Music of the 80s
The exhibition features an album cover wall and lots of musical memories from the decade. We'll be discussing these albums and more.
Can you you tell me a little about yourself and how the Darlinghurst eats its young project came about?
Not sure where to start so will just start with I am an artist who lives and works in Sydney, and apart from a stint in Melbourne have done so since graduating from art school. I didn’t spend a lot of time at school in year 11 and 12, instead spending it in Darlinghurst with the people that make up the photos in the exhibition.
Darlinghurst at that time – mid 1980s – was an exciting place. It was run down; the rents were cheap’ there were little or no renovated terraces and because of all of that there was a lot going on artistically and musically.
Oxford Street was, as it still is, a major part of the gay community. So the whole area ran against what mainstream Australia was about. Most people that I knew were on the dole or students so there was no money – everything was invented out of nothing.
My best friend at the time, Maggie Woods, was an avid photographer. Most people, if they had a camera at all, didn’t want to spend what little money they had on printing. Maggie wanted to be a photographer so she took photos of what she knew. She took photos to the point of annoyance really, when you woke up, when you looked hung over; all the time, not just the good times. When Maggie died I inherited the large box of photos that I have dragged around from house to house, to Melbourne and back.
The impetus for the show came when I saw how people responded to a friend who posted a series of images from the 80s on their Facebook page. There was an attraction to images from the past. It wasn’t just that the images were from the 80s it was also due to the ‘analogue’ nature of the images. The quality that so many apps try to recreate. Hard to define but it made me think people might want to see the images from the box under my bed.
I proposed the idea of using the photos to the curators of the Left Coast Festival, which was held in the Sedition barbershop on Victoria Street. Mainly because I thought when else am I going to get to put the photos back into a Darlinghurst context, and out of that came the show Darlinghurst Eats Its Young.
How did the exhibition turn into a web project?
Once the exhibition came down I posted the photos that comprised the show on Facebook and almost immediately people began to respond with comments. The response was overwhelming and at the same time limited by the fact that only friends or friends of friends could see and comment on the photos. A friend suggested I get in touch with the Powerhouse to see if they would be interested in incorporating the photos into their The 80s Are Back exhibition in some way and after meeting with Jason Gee and Renae Mason they in turn suggested the project would suit a blog. After a lot of help from Jason Gee the Darlinghurst Eats its Young blog was born. The idea was to enable anyone to comment or contribute to the discussion that grew out of the exhibition and the photos to form something independent of both photos and exhibition.
How have people reacted to these images?
I was really surprised by the reaction to the pictures; for me the photos have taken the place of my memory in a lot of instances, so other people’s reactions are always unexpected. The photos seem to be a trigger for a range of different ideas and emotions. In some cases the reactions have been pure nostalgia, but in others the photos have sparked debates about what it means to be cool, and what makes an image ‘authentic’
The majority of comments at this stage are on the facebook postings of the images (all of which are now on the Darlinghurst Eats Its Young blog) but increasingly people are starting to comment on the blog postings as well. The difference between the blog and Facebook, apart from the fact the blog is open to everyone is that I have tried to contextualise the photos with titles, and in some cases, descriptions. After the initial wave of interest there is now a steady flow of people and increasingly as the site is reposted the traffic to the site is from overseas
People who were around at the time talk about how inner city Sydney and Darllinghurst has changed and those who weren’t around at that time seem to really react to the fashion – there have been a few repostings on a couple of fashion blogs. It’s interesting to see which photos generate the most interest in the re-postings and it tends to be the haircuts or the photos of the squats. The hair cuts are easy to understand, the squats I’m not sure what fascinates people so much other than perhaps surprise that there was ever such a thing in a property obsessed city like Sydney.
Visit the Darlinghurst eats its young website
Digital Freakazoid was the street name of Jacques Capdor, an old-school break (street) dancer, from Blacktown, Sydney. Capdor was initially exposed to Hip Hop culture in the early 1980s while still at school and it made a big impact upon him. He became heavily involved in breaking, forming his crew the Break Lords in 1984. Capdor remembers the 1980s fondly and relates some of his early experiences breaking in Blacktown…
I started breaking back in 1982 at the age of 11, with my cousin Eric Capdor aka Apache. We were always in high demand at family weddings and parties. Eric always had this one move that he loved doing where he would pretend to pull out his eye, swallow it (using his popping, locking and wave techniques) then do the motion of swallowing incorporating a body wave, he would than bring it back up using the same method, coughing it up into his hand. He then would pretend to throw his eye at me. I would then mimic the same moves, cough it up and throw back his eye at him where he would pretend to put it back into his eye socket. All the while he had one eye shut to give the impression that he had removed his eye.
I didn’t become part of my crew the Break Lords until 1984. The Break Lords were a trio hailing from Sydney’s west side (Blacktown); the crew was Marc Nemorin, aka Machine, Abilio Pascoa, aka Speedy and I.
We came together as a trio by accident in 1984 at school. The school was organizing a gala day which showcased our school’s talent, so being the only known breakers in the same year; we decided to come together as the Break Lords. I can remember half an hour before going on stage, that I hadn’t laid the cardboard, and the guys were relying on me. So I bolted into Blacktown Franklins, gathered up boxes, broke them up, put them in my armpits, struggled back, losing my kung fu shoes along the way, and having to regather. Marc and Abilio’s jaw dropped to the ground, when they saw the cardboard I’d gathered. They were the crappiest and smallest boxes and were soggy in some parts. I only had less then five minutes to tape them all up; I didn’t even have time to remove the staples, and came off second best. My clothes had small rips, I had a few scratches, and I can remember looking at the staples and seeing tufts of hair stuck in it.
In 1982 breaking was only new to Australia; it was Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ that left an impression on me and the youth of Australia, we were all attempting the dance moves.
I can remember laying my parents’ garage with cardboard and practicing day and night bruises and all. The garage ended up like my own dance studio, I had kids in the street rushing over straight after school just so I could give them lessons, they were all dressed like they’d just walked out of Olivia’s ‘Let’s get physical’ music clip. These kids would tell me they needed lessons badly as a family member was getting married or having a birthday and their parents wanted them to impress and put on a show. The only time I’d get a rest was when the milk man came by; we’d all rush over and pick up our favourite beverage, chocolate Moove for only twenty cents.
We would hang out break dancing on footpaths, in parks, basketball courts, outdoor parties, car parks, police boys clubs, blue light discos, even notable parts of Sydney like Circular Quay was a popular hangout for breakers. During the 80s it was common to see breakers outside or in shopping malls with a sheet of cardboard and a ghetto blaster performing for an audience.
We’d hang out at Franklins, waiting for cardboard boxes to come down the caged shutes, we’d rush off when we had enough, pull them apart, tape them up and before long we’d have our dance floor. Scoring industrial cardboard was a big bonus; the sheets were thicker and in bigger pieces and lasted longer, as you can imagine recycling techniques have changed since the early 80s. Some kids would show off and roll out a piece of lino.
We would battle and challenge against each other showcasing our dance moves. The winning side was determined by the breaker who could out perform each other by displaying a set of more complicated and innovative moves.
Marc aka Machine reminded me of the days when we use to record the music off the radio. All prepared with the finger on the record button, only to have his Mum half way through the recording come in and say dinner was ready. We’d be out there breaking away and have his Mum’s recorded voice on the tape which was way uncool but funny at the same time.
In the 80s breaking got a lot of kids into trouble from their parents. I can remember some kids that smoked, would forget to empty their pockets of one or two cigarettes and their lighter. Their break moves would send it all flying out onto the dance floor, in front of parents and family members. In disgust the parents would drag them away by the ears, how embarrassing.
We wore nylon Adidas and Puma tracksuits, double breasted shirts and baggies with kung fu shoes, or jeans with hooded jackets. We wore the same outfits to show uniformity. Our sneakers had thick laces. Bigger crews with the same matching outfits were perceived as a threat to other breakers by their strength in numbers.
Our heroes at the time were the Rock Steady Crew; they pretty much took break dancing around the world. On the 29/07/1984 Countdown featured the Beat Street grand final with special guest the Rock Steady Crew. The finalists were Electric Troopers from Queensland, Street Patrol from NSW:
Electro Shock from Tasmania:
Shane Mathews from Northern Territory:
Rap City Connection from South Australia and Energy Transfer from Victoria, who were voted the winners:
The Rock Steady Crew performed live and announced they were touring, to the excitement of breakdancers across Australia.
Like Countdown, other television programs from the 80s which showcased local breakers as well as other elements of Hip Hop culture were: Sounds, Young Talent Time, Hey Hey it’s Saturday and Star Search. Break dancing in the early 80s got a lot of media exposure through movies and documentaries such as Wild Style, Beat Street, Krush Groove, Breakin’, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. These films helped to expand the appeal of Hip Hop culture in Australia.
The popularity of the break dancing scene eventually faded in the mid 80s, it went pretty much underground until it made a comeback, in 1997. Break dancing is much alive in Australia again, but there are some considerable differences to that of breakers of the 80s. Nowadays you won’t find breakers out there on the streets, breaking in their tracky dacks with a ghetto and a piece of cardboard. These days we have a lot more breakdance comps, events and festivals that showcase break dancing, not to mention workshops and dance schools adopting Hip Hop due to its popularity.
A lot of critics of Hip Hop have said that non-Anglo Australians were more attracted to the Hip Hop culture because of its lyrical content of racial opposition such as in African American Hip Hop. I don’t think we were attracted to Hip Hop because of race. Sure there were issues with race, I can’t remember how many times I was called a wog, but that didn’t make me turn to Hip Hop, I just wanted to dance and belong. Non Anglo youth embraced Hip Hop better than the Anglo youth of Australia, who were pretty much already part of the Rock scene. Hip Hop appealed to us more because of its fusion of funk, disco, soul, jazz and R&B which had been exposed to us one way or another through our parents’ cultural music. On a typical Saturday night the Aussies would be at their local pubs while the Wogs would be lined up outside clubs like the Apia Club, Vibrations, Mystics and Flashez to name a few.
Hip Hop from the early 80s was all about everyday, family, having a good time and being a ladies’ man.
There may have been elements of social issues, like ‘The Message’ from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; a classic song which spoke about surviving day by day in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. But Sydney’s west was no way like the ghettos in America.
In the early 80s Hip Hop was pretty much an underground culture, a lot of the music we listened to was American Hip Hop, the likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Sugar Hill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force and Run D.M.C.
Other then American Hip Hop, one notable Australian artist at the time that we listened to was Sound Unlimited who originated from the western Sydney suburb of Burwood in 1983. Sound Unlimited, (previously called Westside Posse, then Sound Unlimited Posse) became the first Australian hip hop act signed to a major label.
They have contributed to the Australian Hip Hop scene supporting several other bands. The group supported acts such as New Kids on the Block, Public Enemy and De La Soul during their Australian tours.
Hip Hop in the day, was very hard to get a hold of, only a few DJs, radio stations and music stores stocked imports. We relied on music stores like Central Station Records, to keep us up to date with the latest imports. Community radio stations like 2RDJ FM, 2SER and 2RRR, and youth network Triple J kept us up to date with the Hip Hop scene.
One thing I learned from the 80s was a lesson in recouping from “Mr T” through break dancing. If I ever fell to the ground rather then get up and brush myself off, I would save myself the embarrassment and break out into some dance moves like crazy legs or the caterpillar. It worked a charm always; I’d always get my high fives afterward, instead of snickering of embarrassing laughter from bystanders, as they say, in case of an emergency Break Dance!
I’m glad to have been part of the 80s, for me I feel it was the best decade of music and fashion. This is a message to the 80s come back, all is forgiven.
Thanks to everyone who came along to the 80s Mod Revival weekend! Our staff photographers Marinco Kojdanovski and Sotha Bourn documented the weekend, with pictures of the bands, scooters, fashion shows and, maybe you!
Rod came along to the 80s Mod Revival Party held at the museum on 15th May, 2010. Here he recalls his memories of the scene in 80s, including an eventful scooter run to Palm Beach, that attracted the interest of the local police, “all these kids running around in suits and ties and girls in mini-skirts – this is not riot potential – it’s a fashion riot really”. Rod was also a regular at the Sussex Hotel, a local venue that supported young mods and the live music scene.
Part 1: Siobhán shows off her vintage 1964 ‘winter model’ Lambretta, made in Spain, and recalls the time she rode it along the Nullarbor Plain to raise money for cancer research!
Part 2: Being a mod
Siobhán was definitely a mod in the 80s, and here she recalls buying her first Lambretta and going on scooter runs. She was incredibly active in the scene, running a fan magazine and working as a dj.
Part 3:The classic scooter club – “the journey is part of the event”
Do you know the difference between a classic scooter and a modern scooter? Siobhán explains why an automatic ‘twist and go’ scooter just isn’t the same as vintage.
Kirstin Sibley became involved in the Sydney Mod scene from the early 1980s while still in high school, until about 1986. During this time, Sibley photographed her friends, wrote of mod events in her school diary, saved press clippings about Mod fashions and collected fanzines and flyers relating to Mod events and bands. Sibley originally intended to use this material to compile her own magazine. However this did not eventuate and to the Powerhouse Museum’s benefit she donated the collection in 2009. Kirstin Sibley’s collection provides a fascinating view of the lives and lifestyle of a vibrant alternative youth culture of the 1980s in Sydney.
Kirsten writes about being a mod…
My interest in mod, and youth cultures in general, really stemmed from a love of ‘new wave’ music coming out of the UK and the associated fashions. I was never going to be part of Sydney beach culture being pale, freckly, quirky and un-athletic (my idea of torture was lying on a hot, sandy beach!) and I was instinctively drawn to the alternatives. I remember being avidly glued to Countdown in my mid teens, using an old-fashioned cassette player to tape the songs that took my fancy. In 1978 my family visited the UK and we spent a week in London, where I was intrigued and transfixed by the new wave and punk street fashions. After my return to Sydney I began to listen to JJ and buy singles at a number of record shops in the CBD – including Phantom Records and another in Town Hall station. I loved frequenting markets (Paddington and Balmain) and independent shops, including those in the Crystal Palace Arcade on George Street. I was in search of both vintage clothing (shoes and accessories from the 1920s to 1960s) and anything contemporary that was a bit different. I remember purchasing a pair of 1960s winkle-pickers (flat, white and sling-back) from Paddington Market and wore these with a tiny white print mini skirt covered in peppermint green and black scribbles. There were a number of bemused and disapproving looks when I wore the outfit on the Frenchs Forest bus home to Roseville!
I first became aware of the UK mod scene probably back in 1979 and in Sydney certainly from 1981 via articles in the press. Two girls in my year at North Sydney Girls, Sarah and Rebekah, had similar taste in music and it was through them that my interest in the Sydney mod scene developed. I also remember listening to a 2JJ program on mod music and being inspired by both contemporary UK bands and also more obscure 60s soul. While I first became involved in 1982 it was in 1983 that I really took it all much more seriously and as a result my friends at school nicknamed me ‘Kirsty-Mod’.
Life as a mod was a social whirl – gigs, nightclubs, scooter runs and shopping. There was always something on and somewhere to go. Life was fast-paced (fuelled by any number of stimulants – coffee, prescription amphetamines or speed) and terribly exciting, especially in my formative years. The weekend usually started on a Friday night at The Quarryman’s pub in Ultimo and often progressed from there to a gig (bands included The Reasons Why, The Go, The In Crowd and Rescue Squad). Social highlights included the Newtown Leagues Club Dayniter (Sept ’84), a trip to Melbourne (Easter ’85), seeing the Style Council play in August 1985 and watching Quadrophenia for the first time. On Saturday mornings I would frantically scour op shops and markets with the aim of finding a new outfit for that evening. My favourite was a grey silk suit made by Conte’s at 14 Kings Road in Newtown (double-breasted three-button jacket with a short straight skirt, which I wore with black and grey sling-backs). The ‘holy grail’ was a pair of Courreges-style white go-go boots (calf length and flat heeled) – alas it was only a number of years later that I eventually owned a pair, but only in black.
I moved out of home at 19, in 1984, into a rather run-down terrace in Gibbes Street, Newtown with two fellow mods. None of the floors or walls were perpendicular – our lounge sloped down towards the TV, which sat on a milk crate – and my father arranged for a friend to cut some doors to size so they would fit into the lop-sided frames. I remember I held my first mod party there. One of the neighbours was most upset afterwards as his lovingly-tended and mature marijuana plant had been stolen by one of our crowd.
I later moved to Ferndale Street Newtown where Ben, Michael and Fiona lived – another insalubrious address with green mould growing in the bathroom! I had a tiny bedroom – just a single mattress and a clothes rail. It was a mixed social group: working and middle classes; students (I think Ben was at Sydney College of the Arts at the time) and wage earners. Unfortunately at the time half of my records disappeared down to Melbourne, where one mod, who I now hear had a gambling problem, sold them to fund his habit (including my beloved picture-cover singles by the Purple Hearts and Secret Affair).
My last mod residence was on the corner of Station Street and Rawson Streets in Newtown. It was a large tumble-down Victorian mansion, affectionately known as ‘Mutant Manor’, with a vast number of bedrooms and a ‘secret’ tunnel running under the street. A group of younger mods, including Jane, Fiona and I lived there. It became unofficial ‘mod-central’ after the clubs or pubs had closed and random bodies would sometimes turn up in the small hours of the morning. We held a party there in January 1986 but I know at this point that I had moved on from a strictly mod style. While I still wore some 1960s outfits they were rather more flamboyant in style – embellished cocktail dresses with high-heeled winkle-pickers.
When Involvement Ceased?
My main involvement in the mod scene ended some time in 1986. I was beginning to find the ‘rules’ too restrictive, life too repetitive and had became interested in other music and fashions. I moved to Thomsen Street in Darlinghurst with a couple of friends, who had also moved on, and started dating Christopher who was a number of years older and was into the wider Sydney music scene.
I moved to London in 1990 and ultimately lost contact with most of the scene, although Don Hosie and I remained good friends. We went to a series of Hammond organ gigs at the Jazz Café in London in February 2000, bought John Smedley sweaters at Berk in the Burlington Arcade and visited Sherry’s clothing shop off Carnaby Street. It was great hanging out with someone so enthusiastic about all things ‘60s and I know Don really enjoyed the general resurgence in ‘mod’ style and music in London at the time.
What Sub-Cultures Involved In After Mod?
After moving away from the mod scene I was fleetingly involved with the rockabilly crowd. An ex-mod friend was going out with a Teddy Boy at the time and I went to a few gigs. However, while I did try and dress the part I wasn’t keen on the music, couldn’t jive and my heart wasn’t in it. It wasn’t a natural development for me and it felt too contrived jumping from one group scene to the next. To this end I have still maintained my interest in all things 60s and I guess the old mod scene had and still feels like a good ‘fit’ for my tastes and interests.
Rationale for Taking Photographs?
I recorded the mod scene from March 1984 until January 1986, just under two years. I had become interested in photography in my last couple of years at school and photographed friends for my final HSC art project (sometimes with a spattered paint back-drop a la The Face). Taking photos of the mod scene was partly an extension of this but there were other reasons. I was very shy and it was a way of getting involved without having to have a big personality or being one of the elite crowd. Recording the scene was also very much part of the mod ethos – we were very aware that we were doing something different and were incredibly conscious of how we presented ourselves. My photographs were circulated quite widely within the scene – I printed them myself (albeit awful technically!) and sold them at cost price to others. For a relatively small scene there was a proliferation of mod magazines and flyers which were illustrated with photographs of our group and also vintage images that fitted our style. I had always been an avid reader of magazines (including The Face and i-D) and at the time wanted to produce my own fanzine (I starting collecting mod ephemera and photos for this purpose) but unfortunately never got round to publishing. I had always collected from an early age – stamp, shell and rock collections – but this later developed into a love of magazines, books on pop culture and vintage fashion. Perhaps it was ultimately part of making sense of things – collecting, categorising and documenting my surroundings.
Read more about the Sydney Mod scene in the 80s in the Powerhouse Museum Collection.
Countdown, Simon Townsend’s ‘Wonder World’, JJ and then JJJ were all there in the early 80s when the English 2 Tone ska movement exploded onto Australian shores. They were the media outlets that introduced an exciting new music to me, an impressible young lad from Chester Hill. Madness hosted Countdown, the Js played The Specials and The English Beat, and in 1983 The Allniters, a Sydney-based band had a hit with ‘Montego Bay’. They also appeared on ‘Wonder World’ and were listed on the Countdown chart list.
My first taste of live music was circa 1983-4. Western Suburbs Rugby League club was broke, so a benefit gig at Lidcombe oval was organised with local groups like Rose Tattoo and The Angels. The Allniters weren’t so popular. They came onstage to a barrage of coins being thrown at them and were quickly hustled off again. When the band finally came back to face the crowd, frontman Brett Patterson picked up a handful of coins and said, “most money we’ve ever made” and then broke into the set. For weeks after on the train to and from school I watched as they pulled down the stage and cleaned up the mess. I asked for and got their album, ‘D-D-D Dance’ that Christmas, on tape of course.
The Allniters, Strange Tenants, Club Ska, The Leftovers, The Hangovers, Tenement Dance and in the late 80’s The Allsorts and Latenotes to name just a few, were all hard working ska bands. They were on the road playing not only popular city venues like The Sydney Cove Tavern and The Chevron Rock Room but travelling to the ‘burbs’ as well, places like Sefton Hotel, Chester Hill Hotel, Sweethearts Cabramatta, and Connections Penrith. This was very important as it brought the music to the masses in a time when train strikes were rampant. I remember circa 1986-7 a group of us were walking into a pub in Campbelltown where Naughty Rhythms were about to play. The place went dead silent, the Dj stopped playing and all eyes were on us (Rude Boys, Rude Girls) as we walked through the doors. The band came on and the singer announced before the first song, “Don’t worry guys the weirdos are alright…1, 2, 3, 4”.
The early Sydney ska scene opened my eyes to a much larger world. The sounds of a young Jamaica, the plight of black people in South Africa, left wing politics and Dj-ing. When on anti-apartheid marches in the 80s, we would be called ‘race traders’, often by guys that went to ska gigs. I still Dj and own/operate the ‘Intensified Soundsystem’ playing 60s Jamaican Ska. I’m a union rep and I still choose to wear my hair short, along with Harrington jackets, Ben Shermans and Doc Martins.
I’ve been trying to pin-point what it was about 80s ska that originally drew me in; the horns, the driving off beats, the pubs, the people, the beers, the clothes. But really it was knowing I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I make no apologies; I would never have made a good yob.
I still have the 80s records and, as we used to say (with total disregards for any copyright laws), “If you want I’ll make you up a mix tape”.
Speaker: Marc Rondeau.
Running time: 7 minutes
[0:08] For me, getting involved in the 50s or the rockabilly scene, I suppose, started from about the age of 10 years of age. I instantly liked the music that my mother had on 45, which included Elvis, Eddy Cochrane, Bill Haley, Jean Vincent, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, and for some reason I just instantly took a liking to that style of music.
[0:37] From there, I grew into a teenager still liking that style of music and then discovered this fantastic scene of 50s rock and roll or rockabilly. It just grew from there. The rockabilly scene here seemed to have a large influence from the UK, in particular. In the 80s, when cults were really at their peak… and really it started in London. A lot of guys and girls who would travel overseas for a little while would come back and bring back that style with them.
[1:12] It grew from there. And each city in Australia had its own rockabilly scene, that was big and fairly powerful and was an alternative to the lame‑ass music that was really around at the time. We use to go to places like the Leichhardt Hotel and go and see the Bobcats or the Wildcat Tamers, both great inner‑west bands that played some really, really good rockabilly music.
[1:41] Also we use to places in the early 80s called the All Nations Club and we’d see bands like the Mighty Guys who actually made it in the charts in Australia. In the mid 80s, we’d go to places like Orwells, up at Kings Cross that always had a regular night there. And of course the Lansdowne Hotel which was the rock house, or the jump and jive room.
[2:04] For quite a few years there, there was a guy called Rick Stone who ran the jump and jive room and we’d have rockabilly there, well, nearly five nights a week. It was probably one of the biggest clubs at the time. You’d always get around 400 to 500 people at these clubs, which would give it a really good vibe, a really good atmosphere. And of course with the 50s dancing, it just looked pretty spectacular on the dance floor.
[2:35] Obviously we’ve got our own specific style of dancing, and it’s jiving. Some people might call it old‑style dancing, but it’s not. What it is – it’s real dancing where you actually hold your partner, where you touch your partner and you dance in a way that’s visually pleasurable, and also entertaining and fun as well. Most people who get involved in the scene will learn how to dance and, it’s not difficult. It just takes a bit of practice. At a gig you’ll always have a packed dance floor. Always.
[3:12] In the early 80s, it really started off in the late 70s, I suppose, where a lot of the sub‑cultures like the Mods and the Rockers or the Teddy Boys and the Skinhead and the Punks and the Rude Boys, all sort of hung around the same sort of areas in the inner city, like the Sussex Hotel, or the Civic Hotel, or the Vulcan Hotel, or any of those sorts of places. You’d always get a mixture of the sub‑cultures. And there were always guys and girls that knew each other, and maybe get off into their own sort of scene.
[3:47] Even though there were some tough boys in the scene, for us it was for enjoyment; for us it was just fun. We’d go out there and get blind drunk. See a fantastic band and just have a ball until 5 o’clock in the morning.
[4:02] As far as the rockabilly scene is concerned, with the guys in particular I suppose, cars are a huge thing. Cars and motorbikes. You’re always after either an American 50s car, or a hotrod, or an old British bike, or an old Harley Davidson. In my lifetime, I’ve owned old Holdens, old Chevys. I’m in the middle of building a Cafe Racer motorbike, and they’re the sort of things that people gravitate towards. A lot of guys work on their own cars.
[4:36] That’s part of it, as well, you know? You build your own car, or you restore your own car, or you repair your own car, and that’s all part of the fun as well.
[4:47] The type of clothes that I first started getting into was ‑ I started hanging out with the Teddy Boys. And the Teddy Boys, I suppose, were the equivalent of the Skinheads of the 50s. They were tough kids, liked to drink, liked to party hard, liked to get into fights, liked to get into trouble. And we’d always wear drape jackets, and drain‑pipe pants, and brothel creeper shoes, and hang around the city, and usually get into some sort of trouble.
[5:17] As I grew older, I started to get involved more in the rockabilly side of things where the clothes were very American style. Boxed jackets, gabardine jackets, pegged pants, shirts that were original 1950s style, bowling type shirts, but also leather jackets, too, for the rockers. The outfit of mine on display is basically denim, with a cut‑off jacket over the top and some blue suede shoes.
[5:52] Now during the day, a lot of the Teddy Boys used to just wear denim. It was easy. It was cool‑looking and it was practical. You didn’t have to worry too much about getting dirty or looking after it. Night-times was a different thing though – at night-times you always wore your drape jacket and your good clothes.
[6:13] The girls in the rockabilly scene, or the women in the rockabilly scene, had their own particular styles. They weren’t just a handbag, they were part of the scene. They had the really cool 50s look. They had the great hair. They had the great clothes. We’re all looking for a partner I suppose, at one stage or another, and the girls are as well. They’re looking for a guy with greasy hair, maybe a tattoo, and a beaten‑up old car.
[6:44] And we’re looking for beautiful bombshell, or a girl with a really cute dress. They have their role, we have our role. I suppose it’s nature.
Speakers: Beccy Connell, Sara Wichall, Gary Hosie, Jonathon Browne and Kirstin Sibley
Running time: 9min
Beccy Connell: [0:08] It started in England in the early 1960s, I guess. A bunch of working class, mainly boys, I’ve got to say, who got into Jazz, modern Jazz, and hence the name ‘modernist’. And with that came the continental Italian look and so that idea of looking sharp and dressing to impress each other as opposed to going out to impress girls. And it just started from there. So they’d just be suburban kids, they’d hook up and then they’d come into the city and they’d have share houses, and then, you know, invariably would be the hangout and then more people would hook up. And there were, I guess, mod suburbs, like Newtown, there were a lot of mod houses. Glebe at some stages.
Sarah Wichall: [0:53] I came out from England and ended up at Maroubra Bay High, which is a predominately surf school. I remember walking into school the first day and being called a punk, which was a massive offensive word to call me, being a mod. So I got into a few scraps the first day at school. But they accepted me; they were interested into what it was all about… the whole clothing, the attitude – there is an attitude to being a mod down to what you would wear – 14 inch bottom trousers, inch above the ankles, Winkle Pickers, suits had to be four-button – it was very much attention to detail.
Sarah Wichall cont’d: [1:27] So I came out here and everyone was running around with zinc on their noses and swallowing bronzing tablets so they had a tan. And I came out from England this pale creature wearing Fred Perry’s, tartan mini skirt, Winkle Pickers and running around on scooters.
Jonathon Browne: [1:42] In Parramatta in the early 80s, it was sort of flannelette shirts and ugg boots and, you know – it was just so different to be wearing Winkle Pickers and five-inch side-vents, and three buttons, and one-inch lapels. Then I drifted to the city, it was like four of us, really. It was a huge mod scene in Parramatta. And we went, ‘You know what, we’re just getting the shit kicked out of us on a daily basis – let’s move to the city’. So we did.
Kristin Sibley: [2:05] I lived in various mod households and there was one in Newtown at the back of the performing arts school and one in Station Street, we called Mutant Manor. It was this huge Victorian pile with like six bedrooms. And people would just arrive on your doorstep at two or three in the morning whether you’d gone out or not and expect to kind of be let in and have a bit of a party there. There was Ferndale Street, and that was, yeah, a different crowd again, but there was various mod households and we just kind of partied a lot, yeah. [laughter]
Gary Hosie: [2:38] I guess it was based on pleasure. It wasn’t based on politics or poverty or, you know, like the whole punk think supposedly – economic, social – you know, sort of response. It was about having a good time, listening to good music, dressing up sharp. And to do those things, you effectively needed a job, so you needed to be relatively responsible. So we, in fact, had more freedom, because we could go from a pub to the swishiest bar at the Hilton Hotel without having to change our clothes. So we had total freedom.
Jonathon Browne: [3:12] Went to a pub called the Sussex, which sadly isn’t there any more. It was run by a woman called Stella Marinos, who was just the most amazing woman ever. She took me under her wing – because I was only 17 at the time – she knew I was too young to be in a pub. So it was just like, ‘Love, when the wallopers come around, just duck out the back’. Like, ‘Yeah, OK’.
Sarah Wichall: [3:33] The wonderful thing about Stella was, she would always look out for the kids, supported the bands going through, again, The Allniters were one, The Sets. We were just looking for our own little niche, but also I think it was a lot better of us being in there and looked after by her than out on the streets. She was a wonderful, wonderful lady.
Gary Hosie: [3:52] A lot of people that I’ve met over the years, since those early 80s mod days, have come up to me and talked about sort of the influence that, The Sets, my band, had on them, and how they still remember the lyrics of the songs to this day. Even though we never put out a record, and we never released the lyrics, they learned them singing along live.
Gary Hosie cont’d:[4:13] And those songs expressed how they felt, because we were mods and they were mods. My brother and I were not drug takers, we didn’t want the scene to be a drug-taking scene. We weren’t successful because in the end, drugs became a part of it and drugs ruined it. But, you know, for us, projecting that by being the example and singing about it in our songs was what we wanted to do. We wrote about what the mods were doing, and what had happened.
Kristin Sibley: [4:45] Thursday night was definitely out to the hip hop club. And out till four in the morning, then get up, go to work. I think I was working at DJ’s at the time. And, you know, get up, having had two hours of sleep. And Saturday was always get up as early as possible, go to Newtown, tour the op shops. And the markets, you know, Balmain Markets or Paddington Markets and try and find a fab new outfit. That was kind of the girls’ aim – was always new clothes, new clothes, you know.
Beccy Connell: [5:11] Cute little dresses… boots, go-go boots, ski pants and little Winkle Picker, Mary Jane shoes and things like that.
Sarah Wichall: [5:19] A lot of the time you would customise your own clothing. If you saw a particular check that you liked, or maybe you would just get the collar buttoned down if it was the correct length, so you’d just take it to a tailor, get it altered. The old 60s dresses, the girls used to like go out and hunt them down. The majority at the time, I mean we were always about a size eight or 10 back then, so you’d have to take it along to a seamstress and have to take it in for you, you’d adjust it. If the material was great, you’d make it the way you wanted it to be… Peter Pan collar, anything like that. So a lot of customising went on. A lot of customising, because you just had to find what was, initially, the ‘right kind of look’, but then adapt it so it would be ‘the look’.
Gary Hosie: [5:59] I mean, the suit was generally, it was a three-button suit with a three-inch lapel. Relatively short lapel, two buttons done up, third button not, quite often with flaps on the pockets, six-inch vents on the back. The leg was fairly narrow, although not necessarily absolute leg clingingly tight, but maybe about a 12-, 13-inch bottom.
Jonathon Browne: [6:25] For the first probably two years it was op shop stuff, until I’d had saved enough to get my first suit made and that was like something special. We used to wear brogues if we knew we were going to be in a fight that night. Particularly with the skinheads, who used to wear Doc Martens which is sort of like boxing gloves on your feet. Whereas brogues were sort of, harder, and could do more damage.
Beccy Connell: [6:49] Really heavy black eye makeup. Normally, no lipstick or if it is a lipstick, it’s just a pale, pale pink or a white lipstick – so it’s all about accentuating the eyes…. False eye lashes….
Sarah Wichall: [7:01] The more black and heavier the eyes, the better. Predominately black bobs, or you get a lot of girls coming in would have kiss curls down here and a bit of a bouffant at the back – which is a great look until you’ve got to stick a helmet on it, and then kind of like loses its effect, so to say. But they used to make helmets back in the 60s for the girls who had back-combs and they used to have a little bump above it. And, of course, you’d be able to get out and your hair would still look perfect.
Gary Hosie: [7:24] I’ve got a scooter to this day, which I ride to work all the time. And I think that, you know, you fall in love with them. You know? A scooter was designed so that a bloke could have his wife on the back. The panels are there to stop the dresses getting caught in the chain. To my way of thinking, they were perfectly designed for a couple to ride around on. You know? And I just love them. You know, I love looking at them… I love riding them – but they were not easy to find back in those days. You know, you had to seek out second-hand ones, and often get them restored. So, you had a passion for it – you had to. Because you had to find them, maintain them, learn how to start them when they wouldn’t start. You know? So, there’s a real love thing there, you know. They’re fantastic.
Beccy Connell: [8:16] Just love the look. I mean, I haven’t really shaken it off since I was, you know, 15. I like the way the boys look. You know, tall, skinny mod boy with tight, white Levis, hipsters and short crew cuts – Nothing better! I love the fashion, I love the history from that time. You know, and that’s looking back at it from a nostalgic point of view. I know that actually living it is a different thing, but you know? I just love it.
Featuring: Robyn Way, Michael Sarantos, Kylie McLaren and Michael Keating
Running time: 6 minutes
Robyn Way: [0:07] I got into heavy metal round about 1983, 84, I think. That would have been around the time that Iron Maiden toured with the Power Slave Tour. I remember, it was my first big heavy metal concert that I went, wow, this is fantastic. Previous to that I was probably more into punk and other things, but I kind of went into the metal scene round about then.
[0:30] The heavy metal subculture, to me, was all about music. That was why we were involved in it. It was identifying yourself through the music that you listened to. The bands that we enjoyed we would wear, like, shirts to identify ourselves as part of that subculture and as part of that whole metal scene.
Michael Sarrantos: [0:52] We were young. We were free thinkers. We were anti-religion. We were anti-establishment. We were anti-politics. We just wanted to do things on our own terms and we didn’t want to be told what to do. Plus the music was louder than everything else and it spoke to us. But turn about 17 or 18 I started joining bands and playing gigs and if I wasn’t playing a gig I’d be going to watch a friend’s band play or just going to see bands that we liked. And sometimes we would go and see two or three bands a night, depending on who was playing and where it was and stuff.
Robyn: [1:30] Heavy metal, to me, meant music. It was all about music, just music and the friends. Once I’d left school I moved to Sydney and through friends I did get a job in a record store in Sydney. Then through other connections did manage to meet a few favorite bands, either backstage or at certain parties. People like Bon Jovi, or Metallica, or DAD.
[1:58] Being a female in the very male-dominated subculture was actually quite good because you were one of the few females in a male-dominated subculture. And I think also because, you know, we were girls who were actually into the music, you know. There were a lot of girls there who just dressed up and looked great but weren’t really that into it. But we could actually hold our own in a conversation about what band was doing what and all that sort of thing.
[2:22] When I went to gigs, the dress style didn’t change, really, from what I wore day to day for work. Because you dressed for the music, it was all about the band t-shirts. Lots of black. Probably just layers, sort of tights and skirts and then the t-shirts. Lots of bracelets. Once I got into glam, so bracelets up to both elbows. Early 80s were white high tops, so you’d wear all black and then white high tops, which never made any sense, but then sort of yeah, black boots and black band t-shirts.
Michael: [2:58] Just black on black. Black jacket, metal t-shirt of your own choice. Black jeans, black runners. In those days the fans and the bands looked the same. Well, at least the thrash metal bands did, anyway.
Man 2: [3:14] I think everybody sort of looked the same, had the same kind of music, went to the same places. It was almost like a little tribe, I suppose. There was a tribal feel about it, I think. I sort of casually started listening I suppose in the late 70s. And then in the early 80s I think I discovered Iron Maiden and from then on I just sort of, well I’d always loved Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, things like that. So, I just got more and more into the scene, basically without even trying. I just sort of fell into it and a whole world opened up for me, I think.
[3:52] The glam rock scene in Sydney was probably a poor imitation of what it was like in LA. I think that kind of music, which I think had a lot to do with the AC/DC sound, back in the 70s, I think in Australia we kept that jeans and t-shirt, AC/DC image when it came to that kind of music. And even when I first started in the heavy metal scene, there was a bigger glam influence. Even I used to, my girlfriends and girls in particular used to dress me up a bit more as a glam rocker. Big boofy hair. But I always was more into a Black Sabbath look, I suppose.
Robyn: [4:40] The bands that brought it out of the underground were probably the new wave of British heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and those sorts of bands. You know, Ozzy and what he was doing and all those sort of bands that came out of England. But the glam metal bands definitely in the states made it big. Made it really big. Like you’d have number one albums and you’d have top 10 singles and MTV would have heavy metal glam bands on rotation and it became a lot more acceptable.
[5:08] I guess it depends on the sort of genre of the heavy metal, you know, the angrier people got into the death metal stuff, which was kind of later than the 80s anyway. But at the time in the 80s when it was all about the hair and the big glam, it was a lot of show off and oh check me out look at me sort of people involved in the whole thing.
Man 2: [5:27] I think with heavy metal, because the music was the most important part about the subculture, we really accepted anybody who felt the same way about the music as we did. So, it didn’t really matter what ethnic background or socio-economic strata you fit into as long as you liked the music and you were serious about the music, then you could go to a heavy metal concert and find a friend quite easily.