Friday, February 27, 2015

There goes the neighbourhood! Billy Thorpe moves to East Melbourne

Wandering the wide, leafy streets of East Melbourne the other day, I was reminded what a civilised part of town it is. As if all its towering Victorian townhouses, Deco dazzlers and historic mansions weren’t enough, it’s got the picnic paradise of Fitzroy Gardens within cooee, and seems magically buffered from the incessant traffic noise that plagues most of the inner city. An oasis of gentility, a haven of refinement… And yet…

One of Australia’s rowdiest rock’n’rollers once lived — and partied hard — in these very streets! 
Banchory Cottage, Gipps St, East Melbourne: someone was inside, watching me from the front left window when I took this, so I didn't hang around trying to take a magnificent photo!
Yep, this unassuming little cottage in Gipps Street was once home to Billy Thorpe — at the height of his pub-rockin’, ‘sink-more-piss’ phase, no less. It was in this ‘house of lunacy’ that ‘a million brain cells died and the Sunbury Aztecs were born,’ recalls Thorpie in his second autobiography, Most People I Know (think that I’m crazy). Judging by his detailed descriptions of the nocturnal festivities that went down there, I’d say that was more like a trillion.

Joining Thorpie in this den of debauchery were his girlfriend Jackie and two of his bandmates, Paul Wheeler and Jimmy Thompson. They hit town from Sydney in December 1968, and within no time, a constant flow of freaks and friends was beating a path to their front door. 

After a few months of this madness, the desperately sleep-deprived singer resorted to a drastic measure. He nailed a big sign to the front door, emblazoned with the following hand-painted message:
To those about to knock. About every 8 minutes DAY and NIGHT some arsehole knocks on this door and I’m going fucking insane! My bedroom is the front window to your right and I haven’t slept in 6 fucking months. Regardless of what you’ve been told this is not the Melbourne Salvation Army, the Hilton or the Thumping Tum East, IT’S OUR HOUSE. We don’t save souls, take confessions, serve breakfast, arrange marriages, sell cars, arbitrate disputes, find lost dogs, supply inspiration, give spiritual guidance, sell drugs, bust virgins, counsel lost teenagers, or need your stimulating conversation. Therefore:-
  • If you’re not bleeding from every orifice and about to die.
  • If your gear hasn’t blown up and you need to borrow an amp.
  • If you didn’t leave your clothes here last night and you’re naked in the street.
  • If you’re not a philanthropist with a million dollars to give away.
  • If you’re not a record company that wants to give us a deal.
  • If you’re a debt collector.
  • If you haven’t called so we know you’re coming.
  • Or if you’re a copper without a legal search warrant then;
                        Peace and love
The sign wasn’t up for long. An outraged old lady called the cops, who made Thorpie take it down. 

Don’t you just love it that little gems of rock’n’roll history like this still exist in the most unexpected places? 
Another view


Personally I much prefer the early, Sydney-era Aztecs (not to mention Thorpie’s rollicking account of those years, Sex and Thugs and Rock’n’Roll), but Most People I Know is well worth a read for its vivid, bawdy depiction of Melbourne in the late 1960s. 


  1. Jackie Holme was a very gorgeous NZ model and here is a photo of her from David Mist

    1. Wowsers, Ann O'Dyne - she was incredible! Those cheekbones! Thorpy had fine taste. I love the photo too - how absolutely cool. Thanks so much for the link xx