- You me and who?
by David N. Pepperell

Originally published in Planet, 10 May 1972

Photographs by David Porter

MUCH MORE BALLROOM is the unchallenged centre of the new New Society -- the second generation freaks -- - the 16 to 23 year olds. It is a strange experience to be discriminated against at 26 but it happens -- it is a trifle frightening to feel hostility directed against you from people who are supposed to be a part of a revolution with you. What has actually happened -- what new polarisation has occured? An examination:

The New Society was born in late 1965-early 1966 with a blaring of trumpets and a blast of hihi stereo sound from two loudspeakers with the Beatles, Stones, Airplane et al in the centre. All would be changed, all would be new -- dreams could be fulfilled, peace and love were to reign. As I remember they were heady times -- times when a friend could be recognised by the length of his hair, the cut and colour of his clothes, the things he liked, his vibes (we kidded ourselves we could feel such things and who knows maybe we could). We were united against common foes, we shared each other and each others projected view of a new humanity -- a mans humanity to man to cast away the built up gloom of the Dark Ages history had been to that time. New music, new theatre, new poetry, new fashion, new drugs, new cars, new lifestyles, new cameraderies -- a whole phantasmagoria of fancy, of illusion, of reality, of farce , of hard fact. We lived in this carousel world and believed in it so hard because it was what we wanted truth to be -- we sacrificed truth in the name of our dreams. We created a world that did not exist -- an artifice, a situation where actions would not take place spontaneously but would be made to appear so -- where all activity would" ego-centred so as to give the illusion of the 'beautiful person' -- where people would plan their next 'freaky beautifuf'lar out groovy but spontaneous' happening a week, a month, a year in advance. Where once existed a new innocence now there came a new native cunning and fraud -- and with fraud comes suspicion.

Suspicion is the byword and motto of the new New Society -- part 3 of the beatnik outbreak of insane San Francisco if you would have it that way. Suspicion created by cops (under cover or naked), by informers, bosses, teachers, by the general ripoff culture. New Society has become ripoff society and fake phony society. Whether New Society or new New Society exist or ever really existed in fact is irrelevant -- the mere fact that a stereotype, a philosophy was created is enough -- cerebral unreality can make a physical reality in no time. Where the original aim of New Society was to create a new brotherhood -- a society founded on trust love and tolerance new New Society has, finding such activity impossible and dangerous, opted for the opposite -- insulation. In all talk of communes there is no mention how the whole Earth should be one gigantic commune -- oh no it is one gallant intra family unit battling it out against the world -- is that so far from guarding your A-bomb shelter with a gatling gun -- I think not. So suspicion is the way and the path. Suspicion breeds hatred, mistrust, jealousy, aggression and a world without love John and Paul saw that in 1966). To say that all this is true of new New Society is not to criticise the society itself -- merely the false goals and golden cows it has allowed itself to adopt. The credos of 'hipness and coolness at all costs' and 'I'll do my thing, fuck you' are to blame for they are horizons impossible to reach or fullfill. New, New Societies goals are hopeless because they are founded on abstractions and hypotheses not on clearly defined aims. To pretend something is not there will not, nor will it ever, make it go away -- to form cliques agreeing with your mode of thought causes no change in society -- it merely causes another schism in society. I went to Much More Ballroom in Brunswick Street to see new New Society in macrocosm.

I personally think that Much More Ballroom is, perhaps save for the very early Catcher (and that might be only nostalgia speaking), the finest rock venue Melbourne has ever had. I say this for a number of reasons. Much More is planned as a nights entertainment -it has usually a total concept behind it -it is much more than a dance hall (more a way of life?). The entertainment is not just Rock culture -it incorporates theatre, farce, absurdity, involvement, art. It has never been, and never will be, sufficient to hire a hall, put on a few bands until 12 and charge people admittance and call that an entertainment.

Music of any kind can be a limited form both audially and visually and there is no doubt that severe boredom can set in when an audience is expected to sit or stand through four bands end to end -- especially when this may sentence the patron to four hours hard twelve bar labour. The Much More on 29th April featured such diverse bands as Country Radio, Friends, Gerry's Joy Band and It Flew Away -- a program running the gamut from country to rock to experimental -- there can certainly be no complaints about that. This was augmented by circus style acts, pew theatre and numerous other events which although in many cases far too long (more on that later) at least kept some sort of action going -- there were very few actual silences -- I do think though that the time most bands took to set up was excessive. The seating upstairs afforded some respite from the cattle yard downstairs -- certainly a rarity to find any kind of seating at a rock venue in Melbourne. There were stalls featuring innumerable goods, an excellent cafe/kiosk/restaurant, drinks etc. What criticism I have of Much More applies also to the society that created it -- not its owners and promoters but to the audience it feels it must cater for. Much More is a prisoner of new New Societies paranoias. I can feel nothing but admiration for the fine job John Pinder and Co. have done in presenting their creation -they unfortunately like Dr. Frankenstein have participated in the creation of a monster over which they have little or no control.

The first criticism must be the general over crowding of "the place -- unfortunately popularity means too many people in too small a space. At various times breathing became difficult, moving virtually impossible, living uncomfortable. With such a large audience vision naturally becomes obscured, the stage hard to see. The two main concrete criticisms I have are the compere and the Idiot Dancer. The compere by reating the audience as if he was warming them up for the Happy Show, by carrying on routines that were completely unfunny even in the face of utter audience disapproval, by ignoring the people he was supposed to be relating to was the bummer of the night. This, is one of the greatest faults of new New Society, phony hipness, these exhortations to laugh at things because they are hip and unusual (?) rather than that are entertaining dragged on for eternal hours having no beginning or end save to let the compere spread some more verbal diarrhoea over his captive audience. The audience did not respond to him yet he was their creation -he was the stereotype that they were supposed to dig -- do you see what I mean? The Idiot Dancer was the same -taffeta allover his head, a flashlight (how groovy, how fab, how HIP) prancing right in front of stage obscuring it both with his body and by the temporary blindness caused by his flashlight.

He was the arch-type -- the product of fraud society. Again he was doing what his audience, who were again completely unresponsive, had mentally urged him to do -- to do something fantastic, something the straights would not understand -- would not or never know.

Inside the restaurant various cliques sat together eyes sweeping the room at various intervals -- we were hassled when we took photos -- people terrified of "The Truth" and the cops -- eyes full of fear -- no hippy togetherness -- no strange strange gathering of tribes -- just a closeness to maybe one, two or three people in the room but strangers beware -- cells -thats it cells -- cells of limited aggression and out going anger -the night before we go into battle I will love my friends and my friends alone -all who are not my friends are my enemies -- O Flower Power to have died so soon.

To be honest criticism must look at angles of a problem -- to merely criticise the people at Much More is to ignore the fact that their attitude may be necessary for their survival. The Police/Media/Government Push is on the offensive -- oppresion is in the land. The revolution, only seven years old, has already provoked a backlash of overpowering dimensions. Perhaps throwing so many people into one place too can cause paranoia -lab tests prove it can happen to mice -- why not us? What is the greatest sadness is that we are mimicing the entire culture we sought to change -we now have two ripoff cultures, two untrusting cultures, two aggressive cultures. We may have been better off with one. I've felt far more harmonious vibes in thelaundromat (where I'm writing this) than at Much More Ballroom. I fear for the way it is all heading, I am sad for the the falling standards of artistic expression in this country. I would like to see some good old fashioned joy manifest in this town. As things stand few of these problems will be solved. The fault, as I have said, is not Much More Ballroom which in conception and management is superb -- it lies in a new culture which has lost its ideologies, its bearings, its beliefs, its very newness. Still thanks to John for a most interesting and entertaining night out and thanks to the two angels who turned us on to something quite special.

(Lower left: Chris Blanchflower, Country Radio)


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Originally published in Planet magazine, 1972.
Copyright © David N. Pepperell 2002. Reproduced by permission of the author.
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