Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coburg never had it so good

The Thumpin’ Tum, Sebastians, Catcher, Berties, Garrison, The Biting Eye, Opus… when I read about the legendary live music venues of 1960s Melbourne and the boss-bitchin’ bands they hosted, I can’t help thinking that the city’s current claim to be some kind of live-music paradise is a tad delusional. Yeah, so we may have more venues per capita than Austin, Texas – and we’ve sure got a surplus of bands -- but how many of them (venues or bands) will be remembered in 50 years time?

But while information about most of the aforementioned venues is easily available with the most cursory of Google searches (and they’ll no doubt find their way into this blog at some point), there is one Saturday-night dance about which I simply cannot find any details, save what I posted earlier this year. Yep, we’re talking ‘Swinger’ at the Coburg City Hall: home to those bodacious Batgirls.

Go-Set, August 20 1967: the Batgirls seen around the scene (Adam West would flip his wig)
Now before you get any inappropriate ideas, let me clarify: it’s not the name of the night that's piqued my interest so much (which is a shame, really, because Google spits out plenty of search results of that nature).

What originally began as curiosity about Swinger's Batgirls has since cranked up several notches thanks to the following series of advertisements I came across in old, microfiched copies of Go-Set magazine at the State Library of Victoria when I was researching an article I was writing. They're just so evocative of the damn hyperbolic!

Amazing to think that wild nights like this….
From Go-Set, early August, 1967. So we can at least establish that the night started on August 12. of that year

...and this....
Go-Set, early August 1967

…were going down every Saturday evening here, in the stately surrounds of Coburg City Hall!

Of course, these days, instead of embracing the ‘Batman fantasy of gigantic sounds’ (oh how my mind is boggling!), the neighbours would complain about the noise.

Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and the Chants? Wowsers
Northside was where it was at, baby!
Apologies for the wonky scans -- I was caught up in the fantastic mind-bending moment!

Although all the adverts featured here are from 1967, I believe Swinger lasted a good few years -- until at least 1969, when it played host to US band The Platters on one particular night, and The Easybeats on another. The Easybeats in 1969? That would have been a weird one, right at the tail-end of their career, when disillusionment and debt were dogging them, undermining all the brilliance that had gone before. 

From Go-Set, October 1967. 
From Go-Set, November 1967

Which brings me to the end of the small amount I know about Saturday nights at Swinger. By the way...anyone else agree that the two ads above look like lurid psychotronic movie posters?


  1. Contrary to your above comment on The Easybeats appearance at Swinger, I was there that night, they had just returned from London and were in fantastic form. Everyone who was lucky enough to be there that night has vivid memories of a killer set put on by a world-hardened band. They showed what a great training ground Europe had been for them. I will never forget that night it was the Rock highlight of my life up until then. No Aussie band was as tight or as professional as the Easys that night.

    1. Hi there. Firstly, I'm so sorry for the slow reply - and I really appreciate you making the effort to comment. AND I'm thrilled that my theory about the Easybeats' gig being possibly a bit depressing was wrong! They're my favourite ever Aussie band, and though I'm from the wrong generation to ever have seen them, I reckon even a dud Easybeats gig would've been better than most bands on a good night. And from your description, this was no dud! Did you see them play many times or just on this occasion? Either way, you're so damn lucky!