ARTLESS MAD FUN, from Meanjin, 2010
Tanya McIntyre was there, obviously. I can vividly remember those Tuesday nights at the Tiger Lounge in Richmond in the winter of ’78 – where many of the photographs were taken – when the then-Boys Next Door had a residency there and played three sets a night, thus the erstwhile Nicky Danger was still warbling such covers as “Andy Warhol,” “Caroline Says” and “Personality Crisis.” This was the early days of what’s now understood as Melbourne’s punk underground, which is today as eulogised as it was then disdained. Much the same crowd was there every week, maybe sixty to a hundred people, many of whom, again, appear in the photos.
There were other gigs, of course, other bands. There was the Teenage Radio Stars, who would morph into the Models; and the Negatives, who would split into the Moodists and Sacred Cowboys; there was JAB, and NEWS, and a funny little trio called Two Way Garden; not to mention tch-tch-tch, of course. And then there was only other band that really rivalled the BND, the Young Charlatans. The late Rowland Howard was a member of the Charlatans but he would always be right down the front for every BND performance, and as history tells us, the Charlatans soon broke up and Rowland joined the BND and was crucial in their transformation into the Birthday Party. I remember a benefit the Charlatans and BND played for the fanzine I was putting out with Bruce Milne, Pulp, at the old Thumpin’ Tum in Little La Trobe Street. Tanya was there, of course.
I remember gigs at the tiny Exford Hotel in the city, at Melbourne uni, other places. The most legendary Crystal Ballroom actually came a little later. There were lots of parties in people’s houses. Tanya was always there. Linda Baron was usually there too, with the first video camera many of us had ever seen; Tanya was always there with her stills camera, her rollies and her ready laugh.
Tanya was there, like most us, because she could not resist the pull of a scene and its music that was the newest and most exciting in the country (I’d come all the way from Brisbane to be part of it). Tanya was a fine arts student (again, as more than a few of us, including myself, were, or had been), and as I always understood it, she shot her pictures with a view to using them in a college project, which she did eventually do.
Looking back at them now – well, that’s why I agreed to pen these few words in the first place: because they weren’t just some make-do documentary record devoid of any inherent or ongoing aesthetic worth. In fact, they took my breath away. Even as I’ve always felt quite familiar with Tanya’s work (it lined the pages of my first book, 1981’s Inner City Sound), it was as if these shots had become new all over again. I think that’s due to not just the almost naïve freshness of the subject/s as well as the shooter, but also the latent, almost besieged significance of it all.
The scene, such as it was, scattered after 1980. The Birthday Party, Whirlywirld and the Primitive Calculators all left town to go to London. My sharehouse-hell mate, Charlatans’ drummer Jeffrey Wegener, headed to Sydney to join Ed Kuepper in the Laughing Clowns, and I went to Sydney too, to more aggressively pursue what I then called my anti-career as a rock critic. People just got on with their lives. Tanya, I heard, eventually went to Africa.
But I am delighted now to re-make the acquaintance of long lost old friend, and that her work is finally finding a due forum. I know it’s all mixed up for me with a very real nostalgia, but I also know there was a bit of magic about this time and place, and that these photos capture a good deal of that.