Home Oz Music Sunbury Festival Shows & Info Quiz Jukebox Slideshows Comments
 
Use these links to access Sunbury Music Festival related pages
                    

Video Clips From Various Sunbury Rock Festivals
This page includes a number of videos from various Sunbury Festival - just click on the image to play the video and then use the
controls to adjust the settings including a full screen option.
Click here to play the Sunbury Festival Matching Game


  Click here for Non-Flash versions of videos  

arielAriel
Sunbury '75
billy thorpeBilly Thorpe
- Be-Bop-A-Lula
Sunbury '73
Billy Thorpe - Be Bop Alula at Sunbury '72Billy Thorpe
- Be-Bop-A-Lula
Sunbury '72
Billy Thorpe - C.C. Rider at Sunbury '72Billy Thorpe
- C.C. Rider
Sunbury '72
Billy Thorpe - Interview at Sunbury '72Billy Thorpe
- Interview
Sunbury '72
Billy Thorpe - Most People I Know at Sunbury '72Billy Thorpe
- Most People I Know
Sunbury '72
Billy Thorpe - Movie Queen  at Sunbury '73Billy Thorpe
- Movie Queen
Sunbury '73
Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs - Oop Poo Pah Doo at Sunbury '72 (2)Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
- Oop Poo Pah Doo
Sunbury '72
Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs - Oop Poo Pah Doo at Sunbury '72Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
- Oop Poo Pah Doo (2)
Sunbury '72
Carson <br>- Boogie <br> Sunbury '73Carson
- Boogie
Sunbury '73
Chain and Warren Morgan - Sunny Day at Sunbury '72Chain and Warren Morgan
- Sunny Day
Sunbury '72
Coloured Balls - Help Me at Sunbury '73Coloured Balls
- Help Me
Sunbury '73
Coloured Balls - Johnny B. Goode at Sunbury '73Coloured Balls
- Johnny B. Goode
Sunbury '73
Greg Quill and Country Radio - Never Goin' Back (To Nashville)Greg Quill & Country Radio
- Never Goin' Back (To Nashville)
Sunbury '73
Greg Quill and Country Radio - WintersongGreg Quill & Country Radio
- Wintersong
Sunbury '73
Johnny O'Keefe <br>- Johnny B. Goode<br>Sunbury '73Johnny O'Keefe
- Johnny B. Goode
Sunbury '73
Johnny O'Keefe <br>- She's My Baby<br>Sunbury '73Johnny O'Keefe
- She's My Baby
Sunbury '73
Johnny O'Keefe <br>- Sing (And Tell The Blues So Long)<br>Sunbury '73Johnny O'Keefe
- Sing (And Tell The Blues So Long)
Sunbury '73
La De Das <br>Sunbury '75 <br>(just a nippet)La De Das
Sunbury '75
(just a nippet)
Lobby Loyde and The Wild Cherries - Mama Loves Rock 'n' Roll at Sunbury '72Lobby Loyde & The Wild Cherries
- Mama Loves Rock 'n' Roll
Sunbury '72
Madder Lake <br>Sunbury '75 <br>(just a nippet)Madder Lake
Sunbury '75
(just a nippet)
Max Merritt - Get Back Home at Sunbury '72Max Merritt
- Get Back Home
Sunbury '72
Max Merritt - Let It Slide at Sunbury '72Max Merritt
- Let It Slide
Sunbury '72
Max Merritt - Try A Little Tenderness at Sunbury '72Max Merritt
- Try A Little Tenderness
Sunbury '72
Michael Turner In Session - Sunbury  '73Michael Turner In Session
- Sunbury '73
Michael Turner In Session at Sunbury '72Michael Turner In Session
Sunbury '72
Mississippi - Kings Of The World at Sunbury '73Mississippi
- Kings Of The World
Sunbury '73
Phil Manning - City Life at Sunbury '72Phil Manning
- City Life
Sunbury '72
Pirana - Sunbury Shuffle at Sunbury '72Pirana
- Sunbury Shuffle
Sunbury '72
Ross Ryan <br>- American Pie <br>Sunbury '73Ross Ryan
- American Pie
Sunbury '73
SCRA - I Just Want To Make Love To You at Sunbury '73SCRA
- I Just Want To Make Love To You
Sunbury '73
skyhooksSkyhooks
Sunbury '75
(just a snippet)
Skyhooks with Steve Hill On Vocals (Sunbury '74)Skyhooks
with Steve Hill On Vocals (Sunbury '74)
Spectrum <br>Sunbury '73Spectrum
Sunbury '73
Arrival at Sunbury '72Arrival at Sunbury '72 Crowd Interviews <br>Sunbury '72Crowd Interviews
Sunbury '72
Deep Purple - Stormbringer  at Sunbury '75Deep Purple
- Stormbringer
Sunbury '75
Fun In the River <br>Sunbury '72Fun In the River
Sunbury '72
General Crowd <br>Scenes Sunbury '72General Crowd Scenes
Sunbury '72
Getting High <br>Sunbury '72Getting High
Sunbury '72
Going Home <br>Sunbury '72Going Home
Sunbury '72
interviews and raritiesInterviews and Rarities john fowler interviewJohn Fowler Interview
Sunbury '73
Molly Meldrum Recalls The Summer When Sunbury RockedMolly Meldrum Recalls The Summer When Sunbury Rocked reminiscencesReminiscences sunbury 72 - rock me babySunbury '72
with "Rock Me Baby" Soundtrack
The Sunbury Music Festival 72Sunbury '72
Report
  Sunbury '73<br> Complete DocumentarySunbury '73
Complete Documentary
Sunbury '73 Footage.Sunbury '73
Footage
Sunbury 1974 ReportSunbury '74
Report
SUNBURY ROCK FESTIVAL 1975 Australia feat. Deep PurpleSunbury '75 Report
Featuring Deep Purple
The Wizard's first attempt at flying <br>Sunbury Rock Festival, 1971The Wizard's First Attempt at Flying
Sunbury '72
the fauves - tribute to sunburyThe Fauves
- Tribute to Sunbury
Toilet Man Interview <br>Sunbury '72Toilet Man Interview
Sunbury '72
Rock 'n' Roll In The Sun - Remembering The Sunbury FestivalsRock 'n' Roll In The Sun
- Remembering The Sunbury Festivals
 

Festival Information

Sunbury Music Festival 1972

Sunbury Music Festival 1973

Sunbury Music Festival 1974

Sunbury Music Festival 1975

29 January to 31 January

27 January to 29 January

25 January to 28 January

25 January to 27 January

Ticket Cost:
$6.00 (3 days)
$5.00 (2 days)
$1.00 (1 day)

Ticket Cost:
$8.00 (3 days)
$7.00 (2 days)
$5.00 (1 day)

Ticket Cost:
$12.00 (3 days)
$10.00 (2 days)
$5.00 (1 day)

Ticket Cost:
$20

Attendance:
Estimated as 35,000 - 40,000

Attendance:
Estimated 25,000 - 30,000

Attendance:
Estimated at 30,000

Attendance:
Estimated at 14,000 to 16,000

MC:
Gerry Humphreys

MC:
Paul Hogan - "That's not a festival... Now this is a festival!"

MC:
Jim Keays

MC:
Unknown

Festival Line Up:

Atlas
Island
Blackfeather
The Bushwackers & Bullockys Bush Band
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
Glenn Cardier
Carson
Chain
Company Caine
Friends
Healing Force
The La De Das
MacKenzie Theory
Phil Manning
Max Merritt and the Meteors
Barry McCaskill & The Levi Smith Clefs
Pilgrimage
Pirana
Wendy Saddington
SCRA
Spectrum
Tamam Shud
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
Total Fire Band
The Wild Cherries
Greg Quill & Country Radio
Highway
Indelible Murtceps
The La De Das
Mulga Bill's Bicycle Band
Ida May Mack
Langford Lever
Michael Turner In Session
Opus Big Band (Featuring Linda George)
 

Festival Line Up:

Bakery
Band Of Light
Glenn Cardier
Carson
Coloured Balls
Chain
Country Radio
The Flying Circus
Friends
Healing Force
MacKenzie Theory
Madder Lake
Max Merritt & The Meteors
Johnny O'Keefe
Sid Rumpo
Matt Taylor
The 69'ers
Dutch Tilders
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
Blackfeather
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
Indelible Murtceps
Mighty Mouse
Mulga Bill's Bicycle Band
Spirit featuring the Staehely Brothers
Spectrum
Linda George
Mississippi (backed by a full orchestra)
Hot Dog
John Graham & Blackspur
Margaret Roadknight
Albatross
Headband
Kush
Langford Lever
Issy Dy
Ross Ryan

 

Festival Line Up:

Atlas
Blackfeather
Francis Butler's 69-ers
Skyhooks
The Dingoes
Kush
Buster Brown
Chain
Madder Lake
MacKenzie Theory
Ayers Rock
Sid Rumpo
Ross Ryan
Daddy Cool
Queen (UK)
Ballet Victoria
Commonwealth Youth in Concert
Mississippi
Skylight
Linda George
Sherbert
Band of Light
Pirana
Home
Upp
Matt Taylor
Lobby Loyde & The Coloured Balls
La De Das
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
Ariel
Glenn Cardier
Richard Clapton
John Graham & Blackspur
Buster Brown
Full Moon
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band

Note: a second performing stage was added to the Sunbury festival in 1974 to include "alternative" performances such as jazz recitals, theatre, dance, mime, poetry and acoustic music.

 

Festival Line Up:

Stage 1:

Deep Purple (UK)
AC/DC (did not play)
Ariel
Ayers Rock
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
Daddy Cool
The Dingoes
Renée Geyer & Sanctuary
The Keystone Angels
The La De Das
Kush
Madder Lake
Ross Ryan
Sherbet
Skyhooks
Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs
Chain
Jim Keays
Buster Brown
Denise Drysdale
Issy Dye
Linda George
Hot City Bump Band
Phil Manning
Ova
Panther
Red House Roll Band
Rock Granite
Greg Seddon
Shadow Fax
Stuart & McKay
Matt Taylor
Upp

Stage 2:

Alan Lee Jazz Quartet
Sam Angelico
Ballet Victoria
Benjamin Hugg
Brian Brown Quartet
Foreday Riders
Mike & Colin George
Merrilyn Lambert
New Harlem Jazz Band
Pelaco Brothers
Pram Factory
The Rankin Brothers
Red Onion Jazz Band
Resolution
Rod Freeman-Smith & Mandango
Mike Silver
Stuart & McKay
West Creek

Sunbury Trivia

The site of Sunbury Music Festival was so much closer to Diggers Rest that many patrons who travelled by train to the festivals would get off at Diggers Rest station. Assumedly, the "Diggers Rest Pop Festival" just didn’t have the same zing to it.

The theme of Sunbury Music Festival played a large part of the TV series, Altogether Now, which featured Jon English as a former rock star who clung to his glory days as one of the performers at Sunbury.

While the inaugural concert of 1972 is widely touted as being an all-Australian event, many of the performers actually hailed from New Zealand. But as we do, we’ll turn a blind eye to that and claim them as our own, especially Thorpie.

A fight between the road crews and management of Madder Lake and Queen may have been behind the urban legend. "The issue revolved around Queen refusing to go on at their allotted time because the light wasn't right - I remember it was sundown, so whoever went on stage wouldn't get the full benefit of their light show. It came down to a battle between management, which then spilled into a fracas between the roadies of our respective bands, as each crew jostled to set gear up. The MC (or some other promoter) goaded the crowd into an us and them vibe, with the local band in favour over the unknown "pommie bastards". It ended with us going on stage first, and Queen redeeming themselves to the crowd and showing a hint of what they were to become. And that is how I remember it."
- Kerry McKenna, Bass Player Madder Lake.

The 1974 Sunbury Festival essentially gave us the band Skyhooks as we know them today. Their original members that performed that year included Steve Hill who was lead singer of the band. Booed off the stage at that year’s festival, Hill later watched a recording of their performance and was so morose about the event that he quit the band, paving the way for Graham "Shirley" Strachan who led the band when they returned to the  ‘75 festival where they were a huge success providing one of the highlights of the final festival.

Among the tributes that have since been made to Sunbury Music Festival, the Fauves recorded a song in 1998 called "Sunbury 97" on their LP Lazy Highways. The lyrics include the lines, “There's the tree where mum & dad conceived me… Do you believe that I'm a child of Sunbury '73?” Chris Wilson also recorded a track Sunbury '73 on his 1998 album The Long Weekend, that reminisces about a road trip south from Sydney to attend the concert.

Australia Post issued a stamp that commemorated the Sunbury festival as part of their series, Australian Rock Posters - The Stamps. A 50c stamp, it featured the poster artwork of the first festival in 1972. The advance publicity for the Victorian festival was so great that only one word – Sunbury – was necessary for the poster. The design by John Retska was influenced by mod art of the mid-sixties.

Festival History & Overview
(Taken from the MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975 website)

1972:

For better or worse, Sunbury '72 is now widely regarded as the archetypal Aussie rock festival, and is often referred to as "our Woodstock". It is significant because of the time, the place and the performers, but also because it was virtually the only festival of the period to make a healthy profit and the only one that, at least for a few years, became an annual event.

The famous performance by Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs has come to symbolise the spirit of the festival and the raw energy of Aussie '70s rock. While Thorpie has become a handy and widely recognised audio-visual symbol, there are unfortunately few who would now know or remember the many other fine acts who performed, which is a great pity because if nothing else, Sunbury '72 certainly brought together some of Australia's best talent, presenting two dozen of the best Australiasian bands of that era over three hot summer days.

It should also be acknowledged that many of the "Australian" musicians who performed at Sunbury '72 originally came from other countries; The Aztecs represent this quite well, since the band at that time consisted of an English migrant (Thorpie), a New Zealander (former La De Das keyboard player Bruce Howard) and two Aussies (drummer Gil Matthews and bassist Paul Wheeler). Many of the performers at Sunbury '72 were in fact New Zealanders.

Sunbury '72 also exemplifies the male domination of the popular music scene at that time -- although photographs indicate that the audience seems to have been fairly evenly split in gender terms, almost all the performers were male. Wendy Saddington was the only female headliner on the bill, and only one other band, Mackenzie Theory, featured a female member (violist Cleis Pearce).

The festival was organised in late 1971, when a company called Odessa Promotions was formed in Melbourne. Its principals were, according to Adrian Rawlins, "industry people" from the Melbourne television scene, including several TV floor managers and directors; it is likely that several had worked on Melbourne pop TV like Uptight. The principal of the company was John Fowler.

By this stage, five other major festivals had already been mounted, and the oft-repeated claim that Sunbury was Australia's first rock festival is quite untrue. Unfortunately, none of these earlier festivals was financially successful. Undeterred, Odessa Promotions organised and promoted a major rock festival with an all-Australasian line-up, although it's important to note that we don't know for sure whether this was a deliberate decision (or one merely dictated by financing) or whether or not Odessa considered bringing in overseas acts (or not).

The evidence suggests that Sunbury's success was a mixture of good luck and good timing, rather than careful planning and good organisation. Like Woodstock, Sunbury almost didn't take place -- when they began looking for a site, the organisers discovered that few landowners were willing to allow their property to be used for a three-day rock festival that would attract tens of thousands. Fortunately, the festival was saved by a local landowner who offered Odessa the use of part of his property at Glencoe, just outside the township of Sunbury, about 35 km north-west of the city. The farmer, Mr George Duncan, was reportedly motivated to make the offer because he "believed in young people".

Predictably there was apprehension about the event and many locals opposed. According to an area history published in 1975, the Bulla Shire Council (now Hume City) were against the event, but didn't have the power to stop it because it was on private land. Many local farmers were reportedly concerned about drugs and worried about potential risks of vandalism, disturbance to their stock and fire. However, Mr Duncan subsequently reported that farmers expressed to him their relief at how well the event had gone. Bouncers from a Melbourne martial arts school provided security

Sunbury township is situated where two minor creeks enter Jackson's Creek, which later enters the Maribyrnong River at Sydenham. The Sunbury area has a long history of white occupation, having been settled within seven months of the first settlement of Melbourne by Batman and Fawkner in September, 1835.

The festival was held in late summer over the three days of the annual Australia Day long weekend at the end of January, 1972, and therefore the same time as most other festivals in this period. The line-up included some of the biggest names of the day, with bands coming from Sydney and Melbourne, and Max Merritt making his much-anticipated return from the UK specially for the event. Because the site was close to the smaller township of Digger Rest, many patrons travelled to Sunbury by train, alighting at Diggers Rest railway station, which is shown in the Sunbury documentary.

Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs' famous performance is often cited as the highlight of the festival and it was certainly the true "coming out party" for the new 'hard rock' version of The Aztecs. Thorpe had put the new band together in late 1969 and over the next two years they slogged their way to the top with a welter of barnstorming, ear-splitting performances up and down the east coast. Their Sunbury triumph -- which included the first public performance of Thorpie's theme song "Most People I Know" -- spawned a Top 5 album, Aztecs Live! at Sunbury and their fans' rallying-cry -- "Suck more piss!" -- became indelibly associated with the event.

Although Thorpie's set (like Sunbury itself) is accorded iconic status, there were other significant highlights. Max Merritt & The Meteors, making the first visit home since leaving for England in 1970, were also a big hit with the audience and turned in one of the festival's best performances. Sydney-based Latin rock band Pirana gave a rousing and well-received performance, as did The La De Das. As well as music performances there were a number of craft workshops, which were an important part of the festival experience.

The site chosen was excellent in some respects -- it was a natural amphitheatre surrounded by hills, on the banks of Jackson's Creek, whose waters provided welcome relief from the scorching summer heat. However, in common with many other local festivals, the conditions for patrons were pretty primitive -- services were rudimentary at best and the toilet facilities were, as usual, hopelessly inadequate. The only thing that seems to have been available in abundance was beer, and the Sunbury crowd was notable for its rowdy, alcohol-fuelled character.

Considering Sunbury's oft-cited centrality in OzRock history, one would expect to find a wealth of information about it, but while it is often talked about, there is very little detailed information to be found on the internet or in print. Most sources list only a handful of the acts that performed there, and to our knowledge no-one has ever compiled a comprehensive listing of who performed there and the days and times that they played. Attendance figures also vary wildly -- most sources give a figure of approximately 35,000, but some claim it to be as high as 45,000.

Opinions vary greatly about Sunbury's significance. Most commentators claim that it was a turning point in Australian rock, a symbolic coming-of-age for youth culture, and the birthplace of the pub-rock scene. These theses have been prosecuted by rock historian Ian McFarlane and the writers of Long Way To The Top, among others. As a result, the assertion that Sunbury was a defining moment in Australian music history has been accepted virtually without question, and without reference to any other evidence, and much of the information about it remains unconfirmed and anecdotal. As far as we know, no-one as yet has undertaken the tasks of recording a comprehensive oral history that includes performers, organisers and patrons.

Much is made of the fact that the bill at Sunbury was all-Australian but this claim is typical of the chauvinism that pervades Australian rock history. As noted above, many who performed at Sunbury -- like Max Merritt, Mike Rudd and The La De Das -- were relatively recent arrivals from New Zealand. A line-up comprising all local acts was a good thing, of course, but it is often forgotten that several other festivals had already been staged with all-local line-ups, beginning with the "Pilgrimage For Pop" festival at Ourimbah in early 1970. Another important consideration is that the claims about Sunbury's "All Australian" character are accepted without question, and it remains to be proven whether this was a deliberate decision by the organisers or whether they settled for an all-local bill because there were unable to secure the services of overseas acts.

It is particularly interesting to note that another major festival was being staged south of Adelaide at exactly the same time as Sunbury, yet this is almost never discussed in reference to Sunbury, simply because there was, until recently, almost no information about it. The Meadows Technicolour Fair drew almost 30,000 people, and featured a strong line-up of Australian acts, including many who performed at Sunbury, then headed west to Meadows. It also featured three overseas acts -- Mary Hopkin, Tom Paxton and Edison Lighthouse -- although only one (Hopkin) could be considered a major star by 1972 standards, and it can certainly be argued that the presence of these performers was not of major importance to the Meadows' overall success or failure.

The crowd size is often cited to back up the Sunbury legend, yet this figure varies by as much as 10,000 people, depending which source you consult. Sunbury did attract a very large crowd, of course, but it was only a few thousand more than Meadows and it was far smaller than other outdoor concerts of preceding years. The Seekers, for example, still hold the record for the largest concert crowd ever in Australia -- over 200,000 people -- for their Moomba concert at the Myer Music Bowl back in 1967. Two years later, another Moomba concert starring The Masters Apprentices drew almost as many people.

It is also worth remembering that the Meadows festival was being held a long way from the east coast capitals and that the nearest capital city, Adelaide, was significantly smaller in size than either Sydney or Melbourne. Therefore it is remarkable that it was able to draw almost as many people as Sunbury, but this achievement is supposedly negated by the presence of the overseas performers.

In my opinion, the only truly meaningful differences between the two events were that (A) Sunbury was filmed and recorded, whereas Meadows was not, and (B) Sunbury made a profit, whereas Meadows evidently did not.

In the long run, Sunbury became the festival that everyone talked and wrote about, and in the video age it has made for easy 'soundbite' material because there are ample audio-visual resources available. Meadows, on the other hand, has been virtually forgotten -- I consider myself pretty well-informed about the history of Australian popular music of this period, but I had never heard of the Meadows festival until it was brought to my attention by Terry Stacey. Notably, it is not mentioned in Adrian Rawlins' monograph on rock festivals, which is a key source on this subject and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this one major reason why Meadows has been forgotten.

Many were unimpressed by Sunbury. Some commentators see it as a kind of "death knell" for the underground scene of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Interviewed for the ABC's Long Way To The Top, promoter Michael Chugg recounted that he found the festival scene so unbearable that he went straight back to Melbourne.

Tamam Shud's Lindsay Bjerre was also underwhelmed: - "I really thought it was going to be like a Woodstock. All through the concert the crowd was going "we want Billy!"

Chain guitarist Phil Manning, interviewed by The Age in 2003, was scathing in his assessment: - "It was a time when the hippie thing was declining and the drunken afternoons of too much beer, sun and basic rock developed. The music went from being experimental to being just moronic entertainment for yobbos."


The Sunbury Legacy

As Melbourne's suburban sprawl has spread out into what were previously rural areas, the Sunbury area continues to be 'developed'. The Hume Council statement on the heritage significance notes that recent subdivision has removed public access to most of the former festival site. This has evidently led to the removal of much of the remains of the site after the last festival.

The Sunbury site is now held to be of national heritage significance. The Hume Council statement about the site states that it is "considered to represent the coming of age of Australia's rock industry". It also claims that Sunbury "launched the Mushroom label which became Australia's most important rock music record company". The article goes on to suggest that:

"The site commemorate the event which was Australia's major celebration of the new youth culture -- it's music, easygoing lifestyle and vaguely counter-cultural notions -- as well as the associated growth of youth oriented consumerism and mass media"
 

  1973:

Sunbury '72 was widely touted as the beginning of a new era, and Sunbury '73 consolidated the festival's success. However it also marked a changing of the guard, with a number of notable bands -- Carson, Country Radio, Friends, Healing Force -- all splitting for good in the months following their Sunbury appearances. It was also the final Australian performance by Flying Circus, who had already been in Canada for some time. They returned specially for the festival, but were coolly received, and returned to Canada immediately after Sunbury, where they remained until they split some years later.

The Aztecs headlined again, reprising their huge success of the previous year and Max Merritt & The Meteors again returned from the UK to perform. One of the surprise hits of the festival was rock'n'roll legend Johnny O'Keefe; he was cheekily introduced as a "newcomer" by MC Paul Hogan, but despite an initially derisory reception, he won the crowd over and by the end of his set, as Ian McFarlane notes, he "had the audience of hippies eating out of the palm of his hand".

"Sunbury 1972 was the first, but the 1973 festival is often remembered as the best. It has a place in our music history, just like the vintage clips of the Easybeats performing 'Friday On My Mind' and AC/DC travelling down Melbourne city streets on the back of a tray truck while belting out 'It's A Long Way To The Top'."
- Steve Waldon, The Age

Like Sunbury '72, the performances were taped, made on a mobile multi-track facility; it is presumed that some film or video footage was made but it is not known how much of that (if any) still exists. The sound recordings were edited to become the inaugural release for the newly established Mushroom Records label, founded by Michael Gudinski and Ray Evans. With commendable hubris, it was the first Australian triple-album set ever released. A limited edition six-track EP was also released and this is now very rare and commands high prices on the collector's market.

The fine performance by Carson (which would prove to be their last major concert appearance) was also released by EMI as the On The Air LP; this has long been out of print but it is scheduled for re-release on CD by Aztec Music. The other major recording culled from the festival was the extended early-morning jam session between The Aztecs, Lobby Loyde's Coloured Balls and Leo De Castro, which was released on the Havoc LP Summer Jam. This has recently been reissued on CD by Aztec Music.

 

1974:

By 1974 Sunbury was well on its way to becoming an institution. This year -- possibly influenced by the widely publicised Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in NSW -- a second performing stage was added to include alternative performances such as jazz recitals, theatre, dance, mime, poetry and acoustic music. Odessa Promotions also reportedly spent several thousand dollars improving basic facilities at the festival site, including much-needed upgrades to showers and toilets. Reports indicate that parts of the 1974 festival were videotaped or filmed that that some of the events were televised, but it is not known how much of this footage, if any, has survived. 

The best known events of Sunbury '74 were the sets by UK band Queen and Melbourne band Skyhooks, and unfortunately both bands were given a hostile reception. The most notorious incident of the festival involved British band Queen, who had been brought out especially to perform there and played on the Saturday. They were famously booed off the stage at the end of their performance. When asked about the event by Milesago, Madder Lake singer Mick Fettes offered the view that the crowd were so much against Queen as they were impatient to see Madder Lake, who were the next band on. 

According to one source, there was some incitement from the the announcer, who came on just after Queen had performed and asked the crowd: "D'you want anymore from these pommie bastards or do ya want an Aussie rock band?" Queen quit the stage to boos and calls of `go back to Pommyland, ya pooftahs!' but Freddie Mercury bravely responded by prophetically declaring "When we come back to Australia, Queen will be the biggest band in the world!" -- and when they returned in 1976 they were indeed one of the hottest acts on the planet.

The original incarnation of Skyhooks also fared badly with the crowd. They were also booed off the stage and lead singer Steve Hill subsequently quit the group, reputedly after watching the video replay of his performance; he was replaced by Graham "Shirley" Strahan. By the time the 'new' Skyhooks played at Sunbury '75 they were the hottest new band in Australia and their set that year was widely acknowledged as the highlight of the festival.

The Dingoes made their only Sunbury appearance this year, having just completed the recording of the debut album. This marked the third time that lead singer Broderick Smith had played Sunbury, as he had performed at both previous festivals with his former band, Carson. It was also the second Sunbury for Kerryn Tolhurst and John Bois, who had performed there in '73 with Country Radio.

Another very notable appearance was that by Daddy Cool, who reunited specially for the event. The band had agreed to play at Sunbury primarily as a means of clearing some outstanding debts, but they were received so warmly by the crowd that the band decided to reform. Sunbury '74 was also the second and last appearance for Mackenzie Theory, who broke up later when Rob Mackenzie and Cleis Pearce went overseas.

The festival was comprehensively recorded; Mushroom culled a two-volume set released later in the year, and both Blackfeather and the 69-ers also released live albums from the tapes (issued on Infinity). The Mushroom recordings were subsequently combined with selections from the 1973 set for the 2-CD compilation Highlights of Sunbury 1973 and 1974, released on Gudinski's Liberation Blue label. This somewhat inferior set includes several scratchy tracks obviously lifted from vinyl sources, and reproduced without noise reduction.

 

1975:

The previous three Sunbury festivals had been very successful, but the fourth -- which, as it turned out, was the last -- was beset by problems that brought the Sunbury era to a grinding halt. It rained throughout the festival weekend and only 16,000 people turned up. Although they raised the entry fee to a whacking $20 -- more than three times the cost of a 3-day pass for the '72 event and nearly double that of the previous year -- the organisers, Odessa Promotions, lost heavily on the event and the company went into liquidation immediately after the festival.

Apart from the low turnout, the major cost that scuttled Odessa was the importation of leading British heavy rock band Deep Purple, who were paid a whopping $60,000 fee for their exclusive performance. Because of the financial problems, none of the local bands were paid except Jim Keays, who had wisely arranged an outside sponsor for the performance of his concept album Boy From The Stars. Adding insult to injury, members of AC/DC, their roadies, and producer George Young got into a altercation with Deep Purple's roadies, who refused to allow AC/DC to go on after Deep Purple. In the end AC/DC went home without performing.

Sources indicate that the two big hit acts of the last Sunbury were The Keystone Angels (soon to become The Angels), who received a standing ovation, and the band who were arguably the hottest in the land at that time, Skyhooks. Despite being ignominiously booed off in '74, the group returned in triumph, fronted by  new lead singer Graham "Shirley" Strahan. With two hit singles and a monster hit LP under their belts -- which was by then on the way to becoming the biggest selling album in Australian music history -- their set proved to be "the explosion point" of Sunbury '75. Rolling Stone described it as "arguably quite the best set, Deep Purple included", while The Age said, "At the end of their performance, it appeared from the stage that the whole valley had gone mad." On the strength of this performance, and against strong competition, Michael Gudinski took over the management of the group.

The liquidation of Odessa Promotions did not mark the end of the Sunbury saga -- the legal battle over the collapse of the company continued long after the festival, with the Musicians Union fighting to reclaim the lost payments due to the Australian acts who performed. Unfortunately, the equity court initially ruled that the musicians were to be paid 1c in the dollar, providing they could prove they were employees of Odessa, but a Victorian court subsequently ruled that the bands were self-employed, making them ineligible for any compensation from Odessa's assets. 

However, the Musicians Union had demanded that Deep Purple pay part of their fee to the Union in advance. Under the laws then in effect, any foreign person or persons who might cause "industrial unrest" could be refused permission to enter Australia, and the Musicians Union made strong representations to the Minister for Labour & Immigration that the proposed Deep Purple visit could lead to "considerable unrest". They also passed their concerns on to Deep Purple, who not surprisingly agreed to pay a sum to the Union in advance -- not surprising, since had this not been done, the tour "would undoubtedly have been cancelled". As a result, the money Deep Purple deposited with the Union was paid out to Musicians Union members, and each was reportedly to receive the full musician's rate, their minimum legal requirement.

 

Proposed payments for Sunbury '75 acts

Click on image for larger version


 Return to Top