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Saturday Read: Rockin’ Australia

Categories Lifestyle

Today is Record Store Day and so we spoke with Perth’s James Anfuso, whose massive three-volume, 1,200-page book Rockin Australia collects together the most awesome rock ‘n’ roll tour posters ever produced in this country.

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When did your love of rock start?

I grew up in Perth in the 1960s. My older sister and brother were both fans of the British Invasion bands and in particular The Rolling Stones. I remember “freakin’ out” every time I heard the sounds generated by those little 7-inch black vinyl records with titles like “Play with Fire”, “Paint it Black” and “Get Off My Cloud” played on a small plastic record player that my sister had somehow convinced my very traditional and conservative Italian parents to buy. There is little doubt that the music and bad boy image of the Rolling Stones was the catalyst that sparked my lifetime love affair with rock’n’roll.

How’d you start collecting?

Initially, my collecting was limited to vinyl records but this quickly expanded to include concert memorabilia like tour programs and ticket stubs. It was sometime in the late 1980s when I first starting taking notice of concert/gig posters and realised that these precious relics were in danger of disappearing forever as no-one in Australia seemed to be collecting them. Thus was borne an obsession that has dominated and at times overrun my life and home. Over the last 25 years or so, my spare time has been devoured by a relentless search for these living, breathing memories of a moment immortalised in the history of rock’n’roll.

How did you convince venues to give them up?

In the ’80s and ’90s, there were virtually no music poster collectors in Australia so it was a relatively easy task to get venues to part with these posters once the gig was over. This has changed over the last 15-odd years as poster collecting has become more prevalent and both collectors and opportunists are realising that rock posters have a value attached to them.

To assemble my collection has required far more time and effort than simply asking permission from a venue or sneakily removing the poster from a wall or lamppost. The majority of my collection has come via advertisements in music and collector magazines, record fairs, garage sales, swap meets, eBay, Facebook groups and, best of all, word-of-mouth. I have a great reputation for paying what a poster is really worth and sellers from all over Australia now approach me with their posters. Even if I already have them, I’m more than happy to value these posters so that no-one gets ripped off.

What’s your wildest story about getting a poster?

About 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to buy a “Pilgrimage For Pop” poster from a seller. This poster advertises the first ever-outdoor rock festival at Ourimbah, NSW, in January 1970. It was held only five months after the world famous Woodstock festival—and two years before the Sunbury Festival in Victoria many people still mistakenly believe was the first such event in Australia. This poster was of such historical importance that I flew to Melbourne from Perth to collect it as I’d never seen or heard of a copy existing. So I was just about to leave when the seller asked if I wanted another copy. My jaw nearly hit the floor. Out comes this poster, I unroll it and cannot believe that not only is it another “Pilgrimage For Pop” poster but it has different colours to the one I’ve just purchased. I was totally gobsmacked – not only were there two posters but totally different ones. The money could not leave my pocket fast enough! It is my belief that these two posters are the most important historical posters in Australian music history.

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What are your favourite posters?

Well, both copies of the 1970 Pilgrimage For Pop. Then the 1972 Led Zeppelin and 1973 Rolling Stones tour posters.

How valuable are they?

The Pilgrimage For Pop posters are irreplaceable. They are the only known surviving copies and would be valued at between $15,000-$20,000.

The 1972 Led Zeppelin poster is believed to be the only surviving copy from this infamous tour Down Under. It was the first and only time Led Zeppelin toured Australia and all items from this tour, like ticket stubs and tour programs, are in high demand by collectors worldwide. In 2007, a dealer in America offered me $US25,000 for this poster, but I have no interest in seeing our memorabilia going overseas. The primary reason I started collecting was to preserve these posters and importantly keep them in Australia to share with future generations.

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Legendary Melbourne artist Ian McCausland designed the 1973 Rolling Stones poster. A low-quality reproduction of this poster has been available for a number of years and this has certainly decreased the value of the original. However, it’s still highly desirable amongst Stones collectors worldwide who will pay up to $2,000 for a copy in good condition.

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Who’s the best live act you’ve ever seen?

My most anticipated concert was the 1973 appearance at the WACA by childhood heroes The Rolling Stones – just seeing Mick, Keith, Bill, Charlie and new guitarist Mick Taylor there on a stage a few feet away was a moment in time I will always cherish. After the show, my friend Clive and I tracked the band down to their hotel in Scarborough and we were lucky enough to meet them as they were leaving on the way to the airport. Mick Jagger was unbelievable and personally escorted me onto their tour bus and introduced me to the other guys! Oh, wow, oh, yeah! I still have and treasure those autographs written on little scraps of paper.

And the worst?

I don’t think I would call any concert the worst, but perhaps the most disappointing was seeing Lou Reed in Perth in 1975. We were huge Velvet Underground fans and loved Lou’s solo albums. He was a living legend, the godfather of punk and he was playing Perth – life could not get any better! That is until, the show started – Lou was heavily into drugs at the time and his show reflected his state of mind. He had his back to crowd most of the night and displayed a complete disinterest in the audience. After releasing two of the greatest live albums of all time – Rock n Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live – this show for me was a complete shambles saved only by the fact that I was in the same room as Lou. That made it all worthwhile!

Rockin Australia is limited to 666 copies. How long before they sell out?

We’ve just released the remaining book copies to bookstores and music stores on the East Coast so I’m expecting these to be snapped up quickly. Each of the 666 copies is hand numbered and signed. I published Rockin Australia as I wanted to share my collection with other music and art lovers. These three volumes took five years for me to put together and get printed – it was a long labour of love and these will never be reprinted.

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For a sneak peek and to order: www.starmanbooks.com.au