12 Nov 2002

Psychedlic Lighting in Sydney, man!


It’s time for psychedlia. Join us as we turn on and tune out. These were the wild eyed, dumb hair days. Cool, man?

A Sydney venue in the early 1970’s called ‘The Arts Factory’ unleashed ‘psychedelic’ lighting on stunned Sydney audiences, using overhead projectors and pyrex dishes filled with oil and water based dyes. Eddie VanDerMadden created fantastic lighting machines, based on old slide projectors. An example: he removed the heat glass, allowing the full heat of the lamp to melt slides and boil coloured dyes in tiny thin glass chambers. He found that sticky tape on polarised plastic would effect when you rotated another polarised disk across the optical chain. These were wild, weird, and colourful devices!

The McSpeddon brothers also ran psychedlic lightshows in Melbourne, at the T.F. Much More Ballroom.


Lenard, Vase and Nova battled for market supremacy in Australia with PA systems. Al Butler had taken over NOVA and he and Wyn Milsom (later to shift to JANDS) changed from using Altec to using JBL and made their own transistorised power amps in 1970. NOVA were building large-scale horn-loaded audio systems for concerts and their first audio console appeared in 1973.

Henry Freedman was importing Dynacord PA equipment from Germany by 1969 and had opened a retail outlet at Ashfield. He sold truckloads of PA systems to local bands and even provided one of the first portable reverb effect units. Henry was a gentleman and happily passed on his knowledge to young roadies and musicians. Dynacord had powered mixers and also sold column speakers. The build quality was (and still is) superb and these reliable little units were the mainstay of many bands. Many years later his son, Peter, achieved success with an Australian-designed studio microphone series called Rode. Dynacord survives today as a member of the EVI Group which includes Electro-Voice.

Strand Electric ruled the lighting industry. The Strand hire department in Sydney was run for many years by the legendary Rob Nichols whose assistance to young lighting people was invaluable. The Pattern 243 Fresnel at 2000 watts was the brightest light in common use! Lights were operated by primitive switch boards, banks of ordinary household light switches set on a piece of wood.


The Strand SP 40 was the lighting controller of your dreams in theatre and on the road. Strand released a three-preset version. Strand also released tungsten halogen powered luminaires, the Pattern 763 and 743! The Miniset 10 was the standard dimmer in an era when dimming was a luxury and straight switching was normal control at rock concerts. Three phase power wasn’t commonly available in rock venues and some adventurous lighting operators ‘hard-wired’ cables directly to power sources. This extremely dangerous practice was to continue for some time before venue operators finally got the message and installed legal outlets.

(There’s more! Go back to ‘HISTORY’ and continue!)

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