Myponga Festival, Australia 1971

Myponga Festival, Australia 1971
Authored By John Nicholson

Despite being all the way down at the bottom of the map, Australia had its own emerging freak and head scene in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s an interesting scene too because it was largely self-generated. It was such a haul that a lot of bands simply never, or only rarely, played Down Under so they had to get their own groove on, mostly powered by their own bands.

The town of Myponga is situated on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula, about 60 kilometres south of Adelaide. 

The Myponga Festival - its proper title was "The Australian Festival of Progressive Music" - was held on the traditional festival date, the Australia Day long weekend, from 30 January to 1 February. It was staged just a week after the Wallacia Festival in NSW and many of the acts who played at Myponga had come direct from performing at Wallacia.

The main figure in the festival organising company, Music Power, was Hamish Henry, an young Adelaide millionaire entrepreneur who had a continuing involvement with rock music in the early '70s. As well as organising the Myponga festival, Henry managed one of the headlining local bands, War Machine he also managed other Adelaide groups, Headband, Lotus and Fraternity (feat. Bon Scott).

The promo material declared “The promoters believe that in keeping with world trends of freedom of expression and thought in all fields of art, literature and music, Myponga 71 will be an exciting, aesthetic and elevating experience through progressive music.” Far out, man.

Myponga was also an important event in the careers of two leading Australian groups -- Daddy Cool and Spectrum. Spectrum's successful appearance was some months before their national hit breakout with "I'll Be Gone".

The same was true for Daddy Cool, which at the time was still part of Wilson and Hannaford's larger Sons of the Vegetal Mother (excellent name, man - pass the bong, dude!) project. DC had been warmly received at Wallacia and when their Myponga set totally eclipsed the Vegetals it was clear that Daddy Cool were far more popular than their parent band, so Sons of the Vegetal Mother was soon shelved for good.

In order to put this on, Henry simply bought a dairy farm for the sole purpose of using the land for the gig. Now that’s how you do it. 

The festival was headlined by Black Sabbath. Cat Stevens was advertised as co-headline artist at the festival but he cancelled to perform in Los Angeles. Hey that’s not cool, Cat.

The Canberra Times' correspondent reported that the "festival rocked to a close tonight after taking one and a half days to warm up. The pop crowd, estimated at 8,000 (many got in free boosting the numbers to 40,000) started arriving at the 62-acre farm at Myponga early on Saturday morning. Most of them had brought plenty of alcohol and, although violence did not erupt, the atmosphere at the festival was tense at times."  However, these people seem to be getting it on

Author Clinton Walker in his book 'Highway to Hell: The life and death of Bon Scott' described the Myponga Festival: "With a bill boasting an exclusive appearance by Black Sabbath as well as the cream of Australia's progressive bands, Myponga - bankrolled by Hamish Henry was the biggest thing to hit Adelaide since the Beatles..."

Later, Ozzy Osbourne recalled the group's debut Australian performance, "That was the Myponga Pop Festival if I remember right? Management told us we'd have an exact copy of our amplifiers there, which we thought was great, but when we got there they were nothing like our amplifiers! But you know what? You get up there and do your best and I had a good time. I remember we had a big party at the hotel and some chicks there got absolutely shit-faced and were throwing up everywhere and we had to send them home. I don't remember much on the sex front after that..."

Ah yes, that sounds like the 1970’s typical rock n roll scene!

Myponga has certainly gone down in Aussie rock legend and is fondly remembered by heads of certain age. The full bill was: Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens, Chain Company, Caine, Coney Island Jug Band, Daddy Cool, Desiderata, Fanny Adams, Fat Angel, Flying Biplane, Fraternity, Hans Poulsen, Hippo Move, Jeff Crozier, Magic Freaks, Jeff St. John and the Copperwine, John Graham, Lipp Arthur, Lipp Caine Rock Orchestra, Lotus Magic, Mass Margaret, Road Knight, Moonshine Jug and String Band, Octopus, Paper Cup, Pig Face, Red Angle Panic, Sons of the Vegetal Mother, Spectrum, Sunshine, Syrius, Uncle Jack, War Machine, Wendy Saddington

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