Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Go!! Show: they don't make 'em like that anymore...

“Welcome to Australia’s swinging-est teenage show… GO!!”

Bandstand? Bah. The cool kids watched Go!!
Between August 1964 and August 1967, music-mad teenagers from Melbourne (and, eventually, other states) tuned into channel 0 three times a week for their fix of the hippest, most happening sounds around.

A hit from the, ahem, get-go, and modelled on overseas pop shows such as Ready Steady Go! and Shindig, The Go!! Show regularly attracted an audience of 400,000 viewers — an impressive achievement for such a new TV channel (Go!! premiered the same month that ATV-0, which would ultimately evolve into Channel 10, started broadcasting).

The program’s live studio audience shared its viewers’ enthusiasm, as the screams in this clip attest…


A dream line-up

Now brace yourselves, and get a load of some of the artists who performed on Go!! during its short but illustrious existence: The Purple Hearts, The Groop, Normie Rowe, The Masters Apprentices, The Easybeats, The Cherokees, Mike Furber, The Twilights, Billy Thorpe, The Flies, The Loved Ones, Bobbie & Laurie, Dinah Lee, Olivia Newton John, Lynne Randell, The Running Jumping Standing Still — to name just a few. Pretty mind-boggling, eh? Oh, and let’s not forget the illustrious house band, The Strangers, who were sponsored by Melbourne’s own Maton Guitars. 

Cast of season 1, including young singer April Byron, who went on to collaborate with the Bee Gees. 
Photo: Amyhausen
Sadly, very little footage remains, except for some Youtube clips and a couple of DVDs available from America (go figure). Still, judging by the little I’ve seen, Go!! was beyond fab and thoroughly deserving of its iconic status in Australian TV history.

Check out this priceless video of Merv Benton, complete with silhouetted go-go dancers as his groovadelic backdrop. I’d love to know the male dancer’s story — that boy is so far out, he deserves his own TV show!

Much-loved TV personality Ian Turpie, seen in the above clip counting down the Top 10, was one of three Go!! hosts over the years. Alan Field (left), a British comedian who came to Australia with The Beatles as their MC on their 1964 tour hosted the first 26 episodes; followed by Turps (centre); and finally pop-star Johnny Young (right).


I heard a rumour once that Johnny Young was a real wild child behind the scenes, but you’d never guess it from the shy, bemused way he introduces Running, Jumping, Standing Still in the following clip. But then, I guess this bunch of bad boys would've made most folks seem shy in comparison!  

I think it's safe to say that many an unsuspecting teenage mind would've been blown by that particular performance...(of course, if anyone out there saw it back in the day, please feel free to share your memories in the comments!)

Related post:
Dreaming of Denise

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Groovy Prue

Crappy TV. Synthesizers. Kids in the Kitchen. Ugly cars. Pat Cash. The 1980s have a lot to answer for.

However, one of the main reasons for my enduring personal grudge against the era is the fashion. The ruffles and bubble skirts, the stonewash denim and permed hair, the puffy sleeves and shoulder pads, the satin, taffeta and technicoloured makeup — yucko. (And to think we’ve been living through an 80s revival the last few years! Seriously, wasn’t it bad enough the first time round?)

As a disgruntled teenager at the time, I considered Melbourne designer Prue Acton to be just another tasteless purveyor of mass hideocrity. Little did I know that she was once referred to as Australia’s own Mary Quant, and almost singlehandedly made Melbourne mod. Shame on me.

A one-woman youthquake

Groovy Prue, c. 1967 (Getty Images)
Prue Acton was among the first Aussie designers to really plug into the youth-centric vibe of the 1960s. Recognising that young women and teenage girls didn’t want to dress like their mothers, Acton (who was barely 20 when she opened her own business in 1963, with support from her parents) offered them a much-needed alternative.

As Prue herself put it, “It was about looking cute and very youthful, very young, not like Mum.” (George Negus Tonight, ABC TV, 2004)
You could even sew your own Prue designs, like this adorable scallop-hemmed mini-dress
Her designs were frisky, fun and fabulous — and before long, she was designing more than 350 garments a year and selling 1000 frocks a week across Australia and New Zealand.

1969 Courrèges-inspired, Star Trek-style mini-dress (Museum Victoria collection)
Her background in art and textiles served her well: she had a real eye for colour and the possibilities of different fabrics. 

This fabulous woollen coat sold for $78 in 1968 (Museum Victoria collection)
Not only were Prue’s designs embraced by a whole generation of swinging chicks, but her talent was soon recognised at an industry level, resulting in widespread acclaim and awards. In 1967, she became the first female Australian designer to show in NYC, and she did a roaring trade in department stores across the US.

Linen and knit mini-dress, 1969 (Museum Victoria collection)
Just like Mary Quant, Prue Acton wasn’t shy of a rising hemline. Following the sensation caused by British model Jean Shrimpton in 1965 when she turned up at Melbourne’s spring racing carnival wearing a mini-dress and no stockings (much less gloves or hat), the young designer happily obliged her customers’ desire to flash some leg: 
“All the kids who I was supplying, all the 18- to 20-year-olds, said, ‘That's what I wanna look like.’ And overnight, we were cutting the skirts. We were cutting two inches off, and the next week, another two and another two. By Christmas, we were up to something quite disgusting, just covering the bum.”
Ah, fun times! 

Check out Museum Victoria's comprehensive Prue Acton collection for more photos of her designs, spanning the 60s to the, ahem, 80s.

Related posts:
Bruno Benini

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Then and now

Where once there was this…
Wolfgang Sievers: Elegant shopping at La Pastorale Frocks, 125 Collins Street, Melbourne, 1965 (National Library of Australia)

…and this…
Wolfgang Sievers: Pedestrians in Collins Street, 1964

There is now this…
Image: Grand Hyatt Hotel (
Was La Pastorale boutique one of Whelan the Wrecker’s innumerable demolition victims? I’ve been unable to find out. But the demolition company did become notorious in the 1960s for its role in the destruction of many Collins Street buildings, so it’s not inconceivable. 

To be honest, I have nothing against the Grand Hyatt (well, besides the fact that it's far beyond my budget), and it certainly lives up to expectations of what a five-star hotel at the Paris end of Collins Street should be … but it’s not exactly La Pastorale, is it? Not a crazy paving stone in sight, much less a hoity-toity shop mannequin.

A note about the photographer
You’ll be seeing a lot more of Wolfgang Sievers’ (AO) work on this blog. A German-born photographer who arrived in Australia aboard the P&O Cormoran in 1938, he settled in Melbourne, where he lived until his death in 2007 at the ripe old age of 93. 

Having fled Germany after being conscripted by the Luftwaffe to be an aerial photographer, he later enlisted in the Australian Army, serving between 1942 and 1946. On his return, he built a prolific and influential career photographing primarily architecture and industry. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Melbourne song of the month: 'The Loved One'/The Loved Ones (May 1966)

The first in a monthly series celebrating Melbourne’s coolest tunes...

Those handclaps. That relentless, rhythmic guitar. That crazy intro — all 38 wild seconds of it, building in intensity until finally… finally… we hear those unforgettable lyrics ‘Yonder she’s walking’ and we have lift-off! 

Ah yes, 'The Loved One'. 
What a masterpiece. Totally unlike any other song of its time (or any since, for that matter), The Loved Ones’ amazing second single made #15 in the Melbourne charts and #2 in Sydney, effectively catapulting the band to the screaming heights of the local music scene. 

Released in the same year as two other eternal Australian classics, The Easybeats’ 'Friday on My Mind' and 'Sorry', 'The Loved One' holds its own in this illustrious company. All five members of The Loved Ones previously played in respected Melbourne jazz outfits (The Red Onions and The Wild Cherries), and it shows. The level of musicianship; the deviation from the 4/4 time so popular with beat, rock and pop groups of the day; the unusual structure — make no mistake, this ain’t some predictable three-chord stomper. 

Actually, it’s bloody hard to dance to! But who cares, when you’ve got Gerry Humphreys' beautiful bluesy vocals to enjoy, and that famous, soaring chorus to sing along with?
Brown-eyed handsome man: Gerry Humphreys (photographer unknown)
Voted number 6 in APRA’s list of 10 Best Australian Songs in 2001, 'The Loved One' remains a treasured part of Melbourne’s musical heritage to this day. 

** PS The clip for this song is actually part of a larger film, Approximately Panther, an absolute time-capsule of a doco following Go-Set journo Douglas Panther as he delves into Melbourne's 60s youth culture and chats with some of the key personalities of the day. I won't say too much more at this point, as Approximately Panther deserves its own dedicated post -- sooner rather than later... (And now it has one...check it out here)