10th September, 2018
Hi Riff Raffers,
Going to take you back to the year 1970, to an age of herbal music festivals. The venue for this festival is just twenty minutes from the authors home in the ‘Dandenongs’. Launching Place, the town was named as freshly cut logs of timber were launched here on the Yarra River and sent upstream to Melbourne for milling. It is also infamous for having launched rather unsuccessfully the first music festival in Victoria, the second in Australia, just a few months after Ourimbah’s (New South Wales), ‘Pilgrimage Of Pop’. It did, however launch one of Australia’s greatest harmonica hits, ‘I’ll Be Gone’ by Spectrum.
Titled the ‘Miracle’ festival, a festival of ‘Peace, Love & Music’, perhaps should have been named ‘Needed A Miracle’, was scheduled at ‘Coonara’ farm, five miles north of Launching Place along the Don Road, on the Easter weekend of March 1970. There was strong opposition by Sir Arthur Rylah, head of the moral police of the Bolte liberal government, however organisers managed to find a way around regulations by having patrons only paying for camping fees.
Michael Browning, along with Peter Andrew and Roxie of the ‘Let It Be’ agency, who managed both ‘Daddy Cool’ and ‘Spectrum’ as well as live music venues like the TF Much Ballroom in Brunswick Street, were instrumental in implementing the Launching Place ‘Miracle’ festival.
Unlike the venue for the Sunbury festival (actually held in Diggers Rest), which rarely experienced rain (except ‘Mudbury’ of 1975) due to the rain shadow caused by the You Yangs, Launching Place had experienced rain on this date since time immemorial. On arrival patrons were directed by Bob Jones, head of security and car parking, to another farm’s paddock on the other side of the road at a cost of one dollar. A slippery journey of approximately fifteen minutes took you to a caravan where a charge of six dollars gained you entry. A few thousand people are said to have attended. Rain tumbled down (I’ve never seen it go up), with thunder and lightening (very very frightening) and a poorly protected stage, covering over the toilets were removed in an attempt to better protect the stage from the elements, which had little impact. MC, Gerry Humphrys wearing a python around his neck managed to get proceedings going. Chain, with Wendy Saddington played an extended set between heavy showers, as did The Adderley Smith Blues Band with guest Brod Smith playing harp along with Paul Lever. Their set included ‘Feel So Bad’, ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ and ironically ‘Rainy Monday Blues’. It rained most of Saturday and after a miserable wet night, rain set in again Sunday morning with the event cancelled at 10am. Mike Rudd of Spectrum was marooned, he never ventured from his leaky, ‘Mini Moke’ and the car park had turned into a ‘wreckers’ yard with all the cars entwined at the bottom of the paddock.
The promoters, however weren’t going to give up easily and immediately organised another one for later in the year on New Years Eve.
In August of 1970, Mike Rudd with Spectrum headed off to the Armstrong recording studios in Albert Road, South Melbourne on the pretext and the guarantee of AirPlay to promote the second attempt at Launching Place. With New Zealand music producer, Howard Gable, who EMI had recently sent over to Melbourne, they set down to record Launching Place Part I, an instrumental and Launching Place Part II a satirical look at music festivals in general. After what Mike calls a look of frustration from Howard, he asked Mike if he had something else. He did. The first song he wrote for Spectrum, a folk, pop tune quite different from their progressive rock style that the band was noted for, the iconic, ‘I’ll Be Gone’.
‘I’ll Be Gone’, or to some, ‘Someday I’ll Have Money’ (Mike wished he had been more specific, perhaps Sunday I’ll Have Money) was written in the key of ‘D’. It had started life with Mike playing the chord progression on guitar. When adding the essential ingredient of harmonica to the song, it ascended to a new level. The punters would ‘go off’ on hearing the harp ‘intro’ and it had the imprimatur of Daddy Cool’s, Ross Wilson, who was just back from having a stint with the band, Procession in the United Kingdom. At this time he was also sitting on a tune he had written that would become an Australian classic, ‘Eagle Rock’. Listening to a Spectrum rehearsal and on hearing ‘I’ll Be Gone’, Ross said tapping his nose, “That’s the one, that’s it”. Mike’s outstanding harmonica riff had been influenced by John Mayall’s harp on, ‘Parchman Farm’.
The tune was basically recorded in one hit, although the descending organ bass line was overdubbed later. It would spend seven weeks at number one on the national charts and twenty weeks in the Top 40. Thus, Launching Place launched one of the best songs of all time.
Launching Place Part II, the festival not the song, would suffer the same fate as the first.
For more information about this festival and in particular the Sunbury festivals I have posted an interview I recorded with author, Peter Evans and Mike Rudd here https://youtu.be/7qAHPi2LLKQ. Also here’s a live acoustic duo rendition of I’ll Be Gone.
PS: There is some confusion/conjecture on which Launching Place festival the recording was used to promote. Memories are fading. Mike believes it was the first one, he is researching as I blawg.