This is just a small selection of photographs of public tributes to Chrissy Amphlett in both her home towns, Geelong and Melbourne. Pictured are early shots from the first street art at Amphlett Lane, off Little Bourke Street, Melbourne – and at her memorial off James Street, Geelong.
This walking tour will take you from Amphlett Lane to The Vault and give visitors to Victoria all the information they need to find more tributes to Chrissy beyond Melbourne – with expert commentary from very special guests.
Referencing Chrissy’s autobiography (with Larry Writer) Pleasure and Pain, the 30-40 minute Melbourne walk will include important landmarks in her life – from Collins Street to Melbourne’s famous laneways – passing Flinders Street Station – one of the city’s gateways to Geelong, where Chrissy grew up.
Melbourne Lanes in Chrissy’s Life
“It was the most wonderful thing; I don’t know why they don’t do it nowadays. During our lunch hour, we’d see bands such as The Easybeats, The Wild Cherries, The Purple Hearts and The Loved Ones.” Mary Renshaw, Live Wire, Allen & Unwin 2015.
Mary Renshaw was a close companion of Bon Scott’s in the same era that Chrissy Amphlett was discovering Melbourne’s inner-city music. Mary was visiting clubs like 10th Avenue on Bourke Street, and The Bowl, beneath a bowling alley in Degraves Street, near Flinders Street Station, en route to today’s Music Vault.
It was at 10th Avenue that Mary made friends with Bon Scott and made him hippie beads and a velvet bolero, while he was in The Valentines’ share house with Vince Lovegrove (later to manage Chrissy and Divinyls).
As part of Chrissy’s tour, you’ll be passing the Flinders Street and Swanston Street intersection that was immortalised by AC/DC in their flatbed-truck clip for (It’s A) Long Way to The Top.
Also on the map – Spring Street, which fronts onto Little Bourke Street, off Amphlett Lane. It was at 1 Spring Street that AC/DC had a residency at Bertie’s. It opened, alcohol-free, in 1967 to ringing endorsements from someone who could come to know Chrissy well – Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum.
“I can only say that in my vast experience in the disco scene in Melbourne, and indeed the whole world, that unquestionably Bertie’s rates absolutely first class,’ Meldrum raved at the time.
You can read more in Live Wire, which is a great guide to the city and decade that Chrissy knew so well.
The Chrissy Amphlett Tour podcast is produced by Jessica Adams and Charley Drayton with funding assistance from the Victorian State Government. Thanks to @AmphlettLane on Twitter for the Geelong images.
One of the most beautiful rock’n’roll venues in the world is based on the gods and goddesses of Ancient Rome – in downtown Melbourne, Australia. Carefully preserved set lists backstage, and sculptures of Apollo and Diana hang over the famous stage curtain. Enjoy the digital exhibition.
The Corkman in Carlton, Melbourne was never going to be a classic hipster band venue (although it was once home to the ‘hanging judge’ who sentenced Ned Kelly, upon whom most hipster beards are based). Instead, it was a regular haunt of Irish musicians in the city until it was illegally demolished. Asbestos warning signs are all that remain.
And these photographs. Do you have any unseen photographs of The Corkman? Let us know.
Renovate, wreck or ruin? Australia’s Festival Halls (including Melbourne Festival Hall, intended for high-rise apartments) have a chequered history.
They are also part of an emerging movement in Australian poster art collectables. Even tickets are now collectors’ items as museums and private owners snap them up.
Festival Hall Bootlegs
The Festival Halls qualify for among ‘world’s most bootlegged’ as venues, but what’s the story behind the famous chain?
Plastered – Murray Walding with Nick Vukovic
It’s becoming a familiar story in Australia, that the books, vinyl, eBay auction items and other memorabilia which celebrates a fast-fading musical history – is increasing in value. Meanwhile iconic venues and their continuing contribution to Australia’s bands, are downgraded in price. In comes the wrecking ball.
Of all the collectable books about music venues, Plastered by Murray Walding and Nick Vukovic (The Miegunyah Press, 2005) is one of the most valuable.
The silkscreen printing industry that spawned early posters for venues was given a particularly good run by the Festival Hall chain around Australia. In fact, The Johnny O’Keefe Spectacular (part of the Hi-Fi Club) of the 1950s had one of its earliest outings at Festival Hall, Melbourne, promoted on a silkscreen poster.
Jazz acts like Kenny Ball (these kinds of posters are now in private collections or galleries) were also promoted at ‘the Festivals’ (below, from Plastered).
Boxing and Festival Hall Melbourne
In its time, the boxing at Festival Hall, Melbourne was as big as some of the bands who came later. Boxing-format posters were copied for the emerging Fifties music industry in Australia. Little or no artwork, derived from fight advertising, they were cheap and basic at the time but are now rare pieces of Australian cultural history.
The Festival Halls
“Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney all boasted a “Festival Hall”, venues all owed by Stadiums Limited. These cavernous stadiums were often all that were on offer when promoters brought touring acts to Australia, and all of them had wonderful colourful histories.”
“Melbourne’s version was originally built in 1912 as a boxing and wrestling venue. After a fire in 1955, it was rebuilt in time to serve as the venue for the boxing, weightlifting and wrestling events at the 1956 Olympics. Like its contemporaries, it was built of sturdy brick, iron and tin.”
Sydney’s Festival Hall was demolished in 1973. Brisbane’s Festival Hall remained as a venue until 2003 – and Melbourne’s fell to the axe, officially, on Tuesday 23rd January, 2018. Game over? Australian music collectors will take an interest, whatever happens.
Dylan, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra all played at Festival Hall, Melbourne – and Patti Smith recently picked up her plectrum there, literally picking up where Lou Reed left off, last century – but Australia is about to lose her piece of global music heritage to (you guessed it) yet more expensive high-rise apartments.
One of my first stories as a music journalist was about XTC playing at Festival Hall. It’s been at the heart of so many more stories since then. In fact, the Patti Smith gig there was nominated by some Australian critics as one of the best gigs of the year.
There is no other venue in Australia where young bands can pick up that timeline of tradition. Who wouldn’t want to play on the same stage as Dylan, the Beatles and Sinatra?
It’s not enough for people defending the demolition to say some Australians are just being nostalgic and they get to keep their memories.
Festival Hall, Melbourne is a world-class historic venue which is on a par with the Budokan in Tokyo, the Apollo Theatre in New York and The Hollywood Bowl.
In fact, many of the same acts which made them famous, made Festival Hall famous too.
The Beatles Connection
Nippon Budokan (日本武道館 Nippon Budōkan), often shortened to Budokan, was originally built for the 1964 Summer Olympics. This Tokyo legend has parallels with Festival Hall, Melbourne, which was also a boxing and wrestling venue for many years.
The Beatles were the first rock group to play at the Budokan in a series of concerts held between June 30 and July 2, 1966. Several live albums were recorded at Budokan, including releases by Bob Dylan, Cheap Trick, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Festival Hall, Melbourne has seen exactly those huge names grace its stage. Tokyo has hung onto the Budokan and made it work.
The same might be said for the legendary Apollo Theatre in New York, which began life in 1914. In 1983, both the interior and exterior of the building were designated as New York City Landmarks, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is estimated that 1.3 million people visit the Apollo every year.
It was resurrected after closing in 1976 then in 1983, it was bought by Inner City Broadcasting, obtained federal and city landmark status , then in 1991, purchased by the State of New York, which created the non-profit Apollo Theater Foundation to run it.
In 2009-10, in celebration of the theater’s 75th anniversary, the theater put together an archive of historical material, including documents and photographs and, with Columbia University, began an oral history project.
This (below, from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) will be what Melbourne ends up with, instead, if demolition goes ahead.
Older Than the Hollywood Bowl
Festival Hall is older than the Hollywood Bowl, but California has chosen to preserve and cherish the latter.
So, what is Melbourne about to lose? Some of the story you may know – some you may not. No matter if you saw Sinatra here, Lionel Rose or The Clash, though – this is what Australia is about to trash.
From The Who to Lou
The Who sang My Generation here, on 25th January 1968. Lou Reed, above, toured Festival Hall in 1975.
Frank Sinatra and Festival Hall
Festival Hall is where Frank Sinatra made the notorious speech to the crowd attacking the Australian media – and particularly female journalists – that would see him in turn get bound up in politics with Bob Hawke, later the Australian Prime Minister. Sinatra is pictured here storming his way past the media, into Festival Hall. (Image: Fairfax/SMH)
The Who and PM Sir John Gorton
Festival Hall, Melbourne is also where The Who played with the Small Faces on 25th January 1968, attracting the wrath of another Australian Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton.
The Festival Hall story is also the story of the Wren family, though . Frank Sinatra sang My Kind of Town when he played their hall onJuly 9th 1974, but is Melbourne the Wrens’ kind of town, and if so, why has it taken just two years for this part of the city to go from celebrated local history, to yet more high-rise?
The Wren Family and Festival Hall
Frank Sinatra did it His Way in the Seventies (above, a famous limited-edition bootleg of the Festival Hall concert). So how are the Wrens doing it their way? The story’s changed a lot since 2015.
“Managing director John Wren, the grandfather of the man who bought the stadium in 1915, told the Herald Sun in 2015 that there was no plan to change things.”
“I’m honoured and privileged to carry on what my grandfather started,” Wren said at the time. “As long as there is live music, we’ll be here.”
And now? It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. The City of Melbourne has this in their hands again, just as they had The Palace Theatre. Also marked for demolition.
Bob Dylan at Festival Hall, April 19th 1966
Festival Hall saw Bob Dylan grace the stage on April 19th 1966 (the bootleg of the concert survives). He was following The Beatles, who had stunned Australia there, two years previously.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Poets and boxers have both graced Festival Hall.
The Beatles at Festival Hall
Australian teenagers of the Sixties had their coming of age at the Beatles concerts at Festival Hall, Melbourne in June 1964. Fans jumped onto the police to land on stage. John Lennon shook 19-year-old Brent McAuslan’s hand before Paul McCartney told police to ‘let him go’. He was nineteen.
Pink Floyd – Quad Sound in Melbourne
Melbourne Festival Hall was home to Pink Floyd’s quad sound on August 13th 1971. Unusually, they had support bands drawn from the local music scene – Pirana and Lindsay Bourke.
Australian support acts, not to mention headliners, have had a long, proud tradition at the venue – one of the few mid-sized spaces in Melbourne where fans can get close to the front of the stage.
Nick Cave and Chrissy Amphlett
Melbourne locals are rightly wondering what has happened, within the space of two years, to change this part of their city from a heritage precinct(honouring Nick Cave, Chrissy Amphlett, Michael Hutchence, Angus Young, Kylie Minogue, Daniel Johns) into a new demolition site.
In recognition of Festival Hall’s long standing contribution to live music in Melbourne, Dudley Street was even renamed Wren Lane in honour of the Wren family, after 100 long years of faithfully maintaining Festival Hall.
Australian artists who performed at the ‘House of Stoush’ (harking back to its wrestling ring past) or as it is has also been known to generations, ‘Festy Hall’ were celebrated at the time. And now?
It’s cultural heritage. But even in Melbourne, where some buildings qualify as ‘Heritage Overlay’ it does not protect places like Festival Hall.
Once it’s gone, as Melbourne’s heritage activists say, it’s gone forever. Welcome To My Nightmare, as Alice Cooper might have said (below, on tour in Australia in 1977).
Brisbane versus Melbourne
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that proposed apartments, retail and office space would hit 16 levels if passed by the City of Melbourne.
Speaking to The Age, Helen Marcou, co-founder of SLAM – Save Live Australian Music, said it would be “a tragedy for Victoria” to lose the venue.
“When Brisbane are rebuilding their Festival Hall because they see how important it is to culture, it would be an absolute travesty to lose ours in Melbourne,” she said.
Support Acts Lose Out
From Patti Smith‘s 40th anniversary Horses tour with Australian Courtney Barnett. all the way back to Pink Floyd’s choice of (unusually for them) two local Australian bands as support, Festival Hall has been a unique place for local music to find its place on a world stage. Not just a Melbourne one. They will also lose out.
The Internet Reacts
Goldie @goldie_fm wrote on Twitter, on 23rd January 2018, the day of the official announcement – “As I look out my hotel room all i see are apartments being built. That west end (docklands) area is a lifeless concrete hole. Keep culture/history alive.”
“This city will be nothing but poorly built apartments in 10 years. #festivalhall”
Festival Hall was known as the original House of Rock and Roll, from Beatles, Bill Haley and Johnny Cash to the Lee Gordon “Big Shows”, through to Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Shirley Bassey. It’s also seen Red Hot Chili Peppers, Powderfinger, The Foo Fighters, The Script, Lily Allen, Ed Sheeran, and Lorde.
It’s part of Australian boxing history. As the Budokan in Tokyo hosted judo, so the Festival in Melbourne saw famous biff.
Lionel Rose was here. So was John McEnroe at a first for Melbourne – an indoor Tennis Exhibition featuring John McEnroe.
The Ballad of Ringo Starr
Beatles fans around the world know Festival Hall for other reasons. The Beatles Bible – “At 8am on the morning of 15 June 1964, Jimmie Nicol left the Southern Cross Hotel on Bourke Street, Melbourne. Accompanied by Brian Epstein, he was driven to the airport where he was given a final agreed fee of £500, as well as a gold watch with the engraving: “To Jimmy, with appreciation and gratitude – Brian Epstein and The Beatles.”
“Nicol didn’t say goodbye to The Beatles; they were sleeping off the previous night’s party, and he felt he shouldn’t disturb them. The group was celebrating their reunion with Ringo Starr, who had missed the early part of their world tour after being struck down by acute tonsillitis and pharyngitis.”
The Melbourne 17th June concert at Festival Hall was recorded by GTV 9 and broadcast as a TV special The Beatles Sing for Shell.
This is it. Ringo Starr might now be Sir Ringo Starr, but none of the descendants of these Melbourne fans will ever see music here again. This is that venue. Are you or your family in the audience?
“I do believe this is my interval, as we say… We’ve been having a marvellous time being chased around the country for three days. You know, I think it’s worth mentioning because it’s so idiotic, it’s so ridiculous what’s been happening. We came all the way to Australia because I chose to come here. ”
“Frank Sinatra was in the wrong country at the wrong time. He arrived in Australia for concerts in July 1974, just three years after Germaine Greer had published The Female Eunuch and only 18 months after Melbourne singer Helen Reddy had a worldwide hit with I Am Woman, virtually the theme song for the then rapidly expanding women’s liberation movement. It was hardly the right moment for Sinatra to get up on stage at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and describe Australia’s female journalists as “buck-and-a-half hookers”.
Only after the involvement of Bob Hawke, then leader of the ACTU, did Sinatra agree to sign a statement to the effect that he regretted any inconvenience caused. You can read more here.
The Age and Men’s Style have both immortalised the Sinatra Festival Hall stoush. In fact, it was even made into a film.
The Night We Called It a Day is “Based on the true events surrounding Frank Sinatra’s tour of Australia. When Sinatra called a local reporter a “two-bit hooker”, every union in the country black-banned the star until he issues an apology.
Starring Dennis Hopper, Portia de Rossi and Melanie Griffiths it’s part of Festival Hall legend. For now.
“Prime Minister John Gorton sent Pete Townshend a telegram telling The Who not to come back to Australia; Townshend reportedly sent back a fruity reply and left Australia swearing never to return — a promise he has kept faithfully to this day! Once in New Zealand, things calmed down briefly, although they again ruffled establishment feathers in Auckland when Keith Moon indulged his famous penchant for wrecking hotel rooms.”
X is for XTC, because this is where the band delivered a blistering concert before stage fright stopped lead singer Andy Partridge touring. You can see it on YouTube.
And Z is for Frank Zappa who played here in 1973.
If you want to help save Festival Hall please follow AMMP on Twitter @ammptv or sign the petition above. Thank you.
The Saints donated a guitar to The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Private collectors pay a large amount of money for any instrument which has survived the 1960’s-1970’s. The great Australian guitar obsession probably began with Jimi Hendrix, seen here on the cover of a rare copy of Go-Set, ‘The Teen & Twenties Newspaper’ for music-mad Australians that inspired a whole generation of garage bands in the Sixties to go down to Brash’s music store with a fistful of cash. Since 1968 not much has changed.
Rowland S. Howard
The most famous Rowland S. Howard guitar is stored in the climate-controlled interior of Hamer Hall, Melbourne. Senior curator Carolyn Laffan and her team have many guitars in their care, including Rowland’s white Fender Jaguar.
His lifelong friend and collaborator Genevieve McGuckin (below, holding the Rowland S. Howard Lane sign at its St. Kilda launch), told the media –
“It followed him around his whole life. It was pawned a few times but it always managed to get back to him. I redeemed it a few times myself and so did others. It’s a hard life, being a musician.”
And “yes, that is his blood on the back”, she confirms.
GUITAR STORIES – SCOTT ELLIS
Not every Australian guitarist becomes world famous, but in the local ‘who’s who’ of players every bass (and its owner) still tells a story. Writer Scott Ellis remembers his Ibanez, here:
The first guitar I ever picked up was a bass.
It was 1980 and as usual, a mate and I were hiding in his room listening to The Jam or The Clash, blowing B&H Extra Mild cigarettes out of the window and discussing the deep issues of the day – like why Strontium Dog was cooler than Judge Dredd.
Then he picked up one of the ever-present guitars that his house always seemed to have (both his parents were art teachers) and started to play.
It was a three chord riff, nothing complex, but it needed, I was assured, something more.
So a bass was found, I was given about a minute of instruction (left hand here, hit that string there) and we were to my amazement, playing music. And like the first time I heard Joe Strummer play, I was hooked.
The next week I was looking to buy and there were two second-hand bass guitars I could afford, a Gibson Thunderbird and an Ibanez Roadstar. The Gibson had flatwound strings – I didn’t know what they were, but I knew they felt weird – so I bought the Ibanez and went home.
By now my mate had turned those three chords into four songs, lyrics were written, almost all about skateboarding and we convinced a guy we vaguely knew to play drums. When the song count hit ten – still almost all about skateboarding – we organised a gig with ourselves on the bill and played. And in one form or another, with the same bass, I haven’t stopped.
I’ve played parties, pubs, festivals, clubs, more gigs than I can remember and some I’ll never forget.
That bass has been dropped, thrown, caressed, thrashed. It’s been played with fingers, plectrums, coins, drumsticks, mikestands, bottles, fists, whatever worked to get a decent sound.
It’s been scarred, patched, covered in stickers, scraped clean then covered up again, graffitied, etched, rewired, retuned, retired (briefly, for a Rickenbacker interloper), rediscovered and never let go.
I was never that good – those first three chords are still my favourites – but my bass has become, after more than 30 years, an extension of my arms.
I can find any note without thinking, know which control to grab at what time and where to turn it to make whatever sound I want.
I know exactly how far it reaches if I need to butt someone off stage, how much weight I need to put into the swing to get all the strings to buzz when you belt it against an amp… and I know when I’m playing it, it doesn’t matter that I’m really just some guy who lucked onto stage; those moments are gold.
Even when I’m not playing it, just opening the case reminds me who I was, who I am and how I got from one place to the other. I haven’t played the bass for a while now; there’s an acoustic six-string that gets more attention, but it was the first guitar I ever owned and I’ll never sell it.
One day one of my kids might want to have a play. Or maybe I will.
And I’ll know where to find it.
Scott Ellis is an entertainment journalist for Fairfax Media who somehow, much to his amazement, managed to get two listings in The Who’s Who Of Australian Rock’N’Roll for playing in punk bands almost nobody has ever heard of. It still makes him laugh.
Australian Music T-Shirt Day on 3rd November 2017 was a successful fundraiser for the music charity Support Act which partly gives financial support to musicians with mental health issues. High-profile faces involved included Jimmy Barnes, seen here giving Opposition Leader Bill Shorten a Cold Chisel T-Shirt, while wearing a Midnight Oil classic. (All images: Twitter).
Barnes was celebrating his bestselling memoir for HarperCollins when the opportunity arrived to promote the Support Act fundraiser.
The Easybeats – coming soon to ABC-TV – were a popular choice for T-Shirts on the day (modelled here by Michael Rowland).
As the band who introduced the idea of free T-shirts to Australian vinyl covers, Midnight Oil also found some favourite shirts and wore them to promote the Support Act fundraiser. You can donate to Support Act or find out more about the T-Shirt campaign here.
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.”
Rowland S. Howard Lane is now on the map in St. Kilda, Melbourne thanks to a campaign by Nick Haines and Rowland’s friends, family and fans.
Rowland’s blood-stained guitar is in the archives at The Australian Music Vault. The rest can be found around the city of Melbourne and as far away as Ballarat.
A number of photographers and painters have captured Rowland S. Howard over the years.
Top: Rowland S. Howard with The Birthday Party, photographed for the NME in 1981.
Artist Casey Tosh created another lane for Rowland in Ballarat, home town of Warren Ellis.
A Day in the Life of Rowland S. Howard appeared in photographer Peter Milne’s exhibition, Juvenilia, at Strange Neighbour in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
The laneway sign is the only typographical tribute to Melbourne’s most famous guitarist. Seen here being carried across St. Kilda with Nick Haines and friends, ahead of the official opening by Minister Martin Foley.
The February 27th-March 28th 2015 Juvenilia exhibition by Peter Milne at Strange Neighbour in Fitzroy highlighted the life and work of Rowland S. Howard, Nick Cave, Tracey Pew and other members of The Birthday Party’s inner circle, at the start of their career.
Rowland S. Howard Lane – one of many ways Australia remembers him.
Rowland S. Howard on Studio 22
This clip shows Rowland introduced by Australian music journalist and author Clinton Walker on the ABC-TV program Studio 22.
An Interview with Nick Haines
How does Rowland fit into the Melbourne and particularly St. Kilda music scene?
Nick Haines: In the late 70’s when the “new music” was sweeping the world St Kilda became something of a hub for this new sound. So much so that it earned the nickname Berlin by the sea. Rowland’s contribution to the originality of the Melbourne scene at this time is a matter of record.
A fan who signed the petition lobbying for a laneway in his name, said Rowland was ‘One of the greatest guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll, anywhere in the world.’ Why do you think his guitar work mattered so much to music and musicians?
I’m not a guitarist so it’s hard for me to answer from a musician’s point of view on why his work mattered, but in my opinion Rowland showed other guitarists that you create your own sound and stick with it. But like I said, it’s hard for me to answer from a musician’s point of view.
What have been the highs and lows involved in the process of getting the lane way up? Where do things stand right now?
It’s been a long battle but I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. The low is, I never imagined that an unnamed laneway with no street address on it couldn’t be named with two names as it was too difficult for emergency services. To me it just seemed like bureaucracy gone mad. Almost like something out of an episode of Yes Minister. I mean seriously…. “Rowland S. Howard Lane” as opposed to the “unnamed laneway between Jackson Street and Eildon Road opposite the Jackson Street carpark!?” Which is more difficult?
The high, without a doubt, has been the hugely moving global support for a tribute laneway for Rowland, from noteworthy musicians through to fans in Asia, Europe, UK, USA and Australia. Their words and measure of love for him and his work motivated me to persist through the red tape and to keep going.
Here is another petition comment from a fan of Rowland’s – ‘Even though the St Kilda that Rowland impacted is mostly painted over by jeans shops and fancy restaurants, his influence is still strong between the cracks and in the shadows and makes perfect sense to name the street after him.’ And Shannon Rowe wrote, ‘Roland was a regular customer at our cafe, Miss Jackson in Jackson Street. Who was the Rowland S. Howard you remember and what was he really like? How did you get to know him and how did the friendship continue through his illness? And for fans visiting St. Kilda, are there are any other cafes he frequented?
Rowland was a regular fixture with his daily strolls down Fitzroy Street. Many locals knew him well by these without knowing of his background in music. I know Rowland frequented Miss Jackson a lot also he and I spent more hours together talking and drinking coffee than I care to admit at the Pelican.
Did you ever discuss a laneway memorial with Rowland?
I never discussed death or dying with Rowland, because he wanted to live and work and play forever. The idea of a tribute laneway occurred to me on my way to his funeral, not before he died. I wanted him to live and play forever too.
Your thoughts about Autoluminescent, the documentary about Rowland made by Richard Lowenstein? Is that the Rowland you knew?
Very much. The later one-on-one camera interviews with him I found very hard to watch as that was the Rowland I knew best. My wife and I got very teary during those shots.
Watch the Autoluminescent trailer again from Ghost Pictures, here, posted at YouTube.
What is your favourite Rowland S. Howard music?
My top three would be Exit Everything (off Teenage Snuff Film), Hyperspace (off the These Immortal Souls album – Never Gonna Die Again and Golden Age of Bloodshed (Off Pop Crimes)
Anything else you’d like to say here? Thank you Nick.
Considering the rich musical and arts heritage that Melbourne has I hope this sets a precedent for other musicians and artists who have made a significant contribution to be honoured similarly.
Rowland S. Howard Lane, Ballarat created by Casey Tosh.
The City of Melbourne’s movers and shakers want your views on Melbourne – past, present and potential – on their website, now. As the home of Go-Set and Countdown – and today, the home of The Tote, The Old Bar, The Labour in Vain, Cherry Bar, The Espy, AC/DC Lane, Amphlett Lane, The Forum (below) – Victoria’s capital is the nation’s music capital. This is your chance to be heard by Melbourne councillors.
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC CITY SHOULD MELBOURNE BE? From SLAM to the Save the Palace campaign, Melbourne has been home to strong protests about live music venues. As the home of new bands as well as some national treasures in the Australian music industry it has a special part to play in Australian life and culture. If you haven’t already made yourself heard on the City of Melbourne’s website, do it now. What kind of music city, should the country’s music capital actually be?