Last night in Melbourne one iconic music bar toasted another as Cherry Bar hosted the book launch of a tell all memoir about The Ballroom – the St Kilda venue that was birthplace to the Melbourne punk and posy punk scene. The author is none other than Dolores San Miguel, the legendary venue’s booker, and, man, did she see a thing or two. We’ve got a couple of exclusive excerpts from the tome for you here, but needless to say The Ballroom – The Melbourne Punk & Post Punk Scene is a must have for any true fan of Melbourne’s rock heritage. Read on…
In 1978, St Kilda was tough, rough and seedy but it had an edge — a promise of excitement. Music venues such as Bananas on the upper Esplanade (formerly Whiskey Au Go Go) catered to a mainstream crowd. The venue, when it opened, was barn-like and lacked atmosphere, so St Kilda was ripe and ready for a new venue — especially something avant-garde and alternative.
The culture of the inhabitants was changing and an artistic group was now moving into the beachside suburb alongside the junkies, prostitutes and drunks. The Seaview Hotel, although decrepit, exuded grandeur. The stately white building in Fitzroy Street soon became a magnet for a generation of musicians and artists — behind its walls brewed a humming beehive of creativity.
The alternative music scene in Melbourne was incestuous. Many of the musicians were from middle-class families, and many were studying together at art school or university. Everyone wanted to be, or was, in a band. The rebellious music paralleled a sexual frenzy — everyone was sleeping with everyone else. This was before we knew anything about HIV and AIDS, and venereal disease was never a worry. It was once again the age of consent, with experimentation in sex, drugs, music and art.
Our opening night was Saturday 5 August 1978, with only one band, JAB. It was to be their last performance. The following month I booked the debut gig of a band called the Little Cuties. Members included Nick Cave on organ/keys; Mick Harvey, drums; Vicki Bonet, lead vocals; Pierre Voltaire, guitar; and Rowland Howard and Genevieve McGuckin alternating bass and rhythm guitar. The Boys Next Door headlined and it was a sellout. The Little Cuties disintegrated almost immediately.
Of course, once the Models rose from the ashes of JAB and Teenage Radio Stars, the Boys Next Door had a run for their money and Bohdan became the ‘king’ of radio station 3RRR.
You can buy The Ballroom – The Melbourne Punk & Post Punk Scene online from Melbourne Books or in-store from all Readings Bookshops and all good independent record stores and for all international people you can buy from Amazon.
All the photos from the book launch at Cherry Bar here.