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The Big Beat—ask a librarian

The following Australian libraries have a copy of The Big Beat. Australian Capital Territory: National Library of Australia; National Film and Sound Archive; National Museum of…

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Whisky: ‘Whether or not it is Scotland’s oil, it is mostly not Scotland’s whisky’.

  No account of the Highland county of Moray would be complete without a mention of whisky. There are 49 operating malt whisky distilleries in…

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In Search of John Maclean—part 1

Scotland has had few men whose names Matter—or should matter—to intelligent people, But of these MacLean, next to Burns, was the greatest. —Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Krassivy,…

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Articles and posts

A selection of published and previously unpublished works

Brian Johnstone (1950-2015)

Eulogy delivered at Brian Johnstone’s funeral, 4 February 2015, Norwood, South Australia. My name is Donald Robertson and Brian was my friend. Our friendship went back nearly forty years and actually started less than a mile south of here, in Donegal St, Norwood. It was the late 70s. I’d come back from two and a half years in the U.K. with a rabid enthusiasm for punk rock and new wave

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Capricorn Dancing: JJJ’s 10th birthday

Goodness me—can it really be JJJ’s 40th birthday this coming weekend? And even more incredibly—is it really 30 years since its legendary 10th birthday concert on Sydney Harbour featuring the mighty Midnight Oil? I was there for Countdown Magazine and this was my report in the March 1985 edition. When Jay Jay Jay-FM turned ten on the nineteenth of January it was most appropriate that the focus of the celebrations

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Stiffs Greatest Stiffs Live

Just before I left the U.K. to return to Australia after two and a half years away, I was fortunate to catch this remarkable concert. The venue was Bath University, the date 7 October 1977 and it was the third date on the Stiffs Greatest Stiffs Live tour. This review was my second ever published article, in the Adelaide punk fanzine Street Fever (December 1977). Nick Lowe bounds on stage and

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Epitaph for a working class hero

It was mid afternoon on Tuesday 9 December 1980 when the news hit. John Lennon’s been shot. And killed. We were working on the December 1980—January 1981 edition of Roadrunner: Geoffrey Gifford, Richard Turner, Kate Monger and myself. In Geoffrey’s studio up the east end of Rundle Street in Adelaide. We stopped what we were doing of course. And just talked. And after a couple of hours I went home and wrote

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Sex Pistols at the Stowaway Club, Newport

My first published article. From Street Fever, the punk fanzine produced by Stuart Coupe and myself in Adelaide in December 1977. I was on a train from Darlington to Bath in 1976 when I first heard of the Sex Pistols. I had been away from England for six weeks working in Libya for a surveying company. I was on my way home after delivering some maps to head office. I

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Walking down the Road; Split Enz in the U.K. 1976

The first interview I ever did was with Tim Finn of Split Enz, in Bath, England in October 1976. I sent the piece to Nation Review, but never heard back. Thus it is published here for the first time. ‘Split Enz are on the road becoz travel broadens the mind’ blared the full-page ad in Sounds last week. ‘Surreal Maoris’ Hair Raising Tale’  ran the headline in New Musical Express.

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Exile on Lygon Street

School reunions can be awkward at the best of times. Imagine if at your reunion, the yearbook had been repackaged by a multi-national and was selling online and at retail, the public were invited, the venue was an iconic Carlton wine-bar and the prefects were up on stage being interviewed by a lanky, blonde-curled faux-hip DJ about  schooldays—’Ring, ring goes the bell/The cook’s in the lunchroom ready to sell’  and

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Roadrunner once

Around three years ago, David Nichols, a former writer at Australian Smash Hits, interviewed me on the phone for a book he was doing on that magazine. He asked about the rock mags I used to read growing up, how I got into the game and my impressions of Smash Hits. He was kind enough to send me a transcript to check, but ended up only using a small part. The

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Seasons of change: the Adelaide music scene in the 70s

Australia has always been an accurate mirror of the world’s music scene, reflecting and balancing US and UK trends and styles. As the most typical Australian city, Adelaide going into the 1970s provided a fascinating microcosm of the state of play in world music. The emergence of the rock album as an artform in its own right, a process started by the Beatles with Revolver and Rubber Soul in the

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