Melbourne’s bands capture the city’s sleepy past

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Melbourne is booming.

Constant streams of traffic, schoolchildren, tourists, people shopping, people walking dogs, people exercising and eating in cafes, bars and restaurants.

Melbourne is experiencing massive population growth — it topped five million recently — and is expected to reach six million in the next decade.

It is forecast to outgrow Sydney and become Australia’s biggest city as people relocate from other parts of Australia and immigration continues to climb.

Yet, I always remember the Melbourne of my childhood as a sleepy, somewhat dreary city. All the shops closed from Saturday lunchtime till Monday morning and the city center became a ghost town. The only entertainment after 12pm Saturday were the Hare Krishnas and their tambourines.

I’m reminded of my old city these days when I watch music clips from the 70s and it’s hard to reconcile this once quiet city with today’s teeming metropolis.

“The Pushbike Song” from 1970 was filmed along Beach Road in St Kilda. What is so amazing about this clip is how few cars pass the singing cyclists. These days, anyone singing on a bicycle and holding up traffic would be a victim of road rage.

Then there’s this iconic 1975 ACDC clip where the band sing their way along Swanston Street, Melbourne’s main thoroughfare, playing the bagpipes.

Finally, John Paul Young gives us a glimpse of Melbourne’s landmarks, including the Yarra River and Flinders Street, in Yesterday’s Hero (1975).

Heraclitus once said that the only constant thing in life is change.

I wonder what Melbourne, and it’s bands, will look like in another forty years.

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Sue Bell

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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