Lovers of Melbourne’s music scene have the chance to become part of history at a special research event that aims to capture five decades of memories and memorabilia.
RMIT University and Monash University researchers, supported by the City of Melbourne, are collaborating to document Melbourne’s music activity over the past 50 years - the first time Melbourne’s music activity has been charted over such a period.
As part of their research, Monash Associate Professor Shane Homan and RMIT’s Dr Catherine Strong are holding a fan event day this weekend, where all music lovers are invited to bring along their favourite piece of memorabilia and speak to the research team about what the item means to them.
Music experts Bruce Milne and Dobe Newton will also be on hand to speak to fans and share their insights. Fans’ memories will be preserved as audio recordings and their items photographed as part of the project.
Retro Recall: Rock and Pop in Melbourne is at Melbourne Town Hall (Portico Room), from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 25 February. Register for the event.
“This is a unique opportunity for fans to be a part of making history,” Strong said.
“Archival, interview and fan material will be documented on the project website and in a book published on Melbourne pop and rock histories.”
Homan said he was looking forward to seeing people’s contributions, saying they would provide a significant historical and cultural source.
“This will be the first time Melbourne’s music scene will be documented through the eyes of fans and industry players going back 50 years, and promises to provide some fascinating memorabilia," he said.
“These will be preserved in an online archive recording the experiences of fans, musicians and industry players that can be accessed by the music community, researchers and policy makers."
The fan event day is part of a wider three-year Australian Research Council grant project, Interrogating the Music City: the Cultural Economy of Melbourne.
It will document the emergence and development of popular music in Melbourne, and its contribution to the city’s economy and culture from the 1950s through to the present.
“As governments around the world increasingly look to music cultures as drivers of economic development, it is important to reflect on Melbourne’s status as a music city,” Homan said.
The material will also form part of wider State Government and City of Melbourne processes of curation and collection of memorabilia and memories.
Researchers and members of the music industry share their Melbourne music favourites:
The Cannanes - A Love Affair with Nature, Boomgates - Double Natural, LISTEN - Compilation 1, LISTEN - Compilation 2
The Cannanes is a favourite band, this is an original pressing independently released in 1989. Boomgates is the first band I loved, who got me into this whole world of independent/DIY music.
Compilation 1 is the first release from my label LISTEN Records, Compilation 2 is the 10th, celebrating one year of the label.
Associate Professor Shane Homan
Ego is not a dirty word (Skyhooks LP)
Growing up in Sydney, Skyhooks helped make sense of Melbourne as a city, through songwriter Greg Macainsh’s evocative lyrics about Melbourne suburbia.
I bought this album as a 12 year old in 1976, and it helped enormously to starting watching them on Countdown in the mid-1970s. Apart from being colourful, their lyrics were of course very adult to a young teenager!
Dr Catherine Strong
Tile from Palace Theatre
My item is a tile from the inside of the Palace Theatre, also known as the Metro for a long time. The Palace was a very popular Melbourne venue, and I saw lots of great gigs there - it was particularly good for short people like me, because it had multiple levels so it was one place I could go and actually see the bands!
The beautiful old decorations from the start of last century were ripped out and destroyed by the new owners in 2015, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on this one.”
Flyer for a benefit concert for Pulp fanzine (Apr ’78), copy of Pulp fanzine (’77), red plastic sleeve for Fast Forward cassette mag that I edited (’82), back cover art for the first Magic Dirt 7 inch (’91)
Melbourne’s music history builds every day. There are gigs and rehearsals going on every moment. And posters and flyers (and, now, social media) for them going on all the time.
It’s almost like strata layers of the earth.
I’m holding a flyer for a punk gig in ’78. But it could just have easily been a gig in the 80s, 90s, etc...
The Smith Street Band - Throw Me In The River
The Smith Street Band started in small venues like the Tote and the Old Bar and have grown into a national phenomenon with a global fanbase. I think they are a great example of a band that started small and built up through the scene, and are also a quintessentially Melbourne band. This record is almost a modern classic in terms of songwriting; you just can't help but sing along.
Gold Class - It's You
Another local band that started in small inner-northern venues, Gold Class all met while working at the Old Bar at a time when I was working there as well. Mates of mine and a cracking live band, I had the pleasure of seeing their first show and watching them build from small shows at the Public Bar and Gasometer, to the Supernatural Amphitheater at Golden Plains. Their first record, It's You showcases a band that hit on a red-hot sound straight from the word go.
Bodies/Batpiss/Spermaids - split 12 inch
This split features songs by three underground Melbourne acts that I have shared stages with many times. A limited edition release, the artwork for each individual record sleeve is one-of-a-kind and was designed by members of each band. My edition features a collage by Old Bar bandbooker, Bodies frontman and local legend Joel Morrison.
Although all of my memorabilia picks are recent records by local bands, I think they represent what a great scene we have here in Melbourne and will stand as a testament to a particularly vibrant time in the city's culture life.
Story: Gosia Kaszubska