It was 50 years ago this month that a weekly pop music paper called Go-Set launched across Australia – wholly independent of all the established corporate media. It was a paper for teenagers produced by a teens and twenty-something staff, and while it revolved around the music scene, it also spoke to our quest for an entirely new culture.
I started Go-Set with a fellow Monash uni student, Tony Schauble, and a core group of mates from Monash and from the discos and band culture that was breaking out in Melbourne in the mid-60s.
The Good Weekend and crikey.com ran stories a few weeks ago about Go-Set and the famous people who started their careers there – Molly Meldrum and novelist Lily Brett among them – but Go-Set employed more than 60 fulltime staff (just one older than 25) during its eight-year lifetime, and some of them have wound up in Byron or nearby. I’m one of them.
I was variously Go-Set’s editor, designer and publisher until I went to New York in 1976 for a week and stayed for 34 years. In 2010, I quit Manhattan and moved to Coorabell. I’d never been to Byron before the mid-2000s, but I sensed that this was where my partner Kate Veitch and I would find common ground, and so it has proved to be.
Michelle O’Driscoll, who was Go-Set’s Brisbane writer/manager back in the day, had also lived for decades in the Americas – in Jamaica – until she and her man Trevor also returned to Australia, to live on the Gold Coast. Mitch told me I’d find Cleo Calvo, who used to be Go-Set’s Sydney reporter, living in Mullumbimby, now known as Clelia Adams – and famous for topping the charts here and in Europe as a country singer, songwriter, and ukulele virtuoso. (Who knew Europe had C&W charts to top?)
Clelia told me that after Go-Set she worked for record companies and then as a backup singer until 1990 when a brain tumour almost killed her. I’ll let Clelia tell the story:
‘After the operation in 1991, my memories were all over the shop. A friend helped me get old copies of Go-Set and with those, plus my photo albums, and my kids providing names and locations, I put my memories together like a jigsaw puzzle.
‘I also had the profound illumination that music is the most powerful force in the universe, and that what mattered most to me was to become a really good singer, one who could move people’s hearts, just as the greats had done to mine. It was an all-consuming mission, as the language centres of my brain had been almost obliterated. I had to re-learn songs and re-train my voice, but in a couple of years I was back performing … and the rest is history.’
Clelia’s current single, The Captain and the Gypsy, which tells the story of how she and her beau Rowley came together, has just spent six weeks at #1 on the Australian country charts.
At the Pass Café in 2006, I ran into a friend since the 60s whom I’d last seen 30 years ago, Lissa Coote, still throwing the best dinner parties but now in Friday Hut Road instead of Palm Beach. In Go-Set days, Lissa worked in the hot new Australian film industry and I met her through David Elfick, Go-Set Sydney manager who was, and still is, a movie producer. David had a house up around Coopers Shoot several decades ago when he and Rusty Miller did Tracks magazine.
When I was working on the move to the Shire I shared plans with Vince Lovegrove, who was settling into Rosebank after several decades as a roaming writer of newspaper columns and books. Back when I was editing Go-Set, Vince was co-lead-singer in The Valentines, and he was one of a few performers who made an effort to get to know me. I didn’t hang out with the bands much – too busy putting out a 24-page paper every week and finishing a degree in politics, and enjoying my own life as a turbo-charged 20-something.
In 1969 Vince decided he’d had enough pop singing and handed the mike to his co-lead, Bon Scott. Then he asked me if I could use his energy and smarts in the Go-Set empire. Vince ran our Adelaide office for several years and then helped the Divinyls hit the big time. Once we’d both settled into life in the Byron hinterland, Vince and I took to jogging along the beach between Byron and Bruns with his dog Cody. On a Sunday morning in March 2012, we were supposed to meet for brunch, but that was the morning Vince was found dead in his Kombi, after it went off Binna Burra Road into a huge mango tree in the early hours.
Vince’s first wife Helen, their daughter Holly, her kids, and his other daughter Lilli all live in Lismore or nearby, and they organised a celebration of Vince’s life at the Mullum Civic Centre, joined by musos Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Jimmy Barnes, and several ex-Valentines. Among the mourners were two sons Vince had never told me about; one of them greeted me wearing a genetically-perfect copy of his dad’s trademark wicked grin, head tilted just a bit, eyes framed in mischievous wrinkles.
Helen Hooper, who wrote and edited more Go-Set articles than anyone should have had to, lived briefly in Mullum a few years ago, and our celebrated photographer Colin Beard lives and teaches these days on the Sunshine Coast. Maybe there are other ex-Setters around the neighbourhood these days – if you know any, let me know at coorabellridge.com.
Phillip Frazer started the Australian Rolling Stone, after Go-Set and before New York.