Rock photos

June 21, 2007

Rock music fans in Melbourne in the 1960s were well served by local bands. Dance venues always had live bands (or half-live if you count Tony Barber and tape-recorded backings), record shop appearances were reasonably frequent and there were live concerts at universities every week. What we didn’t have was access to the bands and artists from the rest of the world. Remember that this was before rock videos became ubiquitous and no specialist TV show to feature visiting bands. Except for a few bands brave enough to travel the vast distance to Australia, we had to largely depend on records and the radio to keep up with music from the UK and USA (forget the rest of the world, they didn’t count. I’m talking pre-ABBA afterall). The concerts were a big deal, even if they were held in that huge uncomfortable barn called Festival Hall. And the Stadium in Sydney wasn’t any better. They were great events – The Who and The Yardbirds stand out in my memory particularly.

There were occasional snippets from overseas that added a little joy. A friend used to send the New Musical Express from London, the ads in which made me incredible jealous. UK and US television variety shows sometimes featured bands and every now and then an Australian TV show included a visiting artist or band. Thankfully ‘Go-Set’ magazine had stories and pictures from overseas to keep the enthusiast informed.

With so little exposure to the world’s best music, it is no wonder that D A Pennibaker’s film of the Monterey Pop FestivalMonterey Pop made such a strong impression on me. I saw it several times when it came out and although the line-up of acts was incredible and included many of my favorite bands, the one that stands out in my memory is Janis Joplin.

How extraordinary then to discover Colin Beard 40 years later in a market in Maleny in the Glasshouse Mountains. Colin is a photographer, now taking beautiful nature pictures, but in the 60’s was one of the founders and the photographer for the aforementioned ‘Go-Set’. Colin, with writer Lily Brett spent several months travelling to the UK and the USA including the Monterey Pop Festival, returning stories from both places. Colin’s wonderful photographs from there were on show last year at the Nikon Gallery in Sydney and can also be seen online.

I bought a copy of the photo of Janis Joplin at the top of this page and it now sits on the wall above my computer. How wonderfully entangled to look at the clip from Monterey Pop and see Colin Beard in the reverse-angle shots, standing at the front of the stage taking the photo that is in front of me here.

Incidentally, a great resource for information about Australian music is the almanac section of Milesago – though they need a better search engine. The one they have does not work, but the pages themselves make a good nostalgic read and you can always use your browser’s search facility to search each year’s entry.

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