23 May 2024


by Brian Coleman

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

On a rainy Saturday evening in the mid 70s, I got a call from a mate, Col, whose car had broken down enroute to his band’s gig at the Chatswood Charles Hotel, Sydney. Col was also a regular stand-in drummer for my first band, after we had fired our drummer for turning up at our first gig in an inebriated state and carrying a concealed weapon. “This is in case anyone gives us trouble,” he told us.

Col played in a band called Magic that had regular agency gigs, and coincidentally, it was Col who gave my band that first ill-fated gig. Col and I loaded his drums into my Toyota Hi-Ace van and proceeded to the gig at the Chatswood Charles. These were the heady days of the rough and ready pub crowds, and even in the plush suburb of Chatswood, you had to ‘watch your six’. One of Magic’s numbers was Elton John’s ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’. The band was barely past the four-bar intro when a massive brawl broke out in the venue and continued throughout the song. It couldn’t have been any more surreal if it was scripted.


The Christmas Carols

It’s an ill wind that blows no good, and it was an ill wind that brought stormy weather in December 2006, causing the cancellation of an outdoor Christmas Carols event that I had spent weeks organising and booking the various acts for. In desperation, I approached the local RSL and was given permission to stage the show in their auditorium. However, this was the evening of their annual Christmas raffle; it was one of those ubiquitous club raffles where they stack to the roof everything from microwaves to mini bikes.

The club was already packed when the Christmas Carols crowd arrived, and they didn’t appreciate the lack of seating and waiting until the main raffle prize was drawn. So the show, which had multiple acts, went late into the night. There was the choir, the dancers, the children’s show, and the jazz band, all complaining about the long delays. And when Santa, who was out on the town getting drunk, failed to show on cue, the kids invaded the stage and wrecked the sets. Guess who got the blame?


The Faith Healing Event

In the mid-90s, I organised the sound, lighting, and video crew for a religious event that was held inside the Wran Centre, Villawood, NSW. The event attracted a crowd of approximately three thousand people and was hosted by El Shaddai, which is an apostolate Catholic movement originating in the Philippines that incorporates faith healing into their meetings. As bizarre as seeing worshippers drop their crutches and stagger about the stage after a healing hand was placed upon their heads, the worst was yet to come; this would manifest in the form of the video that I had contracted for the event.

The edited VHS video of the El Shaddai event, which arrived in the mail, had grossly distorted audio that rendered the dialogue almost inaudible. I became suspicious that the video guy was aware of this when he wouldn’t return my calls. My guess was that he had dumped the audio from his camera via the XLR connector at line level into an XLR connection on a mixer at microphone level, which would have boosted the signal another 60 dB or so and into distortion.

After making a number of telephone calls and leaving messages that remained unanswered, I drove to the address that was on the video guy’s letterhead. I arrived at a modest residential house in Sydney’s south-west and knocked on the door. The video guy wasn’t home, but his mother was. I explained to her that I held no animosity towards her son and that I just needed the master tape, which she found and handed to me.

The delay in presenting the finished tape drew a lot of flak from the event organisers, who began slighting me as some sort of huckster. Fortunately, I was working for Greater Union at the time, and I was put in touch with a video editor who very graciously re-edited the entire video, which I was then able to deliver complete with intelligible audio.

Elvis Fan

I was never much of an Elvis fan, but I did cover a few of his hit songs in my one-man-band show. They were the ones he sang in the lower baritone range with his familiar vibrato, such as, Don’t Be Cruel, Teddy Bear, and others. It was really more of an attempt at an impression, which worked.

I have mentioned in the past coming into contact with impassioned Elvis fans, but there was a standout in 1991, when I was working my 50s/60s act in a club somewhere in Sydney’s outer west.

My first bracket was always laid back, and I would include a couple of instrumentals by The Shadows, which was an attempt to legitimise my guitar playing ability and detract from the rest of the sequenced backing tracks. As I was heading to the bar after the first set, I was stopped by a punter who rose from his seat and took hold of my arm. He was ostentatiously garbed and excessively jewelled; he wore a red sequinned shirt with a turned-up collar, and he had slicked back hair and sideburns.

“Mate, are you going to do some rock ‘n’ roll?” he slurred.

“Yes, I mostly do rock ‘n’ roll,” I said.

“No, no, I mean, are you going to do some real rock ‘n’ roll?” he pleaded.

“Yes, lots of that coming up,” I said as I pried his fingers from my arm and continued my journey to the bar. Strangely, I didn’t wake up to his Elvis imitative attire, as these were my misanthropic days, when I had little time for mind-numbing chats with inebriated punters.

After breaking out my Elvis numbers in the second bracket, I again headed to the bar and was again detained by the same punter. “That’s what I mean; that’s the rock ‘n’ roll I was talking about!” he blurted. He then began a long-winded diatribe about his theory that Elvis’ doctor, whom he insisted had a gambling addiction, had administered a lethal injection to the King because he couldn’t pay back huge sums of money he had borrowed from him.

Then he added, “And you know what? I don’t even believe he’s dead.”

Act Naturally

In the mid-80s, during my band management days in the Philippines, I booked a covers band for an outdoor US Air Force event. The organisers had hand-picked my band after seeing them in their residency. Towards the end of the performance, one of the organisers approached me and asked why the band wasn’t playing any country music. My attempt to explain that this was never stipulated in the booking was quickly terminated by the irate organiser with the caveat, “Well, I’m the one paying the money for this shindig, and I ain’t paying unless you guys play at least one country song.”

The band insisted they didn’t know any country songs. Digging deep, I suggested ‘Act Naturally’, which was a Buck Owens song that Ringo sang on The Beatles Help album. So, during the break, I taught the band the song, but the lead female singers weren’t confident they could remember all the words. “Why don’t you sing it, Brian? We’ll back you in the chorus,” said one of the singers.

I hadn’t sung live for about four years, and I’d never sung a country song, but I knew the words to every track on The Beatles Help album. So, I took the microphone in hand, put on my best Texan accent, and somehow it all magically came together. Of course, I was backed by one of the best bands in the country. “That was just great,” said the organiser, who then handed over a fistful of dollars. Yeeha!


Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.