In his biography of Cream, Dave Thompson makes the point that most blues-based music we’ll never know that we heard in the mid-sixties was a significant departure from the originals in sound because of the various participants’ refusal to sit still for a moment. You could compile an entire album ... from the multitudinous versions ... laid down in English studios between 1963 and 1964, but you struggled to find even two that sounded the same. American groups, on the other hand, excelled at achieving an authenticity that made even John Mayall and Cyril Davies look avant-garde by comparison (Thompson, D Cream: The World’s First Supergroup p. 82) 

Of course, virtually everything that hit our airwaves was based around the Top 40, although at that stage the Top 40 was more eclectic than it became as radio degenerated into formats like adult-oriented rock and playlists became much more formulaic. 

Apart from the Top 40 and tracks from the latest Beatles or Stones album, there were DJ favourites that they also would slip into the playlists at their weekend gigs.  Townsville’s premier radio station at the time had two youth DJs - who operated dances at venues like The Shack on Friday nights and were known as Bill-A-Go-Go and Stuie-Gone-Gone (and, no I’m not making that up). They cross-promoted those gigs on their shows and featured some of the favourite dance tracks in their playlists, which is why I have such vivid memories of hearing stuff like the Animals’ Club A Go Go - which as far as I can tell was never released on a single or EP in Australia - regularly on the radio in 1965.

So we heard some blues-based stuff on radio and record, but it wasn’t going to be anything authentic - and when we heard something that was the genuine article it sounded different to what we were used to. Remember this was the time when the American blues scene prized authenticity in sound, rather than interpretation in performance.

Of course, at the time I was in High School and, like most kids, wasn’t exactly rolling in disposable income. My weekly pocket money wouldn’t have stretched to an album per week, so singles were the standard buying option. 

However, I did have a friend who’d dropped out of school to work in an accountant’s office, and though he wasn’t rolling in dough, he could afford to indulge himself in fashionable threads and was buying albums. His taste ran to Them, Simon & Garfunkel and The Association. As sophisticated sixteen-year-old connoisseurs of music we read the music papers that found their way to country Australia and we knew what was cool.

B© Ian Hughes 2012