Tuesday, July 30, 2013

42) A Punk's Night Out in Auz.


                                The Divinyls.  
Politics and rebellion were not the only things that motivated Arthur’s soul, music also propelled him forward, without it he wouldn’t want to keep living. He’d been like this since his early youth, first Ray Charles, then Sam Cooke, James Brown and Otis Redding capturing his heart as a boy in the '50s/60s. From the ‘Sixties to the early ‘Seventies he shook his booty to "The Rolling Stones", "The Easybeats", "Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs", "Lobby LLoyd", "Wild Strawberries", "Python Lee Jackson", "Tully", "Purple Hearts", "The Chain", "Wendy Saddington", "Jeff St.John", "The Kinks" "The Who" and ""The Yardbirds".


Okay, not Punk, but some of the Aussie bands were inspiration for the Grunge that was to come, like Kurt Cobain getting off on Lobby LLoyd. Artie danced to most of these Aussie bands at clubs such as "Biting Eye", "The Catcher" and "The Thumping Tum" in Melbourne, (he was 17 in 1967 and 27 in 1977 when he washed up in Sydney.)


In Australia of the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties rock music was a virtual religion for him, he sacrificed his youth on the altar of electric euphoria, chasing his favorite musicians from one end of New South Wales to the other, bands like “Died Pretty”, “Hunters and Collectors”, “Dragon”, “XL Capris”, “The Saints”, “The Angels”, “Box the Jesuit”, “The Nerve”, “Monroe’s Fur” and “Lubricated Goat”. But of them all, his biggest lust was for "The Divinyls", Chrissie Amphlet turning him on as no other woman ever could, he swirled his head and a fountain of joy spouted from his crown every time he danced with her and Mark McInty’s scintillating performance upon the stage. Musicians and he went together like honey and oats, like sex and love, they exploded at gigs like powder kegs, and sometimes he did the graphix to light the fuse.

When Punk hit Sydney in 1976/77 it had already blown itself out in London, like a hot wind, but in the antipodes it still smacked of the fresh breath of rebellion. With an irreverent iconoclasm towards the status quo Punks had the middle-classes wincing upon their comfortable sofas. Photos of the Queen with a safety pin through her nose declaring, “God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being”, at first horrified Arthur who was still hung up on the pseudo-love of the ‘Sixties peaceniks and he berated every Punk he met for their negative, violent approach to existence. But he was an Aussie Republican and soon saw the value of demystifying royalty, he resented the Queen as distant ruler of Australia, plus what quickly swung him over to Punks' bad-arse attitude was their radically declasse, eye-clashing dress code, the subversive satire underpinning their outrageous promo imagery and the raw, explosive music, the Sex Pistols providing the knock-out punch. (The British connection with Auz was strong so it was Brit Punk Rock Artie fell for, the Americans such as The Stooges, Iggy Pop, Ramones, Patti Smith et al came later in his musical thrill addiction.)



As much as Punk was kind of a counter-cultural evolution from the Hippies of the 'Sixties, both sub-cults eschewing Straight Society's ethos of "obey, work, breed, consume, die", the 'flower children' were relegated to the stale, old has-been closet by Punks, deemed a failure for Utopian wanking on about dreams for the perfect, harmonious world. Hard drugs, hard cops, the cruel Vietnam war and the class-structure of nasty politics and even nastier religio-maniacs, Christian war-mongers and satanic murderers, all  killed off the idealism of the alternative life-stylers, and sullied the innocence of 'Sixties pacifiers, many of the unwary reduced to drug zombies, whores or thieves to get their highs, communes only satisfactory for the brave, hardy few.

Consumerism and money-power were the ruling ethos of the 'Seventies, the true God rampaging across the planet, and the Beast had to be tackled on its own ground, in the city ghettos, and somehow tamed, or spat upon, but sadly it was the Punks who ended up being tamed. The Beast always seems to win as everybody is conned into selling out, Money Rules. The Punk cult got co-opted by middle-class fashionistas and wankers from art school like Malcolm McLaren, but actually was created on the streets by true innovators like Johnny Rotten and his fellow disaffected, unemployed youth wailing from their crumbling housing estates, eager to "do it yourself" with black plastic garbage bags and garage bands. 

Arthur fell for the culture of Punk, the look, the art, the music, and he took on the philosophy, seeing anarchism as an alternative political system to the exploitative high capitalist world that had dehumanised him. The Punks in general, Rotten included, seemed  to just want to put the finger to a straight-laced, class bound society that was relegating working class youth to the trash-heap. Being outlandish and disrespecting the sacredness of private property was their M.O. If asked about his own punkness he would openly admit it was his "gayness" that led to his disaffection with the world. 

"Punk" in Auz for him didn't mean a history of its origins, that it first erupted in Brisbane with the Saints single "Stranded", or in Melbourne according to a documentary by Dickie Lowerstain. Even an art-school wanker in Sydney boasts he started Punk in the early '70s with a few paintings, the laughable egotist. Arthur didn't give a shit about where it first took  off, The Stooges in New York actually being the first to make music that was rough, raw and challenging, the Auz style, such as AC/DC carrying on the torch from those wild '60s bands such as Lobby Lloyd was in. His "punk's night out" was about a street fag running for his electric-music cosmic fuck.



To Arthur it seemed they had a nihilistic heart that actually wanted the world destroyed so as to begin again. Nothing was sacred and to the dispossessed, cracked youth there seemed no future, the fleeting moment had to be torn apart and sucked dry, for you were dead at thirty. If poverty didn’t kill you then there was always the promise of nuclear war, global pandemic disease or environmental collapse to bump you off before your time, (mostly it ended up being gang warfare, car crashes or drug overdoses that did the young in early.) A complacent world of middle-class consumers was greeted with a punk snarl and a kick to the guts from an avant-garde wearing black fish-net T-shirts and torn, red-tartan pants. And for most of these alienated youth there WAS "no future", they remained slaves, breeders, consumers with limited potential, horizons and educations. The Beast, Mammon, the System steamrolled over everyone like Satan on ICE.


Art by Stu Spasm.
 Always with an eye to where the most fun was to be had, Arthur caught the Punk fever, grabbing his chance to start afresh, forge a new identity and be a clown if he had to, anything to shine as an artist amid the pedestrian crowd. It was at a Punk party one night in Darlingurst that he overheard a gang of drunken teenagers raving in the kitchen, one telling the others that some day he would be the most famous musician in Australia, indeed he would be a household name.

Arthur mused upon this idea, a household name was what he needed to push his art and have people take notice, otherwise he’d get forgotten in the rush. It had to be distinctly Australian and open for salacious, satirical triple-entendres. Being an information-junkie, he watched a lot of T.V. and had noticed a repetitive add for a famous Australian-made breakfast cereal. The announcer slurred his voice seductively when proselytizing the brand-name so that an 'S' became a 'Z', the penultimate letter for rebellion and sarcasm, as in Zorro, Zapata, Zippie the Pinhead, the Z list and Z-grade movies. Thus Arthur sowed his wild oats and got high on the Z factor with his show-biz name, Toby Zoates, the Punk Poofy Cat, with endless commercials in all media extolling his nutritious virtues, while on the boob tube nubile youths swallowed meusli bars whole with phallic relish. The drunk teenager in the kitchen went on to become Danny Tumour, lead guitarist for one of Australia’s hottest ‘Nineties rock bands, “The Cruel Pee”.

Those were the days when every street corner seemed to have a live music club on it and Sydney truly rocked. Some of the most exhilarating, heart-throbbing nights of Arthur’s life were spent in the seedy, punk-music clubs. He saw Nick Cave perform as a teenager in his band 'Boys Next Door' at “Rags” in the C.B.D. , Cold Chisel's  first Sydney gig at “Frenchs' Tavern” up in Darlinghurst,  Secret Secret at "The Rock Garden" on William Street, The Hunters and Collectors at the “Trade Union Club” in Surry Hills, Mu Mesons at the "Annandale Pub" and The Cure at "The Bondi Tram” in Bondi Junction. At “Sellinas” in the Coogee Bay Hotel he heard all the best bands the world could offer, The Butthole Surfers, The Cramps, Ministry, Primus, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Iggy pop, so many he's now forgotten, his fore-brain having blown a fuse due to an overload of electricity.


French’s Tavern on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst was the baddest of venues, painted black, grungy, open till three in the morning, a bar upstairs, the band-room below a steep flight of stairs that many of us fell down in our blind inebriation. Like the Piccolo CafĂ© on Kings Cross, when there was nowhere else to go there was always French’s to find shelter from the stormy city, with music, a drink and punks to keep you company. They had a giant fat bouncer named Ray, quite a gruff fellow for he had to handle mobs of unruly drunk youths and he eyeballed everybody closely as they went in to figure out if they might be the type to cause trouble but he never once gave Arthur a hard time.
Artie often wondered how such an overweight guy could deal with any really tough company and sure enough there came the night he got stabbed by some brainless redneck. All the punters went into shock at the news, yet thankfully Ray quickly recovered and bounced back for many a year. He died in the Noughties an old beaten man, little realizing he would become a legend in rock’n’roll gig folklore.

Urban Guerillas at the Grand Hotel 1978.
He jumped to the Divinyls many times but their best gig, at which he experienced a meltdown, was maybe at “The Tivoli” on George Street in Sydney’s heart, Chrissie Amphlet was at the peak of her genius and Artie was able to get real close to her growling soprano, whirling dervish, naughty school-girl Scottish fling. (Did he remember wrong or was it The Divinyls first ever public gig at The Trade Union Club in the early '80s where he got his nuts in a twist at their awesome promise of future pop-rock conquest; he danced till his head hit the ceiling and must've surprised Chrissie no end at who the fool was jumping about like a maniac. But dancing punters are what get bands off or that's what Arthur always hoped.)

The Trade Union was the other fun club, behind Central station, up a steep flight of stairs, two floors of bars and bands, where he saw so many great bands but he guessed most memorable was the night Bo Didley played and Arthur was with his horrible girlfriend, Sylvia Saliva; she had the ill manners to throw a beer can at the blues maestro and call him an old fart. The bouncers jumped her, twisted her arm to breaking point and dragged her down the stairs and flung her onto Fovaux Street, to be run over by the traffic. 

He saw Midnight Soil at the “Stage-door Tavern” and hated them, the back-up band were cool but he'd seen epileptics perform better than the lead singer, the bald Christian, no bad boy of rock, more like a politician growing wings in a cocoon who went on to find fame in the heart of pollie gronkland as a Labor Party Minister, getting a bad name for himself as a sell-out on the Kooris and environmental issues. But at the original, ultimate Punk pubs, “The Grand” at Central Railway and The Civic up the road in Pitt St., he truly got lobotomized by The Rejex, Urban Guerillas, Suicide Squad, Bedhogs, The Kelpies and Soggy Porridge, teenage garage bands that went nowhere except into Sydney Punk mythology and Artie's electro-heart. 

Artie himself hired Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls for a benefit gig for Radio Skidrow at The Graphic Arts Club. Then there were all the pubs that had live music, The Annandale, The Bald Stag at Leichhardt, The Sandringham at Newtown, The Lord Roberts in Darlinghurst, The Piccadilly Hotel, Kardomah Cafe and The Manzil Room on Kings Cross, and the Lansdowne off Broadway, Max's Inn at Petersham, many more his brain too boggled to recall,  all venues where Arthur wrestled in mosh pits getting a blood nose or a black eye from his exertions, laughing in intense euphoria, he felt life’s fun couldn’t be any better.

Box the Jesuit.
 In Dionyssian furor he grappled and slam-danced with packs of electricity-maddened youths in front of riotous, thrashing garage-bands with sexy names like ‘Johnny Dole and the Scabs’, ‘The Thought Criminals’, ‘The Slug-fuckers’, ‘The Hard Ons’, ‘Candy Harlots’, 'The Craven Fops', ‘The Lipstick Killers’, 'The Celibate Rifles', 'The Plug Uglies' and 'Kiss My Poodle's Donkey'. 

Such was the renaissance in music bursting from Sydney's seams Arthur has forgotten many of the tidal wave of bands so he asks for their forgiveness if he has left many of them out in this reminiscing, his brain getting wiped several times from acid, pot, ecstasy and general anesthetic from surgery after getting bashed up or car-crashed up. Bands such as INXS, Radiators, Pel Mel, Mi Sex, Ayers Rock, Hudu Gurus, Madroom, Tsk Tsk Tsk, Psycho-surgeons, Feedtime, Kamikaze Kids, Ragadoll, The The, The Reels, The Church, No Fixed Address, The Choir Boys, Iced Vo-vos, Nunbait, Jimmy and the Boys, Wendy and the Rocketts, The Dirty Three and one of his most smashing favorites, that rocked his orgasm, Regurgitator, from Brisbane!


Some of the bands he first saw in this town of tough titties went on to get international renown, like ‘AC/DC’ at the Haymarket, ‘Severed Heads’at the Phoenician Club, ‘Nick Cave and the Birthday Party’ at the Cell-block Theatre and ‘SPK’ at Sydney University. The jumping crowds were made delirious by guitar-static searing the eardrums and thrilling the brain, setting afire nerve-endings so that the dancer got stomped into atoms on the dance-floor, then snatched back up by a brotherly hand and thrown around in the meat-grinder music for yet more joyful bruising.

A lot has been written about this music scene in Sydney of the '70s and '80s from the point of view of the musicians themselves, such as in Bob Blunt's 2001 fanzine book "Blunt". While Artie put on a lot of gigs around the city, designed the posters and flyers for them and showed his grungy movies at them, in the main he was merely a punter, a die-hard fan and this is what he would always stress in a rave about the "scene", he was a rock'n'roll addict. The bands that were his especial favorites, who he chased around to all the hot clubs, were Urban Guerillas, Died Pretty, Secret Secret, XL Capris, The Scientists, X, Thug, Tactics, Monroe's Fur, Box the Jesuit and Lubricated Goat, many of them became his friends and he would never forget the electric orgasms they gave him, as well as the art jobs.


Frenchs' Tavern, BADDEST of Rock Venues.
He hung around the meanest of venues praying for a musical jolt, as if he were an addict for electric shock treatment, dressed clownishly like a punk Zippie the Pinhead on acid and making no bones about the fact that he was gay. In 1978 Arthur was twenty-eight, ten years older than most of the crowd at the rock clubs and the nastiest of the punks harassed him mercilessly for his difference, forever spitting in his face, bashing him up in the mosh-pit, trampling him into the dance-floor. But he stuck to his enthusiasm, grappled with the best of them and shoved any over-excited ruffians on their arse, po-going on their heads if they didn’t let up. 

He enraged the ignorant mob further by responding to their sneers with the information that the original meaning of the term “punk” was jail-house slang for someone who took it up the arse. He rarely met any 'gays' in the "rock'n'roll scene", homophobia ruled; he was never closeted about his sexuality and copped lots of shit for it, often barred from 'straight' pubs, excluded from inner circles, wiped from the record. For all the liberal lip-service, especially nowadays, back then fags just weren't liked, it was a supreme Het, macho scene, but he didn't give a shit, he was a warrior and he demanded respect by his very nerve.

                     Hunters and Collectors.

It was while he was making his documentary film, “My Survival as a Deviant”, that Arthur finally got accepted into the Punk fold. He was interviewing raucous Punks outside their club, “Rags” on Goulbourn Street when a gang of rednecks from the Bee-Gees "Saturday Night Fever" Discotheque next door attacked them out of the blue, beating up any neon spike-haired Punks they could lay their hands on. Most of the brave, tough Punks ran back into their club, leaving one little fellow in his black-leather jacket, the very one who spat in Arthur’s face the most, to be massacred by the “staying alive” disco-brutes. 

Without thinking about it, Arthur put down his Super-eight camera and rushed over to the mob of arse-holes who were beating the kid into the gutter, jumping upon their backs and throwing punches indiscriminately, flailing about in a fury so that the rednecks backed off, stunned by his Tasmanian Devil-like presence. The Punk kid was able to extract himself from their clutches and escape with Arthur back to “Rags” where he cursed his fellows for their cowardice and announced that poofy, old Arthur was the only guy with guts in the whole crowd. Arthur had finally made it as a Punk.


The Trade Union Club.
He threw himself whole-heartedly into the Punk sub-cult, organizing gigs with Punk bands to raise money for nefarious projects, promoting it all with crass pamphlets. He wall-papered the city with his scurrilous, incandescent posters and screened his garage-movies at any Punk venue he could crash, doing a bad stand-up comedy routine between the acts if an M.C. was called for. He made offensive animated films and walked in and out of the projections singing a cracked diatribe against a society that had buggered him mercilessly, much to the sullen surprise of the assembled teenage Punks. 

He bleached his hair white and gelled it into horns on either side of his bald head and painted his face to look like Freddy Kreuger in drag, and he stepped on toes and got on nerves everywhere he went, even when he didn’t mean to. He was mad for his art, a fool for his times, a tawdry street-punk for his troubles and while he basked in his infamy, he didn’t give a shit what anybody thought. A wild life was all about shining as a character, not being a limp dish-rag.


He would run seven hundred miles for a hot, chaotic electric-music show, dash his brains against his own skull head-banging up a white-light orgasm to match the band’s ecstatic musical smash-up, the keening mob swaying, seething, jumping, pulsating like a monstrous blob of mindless protoplasm with a thousand squirming limbs. He rarely had money for the entrance fee to these gigs but as a die-hard Punk he figured "where there was a craving there was a hole in the wall" and no venue was able to keep him out, he would find the unlocked back-door, the tear in the cyclone fence or the design for the door pass and forge a copy. 

Thus he rocked to all the great bands from ‘Radio Birdman' in a pool-room on Oxford Street to ‘The Divinyls’ at a wet T-shirt Bar in Ballina on the North Coast, from ‘The Angels’ at a football stadium in outer-suburbia to MX War Headz at the Tin Sheds Poster Workshop, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Roundhouse, NSW Uni. to Laughing Clowns at The Trade Union Club, from “Box the Jesuit” at the Mandolin Cinema with soft porn movies in the background to “Monroe’s Fur” naked at the Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills. And believe it or not, he gave Tex Perkins his first gold-top mushroom and then they all went to The Evil Star Pub in Surry Hills tripping and jumped in a frenzy to Beasts of Bourbon. (Now that Tex is famous he might possibly deny it, but Artie couldn't give a fuck, they were all young and reckless then, now they're all old and fucked up.)

He literally hit the ceiling again tripping on Goldtop mushrooms with Johnny Lydon and ‘Public Image’ at the old Tivoli Nightclub on George Street and he's sure Johnny appreciated his manic dancing, at one point in the gig The Punk Master asked him how he liked it and Artie could only respond by blowing in his pants. Artie also got his twat pumped orgasmic at the anarchic gigs in various Sydney Squats, “The Dri-Horrors” at Pyrmont Squats, “The Nerve” at Jelly Headz Garage in Chippendale and “Lubricated Goat” and "Thug" at the Gunnery Squat in Woolloomoolloo, the ultimate in grunge venues.
XL Capris.
 Then there were the concerts in the forecourt of the Opera House, the last of which put a stop to any more due to the riot that ensued among the rock gronks from the Sydney hinterland. They threw beer cans at Doc Nielson of Angels fame and sweetheart Jon English, no god love him, who announced in the daily terror the next day that THEY should surround future concerts with barb-wired fences and have them patrolled by armed police. To thrashing guitars, shrieking  and drums bouncing off the white-tiled sails the mob went wild and kicked the shit out of the hot-dog stands, frankfurter sausages raining down upon the roiling rockers.

It’s a miracle Arthur came out of the Sydney Punk scene with his sanity intact as he experienced too many delirious, frenzied romps to electrified guitars, crashing drums and amplified, melodic screaming. Some people lived for football or poker machines, Arthur lived for rock’n’roll music no matter its evolution, chasing it as one of the great contemporary arts, alongside of film and literature.

Moshing in the pit with the electrified punters was a hazardous sport, Arthur occasionally getting bruises all over from all the violent, abandoned dancing. Fights often broke out in the writhing crowd, a girlfriend poached or a head stepped upon, and the band would bang on, punches landing on the beat, the fighting a fitting part of the wild, Punk dance movement. Punks were notoriously violent, as if their pleasure and pain wires had been crossed, they were the second wave of the Beat Generation and they loved nothing better than to have the shit beaten out of them to thrashing Punk music. 

At a Punk gig, Side F/X, in the old Marist Brother’s School turned squat in Darlinghurst, a boy standing next to Arthur had a beer bottle broken over his head while innocently listening to his favorite thrash music. For years afterwards Arthur heard the echo of the piercing shriek of pain and betrayal the poor lad let off as the glass shattered resoundingly upon his skull. 

                                            Died Pretty.
On another night, leaving yet another scene of musical electrocution, he must’ve given the sleazy eyeball to a Punk loitering in the street, for the drunken bastard unexpectedly jumped on him and wrestled him to the ground where they rolled for several minutes in a veritable fight to the death. Cars cruised past with yobs hanging out the window yelling, “Give it to the cunt!” while Arthur was being throttled in the gutter. The rabid Punk took pleasure in biting, scratching and trying to gouge his eyes out and Arthur had to call forth the last ounce of his strength to beat the lout off and stagger to his feet. Still the idiot clung to him, punching and tearing at his flesh, declaring he wanted to kill all poofters and would only be satisfied with Arthur’s total annihilation.

Arthur gave the prick the hardest kick in the nuts he had ever given anyone but the goon was so drunk he didn’t feel a thing and kept lurching forward to shred Arthur’s flesh again. Artie gave him a second swift boot, straight to the crotch, which caused the fool to halt for a second, allowing Artie to run for his very life, drunk Punks just too hard to knock out. As Arthur retreated he snickered with the small consolation that surely in the morning that little fucker’s balls would be black and blue. Like the rest of humanity, sometimes Punks were out and out arse-holes and Punk gigs an insult to one’s intelligence.

Lubricated Goat, best Grunge Band of the '80s.
The worst Punk gig for violence he ever attended was at another glorious squat, Alpha House up on King Street, Newtown, one of those lawless, Utopian spaces where one was free to run amok. A bad-arse Punk band called ‘X’ was playing in the basement of the old apartment block and the crowd was bouncing, eager and cool. Arthur was up the back and digging the scene when he noticed a gang of razor-faced Skinheads snake their way into the carefree, distracted audience. Suddenly he found himself surrounded by the bastards, the cold glint of murder in their eyes and he tried maneuvering himself out of their reach. 

Breaking into a cold sweat, he watched them focus upon a wimpy, new-wave type guy, hair nicely coiffed and dressed in the latest trend, blithely enjoying the volatile music. Like sharks on a feeding frenzy they rushed in for the attack, beating the poor fellow to a bloody pulp, his screams engulfed by the cacophonous music, other bystanders looking away, praying they wouldn’t be next.

There were too many united, murderous neo-Nazis for any one brave lad to take on and no one had enough friends there to back them up if they were willing to fight back. The band ‘X’ crashed and wailed, ignorant of the horror unfolding up the back of the gig. Perhaps if someone had of informed them, the show would’ve been stopped and the sadists crushed, for the band was gutsy enough and could’ve united the crowd to retaliate. But chaos is chaos, the show roared on and it was every Punk for his/her self, survival the key note rather than community action.

Arthur heard flesh rend and bones crack, blood gushed and the victim screamed for help and everyone struggled to get away, pushing back into the unwitting crowd or into the dark recesses of the squat, hoping to escape the targeting eyes of the Skin-heads. Leaving the boy unconscious on the floor they looked around for more easy prey and their piggy eyes narrowed on Arthur. He saw them coming, sly smiles on their cadaverous faces and his skin pricked as they formed a circle around him, lolling about as if they were just jolly punters out on a harmless lark.



Arthur was no fool, he knew he had been marked as the next sacrificial lamb, emanating homo sapience as he did. The ring of bloodthirsty fiends grew tight around him, their callous smiles chilling, he could see the claws bared, the sharp teeth flashing and his eyes darted about looking for any crack he could squeeze through. The band erupted in a crashing crescendo, grabbing the attention of the pack of white-trash cannibals for a moment, and Arthur saw a space open up between two of the thugs. He sprinted into their midst and, before they could grab him, ducked under their arms and out and away into the crowd, pushing and shoving in a maddened fright, feeling their foul breath rancid upon the back of his neck. 

Other witnesses at the back were also struggling to find refuge in the darkness for the Skinhead devils were now lashing out ferociously at anyone within reach. Arthur grappled his way through the bleating music-lovers, the band ‘X’ screeching like a choir in Hell down the front, the cacophony punctuated by the sounds of soft flesh yielding and stifled moans whimpering up the back of the dark, grotty room.

He tumbled through a shadowy doorway and up a dirty corridor, other terrified Punks scrambling past him, all of them looking for a corner to hide in, the monolithic squat crouching down upon them like a gigantic poisonous toad, providing no succor. Every wavering shadow looked like a drooling Skinhead and Arthur willed himself to be the Invisible Man, able to walk through walls. Tumbling through doors at random, he finally stumbled out onto King Street, the pained cries of innocent, fragile people left far behind and muted by the banality of the dull, fluorescent streetlights shining on the empty road. Beautiful, friendly, safe streetlights. He hurried across the deserted road and into spooky Victoria Park, his head turned backwards like the dead priest in “The Exorcist”, Skinhead ghouls imagined behind every tree. It’s all very nice to enjoy incendiary Punk music, not so nice being flogged and burnt at the stake afterwards.

Dragon, not so Punk but great '80s rockers regardless, unforgettable performance on top of Victoria Park Swimming pool with The Angels and Split Enz.
 Running back to the safety of his own no-man’s land squat in Pyrmont, he pondered upon the viciousness of Skin-headed ape-men, their perverted orgasm of blood and his opposing mania for continuous sex-play, as if he were a dolphin-man. He wished he were a Bruce Lee type, able to take on a whole gang of bone-heads and beat the living nightlights out of them so they could never hurt again. But he wasn’t a hero, he didn’t even make it to movie star status. He was just a vulnerable, poofy little punk, with no posse, no connections and no wherewithal. 

And all these rambunctious rock'n'roll hi-jinx didn't get him far in the staid Sydney art scene, all of them middle-class twats who never experienced abandoned, ecstatic dancing or got even one slap in the face; on meeting them wherever, they beamed jealousy from their beady, greedy eyes, their art was wallpaper and their souls upholstered with dollar notes, and they never gave him an even break. 
Arthur had faced rampaging Skinheads before in his life and he didn't let his fear of them rule his activities. He did the rounds of all the hard-hearted Punk clubs and slammed his way through every freak-out fracas and musical maelstrom available. The Skinheads had their own club, the Vulcan Hotel in Ultimo, and Arthur even dared venture there on their Sunday thrash gigs to get pummeled, trounced and wrestled to the dance floor.

More of the Trade Union Club.
Rolling about with these muscular morons, banging on each others skin, it was a bit like sex, a similar homo-eroticism oiled the body contact, but basically he hated Skinheads and wanted them castrated on sight. (Fair to say, not too many years later, Sydney got thoroughly sick of the Skinheads' depredations and beat the shit out of them every time they showed their ugly mugs, on the streets or in their clubs, till they faded away and disappeared.)

Punks were more endearing, spoiled brats turned alienated youth, they had cheek and art and verve and Arthur always reserved a place in his heart for that crazed ‘Sid Vicious’ look: spiked-hair, curled lip, pale skin, torn tartan jeans,  a look that was so hot in its day that every style-conscious hipster aspired to it. Punk got whittled down to a fashion statement, posturing at anarchism whilst getting flogged from trendy boutiques at so many dollars a rip. And hard-nosed cynical Punk entrepreneurs laughed all the way to the cash register.

The Authorities weren’t gonna let the Punks get too far off the ground anyway, property was sacred and property was what Punks loved to trash the most. The Pigs soon closed down every Punk club that mushroomed, in no matter what hidden crevice, citing the usual bugaboo of drugs and destruction, hounding them from community halls and shopping centers, office-building basements and Pub back-rooms, giving Punks no where to express their fandom. As well, the Yuppies took over the inner-city, gentrified their lovely town-houses, and then made noise complaints against the bands crashing from the Pub venues that existed on almost every corner. The loud bands moved to the outskirts of the city, the nice ones conformed and became politically correct, whispering folk ballads from back-lane wine-bars. Pigs raided the Punks crash-pads till no landlord would have them, scattering them to the suburbs like so many treeless gum-nut babies and the early Punk movement died out from sheer starvation with fish-net T-shirts and mohair jumpers being sold at bargain-basement prices from Woollies. 

But Punk sure was BAD fun while it lasted.

                                  Chrissie Amphlet.




If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.