Sue O’Brien
The Candy Tavern, Brunswick, late 1980s

It was around 1987 and the band was called Double Fantasy, which curiously had three members – Irene and Susie and long-suffering keyboard player, Scotty.

Double Fantasy did gigs at least two nights a week back then and one of the highlights was a Friday night residency at The Candy Tavern in Brunswick.  The interior décor of the pub was predominantly pink with garish nylon carpet.  The bar and dance-floor were lavishly trimmed with reflective chrome requiring constant polishing and generating a fair amount of static electricity.

At a typical gig vocalists Irene and Susie would be decked out in full-on 1980s garb – stilettos, multiple shoulder pads and enormous hairpieces.  Their keyboard player, Scotty, would calmly put up with the girls’ antics, including taking twenty minutes to finish a song as they held the audience captive with their humour.

Irene Bennetts, Susie O’Brien and the ever-patient Scotty Morton.

One of the big songs for the night was United We Stand, originally recorded by Brotherhood Of Man in 1970.  By the late 1980s, the song had definitely moved into the extremely daggy category but there was just something about it that got the crowd going at The Candy.  During the first verse, Irene would swan through the crowd trying not to strangle patrons along the way with what the girls deemed was the longest microphone cord in the history of the world.

Irene would pounce on an unsuspecting male patron and he’d have to sing the chorus while Irene was sitting on his knee, thrusting her SM58 mic into his face.  On one particular occasion, she extracted the poor guy’s name and he blurted out “Claude”. He was on a table with about 20 hooting friends, so Irene dragged Claude up on stage.

Irene and Susie made an incredible fuss over Claude, for no particular reason, and the crowd loved it. The girls cooed and feigned amazement at what he was wearing, his hairstyle and his voice, when there was nothing extraordinary about any of those things.

The following Friday night, Claude, and even more of his friends came back for more punishment so Irene dragged Claude up on stage and the girls poked endless fun, yet again.  They launched into United We Stand and that night The Claude Show was born.

Every Friday morning from then on, as they munched on Taylors toast and vegemite in bed, Irene (in Reservoir) and Susie (in Moonee Ponds) would ring each other and excitedly plan the theme for that night’s Claude Show.  There was never a script.  The girls would bring along appropriate props and totally adlib.  Poor Scotty would just brace himself for whatever might happen.

One particular Friday night, the stage was set up as if we were in Claude’s car.  A rear-vision mirror and fuzzy dice were attached to the microphone stand and the girls went on and on about all the ‘stuff’ that might be found in Claude’s car, all the while bobbing up and down as if they were actually travelling in his car.  Claude was a wonderful straight man, putting up with the jokes. The Claude Show always ended with a rousing rendition of United We Stand.

Claude’s fans grew in numbers making Neil and Maree, the owners of The Candy, pretty happy.  When Double Fantasy was advertised in the weekly gig guide in The Age the listing read:  ‘Double Fantasy – featuring The Claude Show’.

Notable Claude Shows included Claude at the Disco and In Claude’s Room. However, the highlight was Claude Goes Camping.  The Candy Tavern boasted a sunken dance floor, which was bang on trend in the late 1980s. The girls set up a tent, barbeque and camping chairs in the middle of the dance floor and the punters crowded around the perimeter, hanging over the chrome-trimmed barrier.  Everyone sang along to United We Stand, while Claude, cocktail in hand, reclined on his sun lounge. To the crowd’s delight, as the last chorus erupted the pub’s chef burst out of the kitchen and stepped down onto the dance-floor, holding aloft a plate of raw steaks for Claude’s barbeque.  People went crazy!

Postscript:  Irene ran into Claude at the Preston Market a while back. Sadly, his singing career came to a screaming halt when we left The Candy at the end of the decade.


Getting ready for The Claude Show and the United We Stand finale.

Sue is part of music programs at eight Melbourne schools, including Footscray West Primary. She is the co-editor of How the West Was One, a collection of memoirs from people who grew up in Melbourne's west in '50s, '60s & '70s.