Looking for work away from usual sources, News excelled themselves at their next gig ... in the first week of March, they played a lunchtime set in the City Square! They had no permission and partly for this reason, publicity was nonexistent. The main point was that the gig was possible; Gavin, while walking through town, had noticed a power point in a wall near Swanston St. On the day, News played through one amplifier and collected a good crowd around them. I saw most of the show and it was a damn curious sight ... a hot day, with hundreds passing by while scores of clerks and shoppers watched News and stuffed takeaway food down themselves. They all seemed more bemused than anything, but there was at least scattered applause after each song. It didn't last much more than five songs before the equipment started packing up. That's what I saw. According to a report the show generated in the Truth, a council bylaws officer suggested News drop the volume "about 50%", but there was no other interference. The one amp soon died completely forcing a retreat. While it was all good fun at the time, this show typified the approach News had to spreading their message. More day gigs at campuses turned up and News were also about to record.
Bruce Milne had decided to put a two track Flexidisc by News
into Pulp Fanzine as a giveaway. The recording took place (again)
at Faraday St, using the same gear used for the Babeez EP, again,
it was all one take, straight down. The songs were two Quinn/Wirth
Sweet Dancer a Gogo
' and '
Tell me why
'. The tape was then despatched to Sydney for pressing.
Another disappointment was presented as News were mysteriously dropped from a Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM) spectacular in the Flagstaff gardens. No satisfactory explanation was ever tendered. News members believed then and now, that their exclusion was pushed by old hippies from MAUM that didn't want their cause associated with punk rock. March did see more work in though, including a benefit to assist the establishment of 3RRR FM, a student station doing limited broadcasts from RMIT. Even a few pub gigs came through: headlining at the Kingston (4th) and the 10th saw News and XRayZ [ex Adelaide] opening 'Paradise'. A short lived new wave venue behind a restaurant in Lygon street.
Although these gigs were exceptional, it was not for lack of trying....News usually didn't get work at pubs because they wouldn't play the game. "We wouldn't build up confidence at a pub by getting to know the publican and pretending we liked him. We wouldn't do any of those things and it went against us very strongly". (Gavin). There were also many venues around Melbourne that would not touch Punk bands. As Gavin told The Age back then: "We have a lot of trouble getting gigs, because once it's known we're a Punk band, we are immediately excluded" (17.2.78). One answer was to run a venue themselves, which would provide . which would lend strength to their autonomy and help out other bands that didn't get breaks. The search for the right place began. March 19th saw another benefit (for 3CR) at Collingwood Town Hall, supporting Red Hot Peppers and Dave Warner from the Suburbs. News were also disallowed by South Melbourne beach. However with the aid of an acquaintance working for ABC radio, they did make an audition for 'Quest 78'. But News didn't have what the judges were after - they weren't invited back.
More significantly, News had found a venue that would give
them one night a week to run bands. It was a mixed homosexual
venue called Bernhardt's, at 50 Little Latrobe street in the city.
The location was previously significant as the Thumping Tum, which
opened as Melbourne's first discotheque in '65. News would run
Tuesday nights. Charging a paltry $2.00 for two or more bands.
Bands that were ignored, independent, or just starting out all
from the growing 'New Wave' in Melbourne.
The first night at Bernhart's was March 28th, featuring News (natch!) and Two Way Garden. Two Way Garden were a highly individualistic bunch especially musically. One of them, Phillip Riley, had been to Swinburne with Gavin, Julie and Jarryl, and even passed through school bands with them. The event was well attended. Giving News much encouragement to keep it rolling. Which they did. The only break being for another raid on Sydney early next month.
Before March was over, News played one of the heaviest gigs
in human history. It was on the 30th, at Monash University. For
foreigners; that's in Clayton, an outer suburb of Melbourne. I
have related the extent and depth of opposition to Malcom Fraser
and his Liberal/ National Country party government. On this day,
Fraser was due to appear at Monash on a speaking engagement. Via
connections with Student Unions and the SWP, News were asked to
play at a campus demonstration against Fraser and the Police presence
required to protect him. It had been a long standing convention
that police in any state of Australia would not do any business
on campuses. Fraser himself was enough excuse for a large and
angry demo; his administration was bent on reintroducing fees,
reversing decades of hard won social and educational policy maintained
by post war Australian governments.
Early afternoon saw News set up on the back of a truck where hundreds of students were gathering to protest. As the numbers swelled to thousands, cops ringed the truck. Not quite knowing what to expect, over 170 uniformed cops, including Mounties, were on the job. News were informed that if they kept on playing, their truck would be towed away. Undaunted, our heroes played on. An audience that size was not to be flaked out on! Shortly, a senior cop approached the truck and told the band that their generator would be towed away. This didn't work either, but he was soon back with a trump card: stop playing or your instruments get smashed! News charged through a few more politically charged numbers and called it a day.
There were slots at Hearts still going for the band, but gigs everywhere were dogged by the eternal frustration of substandard equipment. By now all instruments were patched directly through the PA system, with patchy results. The usual outcome was bottom heavy to say the least: "It was never terribly successful, I'd be the first to agree" [Gavin]. This was always aggravated by the fact that News rarely had a mixer on side, especially one that could be counted on to make the most of their dates. Nobody was comfortable with this situation, but it was Gavin's solution and it fell to him to defend the idea. Presaging future conflict, John had begun to voice some frustration over the scenario, especially as News were beginning to gather some bad reputation on the basis of their live sound.