Location: Sunbury, Victoria

Dates: 25-28 January 1974

Promoters: Odessa Promotions

Attendance: 30,000 (approx)

Ticket price: $12.00 (3 days); $10.00 (2 days); $5.00 (1 day)

MC: Jim Keays

Francis Butler's 69-ers
The Dingoes
Buster Brown
Madder Lake
MacKenzie Theory
Ayers Rock
Sid Rumpo
Ross Ryan
Daddy Cool
Queen (UK)


By 1974 Sunbury was well on its way to becoming an institution. This year -- possibly influenced by the widely publicised Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in NSW -- a second performing stage was added to include alternative performances such as jazz recitals, theatre, dance, mime, poetry and acoustic music. Odessa Promotions also reportedly spent several thousand dollars improving basic facilities at the festival site, including much-needed upgrades to showers and toilets. Reports indicate that parts of the 1974 festival were videotaped or filmed that that some of the events were televised, but it is not known how much of this footage, if any, has survived. 

The best known events of Sunbury '74 were the sets by UK band Queen and Melbourne band Skyhooks, and unfortunately both bands were given a hostile reception. The most notorious incident of the festival involved British band Queen, who had been brought out especially to perform there and played on the Saturday. They were famously booed off the stage at the end of their performance. When asked about the event by Milesago, Madder Lake singer Mick Fettes offered the view that the crowd were so much against Queen as they were impatient to see Madder Lake, who were the next band on. 

According to one source, there was some incitement from the the announcer, who came on just after Queen had performed and asked the crowd: "D'you want anymore from these pommie bastards or do ya want an Aussie rock band?" Queen quit the stage to boos and calls of `go back to Pommyland, ya pooftahs!' but Freddie Mercury bravely responded by prophetically declaring "When we come back to Australia, Queen will be the biggest band in the world!" -- and when they returned in 1976 they were indeed one of the hottest acts on the planet.

The original incarnation of Skyhooks also fared badly with the crowd. They were also booed off the stage and lead singer Steve Hill subsequently quit the group, reputedly after watching the video replay of his performance; he was replaced by Graham "Shirley" Strahan. By the time the 'new' Skyhooks played at Sunbury '75 they were the hottest new band in Australia and their set that year was widely acknowledged as the highlight of the festival.

The Dingoes made their only Sunbury appearance this year, having just completed the recording of the debut album. This marked the third time that lead singer Broderick Smith had played Sunbury, as he had performed at both previous the festivals with his former band, Carson. It was also the second Sunbury for Kerryn Tolhurst and John Bois, who had performed there in '73 with Country Radio.

Another very notable appearance was that by Daddy Cool, who reunited specially for the event. The band had agreed to play at Sunbury primarily as a means of clearing some outstanding debts, but they were received so warmly by the crowd that the band decided to reform. Sunbury '74 was also the second and last appearance for Mackenzie Theory, who broke up later in the when Rob Mackenzie and Cleis Pearce went overseas.

The festival was comprehensively recorded; Mushroom culled a two-volume set released later in the year, and both Blackfeather and the 69-ers also released live albums from the tapes (issued on Infinity). The Mushroom recordings were subsequently combined with selections from the 1973 set for the 2-CD compilation Highlights of Sunbury 1973 and 1974, released on Gudinski's Liberation Blue label. This somewhat inferior set includes several scratchy tracks obviously lifted from vinyl sources, and reproduced without noise reduction.


Blackfeather Live! (Infinity, 1974)

Francis Butler's 69ers Live
(Infinity, 1974)

Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 1
(Mushroom, 1974)

Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 2
(Mushroom, 1974)

References / Links

Ian McFarlane
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)

Adrian Rawlins
Festivals in Australia: An Intimate History (D.T.E Publishers, Spring Hill, Vic, 1986)

Wikipedia - Sunbury Festival 1974

National Library of Australia
Rennie Ellis - photograph of Daddy Cool backstage at Sunbury '74 
Rennie Ellis - "Yobbos", Sunbury '74

Hume City Council
Sunbury Rock Festivals Site (.pdf document),DiggersRest.pdf