No Night Sweats N o  N i g h t  S w e a t s No Night Sweats
Sydney's Post-Punk Bands
I Like Music
Slapp Happy are Terrific
A List of CDs

Text is What I Write

Crime Fiction is Silly
[ Sydney Post-Punk Memoirs ]

Phil Turnbull

Roger, Venues and Commonwealth Street 1979-81

I'm sure that The Thought Criminals bass player and huckster, Roger Grierson, never really liked Voigt/465's music that much but he understood that we filled a little niche that could be put to good use. He organized many terrific nights that combined punk, post-punk and noise, using the diversity of group sounds to pull in a bigger crowd and, almost incidentally, made the gigs more interesting. We played with a small pool of remarkable bands, augmented by the larger block of punks who were drawn into Roger's ever widening management circle. 

The best of these were Tactics, who's angular, screeching charm was sometimes hard to stomach but which was visceral and buoyant when played just right. At the very least, the words had a harsh, serious poetry that remained unmatched in all the bands of the time. We also played alongside a nascent SPK, all noise, sex and blood, whom we loathed on sight as intellectual tricksters even if Nihil was a nice enough guy. 

In some ways more importantly, Roger somehow talked people into opening up their venues for live music. Although the pubs and bars would only occasionally listen to him (The Thought Criminals had a short residency at the wonderful garden bar in the Native Rose at Chippendale), the best places, and those that had some longevity, were more communal than anything else: Garibaldi's was originally an Italian centre and restaurant near William Street in Darlinghurst and The Kirk Gallery was an art space in an old church building on busy Cleveland Street. In later years, the Surry Hills Parish Hall and the Darlinghurst hall that became SideFX served the same purpose. For a good year after Voigt/465 had played their last, frustrating gig at Chequers (another location opened out by Roger), these small, local halls remained the mainstay of our creativity. They were the places where many close friendships were started and a feeling of collective purpose was found.

When Voigt/465 collapsed most of us continued to drift with our newfound friends in music. We all lived quite close to each other in Surry Hills, Redfern, Newtown and Glebe but, eventually, it was two huge houses on Commonwealth Street that became the real focal point. Only a few streets away from Sydney's main rail terminus and in the midst of clothes industry sweatshops, these places were vast, six bedroom terraces that initially housed many more people than expected in laundry rooms and attics. The neighbours were rarely seen (apart from the occasional glimpse across the back fence of a duck drying on the washing line!) and, even though we used any immediately vacant room for loud band practises, and large, drunken parties seemed to happen almost every weekend, they never complained. These share houses would last well into the late 80's with a continuing swirl of like-minded individuals but, initially, they were populated by our immediate friends and the vast circle of people associated with Newcastle's Pel Mel who had moved down to the big smoke to make some sort of mark.

It was in these crowded rooms that Wild West, The Tame O'Mearas, The Goat That Went Om, You Peghead You and many other bands who never made it to the stage were formed, re-formed, laughed, experimented and recorded onto cheap portable cassette players for muddy listening into the future.

Selected Listening:

The Thought Criminals - I Won't Pay
Tactics - Standing By The Window
SPK - Contact
Pel Mel - No Word From China
Wild West - Picnic
The Tame O'Mearas - Curl Curl
The Goat That Went Om - Pirate Song

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