We make a little history, Baby
Melbourne 1977-78, the UK and New York Punk explosion is washing over pockets of Melbourne. Punk in Melbourne however has little of the class anger that pervades the UK and indeed has an arty if not a touch of self indulgent swagger. Ultimately leather jackets and pants, mini skirts and fishnet stockings, white or blue schools shirts, suit jackets, skinny blank ties, jeans ripped and unripped, pointy Cuban heeled shoes/boots, gym boots and stilettos will abound. Being Melbourne, winter will also bring out old duffel coats scored from op shops or grand-dads (often with leather jackets under them).
Barry Earle has formed a Punk record label called Suicide and relatively unknown “punk” bands from across Australia are signed up. Importantly one of those bands is The Boys Next Door”; a band that will play lots of gigs to fill in many nights and some recordings which fill many days for me.
I remember going to the Suicide label launch. It was at Preston Institute of Technology from memory. Suicide bubble gun packets was handed out from a trestle table set up. During the performance Nick was flicking smoked cigarettes into the audience at times during their stint.
Ultimately the Suicide compilation album “Lethal Weapons” is released and of course bought. As a gimmick it is pressed on white vinyl. It is a composition album with the standout acts in my mind being the Melbourne based acts of the The Boys Next Door, Teenage Radio stars and JAB (ex Adelaide). Ultimately members of Jab and Teenage Radio Stars will form the Models, another significant punk/pop band of Melbourne that dominates my nights. The Boys next Door score 3 tracks; more than any other band gets.
Melbourne is home to a thriving live small pub scene in the older inner suburbs, even if the pubs can only open to 11.30pm and in the early part off the week generally close at 10.00 pm. While the masses have their outer suburb large beer barns with rock or disco, a distinctly counter group of punks are dancing to a different beat. Boys and girls are wearing white powder to enjoy pale faces, eyeliner and dyed hair (predominantly blue-black). For a small door charge you got to see a band or bands and could generally catch a gig 6 nights (sometimes 7 nights) a week. Indeed on Mondays and Tuesdays Martinis in Carlton was free or a dollar. A feature of these small pubs is the provision of a meal voucher that allowed an 11.30 pm licence close. At 10.00 in exchange for your vouchers you could have a pastie or some other minor feed (chicken wing and chips; pizza slice etc) which allowed a late night opening past 10.00 pm.
Over a three year period the Boys Next Door are regular fixtures at many of the local punk pubs. In their early days they enjoy a residency on Tuesday nights at the Tiger Lounge (Aka the Royal Oak Hotel in Richmond). However being Tuesday 10.00 pm is the norm for closing time. They have recorded in the studio songs for an eagerly awaited album release but alas the album takes ages to be released and in fact is virtually 2 separate time recordings. Waiting to go on the band drinks in the lounge meaning small talk to them is an option. Indeed a feature of the Melbourne punk scene is that bands generally can be seen prior and after playings and often at other gigs. Indeed significant parts of the audience are generally common to most gigs I attend.
A significant event at the Tiger Lounge one Tuesday night is the appearance of Rowland Howard (Young Charlatans) in the line-up for the first time. Curiously he sings Shivers but after that night it is always sung by Nick. The addition of Rowland marks a significant change in style over time best described by the two sides of Door Door.
Later Tuesday nights became a regular night at the Crystal Ballroom in St Kilda for me with the Boys Next Door playing a residency. Eventually the Tuesdays at the Ballroom move to an 11.30 close. A side benefit of the Ballroom opening later is that one can after it closes, stagger down Fitzroy Street to Bananas on the Esplanade, which as a 1.00 0r 2.00 am licence and see the Models play, making for a great night of music and drinking. The Crystal Ballroom was the hub of punk in its heyday. It had multiple playing areas and hosted local interstate and international punk/new wave acts. With its long stairway from the foyer up to the actual ballroom, it was a wonder that no drunken or drugged patrons or artists broke their necks. With the Crystal Ballroom (near the corner of Fitzroy and Grey streets) being located in St Kilda (a suburb notorious with its drug and red light history) punks and their attire raised barely an eyebrow except with the boys and girls in blue (aka the police). Indeed the arty Melbourne punk scene was a relatively peaceful and safe environment especially compared to the masses and their beer barns and discos.
Of course the Boys Next Door play other nights and other venues over the period of their existence bore morphing into the Birthday Party and heading off to England. There were early gigs at The London Tavern in Caulfield, gigs at Hearts (aka Polaris Inn) in Carlton; the Exford in the City (smallest lounge I’ve ever seen a band play in) but in the main The Tiger Lounge and then the Crystal Ballroom dominate. The Ballroom also was the scene of a limited single release by the Boys Next Door and The Models (Scatterbrain and Early Morning Brain). I still have my copy. A particularly fortunate event was a live to air gig from Storey Hall at Melbourne Uni in November 1979. Broadcast live by 3RRR FM it was possible to tape record the whole set in stereo on cassette. Bear in mind this was before the Internet or even Cd’s. Being relatively fragile and then irreplaceable the cassette was duplicated and played and played by me. Of course the beauty of the tape was that it had far more songs than the Album and in my mind many Melbourne punk bands never captured their real sound in the studio. Of course a benefit of a vigorous live gig circuit was that most bands became quite proficient at playing and as a band the Boys next Door actually maintained and expanded their membership unlike many other bands that fractured and split. Hence seeing the Boys Next Door live and having a great tape recording meant one could waste oneself regularly.
A Melbourne resident, Deb has been a Nick Cave fan for 30 years and is a contributor, content advisor, and patron of Nick Cave Fixes. You are welcome to leave comments for Debra on her wonderful recollections and perhaps share your own memories of those days. Questions and so forth? Please use the following form to contact Debra. Tx.
The BND Nick Cave Fixes page was published 6 April 2009. Edits, graphic arrangements by Morgan. Contact admin(at)nickcavefixes.com for photo attribution/copyright concerns.