28 Aug 2020

My Early Days of Audio Part 2

The Millicent Pop Festival

While working at the TV station in Mount Gambier, some local lads called in to see me one day and said they were organising a pop festival in the neighbouring town of Millicent. Would I be able to help them with the publicity for it?

Ah, a pop festival. Ever since Woodstock everyone and their dog had wanted to run one of them, tempted by thoughts of easy money and non-existent expenses, as in ‘we’ve got a field – all we have to do is mow the grass and take the money, right?’

“Who’s playing there?” I asked.


“We’ve got some local bands and singers,” they replied, “but you were in a band back in Melbourne, weren’t you? Do you reckon you could get the band to be the headline act? It would be great if we could advertise you as a top Melbourne band on the posters.”

Hmm. I wasn’t sure about ‘top’, but we were a band, and we were from Melbourne, so that didn’t seem too long a bow to draw, and I said

OK. We called ourselves the Harris Tweed Trouser Band which seemed in keeping with the trend for obscure band names at the time. Only LL the drummer actually had a pair of Harris Tweed trousers, but that didn’t seem to matter.

The only problem with us playing at the festival was that Blue, our singer, had gone up to Shepparton to live and work as a teacher, and Mick the other guitarist was in Vietnam on active duty.

Neither of them were in much of a position to drop everything and come on over for the day!

So we played as a power trio, LL on drums, RH on bass, with a convoy of our friends coming over for the weekend to cheer us on. LL had some t-shirts printed up for them with the band’s name on the front, and they all managed to get in in free by saying “It’s OK, I’m with the band!”

The Harris Treed Trouser Band at the Millicent pop festival.

The PA was handled by good old Dale Cleves, who ran the Mt Gambier Yamaha shop, and supplied some backline amps for us to use. These were the new (for then) Yamaha TA (Transistor Amp?) series, skinny odd shaped combo cabinets with very flat trapezoidal shaped speakers.

I think in the U.S they called them the pyramid amps because of their tapered shape. RH the bass player got the big TA120 bass amp, and I think my trusty FuzzFace and I plugged into two of the TA60 ones.

Yamaha TA-120 (biggest)

They disappeared without trace from the Yamaha catalogue a year or so later, but now they’re eagerly sought after by collectors. Hmm. Just because something is old and weird doesn’t mean it’s any good or a classic.

Buying one at today’s prices means that (a) your ears don’t work properly or (b) it’s God’s way of telling you that you’ve got too much money!

I think maybe there was one of them still working by the time our set ground to a halt! Honestly they were beautifully manufactured, in true accurate Yamaha fashion, but sounded terrible, with no power in them, flabby sound, and nowhere near enough cut-through edge that was needed to play in front of a few thousand people in the open air.

Still, the crowd seemed to enjoy it, with all the hippy chicks and families with kids dancing on the grass, clapping and cheering after every song. The festival finished as soon as it got dark, so I helped pack everything up then said goodbye to my friends who had come over and were driving back.

Not all of them, though. Some of them had met up with local ladies who invited them home for the evening. Probably the least said about that the better!

After the gig, driving back to the Mount, I turned on the radio and heard us playing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ on the local ABC news. Wow, I thought – got to get a copy of that for the archives. The next day I woke up as dawn began to crack, hopped in the car and whizzed around to the ABC station with a blank cassette in my hand.

“Hey,” I said to the tech on duty, “can I get a copy of your news story from the Millicent Pop Festival yesterday? I’ve got a blank cassette you can dub it onto.” He flicked through some reels of tape. “Ah – the Pop Festival… Oh, it was wiped last night!”

My eyes popped out of my head in disbelief.

“What? You’ve erased it already?” He nodded and shook his head at the same time.

“Mmm – yes. Sorry.”

Damn – once again my 15 minutes of fame had eluded me. Before I finish though, last month I promised there would be a special appearance by V.1, my first ex-wife.

I’ve always had a liking for neat little gadgets, and that morning had bought a tiny cassette recorder, not much bigger than the cassette itself, from someone in the Trading Post (an early paper based version of something like Gumtree).

It was Japanese, stereo, brand new, and a whole level of quality up from my original mono Philips one, which up till then was my go-to unit for live concert recording.

So my guitarist friend Ian K and I were lounging around at home (on the white shag-pile carpet!) strumming and playing acoustic guitar with my new toy on the floor recording our outpouring of talent! V.1 entered, saw us, rolled her eyes upwards, went to head off to the kitchen, then noticed the shiny new machine on the floor.

“What’s that?”she demanded, hands on hips.

“It’s my new cassette recorder.” I replied. “Neat, isn’t it?”

“Another one?” she yelled. “You’ve got more cassette recorders than f***ing brains!” and flounced out of the room, glaring at us.

Ian squirmed embarrassedly and looked at his watch. “Gosh is that the time, Dunk? I’d better get going. See ya,” and he dashed out the door clutching his guitar.

Oh well; if the relationship wasn’t doomed after that, it certainly was after I took my Mini gearbox apart on that same shag pile carpet. Even though I laid down several issues of Saturday’s Age first, somehow dark greeny black sump oil managed to soak its way through.

The white carpet was now a blacker shade of pale no matter how I tried to clean it.

You may ask why I took it apart there, as indeed did V.1 (although with a lot more expletives). My explanation that it was heavy and I couldn’t carry it any further didn’t seem to help matters much either. Still, they say everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t realise it at the time; but that’s another story.

See also: Duncan Fry: My Early Days of Audio Part 1 (CX Magazine July 2020)

CX Magazine – August 2020   

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