Rock ‘n’ roll photos offer a stark glimpse into Adelaide’s musical golden age
During the 1970s and 1980s, the country’s musical roads led to Adelaide, which was then reveling in the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll.
- Photographer Eric Algra was at the heart of Adelaide’s music scene at its peak
- He has worked closely with artists such as Bob Marley, Midnight Oil and the Divinyls
- Her collection of striking snaps is now on display for new audiences to enjoy
Adelaide has not only produced big names, but also attracted them.
“It was fantastic, it was really vibrant,” remembers photographer Eric Algra.
“You got the paper on a Thursday and looked at the concert guide – it was just rows and rows of things going on.”
Some of the names you may have spotted include Blondie, Talking Heads, The Clash and Bob Marley.
“Adelaide was really the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and I think it was because we had all these people from England who came and set up camp in Elizabeth,” Redgum frontman John Schumann said. .
“It was a massive, massive, vibrant creative hub.”
In the middle of the scene was Algra, who established himself as one of the best music photojournalists in town.
More than 50 of his most striking shots have now been exhibited at the Ian and Pamela Wall Gallery on the roof of the city’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
“It really was an Adelaide story that hadn’t been told,” said curator Helen Trepa.
The catalyst for the exhibition was an image from 1977.
“It all started with an intriguing photo I spotted of Blondie (Debbie Harry) standing in Hindley Street with what looked like a sack of potatoes in an article for music magazine Roadrunner,” Trepa said.
It didn’t take long for Algra to become Roadrunner’s lead photographer.
His job was to capture the essence of every big band strutting the stages of Adelaide.
Although he vividly remembers his stint with English band Madness, it was Australian and Adelaide rock legends Cold Chisel who were his favourites.
“They were all in,” he said,
“I think they had a period where they seemed to start at a volume, as the night progressed they got louder and louder and the crowd got crazier and crazier.”
The charisma and magnetism of the women and men in the group caught Algra’s attention, from the sex appeal of Michael Hutchence to the raw energy of Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil and Chrissy Amplett of The Divinyls.
Schumann is amazed at the memories that came back to him when he first saw the photos.
“I’m thrilled to see Eric’s work as a real photographer – unlike someone with a digital camera, he’s the real deal.”
A photo of Schumann during a concert in the popular group Redgum is presented in the exhibition.
“It was at Burnside Town Hall at one of Redgum’s first gigs,” he recalled.
“I had a Bay City Rollers t-shirt that someone gave me, I thought the Bay City Rollers were awful and I basically wore the Bay City Rollers t-shirt on stage as an exercise in deep political irony .”
Schumann said those who lived through the 70s and 80s would take a trip down memory lane seeing the photos in the exhibit.
But he thinks the scope of the collection should go much further.
“For young musicians emerging today, what I would say is come see this, immerse yourself in the imagery,” Schumann said.
Algra is now semi-retired but is appalled at the way rock concerts are covered in modern times.
“They know how to use a camera because it’s not that difficult and they point it at the scene and they come away with a shot,” he said.
“For me, there’s a little more than that.”
Helen Trepa was a cash-strapped university student during Adelaide’s Golden Age and used to listen to major concerts from outdoor venues including the Adelaide Oval and Apollo Stadium.
But she firmly believes it’s an exhibit rock ‘n’ roll fans can’t afford to miss.