Tagged: Lubricated Goat

Champagne (music) television

Last year’s debut of The Set on ABC television – a house party style music variety show, with the tagline “live music has a new home” – was an attempt to plug a gaping hole in the national broadcaster’s programming: for a long time, live music had indeed lacked a home on our television screens.

The gap had grown so wide that it had generated its own nostalgia. We’ve had a TV mini-series on Countdown’s Ian “Molly” Meldrum, as well as Classic Countdown, and a recent documentary on the ABC’s late-’90s music television program Recovery (to go along with its reboot on YouTube, Recovered, with original hosts Dylan Lewis and Jane Gazzo).

As the Guardian takes a deep dive into the defining moments of Australian TV history – for better or worse – here are five from the glory days of local music programming. Please add your own favourites to the comments below – or nominate them in our poll.

#5: A water cooler moment: Madison Avenue at the 2000 ARIAS

Award shows are usually predictable affairs, and the ARIAs are no exception: little is left to chance and controversies – such as when Itch-E & Scratch-E’s Paul Mac thanked the dance duo’s ecstasy dealers in 1995 – often hit the cutting room floor before broadcast. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been the occasional WTF moment, and the strangest was Madison Avenue’s dance of the water glass at the 2000 awards.

Halfway through a medley of Everything You Need/Who The Hell Are You, Cheyne Coates gestured for some liquid refreshment. Before imbibing, she placed the glass directly in front of her, and she and her dance troupe continued to shimmy and shake. The camera, meanwhile, remained fixated on the glass. Buzzfeed has tried to paint this as some kind of unrequited love affair, but Coates eventually did get to take a sip, at 3.22.

#4: “The blues is number one!”: Jon Spencer destroys the Recovery set

The much-missed tonic for Saturday morning hangovers, Recovery added an extra element of risk in that musical performances were genuinely live, rather than mimed. Like Countdown, though, it was recorded early in the morning – a challenging time slot for any band, let alone a high-energy act like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who – in September 1997 – were themselves recovering from a show the night before, at the end of a long tour.

From the depths of exhaustion, Spencer went berserk: mics were thrown, props torn down, cameramen shoved aside, and host Dylan Lewis sat upon, before the singer waded into the audience as bandmates Judah Bauer and Russell Simins maintained maximum rock & roll behind him. If excitement was the sole criteria, the JSBX’s performance would top this list, as Spencer channelled the spirit of Little Richard and the young Elvis.

#3: “Shock, horror Aunty”: Lubricated Goat play In The Raw, in the raw

This was Australia’s Filth and the Fury moment. 11 years after the Sex Pistols’ expletive-flecked confrontation with Bill Grundy on the UK’s Today Show, Sydney noise-rock band Lubricated Goat’s nude performance of In The Raw on Blah Blah Blah – hosted by a young Andrew Denton, and aired on 2 November 1988 – fried the ABC switchboard, became front-page tabloid fodder, had national shock jocks foaming, and inspired its own documentary.

Blah Blah Blah was actually set up as a replacement for Countdown by that show’s former producer, Michael Shrimpton. It was an edgy late-night variety show for young people – “The Don Lane Show on acid”, in Denton’s words – and was designed to push the envelope. The theme of the episode on which Lubricated Goat appeared was censorship: the album Lubricated Goat were promoting at the time was titled Paddock Of Love.

#2: “Hiya Dogface!”: Iggy Pop fails to behave himself on Countdown

Countdown’s best and worst bits have been endlessly listed, repackaged and resold over the years, so there’s no need to go over them again. But Iggy Pop’s deranged appearance on the show in 1979 remains the best demonstration of how unpredictable it could occasionally be, depending on the intoxication levels of its guests or, occasionally, host Meldrum.

In a 2013 interview on The 7.30 Report, Iggy said his performance was “a pretty successful attempt to allude to the fact that I thought I was on a silly show, without being a grump … I could have gone out there and spat at the guy, but I didn’t do that.” Instead, viewers were treated to Iggy gurning, grinding his teeth and blowing raspberries, before terrorising the teenage audience with a microphone stand during a performance of I’m Bored.

#1 (with a bullet) “The honeymoon is OVER!”: Tex Perkins’ finger

Tex Perkins had every reason to be angry when he took the stage this New Year’s Eve for the ABC’s live broadcast. Back in November, he’d evacuated his family and animals in northern New South Wales as bushfires raged around them, and had begun to put together a benefit for the beleaguered NSW RFS. That was before the south-east corner of the state caught alight; before Scott Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii.

So Perkins dedicated the Cruel Sea’s biggest hit The Honeymoon Is Over to the prime minister, flipping the bird to Kirribilli. For his trouble, he was depicted as a drunk by Bill Leak’s less talented son Johannes in the Australian, raised the ire of regular ABC viewer Eric Abetz, and was absurdly accused of “giving the finger to middle Australia”. It’s unlikely the former frontman of groups like Thug, Toilet Duck and the mighty Beasts of Bourbon cared.

First published in the Guardian, 19 January 2020

(I want my) music on TV back

For two hours on Sunday night, it felt like a good proportion of Australia was gathered around a gigantic campfire. That campfire was burning on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, where Paul Kelly and his band were holding court – not just for the tens of thousands of people lucky enough to be there, but for hundreds of thousands more tuning in around the country, watching the ABC livestream and tweeting simultaneously.

Some say it’s rude to talk at gigs, but for me, watching from home, the excited chatter about what we were seeing added to the communal feel as #PaulKellyLive became the top-trending hashtag in the country. There was a collective awareness that we were witnessing a celebrated songwriter at the top of his game, and at a peak of popularity – at the age of 62, Kelly’s most recent album Life Is Fine was his first No. 1, a richly deserved success for a recording that’s up there with his best work.

Then someone said on Twitter: “We should have live music on the ABC every Sunday night.” Funny he should mention it: only two hours earlier, the ABC had screened its latest instalment of Classic Countdown, a restored best-of the vintage program which has also been a big hit for the national broadcaster. Cannily, it screened in Countdown’s original time slot of 6pm Sunday, adding to the nostalgia of a sizeable audience who grew up on the show between 1974 and 1987.

Of course, the music on Countdown wasn’t strictly live, and the warm glow of nostalgia helps us forget the reality: at the time, great Countdown moments (last night’s highlight was Divine performing You Think You’re A Man) could sometimes be a bit like finding diamonds in dog turds. Such moments, though, were miracles of Australian television that probably wouldn’t be allowed to happen today.

So it’s reasonable to ask why we don’t have a dedicated live music program, the endless parade of canned karaoke quests aside. If we did, perhaps we wouldn’t be wallowing in nostalgia for shows like Countdown and Recovery, at least not to the same degree. Australia has a rich history of music on television going back to TV Disc Jockey in 1957, which evolved into Australia’s version of the American program Bandstand.

In other words, Australia has had rock & roll on television pretty much as long as we’ve had both television (which launched in this country in 1956) and rock & roll.

After Bandstand, we had Six O’Clock Rock hosted by Johnny O’Keefe, The Go!! Show, GTK (Get To Know), and the Seven network’s Sounds, on to Rock Arena, SBS’s Rock Around the World (whose host Basia Bonkowski was the subject of a memorable tribute by Melbourne’s Painters & Dockers), Beatbox, The Noise, Studio 22 and Nomad – the show which introduced us to a trio of teenagers called Silverchair.

Variety shows gave priceless additional exposure to Australian artists. Even Hey Hey It’s Saturday had its moments: other than that time Iggy Pop greeted Molly Meldrum with “Hiya Dogface!” before terrorising innocent teenagers with a microphone stand, not even Countdown threw up anything to match TISM’s performance of Saturday Night Palsy, the like of which has not been seen before or since.

Perhaps that’s the problem. Even mimed performances on live television carried that tantalising possibility of a few minutes of anarchy. All it took was a performer, or group of performers, willing to break the format’s fourth wall and strip the carefully constructed reality of television away – at which point things perhaps got a bit too real for executive producers to handle.

Which brings me to the events of 2 November 1988.

On that evening, a Sydney noise-rock group called Lubricated Goat, led by one Stu Spasm, performed the lead track from their just-released album Paddock Of Love on Andrew Denton’s program Blah Blah Blah. The song was called In The Raw, and in the raw was exactly how the group played it – much to the horror of sensitive viewers who jammed the ABC switchboard, not to mention tabloid editors and talkback radio hosts.

Eleven years after punk, it was Australia’s version of “The filth and the fury” – that Daily Mirror headline that followed the Sex Pistols’ infamous appearance on Bill Grundy’s Today program in December 1976. Tim Bowden, the genial host of the ABC’s popular feedback program Backchat, responded to the moral panic by appearing shirtless behind his desk while reading outraged letters to Aunty aloud.

An ABC spokesperson told Guardian Australia the network hoped to build on the success of the AusMusic Month broadcasts: Paul Kelly last night and Crowded House last year. They said music programming, including live concerts, “is something we continue to be very committed to … the upcoming reorganisation of our content teams will provide more opportunities for our music and entertainment teams to work closely together”.

I hope they’re right. It has been far too long since live music was a regular part of our Sunday evenings, not to mention our Monday water-cooler discussions. Sure, it carries an element of risk – but as Paul Kelly showed, it has the potential for joy as well. And without the risks, we’d have none of those classic moments that we continue to celebrate today.

First published in The Guardian, 20 November 2017