I saw Fraternity upstairs in a venue in Adelaide around 1970. I remember Bon out the front. The audience were all sitting on the floor spread out, surrounded by speakers. It was a very innovative surround sound experience, as the speakers extended from the instruments and along the wall to the rear of the venue. I wasn’t ever a person to go out and see bands. I suffered from severe agoraphobia. I only ever attended three shows in my youth, The Twilights at memorial drive, Zoot in a local club in Adelaide, and Fraternity.
There was an unlicensed venue in Tweed Heads called VJ’s. That’s where Fraternity played when I first saw them. Fraternity had formed out of the split of Levi Smith’s Clefs, and acquired Bon from The Valentines. From Perth, previously wearing the orange frilled band uniform of The Valentines, in some vague attempt to connect with the teenybopper audience that they were being marketed to. When I saw Fraternity, I realized those times were gone and Bon, now in Fraternity, playing the tougher and more psychedelic tunes of the day such as Traffic’s ‘Heaven’s in your Mind’ …or did I dream that? I think not.
At the time of this performance the twin towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads, probably either side of the border, were quite different. Queensland, the police state, and Tweed Heads, the corrupt cops’ town. I was there playing the Cabbage Patch gig at the Coolangatta Hotel. We were the resident band there. We would drive up to Surfers (Paradise) playing late nights at the King’s Table supporting Fraternity with the great Bon Scott, and Mick Jurd on guitar. It was just awesome. I wish I still had that Vox amp, the best AC 30 reverb twin Vox ever made. My Avengers band mate, Jeff Duff, went on to drop his daks on stage while Paul McCartney played the Old Grey Whistle Test. Good one Duff! Hell of a CV.
As a lad of ten or eleven I lived on Tenth Avenue, St Peters. Often on the weekends during summer, usually a Sunday arvo, public concerts would be held on the side of the river at Elder Park, or on a stage that would be built over a man-made lake, opposite East Terrace in the parklands. St Peters was only a ten-minute push-bike ride away, so when the bands would fire up, I could hear them from home. I loved these times and would jump on my push-bike and ride as fast as I could to get there. At the time Fraternity were by far my favourite local band. Bon Scott was an amazing singer and performer, and Mauri Berg had the fattest sound with a fluid blues-inspired style. Fraternity inspired me, they truly did.
They were an amazing band and I feel blessed that I was able to see them live and in wonderful settings and times. Seeing them play one evening in particular, they were set up on the island in the middle of the Rymill Park Lake as we watched and listened from the grassy banks. It was a life changer for me. So inspirational.
I was a fan of Fraternity. I loved the recorder and I loved the myth around the band. I saw them at a blues festival at Glenelg Town Hall. I do know I saw the Mount Lofty Rangers somewhere! Bon Scott was an intriguing figure, because he’d come from The Valentines pop group, and it was like he’d rejected the worst of pop glamour, silk costuming, and emptiness for the real music of Fraternity and the underground scene. I do remember putting a PA together for Mickey Finn. My only memory of that is Uncle was in the band, with Joff Bateman, and Vince Lovegrove was the manager who booked me. The gig was at Largs Pier and my PA (and I) were dodgy.
Captain Thunder were signed to the local Raven label and we did quite a few shows with Fraternity. They were always the headliners. They were in fact a class act, and us younger musicians were pretty much in awe of their musicianship. Especially Bon, of course. Such a great singer, but also played recorder and bongos with the band. Being a drummer at that stage, I had approached John Freeman, their drummer, on a couple of occasions, and although I was his biggest fan he seemed a bit quiet, even a bit grumpy, so I would just watch him play and learn what I could. I did in fact steal a drum fill from him that formed part of the Captain Thunder cover of ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, the B-side of our single. With Bon it was different. Here was this guy, shortish of stature but already big on legend and mythology. Incredibly, he had tattoos, was way before they were cool. In fact, it was the opposite then. People with tattoos weren’t cool and were usually sailors or bodgies, and their tattoo usually read ‘MUM’. Didn’t really fit the more hippie zeitgeist, but he was so good, you kind of ignored that, and you certainly mistrusted the rumours going around that he had defecated into Jim Keay’s wife’s handbag.
Anyway, the two bands found ourselves at the Adelaide studios of Channel 9, in Tynte Street. At the time I had a white drum kit, and to add to the kit, I had a white set of bongos that sat above my small tom. The problem was, I kept breaking the pigskin drum head, as I was playing them with drumsticks. Bon Scott also had a set of bongos on stage, and they sounded so much better than mine. I was sixteen at the time, and not overly confident, but as both bands were backstage and Bon was setting up his bongos. I plucked up the courage to go over and have a chat to him, even though with his tattoos and such I was pretty nervous. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was just so warm and friendly and pointed out that what I needed was the new plastic drum heads that are now made for bongos as well. I grabbed my bongos and he showed me how much crisper they were than the pigskin. Right there and then we had a bongo jam until the floor manager told us to be quiet. My memory of Bon is certainly a positive one.
Great band, Fraternity, and had something very different than most. We did quite a few shows with them and I became pals with Bon, even before, when he was with The Valentines. I always remember the day when the band turned up at my place. I was cutting my lawn when their bus pulled up alongside of me, and I’ll never forget the look on Bon’s face when he saw me. They were dropping in to see my neighbour, Trevor Marshall, to check out some PA gear, as Trevor was supplying all his homemade PAs to most of the venues at that time. Snoopy Hollow was one in particular, great memories.
I quite often shared a cab home with Bon from the Whiskey A Go-Go in the late sixties. He was working upstairs with Fraternity and I was working downstairs in The Affair. He was living in Jersey Road, in Paddington, and I was living at Charing Cross, so I used to drop him off on the way home. A lovely guy. Good times.
I have great memories of Fraternity. I loved them with or without Bon.
Fraternity’s Seasons of Change with Bon Scott on vocals and John Freeman on drums was everywhere – in the air, on the radio, at Adelaide Uni gigs. My sister, Jen, knew their manager Hamish Henry very well. We would see him regularly. I loved Fraternity, who were, and remain, with Spectrum, my all time top two favourite Aussie bands.
Fraternity were my favourite Australian band at the time and not because of ‘brother’ Mick Jurd on the guitar. I just loved their songs and was proud Mick had found his niche. We all went our own way to make the Australian music scene so colourful.
I worked at Channel Nine as a publicity and promotion writer and producer. I heard a lot of stories second-hand from cameramen, producers, and others I envied, who interacted with one of my favourite bands. I still play Flaming Galah in my car today.
Did YOU see Fraternity perform? Did YOU ever meet the band? Include your story (and proof such as a photo or ticket stub) in an email to us and we will post it here!
(Subject to review and approval by Fraternity and The Grape Organisation)