Sunbury: Australia’s Greatest Rock Festival

by |February 6, 2018

Sunbury: Australia's Greatest Rock Festival by Peter EvansSunbury: Australia’s Greatest Rock Festival
By Peter Evans
Review by That Metal Man

In the 1970s, a massive festival was held at a farm in Melbourne, just one year after Woodstock. This story is of the four Sunbury rock festivals, told in the words of those who were there (including a bloke named Paul Hogan who compered the ‘73 festival).

California was the place for music festivals in the 1960s. Magic Mountain, Monterey, and years after those, Woodstock in 1969, the grandest of them all (if measured by its 50,000 attendees). The phenomenon of large scale outdoor festivals was brought to life in Australia at Sunbury, Australia’s answer to ‘Woodstock’. As the liner notes of this book state, both events had marked effects on the culture of their times, both in terms of music and the attitudes of a generation.

Sunbury is as much a chronicle of the festivals themselves, as it is of the bands, promoters, officials and local constabulary involved. The drugs, the sex, the nudity, the long hair, wizard hats and round Lennon-esque spectacles, the mud, the rain, the sunburn. And the scandal.

The research by author Peter Evans is complex. He’s somehow tracked down exchanges between government staffers and promoters, as well as recounts of telephone calls (there were plenty of objections and concerns raised – as one would expect – but the interest here is the language of the day and the costs involved). Hell, Evans even dug up copies of application letters, paid deposits and such like. This is a genuine account of Sunbury, warts and all! There’s even a reproduction of a painting of what Sunbury would have looked like in 1867 (because you wanted to know this, right?).

For the audio-tech heads, there’s comments by legendary music staging provider, Jands, who discuss the crew they used, the design and mixing console, amps and technical problems (as it turned out, nothing significant went wrong). The total Jands fee for 1972 was a paltry $2,500 (multiply by ten for today’s terms).

Okay, the bands. The real stars; AC/DC, Queen, Deep Purple, Daddy Cool, Skyhooks (who apparently were not received well), Buster Brown, Richard Clapton, Keystone Angels (recognise the name??), Thorpe (with The Aztecs of course), Johnny O’Keefe, legend Lobby Loyde, Loved Ones, Dingoes, and remiss of me not to shine light on Paul Hogan (and sidekick, ‘Strop’) who won the crowd.

Interesting to note the problems UK rock Gods Queen had with the Sunbury road crews, and with Michael Chugg who shouted into a microphone, “Go home you Pommie wankers”, a chant taken up by the crowd. The photos caught of Queen’s performance are fantastic, as is the story of how, in disgust, Freddie Mercury hurled a tambourine at Australian roadies after enduring abuse and beer cans. The Queen story is delivered by many accounts, each detailed and hilarious.

The photographs contained are staggering – incredible images of punters and performers, staging techs and television personalities. The photos alone may be enough for some to pour over if absorbing reams of interviews and anecdotes proves too much. Backstage passes, personal notes, and on it goes.

The book discusses the short-lived attempt at reviving Sunbury a decade later at a budgeted cost of $800,000. However, petitioning locals and other elements opposed to the revival, saw that Sunbury would remain confined to 1970s history, but leaving one almighty legacy that is contained – surely without peer – in the pages of this remarkable book.

If you’ve ever attended an outdoor music festival – or you were actually there sliding amongst the mud – Sunbury: Australia’s Greatest Rock Festival must land on your coffee table pronto! Learn more.

Sunburyby Peter Evans


Australia's Greatest Rock Festival

by Peter Evans

After 45 years, here is the first book on the Sunbury rock festival, the festival that is often referred to as 'Australia's Woodstock' that heralded a revolution in Australian music and culture.

This book explores the history of the Sunbury rock festivals which were staged over the Australia Day long weekends of 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. These, and the festivals which immediately preceded them, were staged at a time of renewal in Australian political and cultural life and a new awakening of national identity. The emphasis is on the first festival in 1972...

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About the Contributor


  • bernard ryan

    February 6, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Who is the publisher,please.

    • Tanaya Lowden

      February 8, 2018 at 8:46 am

      Hi Bernard,

      The publisher is Melbourne Books. If you ever need to find the information about a publisher, you can find it in the product details tab on the product page on our website.

      Hope this helps.


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