It would be easy to overlook this MAX documentary series Great Music Cities of the World -but you’d be kicking yourself if you did.
It’s not often our music TV channels deliver such inspired ideas with such painstaking detail. But that’s what we have here.
This series features such cities as New York, London, Manchester, San Francisco, Detroit, and Nashville and required two round-the-world expeditions, 209 interviews and 6 months of editing.
This week the spotlight turns to the sole Australia city featured in the series: Melbourne.
Through a series of interviews, file footage, snapshots of city venues and archival artifacts, Melbourne’s history and artistic footprint are celebrated in what emerges as a musical valentine.
Whether they were born in Melbourne or were drawn to the city like a magnet, the list of artistes acknowledged is impressive:
From Dame Nellia Melba to The Loved Ones, The Seekers, Johnny Farnham, Olivia Newton John, Daddy Cool, Billy Thorpe, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue, James Freud, Hunters & Collectors, Men at Work, Paul Kelly, The Living End, Missy Higgins, Megan Washington, Gotye, Jet, The Temper Trap -to name but a few.
There are references to Go-Set Magazine, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, Sunbury Pop Festival, Brunswick Street, St. Kilda and music venues including the Myer Music Bowl, The Tote, Northcote Social Club, Crystal Ballroom, Cricketers Arms, Martinis, Punters Club, Duke of Windsor, The Espy, The Forum, The Palais and Festival Hall -affectionately referred to as ‘Festering Hole.’
Countdown‘s influence is recognised, especially for emerging bands, and international acts including ABBA and Blondie. The film clip of AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way To The Top played on a flat-bed truck down Swanston Street seemed to capture an era.
Mushroom Records was also pivotal for local acts. Kylie Minogue endearingly likens Michael Gudinski and Molly to a “bickering husband and wife.” Few could disagree. But Gudinski acknowledges while Mushroom got to #2 in the US with Locomotion he turned down signing Men at Work -twice.
It’s hard to pinpoint why Melbourne was more instrumental, literally, than Sydney.
Seymour Stein CEO of Sire Records says “Melbourne has the best music venues. That I can tell you.”
Missy Higgins says, “Melbourne is the type of place where you can sit around and see a band that ends up being internationally huge.”
Extended trading hours brought venues to life, even if the discerning Melbourne crowds folded their arms and said to bands, “Show us what you’ve got.”
When Collingwood venue The Tote was recently set to be closed down, the public marched through the city streets. At a rally Paul Kelly said: “These venues in this town were the university of my life.”
There are just a few omissions in its sixty minutes -The Palace, 3XY, EON FM, RRR, JOY, RocKwiz and suburban venues such as The Armadale Hotel, 21st Century, Transformers, Manhattan and The Middle - but it’s otherwise outstanding.
However the crowning accomplishment is the roll call of interviewees: Judith Durham, Brian Cadd, Angry Anderson, Michael Chugg, Ross Wilson, Russell Hitchcock, Daryl Braithwaite, James Reyne, Mick Harvey, Mark Evans, Brian Canham, Kim Fowley, Greg Macainsh, Chris Cheney, Mark Evans, Mark Seymour, Adam Ant, David Fricke, Colin Hay, Lee Simon, Missy Higgins, Angie Hart, Josh Pyke, John Perring, Cameron Adams, Christie Eliezer, Billy Pinnell and Sean Kelly.
The series is narrated and produced by Chit Chat and is a must-see for true music fans.
Great Music Cities of the World airs 9:30pm Thursday on MAX.