LOOKING BACK on one’s wild days of youth, it’s easy to get caught up in the old Rose Tinted Goggles syndrome and remember things a whole lot better than they really were. But still, there were some old times, usually long weekends, that really were that good! Australia Day long weekend in 1983 was one of those good’ns for me.
Australia Day in ’83 wasn’t shaping up too flash as the countdown ticked away. See, I had a big historic road race meeting on at the late, great Amaroo Park, and I was without a passenger for my Triumph sidecar. My passenger was my then girlfriend Glenice, or The Goog, as she was known to those quick enough to duck. She’d declared most definitely that she wouldn’t be spending another January long weekend in the scorching dustbowl that was Amaroo Park dressed in leathers, push-starting sidecars and suffering heatstroke. Besides, the Narara Rock Concert was on up the Central Coast and The Goog said she’d be attending that with her sister Louella, her two cute cousins Yannie-Boo and Sards, plus the infamous McGowan Sisters; Iron Tits, Jenny-Tahlia, Spindle and Frog.
And The Goog, being a good sport, had organised her brother Howie (short for Howard Hughes — the other famous recluse who spent most days hozzin’ out on a lounge) to get his racing licence and be my passenger. He picked up the licence on the Friday afternoon so was cutting things a bit fine, but I gotta tell ya, he was a fast learner, and over the course of the weekend, became a fine passenger. So good was he, we even won the Bob Jarvis Memorial Trophy which may not mean much to many people, but if you race sidecars, it’s a fine thing to have your name engraved on one of the silver panels that read like a Who’s Who of Australian sidecar racers.
But by end of racing on Sunday arvo, that was just two thirds of a good weekend, and I wasn’t about to miss the last night and day of Narara Rock Concert. Howie was cartin’ out Spindle McGowan at the time but he didn’t wanna go to no stinkin’ rock concert. Another mate, Weed, who was cartin’ out Iron Tits McGowan at the time, was raring to go so a plan was formulated. Howie would take the sidecar home in the old Morris J Van race transporter, while Weed and me, who had ridden our bikes to the track, would spear off towards the Central Coast and party on at Narara with the posse of drunken girls who were already there.
Sounded like a plan.
Like a lot of the best-laid plans, this one went to shit in seconds when Weed crashed his bike on New Line Road 10 or 15 minutes past Amaroo’s exit gate. I was on my Norton Commando, a fine bike indeed, but Weed was on his Kawasaki Shitbox with loose steering head bearings. It was one of those awful ‘orphan’ bikes, a KZ 750 Kawasaki four-stroke twin. It sorta looked a bit like a Kwakka Nine, but with a slug of a twin motor and a fork yoke steering stem made from cheese. One of the biggest problems of the models was the constant loosening of the steering head bearings, and Weed discovered how loose his were that day. We’d just waved bye-bye to Howie in the race transporter and gunned the throttles toward our date with rock concert destiny. Weed overtook a line of cars, with me close behind, probably hitting about 92 or 93.5 km/h, which turns out, was a crucial speed for the state of his steering head bearings. Without warning, the Shitbox Kwakk went into the wildest, most instant tank-slapper I’d ever seen, and I’s seen a few, Boss! The Kwakk just went from left to right full lock about three times leaving giant black skiddies on the roadway, each time pitching Weed higher and higher out of the seat. I remember thinking, “If he can just hold on for another five seconds, he’ll win this rodeo!”
But then the wild thing bucked him right over the bars and he hit the road and tumbled, and tumbled and tumbled. Weed was doing the classic ‘Flying W’, plus a number of other dangerous letters of the alphabet.
At this stage, my main plan was to not run Weed over in any way, and a graceful swerve put me beside him as he tumbled down perfectly along the centreline (broken white lines, as it was, so at least we were overtaking legally). But then his bastard of a Kawasaki started bucking, weaving and sliding towards me, the camber of the road making it obvious to all concerned that the prick of thing was out to get me. I was running out of bitumen and the dirt on the side was rutted and red.
Now, you must understand, I’d been racing a sidecar all weekend so I was still ‘in the zone’, and while it wasn’t a yawn, I had the whole situation under complete control. What’s more, I never even looked like losing the slab of Toohey’s Old cans balanced precariously on the tank.
But here’s the thing: Have you ever noticed that whenever you’re manfully controlling a Fireflake Royal Blue Norton Fastback on a badly rutted road shoulder, and a horizontally-sliding Shitbox Kwakka is doing its level best to take you out, there’s always some dopey bastard just up the road fixing a flat tyre on his boat trailer? It always happens that way!
Like I said, I was in the zone, so it all happened so slowly for me, and I remember the look on Boat Trailer Bloke’s face. He was standing there, wheel brace in hand watching the drama unfold, when you could see the recognition kick in. A Norton Commando was speedway-sliding towards him while just slipping around the front of the crashing Kawasaki, which in turn was heading for the back of his disabled boat trailer. I think he mouthed the words, “Fuck staying here for Breakfast!” as he dropped the wheel-brace and ran towards the front of his car where he hid. Pretty brisk pace for an old bloke, too, I thought.
Weed’s Kwakk stopped about 2 feet short of the trailer’s tail lights, while I pulled the Norton up nice and parallel with the flat tyre of the boat trailer — parked right on top of the wheel-brace — right where he was standing. It only would’ve been a tiny nudge, anyway.
I looked back down the road and thought, “Oh shit!” Weed hadn’t moved, and he was lying across a white line, at 90 degrees to the direction of travel.
I hooked a quick U-ey and raced back to where Weed lay. All the traffic had luckily stopped, but I was first one there, parking the bike and hunkering down to road level.
“Weed, mate, are you okay?” It was a dumb question and one spoken in a really squeaky voice. I was freakin’ out as I was talking to Weed, with his head facing up the hill, his torso facing downhill and one of his legs pointing uphill as well. One eye opened, then the other.
“My head’s alright,” he moaned. “I’m just working my way down and everything else seems okay.”
Then I really started freaking right out as Weed started turning his head around the right way. Then he untangled a leg from underneath his twisted body, before dragging an arm out from there as well.
“Mate, stay where you are!” I pleaded, as did a number of bystanders who were all saying things like, “Yerk” and “bleechh” and “Far out, man.”
Despite numerous people gingerly trying to keep him were he was, Weed picked himself up, dusted himself off and walked almost unassisted to the side of the road and sat on the dirt bank. The ambulance arrived in minutes and despite the ambo’s strong suggestions, Weed refused a ride in the blood-wagon.
One thing Weed had going for him was his obscene double-jointedness; he could pop elbows, shoulders and hips in or out at will. He could weird out unsuspecting people with his famous ‘head stuck through the backwards-folded arms’ trick and you just knew some of the things he’d get up to in private wouldn’t be legal in many states of Australia.
“No, I’ll be okay,” he moaned. “I’ll get a lift home in the van. You go on to Narara and tell Iron Tits I’m okay.”
Weed’s shitbox wasn’t too badly damaged so it was wheeled into a helpful local’s front yard, and the battered Weed was loaded into the van where he spent an uncomfortable trip home on the platform of the sidecar outfit. I cleared some of the debris off the road; one piece was the face of his smashed tacho, which I slipped into my pocket.
Flat out to Narara, I got there just after dark as the bands were starting to fire up. Naturally, after missing two-thirds of the gig, I wasn’t going to pay at the gate. Large, open-air rock concerts on massive properties and motorcycles go hand-in-hand for those wishing to gain free entry.
“Park your bike way over there and then come back here and pay for your ticket!” the security Gate Droog always barks.
“Sayonara, Sucker!” is always the best reply as you gun that bike in the direction of the action. Take it from me, Gate Droog on foot never outruns a Snortin’ Norton.
After temporarily hiding the bike among rows of vehicles in what turned out to be the security compound (crazy like a Fox), I set about finding my girl, The Goog, amid a hazed crowd of 50,000 party people. Making my way to concert control, I passed sign after sign which read ‘NO STAGE ANNOUNCEMENTS, NO LOST PEOPLE MESSAGES, NO, NO, NO! NOTHING NADA, NEIN, NON!
I asked the nice lady in the concert control tent, “Can I get a message to a person named Iron Tits McGowan?”
“No!” she said.
Then I explained that Iron Tits’ fella was in a terrible motorcycle accident and that she needs to know.
“NO!” was still the stern reply. “But,” she added, “on the scale of bullshit excuses, that one rates very highly.”
I pulled my trump card from my pocket. “Look,” I pleaded. “It’s completely true. Here’s the smashed up tacho dial from my mate’s bike!”
For some reason that worked and the one and only find-a-friend type of stage announcement made at that concert brought Iron Tits and The Goog running up to collect me and Norton and take us to the campsite full of girls.
We rocked and rolled all night, with Australia’s best bands blasting the shit out of our eardrums. To be perfectly honest, my memory was saying The Angels were fantastic, but a sly check on Wikipedia tells me they weren’t even on Sunday night so it must’ve been either Dragon, Mi-Sex, Jo Jo Zep, Goanna, Richard Clapton, Cold Chisel or Rose Tattoo which ripped the place apart for me. After a case of mostly warm Toohey’s Old on a stinking hot night, my head felt ripped apart as well. It was good, okay?
Mid-Monday morning, most of the girls were ready to leave, and having had 24 beers and no sleeps, I wasn’t ready. Knowing the place would be rotten with coppers with breath-testing machines, I stalled for as long as I could. I’d already been put on the bag twice before arriving at the gate the night before when I was sober but I didn’t fancy my chances of being under the limit for the third time. There was a ‘young constable/old sergeant’ combo of coppers standing by a gate about 50 metres away so I approached them.
“Hey matey,” I said all friendly like. “What are the chances of getting a quick breath test before I leave?”
“Fuck off, dickhead,” the young constable said in a most polite manner.
I looked across at the older copper, one eyebrow rapidly raising and lowering while my head was nodding almost imperceptibly towards the smart-arse young cop, as if to say, “He’s a thoroughly detestable twat, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, I suppose we could do that,” the old Sarge mumbled, before mysteriously producing a roadside breath test kit. It was one of the old, original glass tube test kits, the type you break one end off before filling a plastic bag on the other end with putrid breath.
“Lucky you, you’re well and truly sober,” the old Sarge sneered. “I would’ve thought you’d be still be pissed from the look of you. Be careful, anyway, the roads are rotten with radar traps.”
I thought I’d be over the limit too, what with staying up all night drinking at a rock concert and all that, but there you go.
So we saddled up. The Goog jumped on the back of the mighty Norton, Jenny-Tahlia McGowan rode pillion on Previtte’s Honda while Spindle McGowan rode her own Yamaha 500 Single. The rest of the girls piled into Frog McGowan’s car.
It was a beaut day but we knew the story with holiday Monday traffic on the F3 so we shot off down the back way towards Wiseman’s Ferry. About a mile from the exit gate, there was this huge great downhill run with an obvious 90 degree left-handed bend at the bottom of the hill.
‘This looks like a perfect radar trap road,’ me thinks, and sure enough, in the trees at the bottom of the hill, you could just make out the white and blue glint of a number of cop cars.
A few ‘slow-down’ signals to all concerned and the convoy of three bikes and one carload of hotties dawdled down the hill and around the bend at about 38 km/h. We all looked at the cops, flashing our best cheesy grins as we ambled past the sneaky bastards.
We’d done nothing wrong, but still, one copper raced to his car, jumped in and gave chase. Siren and lights blazing, he blasted off after us, so we just pulled over and waited to deny him the pleasure of furious pointing to the side of the road (they love that part).
The copper pulled in behind the convoy and jumped out, putting his really gay Gestapo leather cap on his bonce before striding towards us, cradling his infringement book like it was his first-born son.
And then something really amazing happened.
“Hello, Brucie, you old bastard,” Previtte said to a shocked Highway Patrolman.
“Oh, err… hi, Previtte,” he replied, before acknowledging all the McGowan sisters whom he knew for one reason or another (one being that he moonlighted at Weed’s brother’s business).
“G’day, Brucie,” I yelled. (I went to school with the bloke but I didn’t know he’d become a copper). “What did you pull us over for?”
“Aww, I just wanted to say G’day,” he replied, though not very convincingly.
“So what’s the book for?” I added.
“Oh, this?” he asked innocently. “No, I always carry this, look; I knew it was you lot, so I just wanted to say Hi.”
“Yeah, righty-oh,” we all said before exchanging a few more unpleasantries and saddling up again.
It was a great ride down the Wiseman’s Ferry road to the ferry itself, and if you’re into motorcycles, rock concerts and beer on long weekends, you’d have to agree with me that to park a bike on a vehicular ferry, stare off the side at the water and have the first few moments to yourself after many consecutive hours on the go, it’s a really nice thing.
Of course, that kind of solitude is always broken by some sheila harping on about something. “I think we’re going to have a swim in the river once we get to the other side,” The Goog proclaimed.
“I don’t think so,” I countered. “I’m totally rooted, sore all over from racing and I just want to get home.” Emboldened, I added, “We’re not even going to stop for the obligatory beer and feed at the Wiseman’s Ferry Pub. Straight home for me.”
“Look, all the girls want to have a swim, and I want one too,” The Goog pleaded. “Besides, I don’t think any of us have both parts of our bikinis with us so we’ll be skinny-dipping.”
“I suppose a quick and refreshing dip in the Hawkesbury River is not going to hurt anyone,” I conceded.
I even backed down on my hard-line stance on not stopping at Wisemen’s Ferry Pub, so the trip home took even longer again.
So on that Monday afternoon at the close of the 1983 Australia Day Long Weekend, I was musing on about what a top three days I’d just had: A brilliant two days racing sidecars at Amaroo Park, winning a great big trophy, not running over my mate Weed and not being clobbered by his wayward bike, not being booked for drunk driving, partying on at one of Australia’s legendary rock concerts, not getting booked again the next morning, neat ride on a neat machine on good roads with my best girl behind me, copping a fair old perve at a number of McGowan Sister’s naked tits, a beaut counter lunch and beer at an historic old pub before a thrilling ride home. I even got to take the ferret for a run with the girlie in her tent early on Monday morning so it was all points covered.
Rose-coloured glasses? No way, the weekends really were that good back in the old days.