|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Music Festivals|
SUNBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL 1975
Location: Sunbury, Victoria
Promoters: Odessa Promotions (John Fowler and parnters)
Ticket price: $20MC: unknown
Deep Purple (UK)
Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band
Renée Geyer & Sanctuary
The Keystone Angels
The La De Das
The previous three Sunbury festivals had been very successful, but the fourth -- which, as it turned out, was the last -- was beset by problems that brought the Sunbury era to a grinding halt. It rained throughout the festival weekend and only 16,000 people turned up. Although they raised the entry fee to a whacking $20 -- more than three times the cost of a 3-day pass for the '72 event and nearly double that of the previous year -- the organisers, Odessa Promotions, lost heavily on the event and the company went into liquidation immediately after the festival.
Apart from the low turnout, the major cost that scuttled Odessa was the importation of leading British heavy rock band Deep Purple, who were paid a whopping $60,000 fee for their exclusive performance. Because of the financial problems, none of the local bands were paid except Jim Keays, who had wisely arranged an outside sponsor for the performance of his concept album Boy From The Stars. Adding insult to injury, members of AC/DC, their roadies, and producer George Young got into a altercation with Deep Purple's roadies, who refused to allow AC/DC to go on after Deep Purple. In the end AC/DC went home without performing.
Sources indicate that the two big hit acts of the last Sunbury were The Keystone Angels (soon to become The Angels), who received a standing ovation, and the band who were arguably the hottest in the ladn at that time, Skyhooks. Despite being ignominiously bottled off in '74, the group returned in triumph, fronted by new lead singer Graham "Shirley" Strahan. With two hit singles and a monster hit LP under their belts -- which was by then on the way to becoming the biggest selling album in Australian music history -- their set proved to be "the explosion point" of Sunbury '75. Rolling Stone described it as "arguably quite the best set, Deep Purple included", while The Age said, "At the end of their performance, it appeared from the stage that the whole valley had gone mad." On the strength of this performance, and against strong competition, Michael Gudinski took over the management of the group.
The liquidation of Odessa Promotions did not mark the end of the Sunbury saga -- as the article below from Juke magazine in late 1975 indicates, the legal battle over the collapse of the company continued long after the festival, with the Musicians Union fighting to reclaim the lost payments due to the Australian acts who performed. Unfortunately, as the article recounts, the equity court initially ruled that the musicians were to be paid 1c in the dollar, providing they could prove they were employees of ODessa, but a Victorian court subequently ruled that the bands were self-employed, making them ineligible for any compensation from Odessa's assets.
However, the article also reveals that the Musicians Union had
demanded that Deep Purple pay part of their fee to the Union in
advance. Under the laws then in effect, any foreign person or
persons who might cause "industrial unrest" could be refused
permission to enter Australia, and the Musicians Union made strong
representations to the Minister for Labour & Immigration that
the proposed Deep Purple visit could lead to "considerable unrest".
They also passeed their concerns on to Deep Purple, who not
surprisingly agreed to pay a sum to the Union in advance -- not
surprising, since the article also reported that, had this not been
done, the tour "would undoubtedly have been cancelled". As a result,
the money Deep Purple deposited with the Union was paid out to
Musicians Union members, and each was reportedly to receive the
full musician's rate, their minimum legal requirement.
References / Links
Thanks to Michael Hunter for the scan of the Juke article.
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)
"Sunbury '75: Deep Purple Forced to Pay"
Juke magazine, 17 Dec. 1975
Festivals in Australia: An Intimate History (D.T.E Publishers, Spring Hill, Vic, 1986)
Skyhooks Australasian Tour" June/July '75 - Program Notes