A little while back I got an email from Melynda von Wayward, the convenor, curator and all-round labourer-of-love behind punkjourney. punkjourney is an amazing resource that tracks the history of punkulture in Melbourne from the late 70s up to the present day, across a website, vimeo channel and now also a Yumpu page of fanzine flipbooks. Melynda wanted to know if I’d be willing to help her to do a reconstruction of Pulp#5, the lost last issue of the fanzine I did with Bruce Milne that never came out in 1978, to post up on that Yumpu page. I said to her, Whaddya mean? what is there to reconstruct? She said she’d turned up copies of a number of the pages I’d artworked towards the issued and I spluttered, Really!? What are they? Where did they come from? Well, Melynda had found them, via Scotti Henthorn, who himself after shutting down his fabulous Buttercup Records endeavour now runs the fabulous Fantastic Mess Records, and we all co-operated on putting them together and adding some extra bits and pieces towards an approximation of what might also have been there back in the day, and the result is what you can find posted up here. Kind of blew my mind.
Following on here too you can read the notes I penned by way of an introduction to the reconstructed issue...
At the start of 1978, around the time I turned 21, I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, for a couple of reasons: one, to get out of Brisbane, which after the departure of my mates the Saints in early ’77 had started to seem like a lost city, or empty city (even as it was actually on the verge of exploding all over again); and two, to get more closely involved in putting out Pulp, the fanzine that Bruce Milne and me had launched as a sort of twin-city title during 1977.
What actually transpired, of course, was in one respect quite the opposite: Pulp quickly folded. But since a reconstruction of the lost, last issue of Pulp #5 that never came out in ’78 has recently resurfaced, or at least what remains of it, I’ve been prompted to reflect on the whole episode.
To see this reconstruction of the last Pulp, which is thanks to the efforts of Melynda von Wayward and Scotti Henthorn, and which was originally, ostensibly aimed at coming out around the middle of ’78, was something that blew my mind just a little bit. I was looking at what was most of the artworked pages for a fifth issue that I hadn’t seen for forty years and had virtually totally forgotten about – and I thought it all looked quite good!
Of course, some remnants of Pulp #5 ended up in Inner City Sound, and in fact, it was one of the seeds that drove the conception of ICS in the first place, that here was this final issue of Pulp that had never come out and so why not – I can now reflect and think maybe this was my initial thinking – why not compile it with the previous four issues of the zine, which obviously had fairly limited distribution in their day, and put out a sort of best-of Pulp? But then obviously that idea expanded during 1981, and rightfully, to become what ICS is, which is a general sort of cut’n’paste history-as-it-happened record of the rise of punk/post-punk/indy music in Australia that drew on reprints from other fanzines as well as Pulp, plus reprints of articles from Roadrunner magazine, the new endeavour coming out of Adelaide in 1978 that Bruce and I got involved in that was part of what spelled Pulp’s end, plus reprints too of mainly stuff I wrote for RAM magazine, Australia’s leading rock rag of the day, which I started working for at the start of 1980 after I’d moved to Sydney.
Up until only recently when I saw the mooted reconstruction of Pulp5 and got involved to help complete it, all I had was the above memory of the genesis of Inner City Sound, and a memory of carting around for years a stack of the artboards that I’d started putting together, pasting up, towards that ill-fated last issue.
Some of those pages, like the Radio Birdman interview headlined “Radios Talk,” or Peter Nelson’s article on Crime and the City Solution, ended up in ICS as straight reproductions, since that was part of ICS’s agenda, to facsimilise stuff direct from its original publication in fanzines. Some of the other stuff in ICS from Pulp5, like a review by me of the Saints’ second album Eternally Yours, and a feature I did on Suicide Records, were newly typeset and re-artworked for the book, which was something else the book did, with Marjorie Macintosh doing a fabulous job designing it all into an integrated whole.
But those artboards I knew I carried around for a while – and this was maybe an inch-deep stack of A4-sized stiff-card boards on which the layouts were assembled; because that was how you did it in those days, pasted the type and pictures down on artboards, Bainbridge Boards they were called – I remember them and I remember having them and then I didn’t have them. I didn’t know what happened to them, eventually.
Well, now I know. They ended up, as did so much more history like them, in the piles of stuff in the backroom at Au-Go-Go Records, the shop that Bruce Milne opened in Melbourne in the mid-1980s. It was most likely there that then-employee Scotti Henthorn happened across them one day in the course of his regular tidying-up duties, and had the great prescience to photocopy them before they went back in the piles thenceforth never to be seen again.
So, I’m just so grateful that Scotti had that archivist’s prescience back when – and that Melynda von Wayward still has the on-going passion for and dedication to documenting Australia’s punk history that’s driven her to getting this reconstruction of Pulp5 back out into the world. It’s like the way they rebuilt the Beach Boys’ Smile! and I’m just so chuffed that someone, anyone, has enough interest in this that’s part of my legacy to try and keep it alive – wow!
So what did actually happen back in Melbourne in 1978? Though it’s still not easy to piece together all the thinking that took place, it is possible to say that basically what happened to Pulp was – Roadrunner!
I arrived in Melbourne towards the end of February, 1978, just after the Pulp double-issue 3+4 had come out, and straight away Bruce and I started working on a new issue. One of the big ideas Bruce had for it was to include a flexidisc, by the band News, who as the Babeez were probably Melbourne’s first punk-as-such band and one that Bruce, short of actually managing them, had given a lot of assistance to, including on putting out their debut single, “Dowanna Love,” at the end of 1977. Melbourne was electric with new music in the late 70s – which was one of the other reasons I’d moved there, it all just seemed so exciting – and one of the other things Bruce was doing at the time in early ’78 was managing the hottest new band in town, the Young Charlatans. Whose number included my then housemate, Jeffrey Wegener, who was an old friend from Brisbane who’d briefly played drums with the Saints before they left for the UK and he headed south, as I would do too. It was perhaps because Bruce was so busy looking after the Charlatans or perhaps because I had an aptitude for it – or both – that I took over from him on doing the artwork for Pulp. Bruce would readily admit that graphic art is not one of his strong suits.
In March then, as the first issue of a new zine out of Adelaide, Roadrunner, came out, Bruce and I continued working away on the new issue of Pulp. I was laying out pages on the stuff we already in hand. But we needed money to print it, after Bruce had already shelled out the cash to press up the flexidisc that News had recorded, and that’s why we decided to put on a benefit gig. The Pulp Benefit took place at a short-lived venue in the city called Bernhardt’s (the former Thumpin’ Tum) at the end of April ’78, and whether or not it was successful – and that’s yet another thing I just can’t remember; I don’t remember the night itself, surviving photos notwithstanding – it certainly didn’t keep Pulp alive.
But I think that by then Bruce and I had been drawn into the larger possibilities that Roadrunner presented, or that we felt it had as it got out a couple more monthly issues, and that’s what really put paid to Pulp. Roadrunner – Stuart Coupe and Donald Robertson – just seemed to have so much greater grand ambition than we did. They were talking about becoming a real rock magazine, like RAM, you know, on newsprint, in newsagents, nationally-distributed, and with advertisers, and I suppose it seemed to us like a shortcut to a place where we wanted to go, piggybacking on the impetus that these guys already had but from their perspective too, joining forces to make for a stronger team. I do remember going over to Adelaide a couple of times and thinking, wow, what a flat, dull little place, it’s even worse than Brisbane! Nevertheless, Bruce and I ditched Pulp, with its fifth issue still incomplete on the artboards, and threw in our lot with Roadrunner. Bruce even moved over there, briefly, to join the RR collective, which he was doubly encouraged to do because by then the Young Charlatans had broken up anyway, but by June he was already back in Melbourne, disillusioned especially by Stuart Coupe jumping ship to take up an offer of a staff-job at Roadrunner’s aspirational-rival RAM up in Sydney.
But both Bruce and I remained mainstays on the Roadrunner mast-head nonetheless, and after Donald got national distribution for it in 1979, it became a vibrant player on a very vibrant Australian music media scene on the turn into the 80s. And it was only after Bruce got back from that short stint in Adelaide that, a) we started doing the show together on 3RRR that, known as Know Your Product, seemed to have had some impact too, and b) Bruce started working at Missing Link Records and working towards launching his own label Au-Go-Go Records.
The News flexidiscs that were intended to go into Pulp5, and which contained the song “Sweet Dancer Au-Go-Go,” which was conceived as something of an ad jingle for Bruce’s prospective label but had to stand as just one of the number false-starts the label endured, ended up being included as part of a package that Missing Link’s Keith Glass put out in 1979 as a Babeez/News reissue called Dirty Secrets. Following on from the first News single as such, “Dirty Lies,” which the band put out themselves in ’78, Dirty Secrets contained a 7” comprising two tracks from the three-track first Babeez single, “Dowanna Love” and “Hate,” plus copies of the flexi. The release was itself another false-start for Au-Go-Go if by any other name; the label was finally launched later in ’79, with an EP by Two Way Garden. News broke up at the end of ’78.
The Young Charlatans’ demise was seminal in its own right, with Jeffrey Wegener going on to Sydney to join Ed Kuepper’s new post-Saints band the Laughing Clowns, Rowland Howard joining the Boys Next Door, thus marking their real rebirth as the Birthday Party, Ollie Olsen going on to form Whirlywirld with former News-drummer John Murphy, and Janine Hall going on to join Chris Bailey’s first incarnation of the post-Kuepper Saints.
As for me, I kept stringing for Roadrunner, and Semper in Brisbane, until the end of 1979 when I moved to Sydney and almost overnight found myself a functioning, professional freelance journalist contributing stuff to RAM, Rolling Stone and the Adelaide Advertiser: My real baptism of fire as a writer.
But I always hung on to those old artboards from the aborted Pulp5, and soon enough they would feed directly into the conception and execution of Inner City Sound, and that seems, or seemed then, as fitting an end for them as any.
Yet now they’re back again! and in as full as they can be. I can’t remember if there were any more pages I’d artworked that have been totally lost, but I do remember it was an unfinished work-in-progress when we dropped it – and I’m pleasantly surprised I’m so impressed to see it again now after all this time. I like the critical tack it takes, and I love the way it looks. There’s nothing about it that’s that orthodox punky safety-pins/ransom-note aesthetic that I know for Bruce as well as me palled almost the minute it emerged. It’s just another indication of how far ahead of the global pack that so much that went on here in Australia was. And sad that that headway was so soon lost.
But we tried.