Director Chit Chat von Loopin Stab [aka Glenn Dormand from Waratah] wrote this piece to mark the release on Thursday of a documentary about the Castanet Club. It's part of the Stories of Our Town series.
A NEWSPAPER in Scotland once described The Castanet Club as "12 people playing tennis, all of them serving at once".
To witness a concert was to be bombarded with joy. This joy started an hour before the show and stopped you getting to sleep hours after the show finished.
It was more than a band, more than a club, it was an ethos, an art movement, a theatre movement, a fashion movement and a musical uprising.
In the golden age of pub rock, while INXS, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil toured their biggest albums, this group of local artists, actors and musicians formed what was essentially an old school vaudeville troupe and started packing the Workers Club, The Palais, The Cambridge, The 16-footers and every other beer barn in Newcastle and eventually Sydney.
What this group achieved in their nine years would impact the landscape of Australian entertainment for the next 20 years.
The rise of Triple J, Sandman and Flacco, Young Einstein, Good News Week, Channel [V], Play School, Sale of the Century, Full Frontal, Happy Feet, Roy and HG, Fast Forward, The Fat, Kath and Kim and even Mambo T-shirts was in some way connected to this remarkable group of humans.
I personally fell in love with this band while underage drinking at 15. For me, Newcastle in the '80s was grey and sooty. Stepping into that club was like stepping through a portal to '50s Vegas, '60s London, a school fete and all the television of my childhood.
It was fluorescent, dark, witty, theatrical, generous and joyously daggy. The club itself seemed to be a place for anyone who felt "othered", yet they could fill a pub full of redheads and surfers.
I proudly admit that the vision I had for my band Machine Gun Fellatio was 100 per cent ripped off from The Castanet ethos (with just a little more nudity added).
To make this film after all this time and to hang out with the people I consider my heroes was beyond a labour of love. Everybody wanted to get it right. Steve Abbott (Johnny Goodman/Sandman) and Warren Coleman (Bowling Man) came from Sydney to my house, broke bread and left us in hysterics with their retelling of their time in the band. Some, like Angela Moore (Shirley Purvis), drove over five hours to let us capture her memories.
We sat and drank coffee in artist Michael Bell's studio while he recreated the iconic sign. Super fan Jane Turner [aka Kath from Kath and Kim] filmed her interview on her phone while in hotel quarantine, after returning from Paris.
We had to find a camera crew to film John Doyle [aka Roy Slaven] in his area, before he immersed himself in covering the Olympics.
I had what seemed like 100 phone calls with Maynard (the mad archivist), deciphering what thousands of the band's personal photos meant. Artist/writer Stephen Clark generously shared his resources from the amazing book he and Therese Kenyon created. Newcastle Museum and Port of Newcastle funded the film.
During lockdown, my filmmaking partner Tony Whittaker and I continued to edit via zoom. No one gave up, it was such a wild ride, through loads of adversity, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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