Argyle Hotel, Geelong. 1980
The Argyle Hotel is no longer in existence – I mean, the building itself is, but the pub with that name is long gone. It was replaced by one of those franchises which are basically commodified versions of Irish culture, where you can have stout in a drinking booth, watch re-runs ad infinitum of Irish music videos, be served by an Irish-accented exchange student from the local university and, in general, feel a jejune sense of what it means to be from the Emerald Isle. The Argyle now has the imaginative name of Murphy’s.
When I was playing bass for Geelong band Murmurs, we had a residency at the Argyle, which at the time was an excellent supporter of the Geelong live music scene. I remember the place as a typical example of a poky old corner pub with a strong local identity; often, it was packed out on band nights. Usually, we’d play from 8.30 till 11.30 pm, with a couple of small intervals, and the price of entry was $2 – yep, $2! Even allowing for the major decrease in the value of a dollar since then, the price of entertainment – and many other things – was pretty amazing back in those days. A glass of beer, for example, cost about 70 cents.
Bands played at the Argyle in a narrow rectangular space with a stage at one end, raised about a foot higher than the rest of the room. I recall it as the smallest pub stage I ever played on. It was an intimate, loud, sweaty joint and I saw our residency there as a mark of respect for us and our developing profile on the music scene.
Back in 1980, the punk movement was a strong presence in Geelong music, with bands like Endangered Species. While Murmurs were definitely not a punk band, we did play some heavier stuff like Shadow Boxer by The Angels. The song’s dance-until-you-drop nihilism fitted well with what was going on at the time:
Ask me questions, get no answers/ Give me nothing /take no chances/ Show me books with empty pages/ Wind your clocks and read your gauges/ Shadow boxer, shadow boxer …
Back then I had no idea about what the song was about, but it conveyed a sense of urgency, got people dancing like crazy – and I loved playing it.
And Dave, our livewire lead singer, could channel the spirit and energy of The Angels’ Bernard “Doc” Neeson superbly in his delivery of the lyrics, too!
Two days after the Argyle gig, we supported Richard Clapton at the Waurn Ponds Hotel. The advertisement spelt the band name incorrectly. (‘Murmers’ instead of ‘Murmurs’.) For one night we replaced Clapton’s regular support band on the tour, a band called…INXS.
Stereo Story # 486