The 70's was a period in Australian Rock Music when the industry showcased its very best at the annual Sunbury music festival. On each Australia day weekend from 1972-1975, 35,000 plus people would travel to a picturesque site 30 minutes from Melbourne, in anticipation of witnessing some of the greatest performance of our own rock bands. For those who attended it was an event not to be missed and still considered today to be the most successful rock music festival of its kind held in Australia.
The Sunbury Music Festivals were organised by a group named Odessa Promotions, said to be members of the Melbourne TV Industry. The principal of the company was John Fowler, and it’s said that the company included people who had previously worked on shows such as Uptight, a pop TV show of the late ‘60s. The company went into liquidation after the final concert of ‘75, which was a financial disaster compared to the previous festivals.
There’s just as much mythology about the spirit of the Sunbury Music Festival, with some regarding it as Australia’s Woodstock, a keypoint in more innocent times that embraced peace and a laid back life, while others saw the Sunbury festivals as an event that mirrored the decline of that flowery period with some suggesting that the festivals steadily became a beer-soaked yob fest.
While the Sunbury Music Festivals did much for the Aussie music scene, featuring an all-Australian line-up in ‘72’s first festival, it also attracted well-known acts from overseas in the later festivals with British bands Queen appearing in ‘74 and Deep Purple taking the stage in the festival of ‘75.
John Fowler's Odessa Promotions flexed their muscles for Sunbury '74. But getting Daddy Cool to reform wasn't enough. They decided to impose their first 'international' act on the festival. So far, Sunbury had been a celebration of Australian music. Their international guests were unproven and no one had heard of Queen. They were just two albums old and yet to make any significant name for themselves. Where Queen were treated like. . kings...down to being chauffeured to the site, the Australians of course made their own way. (Nothing's changed of course. Ask the Australians who were forced to appear for free at Rumba recently). The rest of the Sunbury '74 performers resented Queen being there, resented everything their presence represented. The audience also resented the English band being there. For them, the Australian music was more than enough. Making things just a little worse, there was a mix-up over daylight savings. Queen had been booked to appear an hour before they expected. They made everyone wait until the sun went down. Queen didn't do themselves any favours, but they were SO unknown, and SO insignificant no-one held it against them later. Only for Queen was it a day they would never forget.
When Queen took to the stage, the band was largely unknown at that time on Australian shores and they were unfortunately heckled from the stage following their performance, allegedly after the announcer of that year’s festival asked the audience, “D'you want anymore from these pommie bastards or do ya want an Aussie rock band?”
Before leaving the stage to jeers that labelled them “pooftahs” who should go back to Pommyland, Freddy Mercury, Queen’s iconic front man (who was nonetheless fond of bottoms) boldly and bravely fired a parting shot back at the audience. He declared that when his band Queen would next visit Australia, they would be the biggest band in the world. And true to his word when they returned to our shores in ‘76, QUEEN were indeed one of the most globally acclaimed bands. [extracts from onlymelbourne.com.au]
The following is an account of the Sunbury '74 concert through the eyes of one of the festival's compares (and a well known celebrity from the Countdown era) - none other than Ian 'Molly' Meldrum. Reporting in his regular weekly column 'Ian Meldrums Keyhole News' (GoSet magazine, Feb 9,1974. p10), Molly gives us a wonderful run down of each band who played over the three days, and helps capture some of the excitement that occurred at what some people consider to be the best Sunbury of all. For more information about the Sunbury festival, see Milesago.com.
SUNBURY BLOODY SUNBURY …POP ORGY…well, that was the headline in one of Melbourne’s better known Sunday papers…their editorial went on to describe how Sunbury became Sin City…of how sex, violence, drugs, and beer-swilling teenagers turned the festival into an orgy. Wow, SUNBURY ’74 must have been sensational…I wish I’d been there…the funny thing is that I was there for the whole 3½ days and apart from a few isolated incidents involving some yahoo’s, no way known could you describe Sunbury as a violent festival…and as for the open use of drugs, well the drug squad who were there in full force must have been blind-folded because they only made a couple of arrests…thousands of contraceptives sold??...strange that the Chemists report that they only sold about a dozen.
In other words, WHAT A LOAD OF BULL!...in fact, I would go as far as to say that Sunbury’74 was one of the most peaceful and most organised festivals you could ever hope for…Nude Bathing?...Well, why not?...I mean, who cares?...we have, thank you, grown up at least that much…and let’s face it, it’s papers like this Sunday rag that have made us immune to it all…they thrive on the Tits and teeth bit…unfortunately the thing they forgot to mention was the great line up of talent that kept us entertained over the three days…unfortunately this column is too short to give mention to everyone…but believe me, in one way or another, all deserve a pat on the back…my fear that this year’s Sunbury would be dreary and boring like Sunbury ’73, was completely unfounded…
Friday Night…a beautiful clear sky and the satellite city is already in full swing…and wouldn’t you know once again I opened my big trap once too often RE: SHERBET…I did say a couple of weeks back in the column that I couldn’t understand why the group was performing on the first night when most of the audience would be still hitching up their tents etc etc…Wrong…the audience hill was packed and I must say that Sherbet were magnificent…but the guys should give thanks to PIRANA, ROSS RYAN and BAND OF LIGHT who were on before them because they really put the audience in a great mood…PIRANA played a beautiful set and it’s hard to believe that they are not a bigger name in this country because they deserve to be…ROSS RYAN was good but Ross’s outstanding performance was to come on Sunday…BAND OF LIGHT were, I thought, tremendous… surely they are destined to do big things on the Australian music scene this year…and then there was SHERBET… what a performance!...it was their first ever Sunbury and let me tell you right here and now that they made up for the previous two years when they were unable to appear…For months I’ve been raving about their stage act and musical talents but every time I see them they just never cease to amaze me…I’ll go as far as to say that they have probably one of the finest stage acts in the world…and I’m sure the likes of Bowie, Rod Stewart and Elton John, if they were ever given the chance to see them, would agree with me…need I say that Sunbury loved them…it should, in SHERBET’S book, go down as one of the highlights in their already dazzling career…because Sunbury is a fest and in my book, and they may disagree because I believe they weren’t happy with their performance, they get 10 out of 10
To finish off Friday night, HOME, one of Australia’s up and coming groups put the final seal to the night’s superb display of entertainment.
Saturday was HOT, really, really HOT…and the drink and watermelon stores were doing great business…sure, people drank booze and happily I report that gone from the festival were the dozens and dozens of kids that were there last year staggering around till the early hours of the morning…by mid-afternoon temperatures had soared to 35 but this didn’t put a downer on UPP’s energy…here is another group that’s full of visual excitement…sure, they’ve got a long way to go but I have every confidence that over the next six or seven months they will build up the following they need and they’ll be up there with the best of them…next on were the 69’ers and as usual they provided the laughs for the day…they really are an incredibly funny group and I hope that they never lose their sense of humour…like last year, they more than wowed the crowd…and to finish off their set they had an all-out cream cake fight…as compare, they were the first act that I had to bring off stage and I’m sure you will agree that it was rather fitting that I ended up with a complete sponge-cake and cream all over my face. SKYHOOKS were the next on and unfortunately I feel that this group needed a night-time spot when they could make full use of the lights…because they are as much into theatre as they are into music….but one thing’s for sure, watch out for the name SKYHOOKS…they’ve arrived
And what was to come was four hours of sheer musical entertainment…the BALLS hit the stage with LOBBY not far behind…and did that audience develop balls!..Wow!...sure, the skinheads and the tattoo freaks love them, but so did everyone else…and I think it would be fair enough to say that the group put on their best performance ever…and LOBBY, me boy, there’s no denying it, you’re every bit a Pop Star…and what a great sight it is to see 30,000 people cheering and yelling and rocking their hearts out…ooooh, it sends shivers up me spine…and thumbs up (in the rude sense) to all those self-appointed critics who have written in to the paper over the past few months criticising this group and labelling them boring…cause when 30,000 get their rocks off on Ballpower, they must have something…next on was a surprise…it was the LA DE DAS and I thought they were bloody fantastic…it would be hard for any group to follow LOBBY successfully but the LA DE DAS did it and did it in fine style…it’s amazing the sound that can be created by just three musicians…and watch out girls because lead singer KEVIN BORICH is about to become a sex symbol…a job well done LA DE’s…
|Go Set Magazine Article|
Billy’s Not Over The Hill – A Rainbow Fixed That
Next was one of the two Sunbury miracles…I must admit I felt like an ant walking out on stage with all these towers of equipment surrounding me…it looked as if we were about to restage the Commonwealth Games…but Aztec energy was about to be let loose…just before I made the announcemen I asked BILLY if the group would be wanting to do an encore…and he replied, Don’t Ask Me Man, You’ll Know From The Reaction Of The Audience…and I must confess that I thought, God, I hope last year’s no indication of audience reaction…’cause in ’73 an encore they did not want…Sunbury ’74 was possibly the greatest test this group had to go through, and I mean the Greatest…and BILLY knew it…gone is the denim and replacing it it are the superb tailor-made velvet and leather jackets etc…the next hour was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever witnessed since I’ve been connected with pop scene…the AZTECS didn’t Wow the audience…they destroyed them!...BILLY had them literally eating out of his hands…you know, words can’t describe what happened…they did new songs, they did old songs…and ten minutes into their set BILLY was wearing the biggest smile you could imagine…he knew he had them back…one song, what was it?...you can’t go round saying What on stage??....F*CK I think…front of stage in the press and group arena it was packed…the COLOURED BALLS were down there, the DINGOES…you name them, they were there, all clapping and cheering…and the audience of 30,000 up on the hill with their arms above their heads, the bare-breasted ladies up on guy’s shoulders weaving and rocking, the Excitement…it was really Too Much…and what about when part of the audience started chanting the AZTEC “Suck More P…” slogan…a saying that derived from their days at the Whitehorse Hotel…it spread through the audience like wildfire and BILLY said “Keep it up, Keep it up”…and then he and the group wrote a song, there on stage about suck more p…
I firmly believe that audience was ready to do anything for BILLY at that stage…after a couple more numbers like Oop Poo Pah Doo, BILLY announced that he was going to do a number that we’d either hate or love…”Here’s One For The Knockers”, he said…and, my God, he did a song that he made a hit eight years ago, ‘Over The Rainbow’…we all looked at each other in disbelief, but it was sounding great!...and on his alone THORPIE can take the title of Australia’s Top Superstar, because that he is…well, the audience just went beserk after that and they just continued to scream and yell, clap and shout and rock and roll…they finally walked off stage and I passed BILLY and I almost felt tempted to say, well it doesn’t look as if you’re going to do an encore…but I didn’t exactly want to wear a guitar at that stage…and the crowd was just screaming for more, and I do mean screaming…in the middle of my Do Ya Wanna Hear More, my voice suddenly cracked in the excitement and like, for the next two days they had to put up with a rather croaky demented Meldrum…there was no doubt that AZTEC energy was back!
What a hard job for ARIEL to follow this…but like the LA DE DAS with LOBBY, ARIEL did a grand job…all the work and effort that’s been put into their visual stage act is really starting to pay off though I must admit that the big explosion on stage that they created fair frightened the daylights out of me…they performed A Strange Fantastic Dream and is it any wonder that the album is selling so well?...what a shame the group, due to an energy crisis in England, are unable to go there in March because at this stage they are very together…obviously the gigs that they have done supporting overseas bands have helped instill a lot of confidence performance-wise into the group…musically you cannot fault them…visually they are progressing in leaps and bounds…MISSISSIPPI were the next on and this group possesses a brilliant range of harmonies…they lack the visual side but they make up for it with their voices and playing…I’m sure everyone out there agreed that they’re really nice to listen to.
Sunday – Madder Seals Crown
Sunday was just as hot and the St.Johns ambulance brigade were working overtime treating people for cut feet, heat exhaustion and other minor injuries…what would a festival like this be without them?...I shudder to think…GLENN CARDIER played a beautiful set that afternoon and it’s easy to see why he was given a Commonwealth Grant…he may not be everyone’s cup of tea but with that selected audience he really does entertain…RICHARD CLAPTON is another who performed that day and although he was very nervous, he proved what a talent he has, both as a singer and as a songwriter…CAPTAIN MATCHBOX were very entertaining…like SKYHOOKS, they are more a theatrical group and it’s good to see that the Australian music scene has now found a place for this type of group…one highlight of that afternoon had to be KUSH and LINDA GEORGE…KUSH are a brilliant brass-orientated group and with JEFF up front camping his way through song after song, ’74 should see this group emerge as a top seller on the record market…LINDA GEORGE was superb…she’s undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest female singers and you can see her confidence growing day by day (an unintentional pun!)…It’s also good to see that Sunbury has come of age and is able to present artists of her calibre on such a festival…there were some fine vocal backings also by the COOKIES…
|Queen at Sunbury|
|Daddy Who? Daddy Cool (Getting ready to go on stage at Sunbury 74)|
Monday was a very tiring day…it was hot and muggy…once again PIRANA, AYERS ROCK, SID RUMPO and CHAIN entertained the crowd…ROSS RYAN made his second appearance that day and I would imagine it was one of the best performances he’s ever given…ROSS has always been full of confidence and unlike so many artists, he really knows how to work his audience…he has, over the last 12 months, emerged as one of Australia’s top singer –songwriters and his performance that day proved why he has become just that…
One group that emerged on that Monday who were virtually completely unknown before was BUSTER BROWN…they really got the crowd rocking so Watch Out For Them…that’s a definite name to put in your little black book…but Monday really belonged to DADDY COOL…they played as though they’d never ever broken up…and they somehow re-created the excitement of ’71…the crowd just went mad…Absolutely Deliriously Mad…just prior to the group coming on, they adored the stage with three giant Australian flags and during their performance they issued to the audience hundreds of toy flags…the scene was quite unbelievable…the did all their old hits…look, what more can you say…DADDY COOL HAD RETURNED…and so had the excitement…I really believe that they could have played all day and all night and the crowd still would have called for more…it was a great ending to a really successful festival…
I thank all and sundry who organised the festival, especially Odessa Promotions...and Mr. John Fowler…Sunbury ‘74 proved that the Australian music scene id very much alive…but more than that, it proved that Australian artists and musicians are amongst the finest in the world…
Sunbury Pop Orgy???...No!...Sunbury was full of Fun, Music and Entertainment…yes, this year at Sunbury a man died but also for the first time at Sunbury a baby was born… MOLLY xxxxxx
Now, firstly it should be noted that there are some discrepancies in Molly's account which should be noted. It has been reported (by Milesago.com) that Skyhooks were booed off stage at Sunbury 74 (apparently the audience wasn't really ready for all of the glam and glitter that they brought to the table) and it is because of this that their first lead singer 'Steve Hill' left the band and was replaced by Graham "Shirley" Strahan, and of course the rest was history. So, I guess Molly forgot to mention this in his report.
Another discrepancy lies with Milesago documenting that Blackfeather performed at Sunbury '74, yet Molly makes no mention of them playing in his extensive account. Likewise, another Sunbury review in GoSet by columnist Mitch entitled 'Front Row Reviews' (Feb 16, 1974) makes no reference to Blackfeather in amongst his listing of bands. So, unless someone can provide direct proof, I think Milesago has got it wrong.
One real mystery associated with the recordings released by Mushroom on their Anti RipOff label (see below) is the inclusion of a recording made by an unknown group called 'Full Moon'. There has been much speculation about who they were yet 'Full Moon is absent from any reviews or articles in the GoSet Magazine at that time. There was a UK group with the same name (but are certainly not the same band) based on their style of music.
One hint that might help, is when Molly refers to a 'second stage' when discussing MacKenzie Theory's performance. It is possible that Full Moon may have performed "Freedom Jazz Dance" on this second stage to a smaller crowd, and the recording used to diversify (or fill) the Mushroom release - Part 2.
Apparently, the new concept of a 'second performing stage' was added to the Sunbury festival in 1974 to include "alternative performances such as jazz recitals, theatre, dance, mime, poetry and acoustic music." which seems to fit in with this explaination.
As to the identity of the band Full Moon, ChickaMunro provides us with the only info at hand, on the Midoztouch forum when he reports: 'From the front cover of a promo booklet from Open Sky Productions, who were putting on a gig at the Dallas Brooks Hall, Nov 1975'.
Ayers Rock, Silver Sun, Phil Manning, in concert at The Dallas Brooks Hall
Conceived in our illustrious Gardenvale, Silver Sun makes it's first public appearance tonight.
After months of solid slogging in that fine suburb, the band features John Pugh, a former member of Healing Force and FULL MOON, on lead guitar and vocals. Barry Sullivan,...bass,...Sunil De Silva from Skylight and the Dingoes on drums...Sam McNally...Mal Logan...jazz, soul and blues...funky...Herbie Hancock...Marvin Gaye..."
This has something to do with the whole Healing Force thing - who also had their biggest gig at Sunbury 73, didn't they? Also the Company Caine precursors had Pugh - and so the trail leads all over the place in Melbourne. Any further information about this mysterious group would be gratefully received !
One final note, before I close this 'rather long post'. Apparently, Sherbet was supposed to have "Hound Dog" included on one of the featured albums but pulled the plug at the last moment for some reason and Thorpie's XXX rated track "You Can't Go Around Saying F*ck On Stage" was pulled by Mushroom in fear of legal reprocussions. In addition, EMI would not allow its acts to appear on these albums, hence the absence of tracks by Ariel, Coloured Balls, Mississippi, Ross Ryan etc..
This post consists of two different rips (MP3/320kps) taken from vinyl, both in excellent condition. Part 1 was sourced from Midoztouch with thanks and Part 2 comes from my personal record collection. Full album artwork, a multitude of newspaper articles (from Go Set magazine thanks to RAM) and photos (sourced from The Age archives and anddum.com with gratitude) are also included as a separate download.
(Sunbury '74 - Part 1)
01 - Lizards (Madder Lake)
02 - I'm a Dingo (The Dingoes)
03 - Gonna miss you babe (Chain)
04 - Big Shake and Hi Honey Ho (Daddy Cool)
05 - New Orleans (Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs)
06 - Hey What's the Matter (Skyhooks)
07 - Roll over Beethoven (Buster Brown)
08 - Buster Brown (Buster Brown)
(Sunbury '74 - Part 2)
01 - Payday Again (The Dingoes)
02 - Morning Magic (Ayers Rock)
03 - Supreme Love (Mackenzie Theory)
04 - Love On The Radio (Skyhooks)
05 - We'll Never Do The Same Again (Matt Taylor)
06 - Wang Dang Doodle (Sid Rumpo)
07 - Sweet Home Chicago (Sid Rumpo)
08 - Freedom Jazz Dance (Full Moon)
Sunbury '74 - Part 1 Link (81Mb) Link Fixed 21/05/2017
Sunbury '74 - Part 2 Link (95Mb) Link Fixed 7/11/2014
Sunbury '74 Artwork and Photos (36Mb)