Category Archives: Interviews

Happy Birthday Tim Ferguson

Happy Birthday Tim Ferguson

 

Writer Elle Russell profiles Tim Ferguson, born 16th November and the Doug Anthony All Stars.

Pilfering money from punter’s wallets. Running off with babies in prams and then accusing the bewildered mothers of bad parenting. Setting public rubbish bins on fire. Leading a crowd on a shop lifting tour through David Jones.
No, it’s not a rap sheet; it’s the Doug Anthony All Stars Canberra busking repertoire circa 1985.

While the description of the All Stars street performances read like a witness statement, these shambolic and subversive shows thrilled and terrified Canberra shoppers. It is precisely why on Saturday mornings, they had crowds of up to 150 people waiting for them to start busking at Petrie Plaza in Canberra’s Civic.

The Doug Anthony All Stars aka DAAS, clearly made an impression, as they are probably the only buskers in Australia, if not the planet, to have a plaque commemorating their antics. In 2003, the plaque featuring an image of the trio with the words ‘The Doug Anthony All Stars were born and died here” was installed where they used to busk at the intersection of City Walk and Petrie Plaza.

DAAS on YouTube

Richard Fidler, Tim Ferguson and Robert Piper started off doing comedic acoustic covers in the early 1980s but morphed into more of a darker performance group once Paul McDermott replaced Piper who had left to forge a career in the diplomatic corps.

After some success at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 1986, DAAS relocated to Victoria but found the Melbourne public more difficult to engage in their frivolity. The group jetted off to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival via Covent Garden and literally set the place on fire. DAAS famously incited a riot at the Bear Pit theatre and word spread about the Australian comedy rock stars who knew no fear.

DAAS Dead and Alive

Prior to returning to Melbourne, the DAAS had been phenomenally successful in the UK but in 1988, had to work hard for a crowd on Bourke and Swanston streets.

While Canberra audiences were savvy to the anarchic stylings of the comedy trio the rest of the country only caught up in 1989 once the ABC started showing the Big Gig on Tuesday nights.

Teenagers across Australia, many of who were listening to the Violent Femmes, The Dead Kennedys and Nick Cave, instantly embraced the DAAS with their entirely inappropriate but much beloved songs such as I Fuck Dogs and I Wanna Spill the Blood of a Hippy.

The irreverent All Stars were internationally successful comedians who gave fans their biggest shock when they announced that they would quit after a farewell tour in 1994.

The group reunited for a once off charity special in 2003 and again in 2008 and 2013 for DVD releases of their performances on The Big Gig and DAAS Kapital respectively.

While Richard now an ABC radio presenter, Paul stayed on our screens with shows such as Good News Week and Tim with Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush and Funky Squad. Tim also teaches comedy. In 2010, Tim revealed that he’d been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis prior to the group’s split.

In 2014 the All Stars reunited for a 30th anniversary tour starting at Canberra’s Comedy Festival with Paul Livingston, better known as his alter ego of Flacco, instead of Fidler on guitar.

DAAS Wikimedia Commons

Now in their second year of world tours since reforming, AAMP spoke with Tim Ferguson about the Doug Anthony All Stars and their busking history.

What was a Doug Anthony All Stars busking performance like in Canberra?

“Busking in Petrie Plaza was always great fun. We’d have big revivals and marches, spontaneous protests, laying hands on people and exorcising their demons. I did a psychic act which I’m sure would be illegal in the Bourke Street Mall these days. I’d use my psychic powers to solve people’s problems. We’d reenact the burning of Joan of Arc. We’d put Paul in garbage bins and set fire to whatever was in them. We did this regularly.

One of the reasons why the Doug Anthony All Stars were so in your face and jumping up and down was because we built our act on the street where you need to do that to get attention.”

How did you manage to get away with that on the streets of Canberra?

“Canberra was the cocaine/heroin capital of Australia. There was also a punk scene in Canberra. The punks in Melbourne and Sydney revered the Canberra punks. They were tough. There were weekly brawls, fights and riots. All that stuff happened in the nation’s capital. We had several battles with the cops. Singing one more song, talking over them. It was a time when risk was possible. I guess that the cops thought, ‘At least they’ve gathered together. We can watch them all here.”

Do you think that you were able to get away with it because it was the eighties? Do you think it would work now?

“If you put someone in a bin and set fire to whatever else is in it, you’ll get a crowd. I love it when people talk about the eighties like it was some golden time. It was a time of the same old oppression. Australia had just lurched out of the Fraser era. It was the same old thing. There were laws. People were backwards. Joh Bjelke-Petersen was a serious contender for the prime ministership. This country has not changed at all. What’s happened is that comedians are just interested in different things. They’re not so interested in shocking for the hell of it. They’re talking about different issues but their performance style is not based upon making people feel in fear of, you know, their lives. In fear of being robbed. We’d take people’s money from their wallets and they’d come up and say, ‘Can I have my money back?’ And we’d say, ‘What money? There was no money in there.’ We were terrible.”

Did you actually keep the money?

“Hell yeah! It’s because they didn’t put any money in the guitar case.”

I take it you never got a busking licence.

“We didn’t have a busking licence. We just busked. Would you give a licence to the Doug Anthony All Stars? Oh, what’s that song? It’s about dogs. Lovely.

There wasn’t a permit system that we recognised. Nobody ever, oh, a couple of times cops would say ‘Oh you can’t do that.’ But they never asked for a licence.
We didn’t know you needed one. People coped with us.

We busked in the Bourke Street Mall outside Myer or David Jones or both. Sometimes the crowds would get so big, the trams would be dinging away. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. We were like, ‘We’re mid-song, pal.’ It was chaos. We would have been moved on if we were busking now.”

What were the Melbourne crowds like when you were busking?

“Melbourne crowds were a bit standoffish. They didn’t quite know what to think of us at all because we didn’t mention the football in any of our humour. They weren’t quite sure what it was all about. In fact, Melbourne proved to be the coldest crowds we ever busked for. Because Melbourne, Queensland aside, is the heart of conservative Australia. So the antics that we were up to didn’t so much shock them as unnerve them. They’d laugh, but it was very hard to get them to come a bit closer so we wouldn’t have to sing so loud. Once they’ve got alcohol in their systems they’re fine but Melbournians in a public place tend to be quite standoffish. “

Apart from Canberra, where is the best place that you have ever busked?

“Covent Garden is hallowed ground for busking. It’s a beautiful plaza with no traffic sound so your voice can be heard. And people turn up to watch buskers. It’s the best place on earth to busk and you get lots of money from Italian tourists. “

What did you think of having a plaque dedicated to you?

“Great! It came completely out of the blue. We never thought that what we were doing was particularly important. The All Stars came from very different backgrounds. Paul was an artist, I was a gun enthusiast. Richard was a madman. He was out of control. I was just an anxious young man from the country, doing what country boys do. Paul was the most fucked up Catholic in Australia. The only thing that we agreed upon was that everything has to go. Society has to change. We had to change. We started doing comedy by saying ‘Everything you believe is wrong and here’s why.”

What made you decide to get the band back together?

DAAS Doug Anthony Allstars“When we launched the DAAS Kapital DVD in 2013, the tickets were sold out in 24 hours. “(In fact the launch had to be moved from RMIT’s Capitol Theatre to the Melbourne Town Hall to accommodate the demand)
“We thought, we have to go on tour! For some reason, no one else was doing anything like it. People had said, ‘Oh you’re pushing boundaries.’
We thought we’d opened the door. But we closed up shop and The Wiggles took over. Australia returned to its natural conservatism.

We were all about inciting crowds to do things that they would never otherwise have thought of doing. We nearly got thrown out of the Edinburgh Festival because we were getting crowds to come and dance around a bonfire outside of the theatre we were performing at. People were dancing and the next thing we knew, people were screwing in the shadows just beyond the light of the flames. Of course once the Festival heard about this, the Police were called and said something about inciting public orgies. But the public loved us.

It doesn’t take much to get people to do things that they weren’t planning on doing. Nobody says, ‘I’m going to see the Doug Anthony All Stars. I’m going to dance naked ‘round a fire, burn my credit cards and have sex with strangers.’ It’s not what people say.

People seem to want that frisson of anarchy and we provide it. Sure, I do it in a wheelchair but that’s only because I can. But we all have matches.”

Once you returned to Melbourne in 1988, you continued to busk? Why’s that?

“It’s a great place to rehearse. If we had new songs, doing them on the street was a good way to see if they made people laugh and if they could grab people’s attention. If they did, they’d stay in the show. If not, we’d rework it and come back and try again. So it’s a free audience, a free rehearsal space and you get paid for rehearsing. It works beautifully.

I encourage all of the comedians that I teach to get on the street, stop people and practice their routines.“

Have any of them taken this advice?

“None of them have done this. Because they’re all panty waste nitwits. But the one who decides to do it will end up running the field. It’s on the street where you find real people who would love nothing more than two minutes of comedy for a dollar. If I stopped you and said ‘Excuse me madam, I’m working on a comedy routine. If I tell you my jokes for two minutes and you think it’s funny, will you give me a dollar?’

If I seem ok and I’m there with a girl who is holding a hat, you’re in a public place and then I start, ‘Light bulbs…What’s that about?”

My primary advice to all aspiring performers is to do it on the streets.
You have a ready audience and if your material works on the streets where people are free to just turn around and walk away, if it engages their attention and makes them laugh or smile or even better, makes them think that you’re worth a gold coin, then it’s done its job. It’s the best training ground because if you’re no good, you won’t get a crowd. Or you’ll get a crowd and they’ll walk away very quickly. And if it’s stand up comedy, for god’s sake, shout! What do I care if the trams are noisy? You stand on a box. Put a little sign out saying ‘Stand up comedian. Come closer’ and away you go. “

What can we expect from the current shows?

“It’s even more awful than it was before. I’ve got nothing to lose except for a Star Wars toy collection. It’s been great to work with both Pauls again. We’ve all got different skills. I’m still good looking with a fancy Colonial accent from growing up in Singapore. Our characters have changed. We could always pick on Richard. We can’t pick on Paul Livingston. He’s on painkillers. That and my wheelchair adds a layer of nervousness and uncertainty. Paul McDermott is much more panicked and nervous. He’s got two guys either side of him who are off their faces, but not on the drugs that he’s had any experience with. We may be toothless old lions but we have guns.“

Tour information: the Cheeky Monkey  – DAAS Live Tour Dates

 

Tim Ferguson’s advice for aspiring performers

Image-1

  1. Wear pants – “I’ve tried it the other way and people just get distracted.”
  2. Go busking – It’s a resource that is there all of the time. Other people queue for an open mic gig because everybody else is doing it. The only way to get ahead of the crowd is to break from the crowd.
  3. Don’t wear polyester in a garbage bin full of flames.
    “We’d put Paul McDermott into a rubbish bin filled with paper and promptly set it on fire. One time, he wore polyester…”
  4. Sell merchandise “Working in show business is all about the money. It’s about having a career and a livelihood. We may have had vague political agendas but we were wholly in it for the money. In my screen writing class, the first thing I put on the board is a dollar sign. I point to it and say, ‘If you want that, shut up and listen to me.”
  5. Don’t hang out with comedians. “Comedians are the most depressed and jealous people on the planet. If you’re good, they want to kill you, or they want to sleep with you, which is why they’re telling you that your act is great. Go busking instead.”

 

 

Little Pattie and Chrissy Amphlett

 

Little Pattie and Chrissy Amphlett

 Jenny Valentish talks exclusively to ARIA Hall of Fame inductee – Patricia Amphlett, Chrissy’s cousin.

In the glamorous surrounds of Sydney’s QT hotel, Patricia Amphlett settles into a houndstooth armchair to summarise her life’s greatest hits into my dictaphone. Then she leaps up to mount a sofa and watch the Palestinians’ protest march pass by on Market Street.

“Wonderful,” she says, beckoning me over for a good view out of the window. Beneath us, the parade furls around onto George Street, bookended by police on horseback.

“They had so many women leading the march last week,” she says in approval; then patiently explains to a curious tourist what the purpose is of holding such a protest in Australia. Patricia has a way of speaking that’s both measured in pace and passionate in language, quite similar to her cousin Chrissy.

We first met when the campaign began for a Chrissy Amphlett laneway. Patricia toured potential laneways with Jessica Adams and Chrissy’s husband Charley Drayton and I. She enlightened us on what obstacles we may run into through the approval process, in the way that only someone who has recently been awarded a lifetime membership of the Labor Party can.

Pictured: the last stage of a search for a laneway for Chrissy begins with Jenny Valentish, Charley Drayton and Patricia’s husband, Lawrie Thompson

Last stage of a search for a laneway for Chrissy begins with Patricia's husband, Lawrie Thompson
Search for a laneway for Chrissy, by Patricia’s husband, Lawrie Thompson and Jenny Valentish and Charley Drayton

 

Last stage of a search for a laneway for Chrissy begins with Jenny Valentish, Charley Drayton
Last stage of a search for a laneway for Chrissy begins with Jenny Valentish and Charley Drayton

 

And now we’re here to reminisce on some key points in her career, and talk about what wonderful memorabilia she has stashed away at home that she can contribute to the digital Australian Music Museum – such as a photograph of the ‘It’s Time’ T-shirt she wore during the Gough Whitlam campaign, or the high-heeled Charles Jourdan sneakers that she’d worn on stage during the late-’60s.

It’s Time

Let’s go back to that first decade of Little Pattie’s career. Unusually for an era in which cover versions were king, her earliest material with EMI – ‘He’s My Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy’ and ‘Stompin at Maroubra’ – was written specifically for the fourteen-year-old, capitalising on her cute blonde bangs and surfie wardrobe. But I wonder if she was actually as acquainted with a surfboard as the Beach Boys were – i.e., with the exception of Dennis Wilson, not at all.

Pattie - Gravitation - Let the Music Start - Album Cover
Pattie – Gravitation – Let the Music Start – Album Cover

“I did attempt to ride a surfboard or two, but when you’re fourteen and you live near the beach, the two main reasons for going to the beach were boys and getting a sun tan,” she admits. “I don’t think I was successful in either of those wishes. As much as we lay there and giggled in our tiny triangle bikinis, the only time the boys came with us was when they were hungry. They’d rock up and say, ‘Any youse girls going to the shops?’”

These days a teenage act signed to a major record company might expect to be groomed and marketed within an inch of their lives, but Patricia remembers having to be much more of a self-starter than that.

“The executives and producers at EMI were fantastic towards me,” she acknowledges first. “Money wasn’t an issue and they protected me; I know that recording companies aren’t as supportive these days and the cost is carried by the performers and musicians. But there was no team as such. When I think of Chrissy, she had quite an entourage around her on occasions. I’m not sure I would have liked that.

“I think we were all genuine pioneers of the pop industry, thrown in at the deep end,” she says of her peers, such as Lynne Randell, Noeleen Batley, Marcie Jones and Betty McQuade. “We learned our craft as we went along. I had singing lessons and piano lessons, but that was all my training.”

While the moniker Little Pattie suggests an artist of inconsequential importance, she has disproved this time and time again by aligning herself with causes. In 1972 she spearheaded Gough Whitlam’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign (and is still a board member of the Whitlam Institute – part of the University of Western Sydney).

“My family would sit around and talk about politics, though it’s still considered fairly impolite to do so in public” she laughs. “My parents were Labor people and for what I thought were very good reasons. In 1972 it felt like the pendulum had swung and Labor could win the election. Gough Whitlam was charismatic and a man of integrity. People who had some overseas experiences, perhaps in Europe or America, felt that Australia was in the doldrums and culturally very starchy. It was time for a change.”

Jingle writers at an advertising company were employed to write the famous ‘It’s Time’ track, with some 50 household names filmed for the commercial. “We were sick of Australia going backwards,” Patricia says of the sentiment that united them.

In 1976, Little Pattie went off to Vietnam to entertain the troops – and she still counts them as her faithful fans – and friends – appearing at a Vietnam Veteran’s Day concert in Brisbane recently on August 18th.

“They’re my heroes really,” she says. “I think they’re under-recognised and misunderstood, because that particular war we had to learn quite a bit from in terms of how to treat soldiers when they come home. These days you’re offered counselling and treated very differently. The public felt as though we’d ‘lost’ the Vietnam War, which was an incredibly unpopular war anyway, and so our troops didn’t come back as heroes. But the government sent them there.”

Patricia carried on this tradition by playing to troops in Iraq in both 2005 and 2006. Not many recording artists could say they’ve stayed in one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces, but then not many artists stay the distance when it comes to their beliefs.

“Going to Vietnam changed me as a person in a positive way, because until I was seventeen, I was spoon fed,” she says. “None of us had to do much deep thinking about things and we accept everything around us. Going to a war zone and seeing such horrible things, and seeing soldiers just a little younger than I, wondering why they’re there, it shaped the way I am today, to a great degree.”

In 1986, Patricia married Lawrie Thompson, then the drummer with the Channel Nine orchestra and band. They met when she appeared on daytime television. “People would say, ‘Oh, you both married drummers,’” she laughs, referring to Chrissy’s husband (and former Divinyls drummer) Charley Drayton. “And Chrissy would say, ‘Yes, but mine’s black.’ She was outrageous.”

YouTube Video: Chrissy Inducts Little Pattie – ‘Aria Hall Of Fame’ 2009

While it’s little known, Patricia and Lawrie were leading a double life in Quorrobolong on the edge of the Hunter Valley. They both completed a class in animal husbandry at tech (Patricia topped the class) and then bred Murray grey cattle, learning how to farm as they went along. After ten years they gave up the farm when Lawrie got an enviable gig drumming in Sydney six nights a week. “We never quite became hardened farmers – we had to ear tag them, of course, but on the tags we put the names of jazz musicians and rock musicians instead of farmers.”

It was about bloody time, when Patricia Amphlett was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006 – by none other than Chrissy Amphlett. “She was a lot sicker than she said she was,” Patricia says sadly. “She was so brave and beautiful to do that.”

In her speech, Chrissy says of Pattie, “She was my hero when Mum would gather us around to watch Bandstand. Tricia was a super star in the ’60s, which was a tough call. She was determined to survive and succeed, and she’s done just that.”

Chrissy shared with the audience Patricia’s work with Vietnam veteran amputees: “She’d take a delegation of them to Vietnam and they’d sit in front of the Vietcong amputees and try and forgive each other. She’d sit at the end of the table, and two former enemies were brought together by Little Pattie – this 4’10” woman in her high heels and battle gear, sitting weeping alongside these burly men, also weeping.”

The icing on the cake was a “lovely letter” from Gough Whitlam, offering his congratulations.

Patricia continues to be a high achiever, managing to fit in performing, music teaching (Nikki Webster is a past student) being president of the MEAA, board member of the National Film and Sound Archive; a trustee of the Jessie Street Trust and a patron of Forces Entertainment.

At exactly ten years Chrissy’s senior, Patricia says she gave the Divinyls singer advice when she asked for it, “but she didn’t need it really. I didn’t realise I was a pioneer in my era, but she was the best pioneer, because she made it de rigeur for women to front a band and be equal, if not superior, to men. Before she came along… no matter how many hit records I had, I never topped a bill, because it was a bloke’s business. It’s quite amazing that female performers are as supportive of our male colleagues as we are.”

The idea of a laneway in Chrissy’s honour is one that Patricia feels strongly about. “I thought: of course! Why not? It’s a given. Most of my family is from Melbourne so I was aware of all the lanes named after famous people. I will be eternally grateful to all the people involved in this wonderful campaign and I think we’ll all cry when it happens,” she says. “Chrissy would get off on it big time. So often, I say, ‘Why isn’t she here?’ She’d love the I Touch Myself project and she’d love the laneway. She’d probably say to me, ‘That’s my lane!’ and be childlike with her love for it. She’d walk up and down it, probably incognito, sussing out who was walking along her lane and who was looking at her name.”

I Touch Myself Project
I Touch Myself Project

 

  Images: Copyright Individuals and AMMP

Midnight Oil Exhibition

Midnight Oil Exhibition

Midnight Oil went on the road in 2015 in the form of a travelling exhibition visiting Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Canberra, Riverina, Southern Queensland, and Wollongong. Ross Heathcote, Curator & Public Programs Coordinator, Manly Art Gallery and Museum, spoke to AMMP about one of the most successful mobile museums Australia has ever seen. The Midnight Oil exhibition showed everything from the famous Sydney 2000 Olympics ‘Sorry’ suits – to long-forgotten posters.

Courtesy: Newcastle Museum - Midnight Oil exhibition
Courtesy: Newcastle Museum – Midnight Oil exhibition. The Making of Midnight Oil!

The exhibition of Midnight Oil’s was a huge success at the Sydney exhibition hosted by the Manly Art Gallery and Museum – what were the final numbers?

Yes, a huge success in many ways, not only big numbers (18,000 in Manly over a short few weeks, and even more at Newcastle), but really rich visitation with great experiences and some genuine interactivity.

There were thousands of Oils fans visiting of course, but also visitors who had never heard of the Oils. At Manly there was much interstate and overseas visitation. We were thrilled. We hosted several special events include a world premiere screening of the full ‘The Making of 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1’ documentary by Robert Hambling, and some great Q&A evenings which featured Rob Hirst and Jim Moginie from the Oils.

Making of Midnight Oil - Touring in 2015

How was your Newcastle season?

We have just pulled down the The Making of Midnight Oil exhibition in Newcastle. It looked great in the old train sheds (now Newcastle Museum). Our exhibition is based around stages and risers…real ones, with the real Midnight Oil roadcases converted into showcases. Along with the graphics, a hundred or so gig posters, original lyric scrawls and many brilliant audio-visuals, the band’s instruments and other artefacts, the exhibition had a truly authentic and unique rock’n’roll look.

Newcastle was a perfect host venue for the show. The town has a fine pub rock tradition that is maintained there. One of the highlights at Newcastle was an evening event focussing on songwriting: the panel consisted of Rob Hirst, Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus) and Dave Mason (The Reels). Apart from the fascinating, revealing and iconoclastic discussion, each of them also played or sang. I’ve never seen a happier museum audience.

Did you and the other exhibition organisers Rob Hirst, Virigina Buckingham and Wendy Osmond make any major changes to the Newcastle exhibition?

We worked closely with Newcastle museum staff to adapt the show to their space and add some local content. How could we go to Newcastle and not refer to the earthquake gig and the legendary Redhead Beach gig?

 Each venue on the tour is different, so Wendy and I will assess each space. Rob will inevitably tell us a ‘war story’ about the Oils and every town that the show will travel to, so we will try to include local references and stories.

In talking to host museums and galleries, I have encountered people who have their own Midnight Oil story to tell, as well. In the exhibition there is a facility to leave your Oils story on a fan wall.

Making of Midnight Oil - Touring in 2015

What’s your favourite part of the exhibition after all this time?

That’s really hard to answer. The icons in the show include the Sorry Suits worn at the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony gig, and the giant Exxon Oil spill protest banner that the band played in front of, at their guerrilla protest gig in new York City. These are great things but I also love Ray Argall’s beautiful film piece which has wonderful concert and crowd footage from the mid 1980’s. The the ’10-1’ doco is brilliant. I love the band’s gear as well – Jim’s Gretsch, Martin’s Strat, Giffo’s Bass and Peter’s skyscaper one-piece mic stand. The gig posters are also great: they are a magnificent collection that tell us about a rich  social history of accessible world class live music, lost venues, lost bands, and of course the amazing career of the Oils.

There are a couple of soundbites including an unreleased Midnight Oil track, and a recording of Jim, Rob and Bear as teenagers in their trio Schwampy Moose. Jim offered that piece saying that ‘people need to know what we sounded like when we were shit’. I’m proud of the text in the exhibition where I had the pleasure of collaborating with the band’s biographer Mark Dodshon. The hand-scrawled lyric sheets are revealing and compelling; a rare insight into the process of the band’s three main songwriters. The hitherto unseen footage of the band playing at Tanelorn in 1981 is awesome….I could go on!

What about the piece which Rob Hirst described as follows:
“The piece de resistance is a replication in a box which has sticky carpet, three screens when you walk in and a curtain you pull behind you. It has footage of the band playing at the Tanelorn Festival in 1981 and there’s two sets of headphones you can choose from – one is loud, the other is really loud – and you can stick to the carpet. There’s elbows that come out from the side of the box so that you can be elbowed in the ribs. What I was trying to do was replicate what it was like coming to see Midnight Oil back then at the Mawson Hotel, the 16 Footers or the Ambassador or whatever.”

This was Rob’s pet project! He wanted a space in the exhibition where visitors could get the feel of an early Oils gig. He suggested a bizarre kind-of ‘bush shower’ to begin- steamy, smelly, loud…as if you were at the Royal Antler Hotel in 1978. I talked him out of that, and we compromised on a portaloo. That wasn’t going to work either. Wendy Osmond (3D designer) suggested we make a big roadcase that you can walk into. It was put together by some helpers including Grant Pudig (a former tour manager for the Oils). Rob had some old pub carpet, but it just wasn’t nasty enough, so we regularly spill a middy of Toohey’s Old and some cigarette butts into the floor to give that special Sydney pub smell.

It’s cramped and heated, and you’re surrounded by three screens featuring crowd scenes from the Hordern and the Oils at Tanelorn playing Cold Cold Change. Rob’s dogged persistence made this ‘Antler Room’  happen, but we have reserved the right to tease him about and it, so it is known as Rob’s Folly. I need to add that without Rob Hirst and his remarkable energy and penchant for collecting, MoMO would never have been born.

Other efforts toward making exhibitions about rock bands have not had the privileged position of having band members at hand, supportive and involved, and yet hands-off when it comes to telling the true stories and avoiding ‘vanity pieces’. Rob, Jim, Peter, Martin, Giffo, Bear and Bones have all been really helpful and generous along with the Oils’ management. The fact that they are as fearless in telling their story as they were as a musical force has given the exhibition project particular grunt.

Making of Midnight Oil - Touring in 2015

I once would have thought of Midnight Oil as a very serious band, with their songs and stance on indigenous issues, homeless youth and the environment (many of us might have been introduced to some of these issues through their songs). These chaps turn out to be relaxed, funny, creative, witty, self-deprecating, super-literate (Rob corrected some of my text panel grammar and he’s meant to be a rock drummer!) and very easy to work with.

Given your hands-on experience with the Oils’ exhibition lately, your ideas about an Australian Music Museum – particularly the venue, format, funding, space and viability would be very interesting to a lot of people.

The interest has been enormous. It’s not just about the Oils, there is broader interest in some recent times when Australian music (rock in particular) was a massive part of our identity. The Midnight Oil story included the politics and issues that band traversed, which gave the show an added dimension. However, the great thing about exhibiting the stories of popular music is how that resonates within our memories, generates intergenerational conversations and cross-cultural conversations (and this is all beautifully documented in our visitors’ writings in MoMO).

I imagine an Australian Music museum having some of the authenticity of MoMO; a place that can feel like a pub in Adelaide, or the Sydney Stadium or Cloudlands or the Countdown set or The Palais at any given opportunity. To do this you need great designers like Wendy Osmond and Virginia Buckingham, the involvement of audience,  and willing and brave contributors like Rob.

I’d like to see the music museum go beyond one space. Perhaps a ‘mothership venue’ with pop-ups around the country. There must be capacity for performance and recording in this space and it must be alive (therefore acoustics and accessibility are important). The key space needs much flexibility. It should be built by roadies as much as by museum makers. A smart government would take on the support of such a venue. We had some good corporate support from Sony Music, perhaps it’s time the music industry to get behind the physical museum project.The benefits are great.

SONGS – The Real Thing

Classic Songs – The Real Thing

Before Countdown in Australia, there was Go-Set magazine in the 1960s, where Australian music, fashion and media exploded and would later evolve into Countdown culture – and eventually The Voice. The Real Thing in various incarnations  has survived from the 70s to today, throughout. Bill Armstrong was running his legendary Melbourne studios where Meldrum and Morris created their hippy anthem. This YouTube clip, below, tells Armstrong’s side of the story.

The Real Thing at Armstrong Studios Melbourne
The Real Thing at Armstrong Studios Melbourne

THE AUSTRALIAN HIPPY ANTHEM
The song be associated with Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum who developed his taste in music during the hippy psychedelic era in Melbourne, while working at Go-Set. It was composed by Johnny Young, later known for hosting Young Talent Time. 

Are you a hippy, Go-Set asked? The Real Thing is a hippy classic.
Are you a hippy, Go-Set asked? The Real Thing is a hippy classic.

RUSSELL MORRIS AND IAN MELDRUM
This is Ian (below)  and the earliest video we have of him, talking about the Australian music industry at an airport – his virtual home, in the early 1970’s.

This clip from the ABC-TV series GTK reveals Ian discussing Daddy Cool and The Mixtures in 1971 – when he worked as a manager, record producer and a Go-Set columnist writing what the interviewer calls a ‘stirring’ column.

‘Even my best friends, including myself, are rubbished in that column,’ Ian says. In this clip he also talks about his work on the Australian hit, The Real Thing, by Russell Morris: ’When I got back from London in 1968 I was ready to tackle something like Russell Morris and the Real Thing. I don’t think Russell and I were a good artist-manager team. We argued a lot. But I think that we both benefitted from it.’

GTK – Molly Meldrum on the Australian pop scene (1971)

THE SONG THAT EMI HATED

Russell Morris, speaking to Carol Duncan in a fascinating interview at ABC Radio Newcastle, recalls:

“I remember when we first started in Melbourne, Ian Meldrum said to me, “We’ll go and see Stan Rofe at 3AW.” Stan Rofe was a big star to me, he was on air and I’d heard him on the radio station and I said, “Well how are we going to do that?” and he said, “We’ll just go up to the radio station!”

“So we went up to the radio station and walked in and Stan came down and had a cup of tea with us. Ian said, “We’ve got this, what do you think?” and Stan said, ‘Love it, I’ll play it.’ And that’s what it was like.”

“I tell you what is ironic, The Real Thing was turned down as well. EMI hated it, they thought it was the biggest load of rubbish they’d ever heard.”

And on Molly: “He’s still my best mate but we’d had a couple of professional disagreements. He saw me as Australia’s Davey Jones from The Monkees or some such thing and I wanted to go in a different direction completely as a singer/songwriter so we differed on the way we were going and the record company was pressuring for another single, but I really would have loved to be with a  band like Chain.

“But your fate is your fate. Whatever happens, those doors open and close for a reason and maybe if I’d started it earlier then it wouldn’t have worked.”

“I was happy doing The Real Thing, I quite liked psychedelia. I didn’t like pop a lot but I remember Ian (Molly Meldrum) had done a number of songs with me and we’d done ‘Only A Matter of Time‘ which I absolutely loathe, it was on the back of The Real Thing, and a couple of pop songs and I said to Ian, ‘This is rubbish, we’re not going in the direction I want to go,’

I said, ‘I’m not John Farnham, I’m not Ronnie Burns and I’m not Normie Rowe. I want to do something that they wouldn’t even contemplate thinking about doing. I want to go in that direction. Let’s go psychedelia, let’s go into something more band oriented than a pop single…Ian, to his credit, agreed and said, ‘You’re right, they’re not different enough.”

Read more hereRussell Morris – even better than the real thing

Later on, the arrival of colour television was  Countdown’s ticket to huge ratings. Russell Morris had five Australian Top 10 singles during the late 1960s and early 1970s and is in the ARIA Hall of Fame.

See the YouTube footage – Russell Morris – The Real Thing – (includes a short interview from Hit Scene 1969).

 

Buy The Very Best of Russell Morris on iTunes.

TEN FACTS ABOUT THE REAL THING

  1. Midnight Oil, Kylie Minogue and Third Eye have all covered the song.
  2. The song satirises the 1967 Cola-Cola advertisement song claiming the drink is The Real Thing, as part of the ongoing corporate competition with Pepsi Cola.
  3. As with The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, the song is built from composite parts. The musicians involved came from The Groop and The Zoot.
  4. Maureen Elkner provides the falsetto. She would later have a feminist hit with Rack Off Normie, written by Bob Hudson as an answering call to his own hit, The Newcastle Song.
  5. The heavily processed vocals include what sounds like Ian Meldrum ‘delivering a buyer-beware message to potential trippers.’
  6. The song’s climax contains a recording of the Hitler Youth choir singing their anthem, Horst Wessel Lied, before the sound of an atomic bomb blast.
  7. It was recorded at Armstrong’s Studios in South Melbourne in 1968.
  8. The sequel to The Real Thing is ‘Part Three: Into Paper Walls.
  9. The song was originally earmarked for The Flies.
  10. Johnny Young (real name John De Jong) wrote the song after sharing a flat in London with Barry Gibb from The Bee Gees. He went on to present and produce Young Talent Time which launched the career of Danni Minogue.

For more information, see Tomorrow Is Today: Australia in the Psychedelic Era, Edited by Iain McIntyre. Purchase at Amazon.

The original jingle The Real Thing was recorded for radio by The Fortunes in the USA in 1969.

 

MIDNIGHT OIL COVER THE REAL THING

Filmed by BSharpProductions and uploaded to YouTube. This gig took place on September 8th 2007 when Midnight Oil played at the Backroom in Byron Bay. Peter Garrett dedicates the song to “all the Australian musicians, writers and poets.”

The Real Thing – Midnight Oil live at the Backroom Byron Bay

 

Buy The Real Thing by Midnight Oil at their website.

THE REAL THING IN JULY 2014

This is the most powerful modern incarnation of the song yet (at least since Kylie’s own version) from the Voice YouTube channel in July 2014. Here Kylie, the judges and the top sixteen contestants take Johnny Young’s composition and give it electrifying ensemble cast treatment.  Will the song be back in a new incarnation beyond 2020? The Real Thing is  one of the few Australian songs which has been revived from the Seventies through to the 21st century. Watch this space.

 

See more on YouTube from The Voice

The Go-Betweens on Rage

The Go-Betweens on Rage

Watching The Go-Betweens on Rage has been a rite of passage for Australians for years, no matter if it’s a vintage clip for Spring Rain or Streets of Your Town. There are two clips for the latter; one directed by Kriv Stenders capturing the places The Go-Betweens lived in, and played in.

Writing in The Guardian, Barry Divola commented,

“Whenever I hear Streets of Your Town, it’s the images from this video that play in my head – slabs of bright blue sky behind terrace houses, telephone lines, clock towers, apartment blocks and train stations. There are glimpses of the Sydney harbour bridge, overhead tram lines in Melbourne and buildings in central Brisbane. And lots of sun glittering on water.”

 

 

Streets of Your Town

The song was included on an iPod given to Barack Obama by former PM Julia Gillard. Taken from 16 Lovers Lane, it appeared in U2’s set list at the Brisbane concert during their Vertigo World Tour in dedication to Grant McLennan.

The 16mm Steenbeck Clip

Kriv Stenders has a YouTube channel showing this and other work, including the film Red Dog.  His work for The Go-Betweens on Rage sits alongside a second clip, commissioned by the record company.

“This was one my first ever music videos. I made it with Antony Clare, a friend from Brisbane and the idea was based on the photographic style of one his short films from art college. We shot this in my last year at film school and I remember we travelled by car from Brisbane, to Sydney and then Melbourne filming various members of the band in their favourite parts of each city. We were completely exhausted at the end of it all. It was shot on old 16mm reversal film and edited by hand on a Steenbeck by Annette Davey who is now an established feature film editor in New York…”

Programming Rage

Rage has a tradition of asking musicians to guest-program the show, and on Saturday 8th May 1999, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan sat in a hotel room and did just that.

Thanks to Golden Daze at YouTube for uploading clips from the program including the introduction by Robert and Grant, here. The Go-Betweens would program Rage again, with Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison, almost two decades later.

 

Chase the Dragon – Beasts of Bourbon

Robert programs The Beasts of Bourbon’s Chase the Dragon much to Grant’s amusement. You can see the song here.

 

The Go-Betweens on Rage – programming the Beasts of Bourbon.

Sexy Boy by Air

 

Raining Pleasure by The Triffids

Grant McLennan introduces one of his favourite tracks here, commenting: “One of the most beautiful songs about desire and longing that I’ve ever heard. And I’m going to miss – like we all should – David McComb.”

 

The Forster/McLennan Playlist

You can download the whole Go-Betweens Rage program, above,  on the ABC-TV website. This is the playlist from Saturday 8th May, 1999 (below).

Saturday 8th May 1999   Robert Forster and Grant McLennan guest program rage
11:50pm Sexy Boy – Air Virgin
Hand In Your Head – Money Mark Polydor
Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust Virgin
12:00am Be My Baby – Ronettes, The EMI
In The Flesh – Blondie EMI
Only Love Can Break Your Heart – St. Etienne Warner
Chase The Dragon – Beasts Of Bourbon Polydor
Jimmy Rogers – Fur Shock
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane Universal (MCA)
Long May You Run – Neil Young Warner
12:30am Some Kinda Angel – Mojave 3 Shock
Bathtime – Tindersticks Mercury
In The Neighbourhood – Tom Waits Mercury
The More You Ignore Me – Morrissey EMI
Sorrow – David Bowie EMI
So Young – Suede Sony
What Presence – Orange Juice Independent
Raining Pleasure – Triffids, The Festival
Las Vegas – Underground Lovers Polydor
1:00am Rachael’s Coming Home – Russell Morris Festival
Remedy – Black Crowes, The Sony
Summer Here Kids – Grandaddy V2
Goddess On A Hiway – Mercury Rev V2
Bobby Peru – Luna Shock
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan Sony
1:30am The Model – Kraftwerk Independent
Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush EMI
Slave To The Rhythm – Grace Jones EMI
Ray Of Light – Madonna Warner
I Love The Nightlife – Alicia Bridges Polydor
Trash – Suede Sony
2:00am I Love Women – Lou Reed BMG
Baby Stones – Robert Forster Universal (MCA)
Someone, Somewhere – Wannadies, The BMG
There She Goes – La’s, The Polydor
Friday I’m In Love – Cure, The Warner
Public Image – P.I.L. Virgin
The Lights Are Changing – Mary Lou Lord Sony
Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft – Carpenters, The Polydor
2:30am Cloudbusting – Kate Bush EMI
Soon – My Bloody Valentine Shock
Ohio River Boat Song – Palace Brothers Shock
Cattle And Cane – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Bachelor Kisses – Go-Betweens, The Warner
Spring Rain – Go-Betweens, The Polydor
Head Full Of Steam – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
3:00am Right Here – Go-Betweens, The BMG
Bye Bye Pride – Go-Betweens, The Polydor
Streets Of Your Town – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Was There Anything I Could Do – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Cryin’ Love – Robert Forster Shock
Surround Me – G.W. McLennan BMG
Simone & Perry – Grant McLennan Shock
Don’t Blame The Beam – F.O.C. Polydor
3:30am If You Want Release – F.O.C. Universal (MCA)
Already Gone – Powderfinger Polydor
Don’t Wanna Be Left Out – Powderfinger Polydor
Good Day Ray – Powderfinger Polydor
The Day You Come – Powderfinger – Live On Recovery Polydor
JC – Powderfinger – Live on Recovery Polydor
D.A.F. – Powderfinger Polydor
Pick You – Powderfinger Polydor
Top 50
50. Westside – TQ Sony
4:00am 49. Millennium – Robbie Williams EMI
48. How Do I Deal With Love – Jennifer Love Hewitt Warner
47. Say It Once – Ultra Warner
46. Every You, Every Me – Placebo Virgin
45. Zorba’s Dance – LCD Virgin
43. Stay The Same – Joey McIntyre Sony
42. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill Sony
41. It’s Our Time – Ilanda Shock
4:30am 40. Praise You – Fatboy Slim Sony
39. All Torn Down – Living End, The EMI
38. 9pm (‘Til I Come) – ATB MDS
37. Right Here, Right Now – Fatboy Slim Sony
36. Last To Know – Human Nature Sony
35. End Of The Line – Honeyz Mercury
34. Put Your Hands Up – Black && White Brothers Central Station
5:00am 33. Girlfriend/Boyfriend – Blackstreet featuring Janet Jackson Universal (MCA)
32. Enjoy Yourself – A+ Universal (MCA)
31. Smile & Shine – Pandora Universal (MCA)
30. Lullaby – Shawn Mullins Sony
29. Stand By Me – 4 The Cause BMG
28. Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry Polydor
25. Livin’ La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin Sony
24. You Don’t Know Me – Armand Van Helden Polydor
5:30am 23. Tearin’ Up My Heart – N’Sync BMG
22. Have You Ever? – Brandy Warner
21. Angel Of Mine – Monica BMG
20. How Deep Is Your Love – Dru Hill Mercury
19. This Kiss – Faith Hill Warner
18. Protect Your Mind – DJ Sakin && Friends Central Station
17. Every Morning – Sugar Ray Warner
16. Thank Abba For The Music – Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched & Billie Sony
6:00am 15. Anthem For The Year 2000 – silverchair Murmur
13. You Get What You Give – New Radicals Universal (MCA)
12. No Matter What – Boyzone Polydor
11. Strong Enough – Cher Warner
10. Honey To The Bee – Billie Virgin
9. Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz Virgin
8. Until The Time Is Through – Five BMG
6:30am 7. Touch It – Monifah Universal (MCA)
6. That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain Mercury
5. The Animal Song – Savage Garden Roadshow
4. Baby One More Time – Britney Spears Mushroom
3. Why Don’t You Get A Job? – The Offspring Sony
2. We Like To Party – Vengaboys Central Station
1. No Scrubs – TLC BMG

 

Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison

 

Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison programmed Rage 18 years later, as The Go-Betweens Right Here  documentary launched in Sydney, in the wake of Robert Forster’s autobiography, Grant and I (Penguin).

 

Thanks to Samuel Tsige for uploading this on YouTube.

The Song List

Details on Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison’s song list, from 8th July 2017 can be found at the Rage website.  This is a small selection, along with the music mentioned in the clip.

THE KNIFE – Heartbeats
MONTAIGNE – I’m A Fantastic Wreck
TINA ARENA – Chains
DOLLY PARTON – 9 to 5
TALKING HEADS – And She Was
BEYONCE – Formation

 

Portraits of Michael Hutchence

 

Portraits of Michael Hutchence

The internet and media portrait of Michael Hutchence is as contradictory as the iconic Max Q face (below). Max Q was a collaboration with Ollie Olsen, whom Michael had met while filming Dogs In Space. There are many portraits of Michael Hutchence.

Talking to the late Vince Lovegrove in his biography of Michael Hutchence (Allen & Unwin 1999) Olsen said, “I think he was a person who was kind of caught up on this rollercoaster of fame and there was a part of him that perhaps was on a more spiritual level.”

Max Q was then born in Los Angeles and according to Michael’s brother Rhett Hutchence, the latter mortgaged his Paddington house to pay for the recording.

Greg Perano, an old friend of Michael’s, believed that if the Max Q project was too successful, INXS management was concerned it would take Michael away from the band. Speaking to Lovegrove, he commented ‘They wanted it to be a faceless record.’ Thus, the first portrait we have of Michael Hutchence, below. Here, he is just one of the many faces of Max Q.

IDENTIKIT! MICHAEL AS MAX Q

Michael Hutchence talking to SPIN Magazine about his Max Q side project with Ollie Olsen, said:

“Max Q is a title that Ollie was just bandying about. “I want to do a Max Q thing.” It was a month later that I found out it was the name of his dog – which I shouldn’t have mentioned – his deaf dog. A mad, fucking, frothing-at-the-mouth, barking, biting, table-chewing dog. That’s the beginning of it. What it turned into was this guy we could create. This idea of taking pieces of everybody and creating this persona: Max. So it’s not a solo album for me – which it isn’t technically – and it’s not just this band. It’s this alter ego we’ve created out of everyone. The weird thing is we wanted to make the logo really ugly, with this police identikit sort of thing, and it turned out to be this guy, this person. We were quite happy with it and kept it. That’s Max.”

 

The iconic Max Q portrait of Michael Hutchence.
The iconic Max Q cover stands out in all the  portraits of Michael Hutchence.

 

s-l225 MAX_Q_WAY_OF_THE_WORLD_PICTURE_DISC_SHAPE_2963

Max Q still from YouTube.
Max Q still from YouTube.

THE TONY MOTT PORTRAITS
Tony Mott’s recent Sydney photographic exhibition What a Life
  also drew thousands of fans, at the State Library of NSW. Veteran Australian media photographer Tony Mott (below) captured Michael in a classic portrait, blown up to larger-than-life size. One shot from the session appeared, literally, on ‘the cover of Rolling Stone’ in Australia. Michael’s smile still attracts female fans (below). The photograph also appears on the biography by Vince Lovegrove (Allen & Unwin).

 

Tony Mott's portrait of Michael Hutchence was part of a long career in media.
Tony Mott’s portrait of Michael Hutchence was part of a long career in media.


Michael Hutchence portrait at the State Library of NSW.
Michael Hutchence portrait at the State Library of NSW. Australian portraits of Michael Hutchence on public display are rare.

 

Michael Hutchence by Tony Mott for Rolling Stone Australia.
One of many portraits of Michael Hutchence – Tony Mott for Rolling Stone Australia.
Michael Hutchence by Vince Lovegrove (Allen and Unwin).
Michael Hutchence by Vince Lovegrove (Allen and Unwin).


DISCOVERING THE HARRY BORDEN PORTRAIT

Interview with Harry Borden
In this interview clip, below,  Harry Borden describes the experience of photographing  Michael Hutchence on location in Paris. All the images in this interview are copyright Harry Borden. 

Further information about the Michael Hutchence portrait by Harry Borden can be found on the Gallery’s website http://www.portrait.gov.au 

 

 

THE POLLY BORLAND PORTRAIT OF MICHAEL HUTCHENCE
Visit The National Portrait Gallery online to see an alternative portrait of Michael Hutchence captured by Polly Borland.  This Rolling Stone cover shows yet another face of the singer.

RICHARD LOWENSTEIN’S PORTRAITS
The Ghost Pictures channel on YouTube showcases some of the amazing work created by Richard Lowenstein over the years, including this lesser-known INXS clip (Property Ghost Pictures). 

 

 

 

THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY ON YOUTUBE
Subscribe to the National Portrait Gallery’s YouTube channel at: http://goo.gl/GYIgsq for more rock’n’roll art works and insights.