Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Go!! at the St Kilda Film Festival

It’s rare that contemporary events rate a mention in this blog, but I feel it’s my civic duty to alert Melbourne-based readers to the upcoming Go!! Show screening at the St Kilda Film Festival. This will be the third year in a row the festival has featured a special screening devoted to Australian music of the 1960s, presented in partnership with the National Film & Sound Archive Australia. 

If the previous two years are anything to go by, we’re in for another corker.

In 2013, we were treated to the obscure Easybeats doco, Easy Come, Easy Go, along with that indescribably wonderful testimonial to swinging Melbourne, Approximately Panther (so wonderful I dedicated a post to it here), plus a few other musical gems from the era such as the video for The Loved Ones’ “Sad Dark Eyes” and an obscure piece of Molly Meldrumalia, Meldrum 1971.
The Fab Five in Easy Come, Easy Go
Last year, the Festival took us Back to the Sixties, with a fascinating documentary called The Snap and Crackle of Pop, revealing the machinations of a nascent Aussie pop-music industry, and the adorably corny Once Upon a Twilight, in which The Twilights do their best Monkees impression.
Snap, crackle and pop in Sydney
This year, we get Go!! Put it in your diaries now, groovers (and book your tickets): 7.30pm, Monday 25 May, at the St Kilda Town Hall.

I spoke to Television Curator/Archivist from the National Film & Sound Archive, Simon Smith, about this insanely rare opportunity to view an entire episode of possibly the most important teen TV show of its era. 

Why is footage from The Go!! Show so hard to come by?
Simon: 
Two hundred and twenty-two episodes were produced and only portions of seven survive. And this is the only complete one, episode 117 [part of the Johnny Young era]. The show used to be produced on two-inch video tape, which was very expensive, very heavy and very large. So rather than have mountains of videotape around, the TV station would reuse the tapes. Episodes were kept for three weeks before being taped over. 

The only reason anything survived was that Go!! was sold to other TV networks around the country. It was on the 0-10 network, and screened in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne — but it’d also be screened in regional Australia, in places like Albury and Mildura, and some of these places wouldn’t have videotape facilities. 

In those cases, they’d have to send it as a kine (short for kinescope), a 16mm print – they’d project the two-inch videotape onto a very high quality screen and they’d record it onto film. That 16mm print would then get sent off. Thing is, you can tape over videotape but you can’t tape over film. That's  how much 60s TV survives - not on the original videotapes but on these lesser quality film telerecordings.
Here's Johnny! Johnny Young, one of the Go!! Show's three hosts
What’s so great about Go!! compared to, say, a show like Kommotion? 
Simon: 
In my opinion, Go!! was a far more important show than Kommotion
Kommotion was a miming show. They did have artists on, but you’d usually get things like Molly Meldrum miming to “Winchester Cathedral” or “Why Don’t Women Like Me?” and Denise Drysdale doing various songs… They’d have the occasional pop act on there – I think they’d do one song per episode. It was more a matter of the mimers with a guest artist, as opposed to the Go!! Show, which was just artist after artist after artist. 
This autographed photo of the Kommotion cast is currently available on eBay for $7,000!!!
Did the Kommotion episodes suffer the same fate as The Go!! Show eps? 
Simon:
Kommotion was a disaster in terms of survival. 
All that survives of Kommotion – and we’ll screen it on the night – is a 45-second home movie. Hundreds of episodes were made of Kommotion – it was a five-day a week, half-hour show, with a weekend edition as well in its hey day. There’s one three-minute clip which we don’t have — a private individual has it; it’s one of the show’s mimers, David Bland. He does a Roger Miller song, then it flashes back to Ken Sparkes, who hosted the show. The only reason it survives is that it was given to a motorcycle club, because one of their motorbikes appears in the clip and they asked for a copy.

It’s become a bit of a tradition for the St Kilda Film Festival to feature a special Aussie 60s music screening as part of the program. How did the partnership with NFSA come about? 
Simon:
We’d done this restoration on the Easybeats documentary working with producer Peter Clifton -- he was involved with Led Zepellin’s The Song Remains the SameWe’d already screened it at the Sydney Film Festival, and when we mentioned it to the Director of the SKFF (Paul Harris), he was interested in screening it in Melbourne because it only had one screening in Sydney, as a support feature to Searching for Sugarman

Last year, Paul Harris asked if we had any suggestions for any other 60s stuff, and I told him about this fantastic episode of a current affairs program from ATN7 in Sydney called Seven Days, where they devoted an entire episode to pop – a documentary on the 60s music scene in Sydney. I also managed to push through an HD telecine of Once Upon a Twilight. If we’d screened the old video master as it was, it would’ve been 30%-40% worse. But it looked good.

Did it ever! No doubt The Go!! Show will look pretty snazzy too, when it’s projected on the big screen next Monday…

Simon will be moderating a Q&A session after the screening, with Dennis Smith (Go’s Associate Producer), Peter Robinson, bass-player of the show’s house band The Strangers; Tony Barber, original rhythm guitarist with Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs; and performer Marcie Jones from Marcie & the Cookies.


How cute were Marcie & the Cookies?
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The Go!! Show: they don't make 'em like that anymore...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Then and now: Fashion Street

So much for that saying, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ 
Looking at the photos below, I’d say that while things have changed a lot, very little (besides the location) has stayed the same.

Check out 262-270 Collins Street as it looked in 1969, when Angus O’Callaghan took this photo and called it ‘Fashion Street’.
'Fashion Street'. Photo by Angus O'Callaghan.
I love how his photos are often cropped square. He'd be a hit on Instagram.

Now check out how it looked the other week when I took a photo during my lunch break and called it ‘Non-descript city scene’… Not a groovy old car or chic pill-box hat in sight.
'Non-descript city scene'. Photo by Yours Truly. 

The glory days

A 12-story modernist gem, the Hotel Australia opened in 1939. Beneath nine floors of lavishly appointed bedrooms, there were three levels of public space, including the Venetian Court Ballroom, the Main Dining Room, several bars, restaurants and even two basement cinemas.
Hotel Australia dining room. Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969. Courtesy NLA (nla.pic-vn3309841)
The hotel was a hit with Melbourne society from the get-go. The Packer family kept a suite there for 25 years; Robert Menzies dined there so often they named an omelette after him; and Harold and Zara Holt held their wedding reception there (as did my colleague Norm, who’s featured in this blog before).

Attached to the hotel was a shopping arcade which led through to Little Collins Street. Thousands of pedestrians passed through on a daily basis; many of them commuters who’d stop at one of the hotel’s bars for an after-work bevvy on their way home.
One of the hotel bars. Photo: Wolfgang Sievers, 1969. Courtesy NLA (nla.pic-vn3309872)
Yet rather like another well-known Melbourne grand-dame, Dame Edna Everage, the Hotel Australia’s glitz’n’glam was shot through with a distinctly risquĂ© vibe. Almost from the day it opened, the hotel was popular with the city’s gay population, and during World War II, it was the hang-out for frisky servicemen on the prowl. The cocktail bar and one of the basement theatrettes were acknowledged pick-up joints. 

According to one website I came across, the hotel was even offering a call-girl service by the 1960s. Camp romance and girls for hire: that’s what I call covering all bases! 
Centreway Arcade on the other side of the street: Photo by Wolfgang Sievers, 1967
Courtesy NLA (nla.pic-vn3314126)
Sadly, when the famous Southern Cross Hotel opened in 1962, it stole much of Hotel Australia’s thunder, soon becoming the new in-crowd favourite. Neither hotel survived into this century. The Hotel Australia was demolished in 1989 (ten years before the Southern Cross) to make way for the shiny new Australia on Collins shopping arcade. 

Now Australia on Collins has been demolished to make way for ‘luxury shopping precinct’ St Collins Lane. The more things change, the more they stay the same? Hmmm. Maybe there is something in that after all...


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