A friend of mine with a long and storied career in homegrown music sent me a cryptic
text a few days back.
It was the photo of a typical Sydney car park: bland and soulless, all concrete and dim lighting, about as inviting as a dental appointment. But upon closer inspection, the street number gave it away.
139 King Street, Sydney, the site of the Alberts Studio, known as the "House of Hits". George Young and Harry Vanda recorded here.
It was 139 King Street in the city, the former site of the famed Alberts studio, known as "The House of Hits", where musical maestros George Young and Harry Vanda plied their trade and helped conjure up such classics as Evie, High Voltage, Love is in the Air, Bad Boy for Love, Hey St Peter and dozens more. (At their peak, Vanda and Young weren’t so much in the local charts, they were the charts.)
When I posted the image on social media, I was asked if there was any kind of plaque to
remind drivers that they were entering one of Oz rock’s sacred site. As far as I could tell,
the only plaque visible was the one that displayed parking rates. Another classic
example of Sydney’s tendency to demolish its history.
Bon Scott on stage with the band at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney on December 12, 1976.Credit:L. Thomas
But this is hardly an isolated instance. The former site of live venue the Bondi Lifesaver,
the notorious "Swap", which hosted some of the wildest nights of Oz rock and roll (and
contributed to some of the worst hangovers), is also a car park.
The spot where Sydney’s Stage Door Tavern formerly sat, where I once saw Peter Garrett crack his head on the low-lying pipes and play while covered in blood, is now, of all things, the NSW Licensing Courts.
Most of the suburban pubs and clubs that played a key role in the incredibly vibrant live scene of the 1970s and 1980s, from the Bexley North to the Sylvania Hotel, the Revesby Workers Club to the Sundowner Hotel, are now pokie palaces.
Inner-city room the Basement is now gone, as is the Phoenician Club, where grunge rockers
Nirvana played their first Sydney show as their album Nevermind exploded. And there’s nary a nod to these site’s legendary pasts; not a plaque or a sign or even a splash of graffiti.
It seems like Joni Mitchell was right after all; the denizens of this city really did pave
paradise and put up a parking lot.
Jeff Apter’s latest book is Friday On My Mind: The Life of George Young, out
on August 4.
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