How rock arrived
It wasn't until 1972 and Led Zeppelin. Or it may have been The Arts Factory in Goulburn street Sydney. The seeds were sown from the trippy days of psychedelic lightshows, and then Sunbury showed us scale. Rock music had arrived, and people suddenly realised tinny transistor radio sound was rubbish compared to the visceral physical wall of noise that a horn loaded PA could make.
Valves gave way to solid state, as cinema sound was adapted to the live stage, column 'vocal' PA's were sidelined as microphones were added to everything. Still some venues had actual round horn sound systems, like you'd see at a racecourse or a train station.
With full range thumping sound systems proliferating, Sherbet and bands of that ilk took theatre lighting on the road, and then the Par 64 sealed beam seared us with vivid saturated colour. Power points gave way to three phase, colour changing scrollers arrived, smoke machines became reliable, and mixing desks got bigger.
Colour TV meant shows like GTK and then Countdown were bright, sexy, fun - a showcase for what you could get somewhere near. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and beer barns. 'Suck more piss!' yelled the bogans baking on the hill at Sunbury.
Working on a shoestring, we children of the new revolution begged, borrowed and stole a collection of disparate equipment to deliver a show, trucked around in half broken old petrol trucks, Dodge, Bedford, International, Ford. 3 on the tree or 4 on the floor, broken saggy bench seats with springs sticking out, sweaty vinyl, no heater, difficult choke starts on a cold day, overheating boiling radiators in summer. Drum brakes that faded, heavy steering. We broke down. So did our trucks.
Some ripples from Hendrix, Cream, The Who and Deep Purple hit our pond and the swing of fandom and radio hits became waves as Bowie, Floyd then Queen roared up the NME charts while Eagles, Doobies and Motown came the other way. Australian bands assumed, adopted and adapted, finding sounds that were hard to make when guitar only had a fuzzbox, a wah wah or a tape echo. Distorted bass got clean, Rhodes gave way to CP70 pianos, the moog arrived, the Hammond was always there.
1975 we toured in vans, a year later 2 ton trucks, then 3, 4, 5, 6 tonners, 1977 saw Isuzu diesels and Acco trucks from Orana and Ranger truck hire everywhere. Our mixer channels grew - 10 channels became 12 for me, then 16, 24 then 32 by 1982. Everything expanded, every dollar I made I spent on more and more and more gear, which then made more and more money.
Music was invented, sounds made for the first time in history, styles like punk, ska, disco, heavy, pop, reggae and soul arrived. Everything was fresh, new and exciting. Drugs evolved from dope and lsd to speed and ecstasy, coke to acid to smack. Free love was rampant.
1984 the madness peaked as 8 ton trucks became 12 and soon semi's started arriving at small pubs. The synth and the guitar pedal board made every new sound old as covers bands emerged and what was once unique became generic. Costs were rising and revenues were falling at the low end, while mega bands like Angles and INXS and Oils were taking five figure cash hauls from the larger beer barns.
Aids scared people in 1983. Random Breath Testing then Poker Machines trashed the economics in the pubs.
With the low end of touring in decline, a slide in fortunes toward the 90's heralded the end of the great Australian pub band revolution. I'm super happy to have been there all the way through it.
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