St Kilda Music Walking Tours

St Kilda Music Walking Tours

Walk the walk, hear the talk
Fred Negro
a rough history by Rob Wellington
Pre History     The 60s     The 70s     Punk Arrives    
Crystal Ballroom     Prince Of Wales       The Espy       the Venue      

TITS at the George, circa 1972, Bruce HowardTITS (this is the show) at the George, circa 1972, Bruce Howard
National Library of Australia: nla.pic-vn4361773

St Kilda Skin

Art Luden's Getcha Gear Off show moved in to the Wintergarden Room of the George, featuring 'Vanessa the Undresser' and 'Alexandra the Great 48'. The famous TITS banner ('This Is The Show') was hung over the portico. Up the road the popular Les Girls played at the Ritz. Meanwhile satanic rituals featuring 'virgins' went on at the Whisky Au Go Go.

Stripper at the George, circa 1972, Bruce Howard
Stripper at the George
circa 1972, Bruce Howard

Cool 70s

Daddy Cool release Eagle Rock, Chain release Black & Blue, the Sunbury Festival is rocked by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs dirty blues,Michael Gudinksi forms Mushroom Records and the Aunty Jack show is on TV.

St Kilda hosts the first Gay Pride March which passes the Prince of Wales, home of 'Pokeys' and 'Pennys' gay clubs.

Mike Brady sets up in the Espy and writes a lot of jingles with 'Up There Cazaly' becoming the AFL's theme song

Local band Men At Work live and gig around St Kilda.

Greg Macainish, the bass player/songwriter of Melbourne Glam Rock band Skyhooks, writes Pop Rock songs set in Australia like Balwyn Calling, Toorak Cowboy, Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) and many more without suburbs in the titles. He also makes a very nice little film about Sharpies (see below).

Ollie Olsen:

When you're 13 you're pretty much in the wilderness of Pop music...Thorpey was great. I remember seeing him at 13 or 14 at Festival Hall and it was the loudest thing I'd ever heard and it was great.

But I was into Slade, whatever was going on. It was all exciting. I think when my tastes started developing they diversified a little bit.

My older sister was a hippy and used to listen to all kinds of music, King Crimson and all that kind of stuff, late 60's early 70's and I liked that from a young age.

Aussie Radio

Andrew Duffield (Models):

The early seventies was pretty crappy radio. But little gems would make it through. Things like the Doors' Riders On The Storm. Some Tony Joe White I thought was like Punk Rock: Polk Salad Annie and stuff.

There was an Australian component, Chain's Black And Blue, the Dingo's Way Out West, Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool.

Garry Gray (Reals, Negatives, Sacred Cowboys):

There was a lot of pop songs on the radio. The Monkees are pretty cool. Pleasant Valley Sunday wasn't bad. I guess that's what Mount Waverley was like; Pleasant Valley Sunday.

Hearing that and then exploring and trying to find other like-minded artists and realising that, "Hey! They're actually saying something which is kind of like how I feel." I think that's what really pushed me into writing lyrics and playing. I think that's how it started, pretty much.

Uncool 70s

Unfortunately there were also lots of hairy chested blow wave bands wearing tight satin pants and singing about Summer Love or the April Sun in Cuba. They ponced around on Countdown (Australian Pop TV show) like they were God's gift and made you feel like your IQ was being lowered with every word. I remember getting yelled at for throwing food at the TV during the premier of Sherbet's Howzat which drew a parallel between discovering an infidelity and wicket keeping (a cricket reference). I wasn't being abused for my criticism but rather the form it took, "My Dad will kill me if you fuck the TV!" I am sad to report that the song was a hit which says a lot about the state of music in Australia at the time.

Gavin Quinn (News/Babeez):

See Melbourne, even before Punk, Melbourne was special for music. It was special from about the mid '60s onwards from what I can tell. It was very slow to get going and a lots (was) made out of a couple of venues. But by the time it got into '69 and '70, things were really raging in Melbourne and all of that died, kind of, or more like it went out of season when Punk came along and Melbourne was pretty well dead when Punk arrived. But it had only been 3 years. Or may be 4 years. But it had been dead.

Sharps and Bowies

'Sharpies' appeared across Melbourne suburbs in the 60s. A purely Australian youth sub culture. Dirty Blues Rock from the likes of Lobby Lloyd's Coloured Balls and other bands drew them in crowds and this sound takes hold in the birth of Aussie Pub Rock log after Sharpies disappeared.

1974 film on Sharpies in Melbourne by Greg Macainish featuring Lobby Lloyd and Billy Thorpe concert at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Some Sharps became Bowie's, a splinter group who cut and dyed their hair like David Bowie in his 'Ziggy' persona. Punk Rock's tough look, attitude and sound appealed and many became Punks - most notably Ballroom regulars La Femme. In fact the singer Chane Chane, takes credit for starting Bowies and their enmity with Sharps.

Punk Rock saved my life

Rob Wellington

I'd just had my hair cut short and bleached it with what was left from someone doing a proper job. I was going Punk like my mates but I hadn't put any goop in it, no conditioner, so it was this badly cut yellow frizz.

I was taking the train home to Mount Waverley and two Sharpies got on. They must have been Homlesglen Sharps - same line. Scary!

I knew they were looking for trouble. The big one sat right behind me, and this little one, in a pink sleeveless vest, sat right in front of me. I knew I better do something or I was dead.

He had a Union Jack sewn onto this pink thing he was wearing so I asked if he was from Britain. He said "What about it?" So I asked if he knew of The Clash.

Luckily he loved them. A lot of the younger Sharpies became Punks I think. The 'fuck you' attitude was appealing I guess.

Finally we were rolling into my station. Just before I got off though, he stopped me and asked if I was a Bowie. I must have looked like a pathetic Ziggy clone with my yellow frizz. Sharpies hated Bowies and Surfies. I said, "No way. I'm a Punk!" And he let me go.


Smack had been coming into Australia since the turn of the century but was largely a Chinese migrant issue. But during the Vietnam War, American servicemen on 'R & R' in Australia expanded local Chinese sales dramatically.

Chinese Rocks

The CIA had set up heroin manufacture with ex Chinese Republican Army warlords, based in the Golden Triangle, to fund arms because they were also fighting the communists. The CIA even flew heroin to Saigon for the consumption of US (and then also Australian) troops! By the end of the war ten to fifteen percent of returning U.S. servicemen were addicted to heroin, and the Nixon administration reacted with the War on Drugs. They closed down heroin's US military smuggling route. The Golden Triangle's distributors looked for new markets and Europe and Australia were soon flooded with cheap high quality smack.

St Kilda's sex workers and locals were quickly hooked and the suburb became an easy place to find a dealer. By the end of the 70s many of St Kilda's musicians were addicted. St Kilda Caf', one of many places to score, began to drill holes in its spoons so the local junkies would stop stealing them!

Chinese Rocks

As Melbourne Punks started to infiltrate St Kilda the adoption of heroin and other drugs developed into some seriously bad habits and the birth of 'Heroin Chic'.

Rowland S. Howard:

It was 1979. Nick and Anita didn't tell me for quite some time because they thought I'd be so disapproving. It was an after-gig kind of thing. And it just escalated from there.

We were working all the time and when you're on tour you can't be spending time going out looking for drugs. It was sporadic but a lot more frequent than it should have been.

Suburban Sprawlers

Melbourne's suburbs expanded exponentially after World War 2, especially in the South East. They built houses, schools, roads, shops, train lines and 'beer barns' (enormous ugly pubs). They didn't install anything that resembles culture unless you count the local libraries and record stores.

Suburban Garage Rock
70's Melbourne suburban garage Rock (thanks Sean Kelly)

Any kid who wasn't interested in an apprenticeship and/or petty crime, and had a single artistic bone, spent hours and hours playing an instrument and wanting to be a Rock Star and/or fuck one.

Bruce Milne (Augogo Records, Pulp Fanzine, Fast Forward cassette magazine, Infidelity Records, Tote raconteur, etc.):

All the kids at my school, my age were starting to play music. You really felt disconnected from the music scene that existed at the time.

Music had gotten so old and irrelevant. By '75-76 the sort of bands that people told you were great, amazing bands - the Stones, the Faces, and bands like that - had become absolute jokes. The Stones were putting out shit records and Rod Stewart was doing his Disco Atlantic Crossing stuff. It seemed like music had suddenly gotten older and even though there was probably only a few years difference between us and them, we felt like there wasn't music for us.

There weren't younger bands playing, and if there were younger bands they were younger bands playing like the older guys.

1973: Melbourne's first Gay Pride March sashays down Fitzroy Street.

The POW Starts to Bend


1977: Pokeys Sunday night drag show comes out.

Mischa Merz: nights...punctuated by the sound of men in high heels going to and from the Prince of Wales, the slamming of doors and the squeal of tyres...sirens, screams, shouting and the sound of breaking glass almost every night.. Like scenes from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver on a loop. Neon signs, odd characters, men dressed as women, bad people offering you a good time for a price. Friends and family were a little concerned. Some were too frightened even to visit. It was my idea of utopia.

Doug Lucas:

You couldn't move there on Friday and Saturday nights. The bar next to the gay one in the Prince of Wales was the straightest roughest bar in town and you'd have the one next to it just full of people screaming and hooting and having a good time...never any problems at the POW

The Espy Starts to Roll

In 1973 the Esplanade Hotel's kitchen is replaced with hot dogs and pies and the Gershwin Room becomes a disco. The the front bar, the Nimrod Room, features Blues and Country Music and becomes a biker hangout with a long running Friday night residency by the legendary Dead Livers. Touring acts occasionally played the Gershwin Room. Promoters like Ray Evans and Michael Gudinski used the front bar to road test new acts.

Fred discovers the Dead Livers