These pictures were taken by Bob King in January 1982 on a series of Road Rocker shows that my production company handled. We were called J & C Grafton, as we were a couple. Caroline and I started the business in 1980, after I’d left Barratt Lighting, which I had run for about four years.
Our production firm started with $12,000 and an old orange Ford F250 2 ton pantech. 12 grand bought this collection of gear; almost all of it – although some was borrowed or begged:
- Jands JM5 12 channel mixer
- 4 x Yamaha ‘concert’ wedges, 15″ and Yamaha horn
- 3 x Jands J600 amps
- 1 x Jands JX4 crossover
- 2 x Jaycar third octave equalisers
- 1 x dbx 160 limiter
- 1 x Marantz cassette deck
- 2 x Jands built concert W wins loaded with 2 x JBL 15″
- 2 x used 4560 loaded with 1 x 15″ JBL
- 2 x used Altec 291 driver horns
- 8 x Par 64
- 2 x Winchups
- 2 x Pattern 23 specials
- 1 x switchboard
- 11 Mic stands
- 4 SM 58 mics
- 6 SM 57 mics
- 1 AKG D12 kick mic
- 1 DI box
- 30m 19 way multicore
- 1 x Yamaha 2005 analog delay
I built the amp rack, the mic stand case, and the cable packer.
When we started, we hired the package for $150 a night. That bought one engineer (me!), the truck, the sound and the lights. Our business model always required the band provided loaders, often band members. It was a different model to others in the vibrant production hire scene. They all packaged a crew of three, as I was one of the few people with the stomach to take on the risk of musician loaders.
As it transpired, every gig went off fine. The only time I was let down and almost abandoned at a gig without physical help was when a crew with Kevin Borich decided to go smoke weed instead of help me. I got tough with them and they backed down. I remember the chief protagonist to this day, but I forgave him.
By January 1982 the business was around 18 months old, and we’d traded the Ford in for the white Hino shown above left. It was a former Ipec delivery truck, with about 120,000k on the clock. It was a good truck – nothing went wrong, and I spent as much as I could on preventative maintenance. I had real tyres on every rim, having seen plenty of touring trucks beside the highways changing out retreads that couldn’t handle the heat of summer.
As soon a possible I’d expanded the PA into a ‘double’ 3 way by adding an extra 4560 and an extra horn per side; plus one extra amplifier. By now I was using Yamaha P2200 amps, which although rated the same as the J600 were appreciably more powerful. With addition of a drumfill, on a second send from front of house, the asking fee went up to $250 a night. That included extra lights, I had 20 lights and a 12 channel dimmer. Fuel was charged extra for gigs outside Sydney, which meant anywhere beyond the Shire, or north of Hornsby, or west of Penrith.
Extra crew cost $40 a night. Pretty soon I was touring the Hino, 2 crew, myself and the production for about 2 grand a week. The boys got $250 cash in hand.
Most work was paid in cash, a few tours had offices with cheques. We preferred the folding stuff.
This ‘Road Rocker’ was a primitive beast. It was a converted 22′ 8 tonner, which Orana Truck Rentals boss Dave Suttor had modified. He pulled one side off, and replaced it with a stage floor that hinged off the bottom of the pan. A lot of 1″ tubular steel was welded into the body to take the heavy load.
The side was winched down with a wire winch after two large bolts were removed. The reverse journey was painful, the last few inches needed to be pulled into the pan which required the whole rig be relatively level. In the top picture you can see that involved using the spare wheel to raise the front corner axle!
The 1982 run of dates were beach gigs up and down Sydney, with some suburban parks. The radio station was fighting off the new FM duo, 2MMM and 2Day FM. In response 2SM had a new ‘stereo AM’ format which required that everyone choose between an FM radio, or a stereo AM radio. You can imagine how that sucked, the format lasted slightly longer than the Road Rocker gigs!
We had about 2 straight weeks of shows, with bands like The Saints, QED (with Jenny Morris), Radiators, Machinations, Dynamic Hepnotics and many others.
Best of all, it was repeated the following summer, by which time I packaged the Road Rocker, a generator trailer, and my production – taking on all the infrastructure. We made seriously good money from 2SM, which was staffed and run by a lot of good people. Back in my Zapco lightshow days I did a lot of shows for 2SM as well. Then between 1977 and 1980, Roger Barratt did a stack as well.
In 1982 we were branching out with a second PA system, which is why there is a Manta Ray horn, shown here, mixed with the conventional 511 horns. They all had Altec 291 drivers. It was a very smooth sounding horn, but it lacked the headroom of the JBL 2441 which was more popular. Here I am (below) in the black T, directing the setup. Mark Anderson is on the truck deck with the obligatory fag in mouth.
Almost everyone smoked, except me. Notice my back right pocket? My wallet is still in there today, despite the fact it’s twisted my posture. Nothing you can see, but it became evident when I started Pilates with a physio some years ago. I can’t twist to the left anywhere near as much as to the right.
The show is almost ready (below). We did 2 shows a day, so it was always intense. Along the front we had these mo-fo big Altec wedges with 2 x 12″ and a 120 degree horn. They were BIG, and the bands appreciated that BIG means LOUD, even if it didn’t!
Side stage we had a Soundcraft 200B 24 channel mixer for monitors, with the same out front. The Monitor version was modified so the 4 band EQ affected all the auxiliary busses. We got six sends out of it. We had 3 sends to wedges (left, right and a centre pair), sidefill (1 x 15″ and 1 x horn) and the same box for drumfill.
(Note in the picture below the nifty rope punter barrier!)
By now we were into ZPE amplifiers, which were kind of a poor-man’s Perreaux. Both were made in New Zealand, they were amplifiers that used mosfet output devices. I had a mix of ZPE 500, ZPE 600 and ZPE 1000 models. They were mainly OK, but they had no output mute so you had to make CERTAIN that the input gain was wound down BEFORE powering on or OFF. Which meant any power interruption could kill speakers or horns – which did happen!
In 1982 there were very few wireless mic systems, so we didn’t have any. This is Chris Bailey from The Saints. Check out the wine cask above, which was not cooled. It was a VERY hot day…..
Notice how we had tacky stenciled stuff on our boxes?
The Allnighters appreciated the effort I went to, we were doing shows with them in and around these beach dates, and they toured for several months afterwards. They were a very good client.
I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have stacked the two concert W’s together on the ground, and had the 4560’s and horns broken up more to get better coverage and less interference!
We were all fairly uninformed about audio theory back then, and were only starting to know that horns placed NEXT to each other would interfere with each other.
The obligatory inflatable Pepsi thing had a few leaks (below). The surfer dudes seem chilled out, right? Notice the photographer wearing an Ilford jacket? That was a brand of film. Yes, film!
We had no mobile phones, no fax, no computers. Just a hard wired telephone, and a pile of 10c and 20c pieces for the public phone boxes.
We did the same beach run the following January (1983) by which time I’d upgraded the Hino to an Isuzu, long term leased from Orana who had a fleet surplus. I remember the registration plate: LCM 572. We stripped off the Orana signage and had it painted with our business details.
The PA had evolved a lot, the main system had single versions of the concert W bins made by Alex someone, who supplied a system to Moving Pictures, the touring band. He had the idea to cut down the dual 15″ concert W, I had 3 per side. This meant I could run three of them, at 2.6 ohms. One channel of ZPE 1000 ran at 800 watts (4 ohms) or 1,200 watts (2.6 ohms).
I used the same methodology on the mid bins, which were dual 12″ Altec, plus a single 12″ version. Again I had a 2.6 ohm load per amp channel. Horns had become the latest constant beamwidth Altec, like the Mantaray only much smaller.
Out front I had a Soundcraft 400 console, which at the time was fairly upmarket. Just before 1983 we leased a second Orana Isuzu for our 2nd PA. The rego plate was LCM-574 and on first driving it I was amazed to discover it had about 15% more power and torque than the sister truck we had!
Later in 1983 we swapped one 5 tonner for an 8 tonner, and upgraded the main PA and lights again. By this stage we could tour with most working Australian rock bands. Business was great.
Caroline and I were exhausted and as we hit the four year mark, took a monumental decision to go off the road.
We had the opportunity to buy into a lighting company called Wazza, which was based near Taylor Square. Opening a ‘one stop shop’ for lighting and sound hire and sales, the business took off, eventually employing 40 people across two adjoining buildings.
Looking back, the only impediment we faced was working capital, since we’d expanded at a crazy rate every year. Which meant big tax bills. Cashflow was everything.
Life was work, work was all consuming. We burned out and sold out in late 1988.