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 and politics have been intertwined since Vietnam and its aftermath. Khe Sanh is sometimes called the alternative Australian national anthem. Only Nineteen, by Redgum, continued the tradition set by Don Walker and Cold Chisel, in the Eighties.
THE OILS IN THE EIGHTIES
The early-mid 1980s saw the rise of People for Nuclear Disarmament in Australia. Midnight Oil played strong songs that sold the anti-nuclear message and toured the country widely, educating a generation about nukes. This laminate, from the collection of Marshall Cullen, dates from that time. Hobart was a focus for the anti-nuke protests of the mid 1980’s after the controversial visit of the U.S.S. Enterprise – Peter Garrett was there.
STOP THE DROP, 1983
U.S. FORCES GIVE THE NOD
U.S. Forces lyrics which the crowd sing word-for-word in the Stop The Drop clip can be found at Midnight Oil’s official website . The song was written by Jim Moginie and Peter Garrett.
The anthem U.S. Forces name checks Shakespeare (‘dogs of war ‘) as well as the Wall Street TV-speak of the early Eighties (‘market movements call the shots.’) You can see the crowd mouthing the lines “People too scared to go to prison” at Stop The Drop which was also a reflection of the times. This T-Shirt, below, is in The Powerhouse Museum collection in Sydney.
The Stop the Drop concert held at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl on Sunday 13 February 1983 was attended by the T-shirt donor you see responsible for the Powerhouse Museum archive donation on this page – Kevin Fewster – who also happened to be one of the organisers.
The 1983 concert was attended by 8000 people. In 1984 Peter Garrett was to run for the Australian Senate in NSW for the Nuclear Disarmament Party but was not elected.
Also at this concert, members of Goanna, Midnight Oil and Redgum recorded an impromptu song to protest the proposed damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River. Released as ‘Let The Franklin Flow’ by Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble, it reached number 15 on the charts in May that year.
The line “Superboy takes a plutonium wife” might just be one of the most mis-heard in Australian music, but ‘sing me songs of no denying’ is something most Australian music fans would automatically attribute to the band. The album was huge in the early 1980’s and together with Red Sails In The Sunset (which shows Sydney after the bomb) politicised part of a generation.
THE RANGER URANIUM MINE
Between 1979 and 1984, the majority of what is now Kakadu National Park was created, surrounding but not including the Ranger uranium mine. The two themes for the 1980 Hiroshima Day march and rally in Sydney, sponsored by the Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM), were: “Keep uranium in the ground” and “No to nuclear war.” Later that year, the Sydney city council officially proclaimed Sydney nuclear-free.
The Nobel-prize winning Australian novelist Patrick White led one such march, and was photographed with Tom Uren, pictured with dark glasses, bag and stick. This is his novel The Eye of the Storm.
RUBBERY FIGURES, RONALD REAGAN AND MIDNIGHT OIL
By 1982, there were 350,000 Australians at anti-nuclear rallies, focussed on halting Australia’s uranium exports, removing foreign bases from Australian land and creating a nuclear-free Pacific. The visits of U.S. nuclear warships – as far as Hobart – was also a major early Eighties issue and Midnight Oil sang the soundtrack.
The comedy puppet series Rubbery Figures (ABC-TV 1984-1990) satirised U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the same period. To put Midnight Oil’s anti-nuclear albums 10, 9, 8 and Red Sails in context, it’s also important to remember that in 1984, shortly after both records (still vinyl) were released, President Reagan joked in a soundcheck on National Public Radio, ‘My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.’
Rubbery Figures – Ronald Regan re Anzac Day
THE BOMB AND THE EIGHTIES
Writing in Meanjin, Simon Castles remembers, ‘In 1984 the Doomsday Clock kept by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was moved to three minutes to midnight, its most dire position since the invention of the hydrogen bomb. Midnight Oil released Red Sails in the Sunset the same year, an album whose cover shows Sydney after a nuclear strike.’
‘In the eighties there was a stack of pop songs about the bomb. To name just a handful of tracks on a list that ran long, as if to a mushroom cloud on the horizon: ‘Breathing’ by Kate Bush (1980), ‘1999’ by Prince (1982), ‘Seconds’ by U2 (1983), ‘99 Luftballons’ by Nena (1983), ‘Walking in Your Footsteps’ by The Police (1983), ‘Two Minute Warning’ by Depeche Mode (1983), ‘Forever Young’ by Alphaville and then Laura Branigan (1984–85), ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984), ‘Russians’ by Sting (1985), ‘Guns in the Sky’ by INXS (1987) and ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ by Morrissey (1988).’
Red Sails in the Sunset was a title more associated with Bing Crosby and Fats Domino in the Eighties – until Midnight Oil took it over with the help of a Japanese artist who was years ahead of his time. American blogger Sam Wade, writes at The Vinyl Odyssey:
“Japanese artist, Tsunehisa Kimura, created the post-apocalyptic vision of Sydney Harbor – no water only craters from nuclear bombs and a giant fireball near the bridge. It’s one of the coolest photomontages I’ve seen and it stuck with me even more because I have family in Australia. But remember, this record came out in 1984, six years before Photoshop 1.0 would ever hit the streets. In this digital age, it’s easy to forget that this type of art was much more painstaking and analog to create.”
Dr Sarah Engledow, Historian and Curator at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, wrote in Portrait magazine.
“In 1983, in an international climate of increased public involvement in protest, the Australian local news was dominated by environmental demonstrations on two fronts. The first was the Tasmanian NO DAMS campaign, making highly professional and effective use of photographs by Peter Dombrovskis,a wilderness photographer mentored by Olegas Truchanas. The second was the anti-nuclear movement. In February 1983 Midnight Oil helped organise the Stop the Drop concert in Melbourne, and headlined the event. That year, Tom Uren and Peter Garrett marched together at the head of an anti-nuclear protest. In 1984, when Tom Uren and Patrick White walked side by side at the front of an Australians for Nuclear Disarmament march and Peter Garrett stood unsuccessfully for the Senate on behalf of the Nuclear Disarmament Party, Midnight Oil released the album Red Sails in the Sunset, featuring sinisterly surreal cover artwork by Tsunehisa Kimura of the Sydney Harbour Bridge spanning an expanse of cratered red dirt, a bomb-like ball glowing lava-hot beside the Opera House. The following year, the Oils’ EP Species Deceases came with album notes on the theme of Hiroshima forty years on. Including the great track ‘Hercules’, Species Deceases was an exasperated exhortation to action: ‘Come to your senses and care/16 million I can’t hear you at all’, Garrett cried.”
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!
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
The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, Melbourne – slated for demolition – has had many names. It also has secrets. A tunnel linking it to the Princess Theatre next door. The starting point for Peter Finch, who went onto Hollywood fame with Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Glenda Jackson. A special role in Chrissy Amphlett’s life. A rumoured Eureka Stockade hiding place. Melbourne’s centenary opera season. It is a theatre like no other.
The theatre has Nick Cave posters backstage and floorboards walked by the young Peter Finch. The tiles, smashed during the first stage of demolition inside the theatre, are Art Nouveau (below).
These are 1916 – built Louis 16th style decorations to the galleries, and tiles from the 1912 – built art nouveau dado from the Bourke Street staircase. They have been rescued and saved.
The Palace Theatre backs onto the end of Amphlett Lane, at the top of Little Bourke Street, near Spring Street. Chrissy Amphlett played at The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street with Divinyls on Friday 2nd June 1995 with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Map: MIXFM
Life as The Metro
The mirrored ball from The Palace Theatre’s time as the re-named Metro has been saved and stored along with the spotlight. Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum was an occasional DJ at The Metro. This is his iconic cowboy hat, stored the new Melbourne Music Vault. The hat is a museum piece – but The Metro/The Palace is slated for destruction, so it can be turned into a hotel.
TWO STAGE DOORS
This is the Princess Theatre from Little Bourke Street. The Palace Theatre is linked to her sister theatre by a small alleyway and two hidden stage doors, coming off Amphlett Lane. Destroying The Palace destroys the historic connection. If you walk up Amphlett Lane today you will find the tiny alleyway on your left, and the two doors, steps away from each other.
THE PALACE THEATRE AND THE EUREKA STOCKADE
The site of The Palace Theatre today housed the National Hotel in the early days of Victorian gold rush. Writing in her book, A City Lost and Found (Penguin), Robyn Annear notes, ‘By the end of 1854, the National Hotel was under the management of Tom Mooney, proudly Irish and of nationalist persuasion. The cartoon below shows The Palace Theatre when it was the National Theatre. Tom Mooney is centre-stage with glasses and sideburns.
Legend tells us that Mooney harboured the injured rebel leader, Peter Lalor, in an attic room at the National ‘for months’ after the clash at the Eureka stockade in December 1954.’ If this story is true, then perhaps it involves the secret tunnel to The Princess Theatre next door, described by an usherette who worked at The Palace during the 1940’s.
THE SECRET TUNNEL FROM THE PALACE TO THE PRINCESS
This account appears in On The Home Front, by Professor Kate Darian-Smith, from the University of Melbourne. An usherette named Ngaere Macgregor worked at The Palace when it was known as the St. James, and remembers:
‘I was working at St. James Theatre (in Bourke Street) and there was another girl there – a stuck-up little devil. We got together and decided we’d have a ball, just usherettes, and we had a competition for the best-dressed at this ball. Well, Sheila her name was, she went to no end of trouble, and money, to get this glorious dress. And I had no money – Mum took it all! – so I devised this thing in my head and I found this material at Norman’s – a very cheap place, but it was nice white pique. I wanted to have sparkly things, but you just couldn’t get them.
But I had a secret. At the back of St. James, at the back of the stage, I was snooping around one day and I came across one of those big, big old security doors. So I strained at it, and poked and pushed and it creaked open into a long stone corridor. It was all vaulted – ooh, cold and dark – it was like the sewers of Paris! And I found myself in the Princess Theatre around the corner. I wandered right through this labyrinth thing – and you know the Princess is haunted! I don’t know how I had the nerve! I found myself in the wardobe room and you’ve got no idea how spooky that was, with all these costumes hanging up in the semi-gloom and swords in corners and suits of armour and all these marvellous costumes! But then I came across this beautiful black velvet crinoline and around the hem there were all these stones. ‘My God, that will do for the dress!’ But I couldn’t take the whole thing, so the next day I went back with scissors and I cut the bottom right off. I unpicked them all and took them to a dressmaker and Voila! I won ,I won, and the other girl looked awful! Not really, she had on a beautiful royal blue georgette and I thought she’d win.’
THE PALACE IN 1934 AND MELBOURNE’S CENTENARY
The Palace Theatre played a very special part in the history of Melbourne in 1934 when it was chosen to host what was hoped would become the start of an Australian Opera House – some forty years before Sydney Opera House.
Sir Benjamin Fuller’s Royal Opera Company in Melbourne, which launched for the 1934 centenary of the city, can still be seen in the decor of The Palace Theatre today. Or at least – you can see it in this plasterwork, ripped from the building’s amazing interior and saved.
The Palace Theatre was renamed The Apollo for the centenary of Melbourne and Sir Benjamin Fuller gave it ‘the biggest neon light in Australia’ and presented two of Australia’s greatest singers, the soprano Florence Austral and the bass Horace Stevens.
The Lord Mayor of Melbourne (Sir Harold Gengoult Smith) welcomed the opera season to a huge fanfare in 1934.
According to Sir Benjamin Fuller the costumes were from The Met in New York. His aim was to establish The Royal Grand Opera Company in Australia, in Melbourne. Thus, The Palace Theatre (then known as The Apollo) would have preceded The Sydney Opera House by forty years. Fuller’s biggest attraction was Florence Austral, below.
FLORENCE AUSTRAL – THE PALACE SUPERSTAR
Dame Nellie Melba called her, “One of the wonder voices of the world”. Florence Austral, born in Melbourne, was a world-class Soprano who sang with the New York Philarmonic at Carnegie Hall in the 1920’s and went on to became an opera star in London. This is one of her preserved jackets.
During her 1934 season in AIDA Florence was suffering with M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis) in an uncanny parallel with Chrissy Amphlett, who was to take the Palace stage sixty years after her. Florence is one of the famous faces immortalised in the Personalities of Opera mural in the dining room of the Melbourne Myer emporium.
This costume (below) is from the AIDA production at The Palace, from the Arts Centre Melbourne archive. Florence’s jacket is preserved at The Dress Register
PETER FINCH AND THE PALACE THEATRE
The young Peter Finch (who later went on to star in films with Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Faye Dunaway and Glenda Jackson) got his start at The Palace Theatre in 1935 when it was known as The Apollo. Finch later won an Oscar for his work in Hollywood.
If walls could talk at The Palace Theatre, they would describe everything from Peter Finch’s performance in the 1935 season of So This Is Hollywood to Kylie’s season at the venue. Kylie and Grace Angelou (whose armlet in the 1934 production of AIDA is shown here) both have their costumes preserved at The Arts Centre, Melbourne, so why were parts of the stunning Art Nouveau tiles and Picton Hopkins plasterwork from the same theatre, being sacrificed? But – it’s not over yet.
“A sad day today for the the Save The Palace crew. Together with Melbourne Heritage Action, National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Australian Music Museum Project, we trudged down to an isolated industrial yard where a single skip sat, protected from the elements by a mish-mash of tarps hurriedly thrown over to protect its contents from the elements.”
“The skip was emptied and we started our heart-wrenching foraging for items of significance. Crushed Baroque plasterwork, smashed 100 year old Art Nouveau tiles (pictured above), classical Grecian cameos ripped from balconies made our job all the harder. It took hours to retrieve salvageable items with our small team and as each layer of plaster was turned over, that had been ripped inconsiderately by uncaring construction workers our unease started to fade.”
“There was so much more we had been expecting to find that just wasn’t there. This renewed our hope. Regardless, there is ultimately still a 100 year old theatre standing there. What was taken can be restored. The cultural history can never be ripped out and it is what we will continue to fight for. “
It’s Not Over Yet
You can help rescue this historic Melbourne theatre before it’s too late. It has had many names. The Apollo. The Metro. The song remains the same, though – and despite its part-destruction – the beat goes on. It’s not too late to Save The Palace!
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.
An interactive Australian music map, inspired by the old Classic Countdown map, is an ongoing story at AMMP where we add new map pins every month.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Aunty Jack – Wollongong. The entire town. The Aunty Jack album ‘Aunty Jack Sings Wollongong’ features a young Norman Gunston with his Gunstonettes singing ‘Wollongong the Brave.’ Aunty Jack was at the inauguration of colour television in Australia on 1 March 1975. The special beat ABC’s commercial rivals by beginning 3 minutes early, at 11:57 pm 28 March 1975 in black and white and then wiping to colour at midnight.
The Marble Bar at The Hilton Hotel on George Street, Sydney is where Cold Chisel were photographed for their album Breakfast at Sweethearts. Sweethearts in Kings Cross no longer exists but a brass plaque in the pavement marks its location.
THE EASYBEATS/AC/DC FAMILY HOME
This before/after shot (Twitter, Pinterest) shows the Young family at 4 Burleigh Street, Burwood.
THE CIVIC HOTEL, PITT STREET
Mental as Anything featuring Greedy Smith (below, in a portrait by Paul Worstead) made The Civic Hotel on Pitt Street in the centre of Sydney their own. The old Phantom Records shop was steps away.
THE HOODOO GURUS The Hoodoo Gurus are a Sydney band not identified with any one venue, but as Le Hoodoo Gurus, they played The Mosman Hotel, Mosman.
Skyhooks created songs about whole suburbs in Melbourne. Carlton and Balwyn are just two of those namechecked.
HUNTERS AND COLLECTORS
Westgate after the song by Mark Seymour – but also Ormond College, University of Melbourne where John Archer, Doug Falconer and Mark Seymour first met on the way to forming Hunters and Collectors.
ST. KILDA From St Kilda to Kings Cross by Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls is just part of the St. Kilda story. So many bands are associated with the area and still play there – like Cold Chisel’s Don Walker – that it has a permanent pin on the Countdown Map.
Festival Hall needs no introduction, thanks to Sherbet, Daddy Cool and unknown third support act AC/DC.
THE COUNTDOWN STUDIOS, RIPPONLEA
This is where Classic Countdown was filmed and there is a fascinating story on the closure of the old ABC-TV Dream Factory here. Devoted fans including The Countdown Sisters used to make the pilgrimage. Follow them here. (Images: ABC Archives, Twitter, Instagram).
Arnhem Land – Yothu Yindi
Aboriginal members of Yothu Yindi came from Yolngu homelands near Yirrkala on the Gove Peninsula in Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land.
D.A.A.S. – Canberra
You could use up a lot of pins on Google Maps just trying to follow all the busking spots where the Doug Anthony Allstars put their guitar cases down. D.A.A.S. began performing as buskers on the streets of Canberra in 1984, while they were attending university.
NEW! Chrissy Amphlett Street Melbourne has Amphlett Lane. Canberra now has Amphlett Street. Divinyls fans, start your engines. (Photograph: Twitter @AmphlettLane)
AC/DC – Largs Pier hotel, Adelaide
During the 70s and 80s Largs hosted Jimmy Barnes with Cold Chisel, AC/DC, The Little River Band and The Angels. Bon Scott, who later became the lead singer of AC/DC, met his wife at the Largs Pier Hotel after a gig in 1971.
INXS– Davidson High School, Perth. Imagine this. After recess, Andrew Farriss convincing his fellow Davidson High School classmate, Michael Hutchence, to join his band, Doctor Dolphin.The rest is history. If not actually a band called Doctor Dolphin.
The Innocents with singer Charlie Tauber put Hobart on the Countdown map when they appeared on the show. Sooner or Later is a power pop classic.
The Saints – Corinda High School.
Author and journalist Clinton Walker: “I first became aware of the Saints in 1974, while living in Brisbane. I had transferred to a new school, Corinda High. There, in art class, I met a gaggle of antisocial young long hairs that revolved around an embryonic band called the Saints. Perhaps the strongest common bond I had initially with the guys in art was that we all hated hippies. I fell in with them, and it wasn’t long before I fell in the Saints’ thrall too.”
Read more: Raven Records – The Saints – Wild About You 1976-1978
The Go Between Bridge – The Go Betweens
The Go Between Bridge, formerly known as the Hale Street Link, is a toll bridge for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists over the Brisbane River in inner-city Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
THE COUNTDOWN MAP ON TWITTER
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