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      

the George

Originally called the Terminus the George Hotel sits where the original train line ended. Paradoxically the George Hotel was the starting point for the musical careers of many.

The George 1881
The George Hotel, 1881

But that didn't start happening until it was taken over by an ex-football club president and a retired cop.

Thanks to Gillian Upton for her wonderful book, 'The George - St Kilda Life and Times' - and to Dolores San Miguel's The Ballroom. We've ripped you both off heaps girls!

The George Hotel, 1920 - Rose Series
The George Hotel, 1920 - Rose Series

Once a charming family hotel the George slowly slipped into decay after WWII. In the 60s the hotel was modernised; the Birdcage Bar was added (an instant hit) and the Ballroom hosted cabaret shows by the likes of Barry Crocker, Helen Reddy and many more.

But St Kilda had been getting sleazier and in the early 70s strip shows began in the Wintergarden Room, prostitutes, drug dealers and petty criminals frequented the public bar, and the sex workers would take clients upstairs to the horror of the last of the long time residents, the ancient and very Catholic Moran Sisters. Beneath the Wintergarden Room the Snakepit Bar was reserved for the hardest criminals in Melbourne.

the Promoters

Dolores San Miguel
Dolores San Miguel
the smile that greeted
Seaview Ballroom patrons

Dolores San Miguel returned from the UK mid '70s. Her husband Andy was in a local band looking for a venue. She ended up at the Seaview (George) Hotel. Graeme showed her a smallish room upstairs and the gig went well. Graeme also showed her the Wintergarden Room and Ballroom. She had just met a host of local Punk bands at a gig at the Collingwood Town hall and she was very excited by the music and the people. Dolores talks about opening the Ballroom She asked Graeme if she could run regular gigs. He agreed to a monthly event which quickly escalated. The first gig at the 'Seaview Ballroom' was Saturday August the fifth 1978. It was South Australian JAB's farewell gig (singer Bohdan left to focus on his radio career - though he was singing again before long).

Dolores San Miguel:

Secret Police had booked the Anglers Hall in Prahran. It had been double booked so Peter Linley – the sax player just happened to go down to the George/Seaview hotel and spoke to Graeme Richmond the licensee and said, "Look, we're stuck. Have you got a room here we can play?" He said yes. It was the side room just down from the Ballroom upstairs. The guys just put a note on the Angler's Hall door. Everybody came and it was packed.

I was doing the door and sat there and thought to myself, "There are all these people coming to see Secret Police and they're surely going to come to see any other bands I wanna put on."

So I spoke to Graeme Richmond after the gig had finished. He was rapt because everyone was buying beer and he'd made a fortune. We were charging two dollars to get in and the bands made a heap of money too.

I said "Are you interested in someone running a gig? Let's start with once a month." And he said "Sound's great." He said, "Eventually I'll move out this Greek band and you can take over the Ballroom area because it's a bigger space" and I thought, "Oh WOW!"

The next gig was JAB's last. Bohdan had decided to leave. Triple R had just started and he wanted to get into radio. But that were gig was still in the side room.

The first gig in the ballroom was Paul Kelly and the Dots, Boys Next Door and this duo, a guy playing piano and a guy called Tim McEwan, who dressed up in drag and sang.

That was in the main Ballroom area with all the gorgeous chandeliers and mirrors. That opening night… all those people that came up that staircase. Musicians that are famous today, fashion designers, artists that have won art prizes etc., film makers.

They'd just found their Nirvana as far as music and a place to go because it just had atmosphere. Someone once said to me it was like going to a palace, being given the keys, the parents have all gone away, you're allowed to dress as you like - do what you like and you're not going to get into trouble.

Rob Griffiths:

The first time we played upstairs it was called the Wintergarden Room. La Femme were headlining. It was a big gig. We were on first and there was already a big crowd there. I was amazed, over 200 people in the Ballroom.

There was a really big vibe for La Femme and Fiction too. I remember this guy came up to me and said: "This is a big audience. This is probably the biggest audience you're ever going to play to. This puts a lot of pressure on you as the singer." The bastard. It was Chris Hunter, the guy we'd kicked out of the band a few months before. (laughs)

It was fantastic. We had foldback and I felt like we were getting somewhere. That place was the first that treated punk bands like real bands. The Tiger Lounge was too but it was very small. That was a great night.

So we went back to my place to party and I got this horrible disease and was sick for weeks, malnutrition or something like that, and the Fiction fell into disarray.

The next tine we played was at the Ballroom supporting the Boys Next Door in November. And you (Rob) had been playing with some other people.


Graeme Richmond, encouraged by Dolores's success with the Punkified Ballroom, invited Laurie Richards, the promoter at the Tiger Room (the Richmond Football Club connection) to take over and book higher profile interstate and international acts. Dolores protested but was ousted at the end of February 1979. Laurie immediately changed the name to the 'Crystal Ballroom' (a pun and/or a reference to the crystal chandeliers throughout the hotel) and redecorated, most noticeably Phillip Brophy decorating the downstairs room with a mural and a ceiling of old LPs. If they did anything else I didn't notice.

Laurie RichardsLaurie Richards

Gavin Quinn (Babeez/News):

Laurie Richards is owed a huge debt. People don't realise it. He might be a cheap arsehole basically when it comes to money and stuff, and never pays his bills, but he is responsible for setting up most of the gigs that got us there.

Though local bands still dominated, the better Sydney acts began to appear with lovely bands like the Reels and the wonderful Laughing Clowns, and then international acts like The Cure, Simple Minds, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, XTC, Magazine, Snakefinger and Dead Kennedys. The Ballroom was suddenly bigger than our little scene and everything expanded. The Models were an example of a band that started as a Ballroom favourite, was exposed to a broader audience, and ended up becoming one of Australia's favourite bands.

Pierre (JAB, Models, Pierre's World, Fabulous Marquises):

Laurie was bringing over so many British bands like XTC, at one stage we worked 3 or 4 nights a week, you know, the cheap support band, the World I think. Laurie was putting them on in September. He'd leave notes at my place "Do you wanna work tonight?" The money was shit and you couldn't ever get money out of Laurie but it was too big a deal playing with Teardrop Explodes and XTC.

The World was cheapest fucking band ever. (laughs) Of all the shit bands they were the ones who would play for 25 bucks even then.

The World was never really very organised. I think it fell apart through lack of interest.

By March 1980 Graeme invited Dolores back to ran Thursday nights in what she called the Paradise Lounge (the downstairs front room).

Paradise Lounge

My memories of the Paradise Lounge: designing the handbills for Dolores, doing a crude laser light show (shone it through a milk bottle) for Tobsha Learner and Lisa Dethridge's art performance, reading the LPs on the ceiling after Phillip Brophy redecorated, chatting to Robert and Grant from the Go-betweens (I was helping Groper do sound for them - what very nice chaps), Hunters & Collectors first gig, seeing the Moodists for the first time and Dave Graney doing his 'moon walk' (before Michael Jackson!), directing "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" for Models in 1985 (which reminds me, who stole the f**king lenses?!)

At some time Nigel Rennard, who had managed a band I was in (the Fiction) and La Femme, took over and eventually he also bought Missing Link from Keith Glass. (I never saw a royalty from Missing Link so I don't think the big record companies are so much worse.)

Our record labels

Missing Link Records

In 1971 Glass and David Pepperell (journalist, and vocalist of The Union) were the owners of a Melbourne record store, Archie & Jughead's, which specialised in imported albums from Europe and America. They started Missing Link Records to release some of their former band's recordings. Pepperell left, the record store became Missing Link, and the label became devoted to the Punk and New Wave.

In 1979 Missing Link scored a top 20 hit single with the local release of The Flying Lizards version of Money.

In 1978 Keith signed The Boys Next Door and became the manager. The Birthday Party became the flag ship of the label with three albums and a #1 single on the UK Alternative charts, Release the Bats.

Local artists on Missing Link Records include: The Go-Betweens, Whirlywirld, International Exiles and the The Laughing Clowns as well as local releases for Snakefinger, The Residents and Dead Kennedys.

Au Go Go Records

Au Go Go Records was founded by Bruce Milne and Philip Morland. They released recordings of Melbourne Punk and New Wave scene starting with the EP Overnight by Two Way Garden in 1979. Their first 25 releases were usually debut recordings by seminal Australian acts such as The Young Charlatans, Mungabeans, Marching Girls, Clint Small, Scapa Flow, Little Murders, the Zorros and Dorian Gray. Great Moon replaced Philip Morland in 1982 and still runs the company.

Au Go Go Records

Au Go Go continued into the 90s and supported overseas bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Junior and Big Black and Australian acts including Spiderbait, The Meanies and Magic Dirt.

Bruce Milne is considered the patron saint of Melbourne's Indy Rock scene, recording bands, writing fanzines and running the classic Indy Rock venue the Tote. ruce now runs Infidelity Records.

so many bands!

There were so many bands at the Ballroom, they couldn't all fit on the the Ballroom page. Most of them have their own web thang so we'll be brief and let the links do the talking if they're not too pathetic so some of the less known bands might have more than the famous. If we've forgotten your band don't get mad, get even - contact us!

We'll attempt to interview a member from every band, so if you don't see an interview it's either because we haven't got to them yet or they're unavailable.

Note: some bands are considered 'North of the river' bands. The 'river' is the Yarra and the term refers to bands that came out of the potent and productive avant garde scene with roots in the Champion Hotel and Clifton Hill's Community Music Centre. Fitzroy, Collingwood and Brunswick are still strong live music centres with Northcote becoming even bigger over the last 20 years. (But they're not St Kilda.)

Chane Chane (La Femme):

But the great mix back then too.

You had us. I believed that if I stood on stage still for about ten seconds it was boring so I just kept moving for the whole gig jumping and dancing and stuff.

And then you had other bands where they just hung onto the microphone and that was interesting… you know… caressing the microphone.

You had the arty (and) you had the rough end bands like us or Chosen Few. They had a bit of a rough following and they were obviously from the rough side of town.

And then you had the other kinds of bands like Boys Next Door and you know private school arty people. It was a great mix that they could all get together and play in the same place and we never actually get along all the time but we had that respect for each other you know. “You're doing it at least. Good on you!”

Graeme Richmond

In 1976 the George's owners tried improve the Hotel's image. They redecorated and changed the name to 'The Seaview Hotel'. It can't have had the effect they wanted, or maybe it did, they sold the hotel the same year to Graeme Richmond, a former president of the Richmond Football Club, and Kevin "Toddy" Shelton, an ex-policeman. Both were experienced publicans.

I never saw much of Toddy but Graeme was always around, at the bar or cleaning up at the end of the night. He quietly got the job done, never laid down any rules, respected the 'kids' and supported the bands but didn't take any shit. In return the majority of patrons and musos treated the place with respect apart from the usual shenanigans. Aside from the minor thefts, sex and/or drugs in dark corners of the hotel, and the few who snuck in via the fire escape we were extremely respectful for a bunch of punks.

Graeme Richmond after brawl with Essendon Football Club, 1974
Graeme Richmond after brawl with Essendon Football Club, 1974

Andrew Duffield (Models keyboards):

Models were, at one stage, managed by Laurie Richards, at that stage promoting the place. So we were allowed to rehearse there. Through that developed this relationship with Graeme Richmond because we were there daily rehearsing. Graeme was this incredible quasi-mentor for the group. He'd say "Great gig guys." He developed this rapport with these (laughs) otherwise reprobates and losers, cheats and scoundrels that were the majority of people who attended the Ballroom.

I don't know how Graeme worked into this environment but it worked brilliantly.

It was exceptional that this guy should choose to involve himself in this way. "Wow! You guys played well last night!", or something, while not necessarily connecting with the music. He'd become a coach of sorts and he knew how to appraise whether the night was a success or not.

I found out recently Tracey Pew (Boys Next Door, Birthday Party) became close to Graeme and would arrive early to have a beer with him before a sound check. This makes absolute sense if you knew both gentlemen.

Ballroom patrons sometimes noticed Toddy loading slabs into a Police car from the bottle shop hidden behind the George. Whether it was a 'look-the-other-way' for the many under-age kids that came to the Ballroom, or to keep the indiscretions of the Snakepit and Public bars quiet we knew not, and cared not. The Ballroom was our haven, a very safe place despite, or perhaps because, we were surrounded by 'criminal elements'. It was more likely that it was because Graeme was known to quickly 'put down' trouble makers. The only fight I'm aware of at the Ballroom was between two Boys Next Door roadies. (I'd play in bands with both in later years, lovely guys.)

the Roadies

We were all in it together. One day you're in the audience, the next you're on stage, or roadying for your friend's band. So roadies weren't treated like shit, often they were close mates who were treated as band equals, most famously, Robert Miles, the mixer for Hunters & Collectors.

The exception was roadies from mainstream bands like Dragon who were usually complete arseholes and would extort bands into helping them lug their band's PA and gear in on pain of a sabotaged sound and/or lights.

Andrew Duffield (Models keyboards):

Playing with Bohdan was exciting. He used to breathe fire and stuff on stage. Standing behind Bohdan at your keyboards and Bohdan breathing fire...this wave of heat would come backwards and envelop you on stage. It was a fabulous feeling of power.

There was this period where the Ballroom tried to get a legitimate gig. I think it was Sunday nights they'd get these bands that really didn't fit into it. Like the Angels and Dragon.

It never worked which was just fabulous. It didn't work as a beer barn. People never embraced it. It should have been a great focal point for inner city people to go and see these big popular bands like the Angels and Chisel, but it never worked.

These fucking big bands with their fucking Sydney mentality. These huge PA's and stuff. Being the support band we'd have to lug in all THEIR gear, these huge bass bins and God knows what.

We had the support for Dragon. They gave us all this stick. Bohdan was really pissed off. They'd put on this huge light show, so when he breathed fire, he burnt out all of their gels. It was fabulous.


Everyone's favourite sound guy was the lovable and brainy Stephen 'Groper' Colgan. Groper couldn't (or wouldn't) tell you why Nick Cave had given him the nickname but it stuck.

Groper didn't have a drivers license, and didn't want one, so he'd get yours truly or some other desperately poor muso to drive and help him lug a ton and a half of sound gear into venues every night. (I remember having muscles!) In those days venue's didn't have their own PA so, every night, roadies would have to install and extract a large and heavy PA. (Seems silly looking back but then it was the norm.) Fitting it all back into his van was a kind of origami. There was only one way that it all would fit. When asked why he didn't get a bigger van he pointed out that then we'd be asked to take band gear as well. (I said he was smart.)

Stephen 'Groper' Colgana bad photo of Stephen 'Groper' Colgan
mixing the Boys Next Door, the Ballroom

Driving the van was an art requiring a very strong left arm for gear changes and grim determination, or naive faith in my case, when squeezing it through Melbourne's tiny inner-city lanes. The sides of the van testified to scrapes with many signs, poles and buildings. We never hit a car somehow.

Groper managed to record half the bands from the scene in bedroom's around Melbourne using a reel to reel 2-track and his 'desk tapes' are often the only recording of some of the many bands that came and went in those early days. Thanks Groper! And release the desk tapes on Soundcloud or something!!

Little Bands

The Little Band scene got its name from "Little Band nights", gigs organised in Melbourne by members of Primitive Calculators. Originally they were bands made up of members of the Calculators, Whirlywirld and friends, and acted as support bands for the Calculators, Whirlywirld and The Boys Next Door. Little Bands The Calculators and Whirlywirld lived next door to each other in a split terrace and had rehearsal spaces in each house. By using the Calculators' and Whirlywirld's equipment, it made it easier to practice and set up for the night. These bands often had a charming disposable quality, happy to play once or twice and then form other "little bands". This was often a result of the bands being composed of non-musicians enjoying the opportunity to realise their naive musical ideas.

Denise Hilton

We'd (Primitive Calculators) moved from Johnson to Nicholson street, another shop front and Ollie and a few members of Whirlywirld moved in next door a few months later so you had people coming around visiting all the time and that's when Little Bands started because we had all these people coming around using our equipment to practice and then we would take them as a support band for the Calculators. So you would always have people through the house day and night.

We started playing in the Little Bands and that helped our playing. We all had our little side ventures. A bit of musical variety.

Ollie Olsen (Young Charlatans, Whirlywirld, Hugo Klang, Orchestra Of Skin And Bone, No, Max Q)

In Nicholson we had 2 terraces, shop fronts, we rehearsed in the shop front, I actually slept in the shop front, it didn't even have curtains. So we lived next door and hung out all the time. And out of that union, our circle of friends, was how the whole Little Band thing came into being. People like Marree and Marcus. People with similar musical interests. "Let's slap a band together."

I think it was Stuart who thought up the concept. It was like the No New York thing, so instead of Jesus and the Jerks you had Thrush and the Cunts. But apparently in evolved into quite a big thing later on but I wasn't here for that.

We could all play stuff, like I played in Too Fat To Fit Through The Door. And we had the Alan Bamford Musical Experience. (laughs) So there were all these little weird collaborations going on.

Andrew Duffield (Whirlywirld, Bohdan X and the Instigators, Models)

The Paradise Lounge became the Little Band room with Primitive Calculators and that kind of stuff. I used to really enjoy the Little Bands. That was the artiest stuff that came out of the whole movement. Really contained ideas. They were fantastic. They really exemplified the non-musicianship thing better than anyone else and that idea that everyone should be involved, everyone should perform. That seemed so important at the time. I don't know why it was such a big deal.

There was the miniature Casio, this new thing that had come out. I just admired the gustiness of using some of these primitive bits of, at the time, very modern technology.

They were great at working with really simple premises. The version of Shout by the Primitive Calculators was an awe-inspiring cover version. The Boys Next Door did These Boots Are Made For Walking but even at the time it seemed a transparent cliché. But the idea of Shout by the Primitive Calculators pre-empted the idea of what the Reels did. It was a different take on popular culture.

Members of 'real' bands, like myself, would take mental notes. Little Bands would come up with new ideas about performance and music that you could use enhance your band's music. And they were always entertaining.

Little Bands (most):

66 Johnsons, The Alan Bamford Musical Experience, The Albert Hammond Mega-star, The Art Circus, Bags of Personality, The Band of Hope and Glory, BeisselBoyceBoswell, The Buck Stops Here, The Child Molester Plus 4, Clang, Club Allusion, Company I Keep, Consider Town Planning, Corporate Body, Delicatessants, The Devils, The Eastwood Family, The Franging Stuttgarters, The Great Mastabini, The Go Set, Government Drums, The Incredible Metronomic Blues Band, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies, Intro Muzak Band, The Irreplacables, The Ivan Durrants, The J P Sartre Band, Jimmy Haemorrhoid and the Piles, Junk Logic, Kim and Mark, The Klu, The Leapfrogs, Lest We Forget, The Lunatic Fringe, The Melbourne SS, Morpions, The Nookies, The Oroton Bags, The Pastel/Pink Bats, The Persons Brothers, The Potato Cooperative, The Quits, Rosehip and the Teas, Rolf Horrors, Ronnie and the Rhythm Boys, Sample Only, The Sandmen, The Saxophone Caper, Seaside Resort, Shop Soiled, The Shower Scene From Psycho, Simplex, Small Men Big Cars, Somersaulting Consciences, The Soporifics, The Spanish Inquisition, Stand by Your Guns, The Swinging Hoy Family, The Take, Three Toed Sloths, Thrush and the Cunts, Too Fat to Fit Through the Door, Too Many Daves, Use No Hooks, World of Sport

sites with more info

I started writing about each band but there's too many of them and most of the time I am just ripping off wikipedia or some other site. I figure you can do that yourselves. So here's some links.

Wikipedia. From here you can look up bands. Add 'band' to the search like 'Corporate Body band'. If your own band isn't on Wikipedia -PUT IT THERE! Don't be humble. Anyone can make an entry, even old Punks.

Our dear friend the lovely and dedicated Punk Rocker Melynda von Wayward has begun a site that documents most of the bands from the scene. Rather than duplicate her work please check out: Punk Journey.

The excellent Rowland S Howard site by our New York amigos, Wally Spiggott-Koeva and the fabulous Prick Mayall.

The Birthday Party site

A blog on the Chosen Few with a link to an album.
Another blog on the Chosen Few by bass player Ian Cunningham - funny!

An Australian Punk discography covering 1976-1983