Labour of love produces a stunning legacy
BORED! THIS WAS GEELONG (Loco Mosquito)
Sometimes there are insufficient words of adequare to do justice to something and this is one of those times. Let’s be clear: If you’re a fan of underground Australian rock and roll from the 1980s and ‘90s, make it your life’s immediate priority to get a hold of this book.
It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a watershed in Australian music publishing. All 678 pages of it. Don’t be deterred by its singling out of Geelong as its geographical focus. The city on the western flank of Melbourne is its anchor - but its coverage and spirit extends far past its boundaries.
“Bored!” is many things but first and foremost it’s an outpouring of love for rock and roll by its creator, principal author and driving force Maree Robertson.
Maree – “Rock and Roll Maree” from the Brother Brick song – was a dear friend of the late Dave Thomas of key Geelong band Bored! Besides documenting the band’s rise and its creation of a scene from their mutual hometown of Geelong, Maree wanted to generate profits from book sales to help Dave’s family.
“Bored!” tells the story of one scene but touches on numerous others through generous use of big format, often stunning photos, and first-hand insights from participants who were there. You get to see and hear about the bands that grew up in and around Geelong and the ones that toured through there.
But let’s back up the ute a bit.
Geelong is a port city 65 kilometres west of Melbourne and was regarded as something as a
poor musical cousin to the state capital when the “Bored!” story had its beginnings in the late ‘60s. It’s a familiar start: Big working class town, little to do. Come 1977 and the passing visit of Sydney’s Radio Birdman who made an indelible mark on the handful of locals who saw them at the Eureka Hotel. Ron McPherson’s stunning photos capture the moment. Andrew Turner’s words reek of PTSD. One of the Radios shows spawned Australia’s first bootleg live album, “Eureka! Birdman” (aka "Where The Actioin Is" in some countries).
It’s apparent that as punk made its mark, the city struggled to establish itself as a landmark on the burgeoning Australian touring scene. Names like The Orphans and The Endangered Species are footnotes to all but locals, and despite the efforts of uber ‘60s rock fans like the late Dean Mittlehauser, it was only in the early ‘80s that the lights really came on.
“Gee-troit” is a clever title for the music that ensued and it’s a declaration that the local variant of rock and roll shunned the artsy underbelly of Melbourne in favour of appropriating as many of its riffs from Black Sabbath as from Birdman and the Stooges.
Geelong was sleaze rock, feedback, volume and commitment. It has a defiant face and an underbelly. It was many things but insular it was not. Dave Thomas went out of his way to welcome and put up touring bands from Sydney and other scenes, founding his own record label (Destroyer Records) and putting his city front-and-centre in Melburnian minds with his own band.
And that’s where the book really kicks things up a gear. Geelong bands like Poppin’ Mommas, Seaweed Goorillas, Behind The Magnolia Curtain, Spaghetti Westerns, Warped, The Dirty Lovers. Magic Dirt and The Bodies adopt out-of-towners like The Splatterheads, The Twenty Second Sect, Asteroid B612, Yes Men and Proton Energy Pills to the point where the lines blur between locals and visitors. Some of the most prominent coverage is devoted to Dark Carnival, Dead Moon and the Ramones.
Bored! (the band) is the constant thread, surviving overseas and domestic touring, adulation and denigration, line-up disintegration and re-constitution. Dip into any of the records and you’ll understand why they were important. Almost the perfect blend of metal, old school rock and roll and punk, they were stunning live. Dave Thomas was also one nice bloke and deserves a statue in his hometown.
Every scene has its pivotal moments. The 1990 loss of two members of The Dirty Lovers in a car crash is one of them. The departure of Tim Hemensley and John Nolan from a fraying Bored! line-up after their first European tour is another. Of course they’d form the explosive and dangerous Powder Monkeys with Timmy Jack Ray - and open a new chapter for the city that produced Barry Crocker.
The story of Geelong is as much about iconic record labels as the bands. Dave Laing’s Grown Up Wrong and Dog Meat labels were crucial in bridging the gap between Melbourne and its satellite city, providing an imprint for the best high energy acts that both places had to offer and the gap left by the decline of Sydney.
A sprinkling of zine and newspaper clippings, as well as Bored! tour diaries, add insight and grit. It’s not just a lavish picture book – the first-person accounts by participants, promoters, fans and friends are many and outstanding.
The first 500 copies came with reproduction laminates and inserts, as well as limited edition vinyl singles by Bored! and Seminal Rats/White Noise. Those seven-inchers are gone but you will receive a re-pressing of The Dirty Lovers’ four-song single.
There are hours of reading to be had. Revel in the fullness of the coverage and wish your own backyard received this sort of treatment. You can buy your copy here as well as a stack of merch. Remember, proceeds go to the family of Dave Thomas.