Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What would you give Molly for his birthday?

Time to do yourselves a favour, folks, and charge your glasses to Mr Ian Alexander ‘Molly’ Meldrum, who’ll be blowing out a mighty 71 candles today. 

Molly-Meldrum- Faster-Louder
Image: Faster Louder
I think it’s fair to say that Melbourne’s most famous music guru is loved by millions of Australians. Who can forget the mass outpouring of concern from his friends and fans (not to mention the media) when he fell off his ladder in 2011 and was in a coma for a month? He’s been a fixture of this country’s music scene for 50 years — during which time he’s managed to mumble, bumble and charm his way into our collective hearts. 

Whether writing for Go-Set magazine in the 60s or miming to that same era’s hits on teen pop show Kommotion (oh, to have witnessed that spectacle!), hosting Countdown for 13 years or parading as the King of Moomba just a few years ago, Molly’s always made a splash. And in this day and age of interchangeable plastic-fantastic TV cyborgs, his eccentricities and unique personality are more precious than ever.

Image: ABC
Anyway, if I was ever to give him a birthday pressie, I’d get him this…

After all, his record collection’s probably pretty comprehensive by now.

10 random fun facts about Molly 

  • That nickname: we can thank his mate, legendary 60s radio DJ Stan Rofe, for christening him Molly. Apparently he conceived it as a play on the term ‘band moll’.
  • Far-out pharaoh: Molly’s obsession with Egyptology is well documented, but I was intrigued to read that he once appeared on Dancing with the Stars dressed as a pharaoh and dancing to The Bangles’ “Walk like an Egyptian” — then promptly got knocked out. Was anyone lucky enough to see his performance? I can’t find any footage floating around on the interwebs.
  • Scream-queen: In June 1964, Molly and his friend Ronnie Burns got turfed out of The Beatles’ Festival Hall concert by for…wait for it…screaming too much. 
  • He said it: “No-one's above you and no-one's below you and you should treat all people as equal.” (Interview on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton in 2003)
  • Ian-tellectual: Despite his sometimes incoherent TV persona, Molly’s no dill: in fact, he was once a member of Mensa and is one of the few Australians ever to win $500,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (the money went to charity)
  • Iggy’s wig-out: In his famously shambolic Countdown interview (c. 1980), a gleefully wasted Iggy Pop addressed Molly as ‘Dogface’ before proceeding to ping around the studio like an turbo-charged Mexican jumping bean in a lip-synched rendition of “I’m Bored”. While Molly seemed to take Pop’s shenanigans in his stride, impressionable children like myself were left traumatised! 

  • Fridgy-didge: Molly once featured in an ad for Whirlpool fridges with Bert Newton. But this was no ordinary ad: both men were in (very bad, very funny) drag. See it here.
  • Mad hatter: Molly’s famous hat is a Stetson, not an Akubra as often believed
  • The real deal: Even if he’d never done anything else of note, Molly booked his place in Australian music history with the mind-bending job he did producing the Johnny Young-penned psych masterpiece “The Real Thing” for Russell Morris in 1969. Six minutes, 20 seconds of hypnotic bliss, over-dubbed to within an inch of its life, and absolutely ground-breaking for its time.
  • A philosophy for life: “I don't see things in life as challenges. If it's fun to do, you do it.” (Interviewed by Christie Eliezer for High-Voltage Rock’n’Roll, 2007)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

So what’s this blog all about then?

I read an article by PJ O’Rourke recently, called ‘Keeping the 60s on life support’, in which he ponders the reluctance of Baby Boomers to let the 1960s go, get over them, and stop glorifying them as some kind of historical high point. While he claims to be as guilty of this as the rest of his peers, PJ’s realisation that his teenage daughter and her friends barely knew (or cared) who JFK was prompted him to reflect on his generation’s tendency to mythologise the era. Were the 60s really as great/important/world-changing as all that?

As a Gen Xer, I have to admit it bugs me to hear Baby Boomers gushing on about how the decade was so freakin’ fantastic. Check out any documentary or book on the subject, and there they’ll be: smugly recounting all the great bands they saw, the drugs they took, the fab clothes they wore, the freedom they had and the unbridled optimism they felt back in this golden heyday. 

Why does it bug me? Because I’m envious of them! 

Ever since I since I watched reruns of Batman and The Monkees as a child ― since I saw how cool my parents looked in their wedding photos ― since my adolescent crush on Little Stevie ― I’ve been fascinated by and drawn to the 1960s. Whether they’re the most important decade of last century, I’m not qualified to judge. But they were definitely the grooviest. 

This blog is my attempt to experience the 60s vicariously by exploring what was shaking in Melbourne at the time ― musically, culturally, sartorially ― and who was making it shake. Then (as now) Melbourne was way ahead of the pack and totally where it was at. Puzzled by the blog’s name? Check out my profile

Image" 'Under the Clocks'/Angus O'Callaghan
Were you there? I’d love to hear from you! Your memories, your suggestions, your corrections, your photos. As this blog progresses, I hope to include personal anecdotes from people who were lucky enough to enjoy the decade firsthand.

In the meantime, whether you’re a Baby Boomer or not, please join me on this time-trippin’, wig-flippin’ voyage into Melbourne’s groovy past…

NB: Background photo - View of Bourke Street at Dusk, Looking East, Melbourne, 1960s, taken by Mr Frank Park (Museum Victoria)