco scene in Melbourne, and indeed the whole world, that unquestionably Bertie’s rates absolutely first class,’ Meldrum raved at the time.
You can read more in Live Wire, which is a great guide to the city and decade that Chrissy knew so well.
The Chrissy Amphlett Tour podcast is produced by Jessica Adams and Charley Drayton with funding assistance from the Victorian State Government. Thanks to @AmphlettLane on Twitter for the Geelong images.
One of the most beautiful rock’n’roll venues in the world is based on the gods and goddesses of Ancient Rome – in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Carefully preserved set lists backstage, and sculptures of Apollo and Diana hang over the famous stage curtain. Enjoy the digital exhibition.
The Corkman in Carlton, Melbourne was never going to be a classic hipster band venue (although it was once home to the ‘hanging judge’ who sentenced Ned Kelly, upon whom most hipster beards are based). Instead, it was a regular haunt of Irish musicians in the city until it was illegally demolished. Asbestos warning signs are all that remain.
And these photographs. Do you have any unseen photographs of The Corkman? Let us know.
Renovate, wreck or ruin? Australia’s Festival Halls (including Melbourne Festival Hall, intended for high-rise apartments) have a chequered history.
They are also part of an emerging movement in Australian poster art collectables. Even tickets are now collectors’ items as museums and private owners snap them up.
Festival Hall Bootlegs
The Festival Halls qualify for among ‘world’s most bootlegged’ as venues, but what’s the story behind the famous chain?
Plastered – Murray Walding with Nick Vukovic
It’s becoming a familiar story in Australia, that the books, vinyl, eBay auction items and other memorabilia which celebrates a fast-fading musical history – is increasing in value. Meanwhile iconic venues and their continuing contribution to Australia’s bands, are downgraded in price. In comes the wrecking ball.
Of all the collectable books about music venues, Plastered by Murray Walding and Nick Vukovic (The Miegunyah Press, 2005) is one of the most valuable.
The silkscreen printing industry that spawned early posters for venues was given a particularly good run by the Festival Hall chain around Australia. In fact, The Johnny O’Keefe Spectacular (part of the Hi-Fi Club) of the 1950s had one of its earliest outings at Festival Hall, Melbourne, promoted on a silkscreen poster.
Jazz acts like Kenny Ball (these kinds of posters are now in private collections or galleries) were also promoted at ‘the Festivals’ (below, from Plastered).
Boxing and Festival Hall Melbourne
In its time, the boxing at Festival Hall, Melbourne was as big as some of the bands who came later. Boxing-format posters were copied for the emerging Fifties music industry in Australia. Little or no artwork, derived from fight advertising, they were cheap and basic at the time but are now rare pieces of Australian cultural history.
The Festival Halls
“Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney all boasted a “Festival Hall”, venues all owed by Stadiums Limited. These cavernous stadiums were often all that were on offer when promoters brought touring acts to Australia, and all of them had wonderful colourful histories.”
“Melbourne’s version was originally built in 1912 as a boxing and wrestling venue. After a fire in 1955, it was rebuilt in time to serve as the venue for the boxing, weightlifting and wrestling events at the 1956 Olympics. Like its contemporaries, it was built of sturdy brick, iron and tin.”
Sydney’s Festival Hall was demolished in 1973. Brisbane’s Festival Hall remained as a venue until 2003 – and Melbourne’s fell to the axe, officially, on Tuesday 23rd January, 2018. Game over? Australian music collectors will take an interest, whatever happens.
Dylan, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra all played at Festival Hall, Melbourne – and Patti Smith recently picked up her plectrum there, literally picking up where Lou Reed left off, last century – but Australia is about to lose her piece of global music heritage to (you guessed it) yet more expensive high-rise apartments.
One of my first stories as a music journalist was about XTC playing at Festival Hall. It’s been at the heart of so many more stories since then. In fact, the Patti Smith gig there was nominated by some Australian critics as one of the best gigs of the year.
There is no other venue in Australia where young bands can pick up that timeline of tradition. Who wouldn’t want to play on the same stage as Dylan, the Beatles and Sinatra?
It’s not enough for people defending the demolition to say some Australians are just being nostalgic and they get to keep their memories.
Festival Hall, Melbourne is a world-class historic venue which is on a par with the Budokan in Tokyo, the Apollo Theatre in New York and The Hollywood Bowl.
In fact, many of the same acts which made them famous, made Festival Hall famous too.
The Beatles Connection
Nippon Budokan (日本武道館 Nippon Budōkan), often shortened to Budokan, was originally built for the 1964 Summer Olympics. This Tokyo legend has parallels with Festival Hall, Melbourne, which was also a boxing and wrestling venue for many years.
The Beatles were the first rock group to play at the Budokan in a series of concerts held between June 30 and July 2, 1966. Several live albums were recorded at Budokan, including releases by Bob Dylan, Cheap Trick, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Festival Hall, Melbourne has seen exactly those huge names grace its stage. Tokyo has hung onto the Budokan and made it work.
The same might be said for the legendary Apollo Theatre in New York, which began life in 1914. In 1983, both the interior and exterior of the building were designated as New York City Landmarks, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is estimated that 1.3 million people visit the Apollo every year.
It was resurrected after closing in 1976 then in 1983, it was bought by Inner City Broadcasting, obtained federal and city landmark status , then in 1991, purchased by the State of New York, which created the non-profit Apollo Theater Foundation to run it.
In 2009-10, in celebration of the theater’s 75th anniversary, the theater put together an archive of historical material, including documents and photographs and, with Columbia University, began an oral history project.
This (below, from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) will be what Melbourne ends up with, instead, if demolition goes ahead.
Older Than the Hollywood Bowl
Festival Hall is older than the Hollywood Bowl, but California has chosen to preserve and cherish the latter.
So, what is Melbourne about to lose? Some of the story you may know – some you may not. No matter if you saw Sinatra here, Lionel Rose or The Clash, though – this is what Australia is about to trash.
From The Who to Lou
The Who sang My Generation here, on 25th January 1968. Lou Reed, above, toured Festival Hall in 1975.
Frank Sinatra and Festival Hall
Festival Hall is where Frank Sinatra made the notorious speech to the crowd attacking the Australian media – and particularly female journalists – that would see him in turn get bound up in politics with Bob Hawke, later the Australian Prime Minister. Sinatra is pictured here storming his way past the media, into Festival Hall. (Image: Fairfax/SMH)
The Who and PM Sir John Gorton
Festival Hall, Melbourne is also where The Who played with the Small Faces on 25th January 1968, attracting the wrath of another Australian Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton.
The Festival Hall story is also the story of the Wren family, though . Frank Sinatra sang My Kind of Town when he played their hall onJuly 9th 1974, but is Melbourne the Wrens’ kind of town, and if so, why has it taken just two years for this part of the city to go from celebrated local history, to yet more high-rise?
The Wren Family and Festival Hall
Frank Sinatra did it His Way in the Seventies (above, a famous limited-edition bootleg of the Festival Hall concert). So how are the Wrens doing it their way? The story’s changed a lot since 2015.
“Managing director John Wren, the grandfather of the man who bought the stadium in 1915, told the Herald Sun in 2015 that there was no plan to change things.”
“I’m honoured and privileged to carry on what my grandfather started,” Wren said at the time. “As long as there is live music, we’ll be here.”
And now? It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. The City of Melbourne has this in their hands again, just as they had The Palace Theatre. Also marked for demolition.
Bob Dylan at Festival Hall, April 19th 1966
Festival Hall saw Bob Dylan grace the stage on April 19th 1966 (the bootleg of the concert survives). He was following The Beatles, who had stunned Australia there, two years previously.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Poets and boxers have both graced Festival Hall.
The Beatles at Festival Hall
Australian teenagers of the Sixties had their coming of age at the Beatles concerts at Festival Hall, Melbourne in June 1964. Fans jumped onto the police to land on stage. John Lennon shook 19-year-old Brent McAuslan’s hand before Paul McCartney told police to ‘let him go’. He was nineteen.
Pink Floyd – Quad Sound in Melbourne
Melbourne Festival Hall was home to Pink Floyd’s quad sound on August 13th 1971. Unusually, they had support bands drawn from the local music scene – Pirana and Lindsay Bourke.
Australian support acts, not to mention headliners, have had a long, proud tradition at the venue – one of the few mid-sized spaces in Melbourne where fans can get close to the front of the stage.
Nick Cave and Chrissy Amphlett
Melbourne locals are rightly wondering what has happened, within the space of two years, to change this part of their city from a heritage precinct(honouring Nick Cave, Chrissy Amphlett, Michael Hutchence, Angus Young, Kylie Minogue, Daniel Johns) into a new demolition site.
In recognition of Festival Hall’s long standing contribution to live music in Melbourne, Dudley Street was even renamed Wren Lane in honour of the Wren family, after 100 long years of faithfully maintaining Festival Hall.
Australian artists who performed at the ‘House of Stoush’ (harking back to its wrestling ring past) or as it is has also been known to generations, ‘Festy Hall’ were celebrated at the time. And now?
It’s cultural heritage. But even in Melbourne, where some buildings qualify as ‘Heritage Overlay’ it does not protect places like Festival Hall.
Once it’s gone, as Melbourne’s heritage activists say, it’s gone forever. Welcome To My Nightmare, as Alice Cooper might have said (below, on tour in Australia in 1977).
Brisbane versus Melbourne
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that proposed apartments, retail and office space would hit 16 levels if passed by the City of Melbourne.
Speaking to The Age, Helen Marcou, co-founder of SLAM – Save Live Australian Music, said it would be “a tragedy for Victoria” to lose the venue.
“When Brisbane are rebuilding their Festival Hall because they see how important it is to culture, it would be an absolute travesty to lose ours in Melbourne,” she said.
Support Acts Lose Out
From Patti Smith‘s 40th anniversary Horses tour with Australian Courtney Barnett. all the way back to Pink Floyd’s choice of (unusually for them) two local Australian bands as support, Festival Hall has been a unique place for local music to find its place on a world stage. Not just a Melbourne one. They will also lose out.
The Internet Reacts
Goldie @goldie_fm wrote on Twitter, on 23rd January 2018, the day of the official announcement – “As I look out my hotel room all i see are apartments being built. That west end (docklands) area is a lifeless concrete hole. Keep culture/history alive.”
“This city will be nothing but poorly built apartments in 10 years. #festivalhall”
Festival Hall was known as the original House of Rock and Roll, from Beatles, Bill Haley and Johnny Cash to the Lee Gordon “Big Shows”, through to Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Shirley Bassey. It’s also seen Red Hot Chili Peppers, Powderfinger, The Foo Fighters, The Script, Lily Allen, Ed Sheeran, and Lorde.
It’s part of Australian boxing history. As the Budokan in Tokyo hosted judo, so the Festival in Melbourne saw famous biff.
Lionel Rose was here. So was John McEnroe at a first for Melbourne – an indoor Tennis Exhibition featuring John McEnroe.
The Ballad of Ringo Starr
Beatles fans around the world know Festival Hall for other reasons. The Beatles Bible – “At 8am on the morning of 15 June 1964, Jimmie Nicol left the Southern Cross Hotel on Bourke Street, Melbourne. Accompanied by Brian Epstein, he was driven to the airport where he was given a final agreed fee of £500, as well as a gold watch with the engraving: “To Jimmy, with appreciation and gratitude – Brian Epstein and The Beatles.”
“Nicol didn’t say goodbye to The Beatles; they were sleeping off the previous night’s party, and he felt he shouldn’t disturb them. The group was celebrating their reunion with Ringo Starr, who had missed the early part of their world tour after being struck down by acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis.”
The Melbourne 17th June concert at Festival Hall was recorded by GTV 9 and broadcast as a TV special The Beatles Sing for Shell.
This is it. Ringo Starr might now be Sir Ringo Starr, but none of the descendants of these Melbourne fans will ever see music here again. This is that venue. Are you or your family in the audience?
“I do believe this is my interval, as we say… We’ve been having a marvellous time being chased around the country for three days. You know, I think it’s worth mentioning because it’s so idiotic, it’s so ridiculous what’s been happening. We came all the way to Australia because I chose to come here. ”
“Frank Sinatra was in the wrong country at the wrong time. He arrived in Australia for concerts in July 1974, just three years after Germaine Greer had published The Female Eunuch and only 18 months after Melbourne singer Helen Reddy had a worldwide hit with I Am Woman, virtually the theme song for the then rapidly expanding women’s liberation movement. It was hardly the right moment for Sinatra to get up on stage at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and describe Australia’s female journalists as “buck-and-a-half hookers”.
Only after the involvement of Bob Hawke, then leader of the ACTU, did Sinatra agree to sign a statement to the effect that he regretted any inconvenience caused. You can read more here.
The Age and Men’s Style have both immortalised the Sinatra Festival Hall stoush. In fact, it was even made into a film.
The Night We Called It a Day is “Based on the true events surrounding Frank Sinatra’s tour of Australia. When Sinatra called a local reporter a “two-bit hooker”, every union in the country black-banned the star until he issues an apology.
Starring Dennis Hopper, Portia de Rossi and Melanie Griffiths it’s part of Festival Hall legend. For now.
“Prime Minister John Gorton sent Pete Townshend a telegram telling The Who not to come back to Australia; Townshend reportedly sent back a fruity reply and left Australia swearing never to return — a promise he has kept faithfully to this day! Once in New Zealand, things calmed down briefly, although they again ruffled establishment feathers in Auckland when Keith Moon indulged his famous penchant for wrecking hotel rooms.”
X is for XTC, because this is where the band delivered a blistering concert before stage fright stopped lead singer Andy Partridge touring. You can see it on YouTube.
And Z is for Frank Zappa who played here in 1973.
If you want to help save Festival Hall please follow AMMP on Twitter @ammptv or sign the petition above. Thank you.