The Grand Hotel’s short but huge claim to fame as a venue for bands came about in 1977. The publican Dennis was approached with the proposal of opening the doors to a new style of music for that time, Punk Rock.
The Oxford Funhouse at Taylor Square Sydney had just closed its doors to Punk Rock bands and this left a huge hole as there weren’t any other venues putting on Punk Rock bands at the time. Johnny Dole and Peter Mullany from Punk Rock band Johnny Dole & The Scabs decided to investigate other pubs around Sydney, to see if any would be interested in opening up a new venue for Punk Rock. After doing the rounds for weeks going from pub to pub, looking for one that would give this new music a chance and with door after door being closed in their faces, they were about to give up.
It was decided to take Ray Walsh, Johnny Dole’s brother along to act as manager to give them a higher profile. Arriving at the Grand Hotel, they entered to speak to the publican.
The publican, Dennis was in his mid 30’s and Punk Rock was always going to be a hard sell to anyone. Ray and the boys, undaunted and determined to give it their best shot to convince this gentleman of it’s worth, started with their pitch. When they had finished to their surprise Dennis was open to the idea!
There was a spare room in the back of the pub that had a bar and wasn’t being used so Dennis said “Why not, it might mean some extra revenue and what harm could it do?” The agreement was, Dennis would supply someone to run the bar, (the lovely Yvonne) and the night manager Fred was in charge of keeping an eye on things. As long as the “décor” was untouched, posters on the walls were OK but the rest had to be left as it was, then bands were welcome to play. Punk Rock now had a new venue and the future was looking up.
The room’s capacity was approximately 120 people and they came in through the main entrance on Broadway and the look on the patron’s faces when some of the Punk Rockers walked in was priceless. It also had a door in Bijou Lane behind the pub used for deliveries. The bands could also use this door to load in and out and just before you entered the main room there was another smaller storage area where the bands could leave their gear before going on or after finishing their set.
Unfortunately there was no stage and money not being in great abundance a stage was hastily erected from pallets and packing crates with a large piece of second hand carpet thrown over the top which was kindly donated by the drummer’s parents as they had just re-carpeted their home!
Bands had to supply their own PA and Lights and most times it was just a vocal PA cranked up as loud as it would go, with feedback adding to the atmosphere. Most bands didn’t have lights, but there was one poor unfortunate light just above the stage that regularly got abused, usually by Johnny Dole!
Ray (now official manager for the band) and members of Johnny Dole & The Scabs were handling the bookings and each week professional posters were ordered and put up around Sydney. To help cover these running costs and to hopefully have some money left over for the bands there was a cover charge of $1.00 usually for 2 bands.
So on Friday 16th September 1977 Johnny Dole & The Scabs supported by Tommy & The Dipsticks opened the doors of the Grand Hotel for the first time to Punk Rock and would go on to have many of the well-known Punk Rock and New Wave bands play there till it closed its doors late 1979.
Unfortunately the Grand Hotel no longer exists, being torn down and replaced in 1986 by a multi storey office complex, with retail shops below. Some of the original structure remains in the back lane but from the front it is totally unrecognizable from its original look.
Bands Known To Have Played At The Grand Hotel *
- Johnny Dole & The Scabs
- Mangrove Boogie Kings
- Mental As Anything
- The Parisites
- Psycho – Surgeons
- Shock Treatment
- Society Blitz
- Suicide Squad
- The Allniters
- The Broken Toys
- The Clones
- The Crooked Hearts
- The Last Words
- The Press
- The Urban Guerillas
- Tommy & The Dipsticks
- World War IV
* Although The Leftovers, from Queensland appear on the poster above and were booked to play, they didn’t actually play at the Grand Hotel. Unfortunately they arrived without any equipment and the support band, Shock Treatment were understandably reluctant to lend theirs. Shock Treatment ended up doing the night on their own which exhausted their repertoire, so Johnny Dole & The Scabs who were not expecting to play that night did a set to help out. Here is a review of that night which appeared in the Fanzine Pulp Issue #2 – 26th November 1977.
SHOCK TREATMENT by James B.
Grand Hotel, Sydney, Sept. 23
Shock Treatment ploughed through one set, a break, another set and another break. As the exhaustion was beginning to cause strain (due to the fact that there was no formal support band) Johnny Dole and the Scabs hit the stage. It would be highly misleading and grossly unfair to make any comments on the Scabs’ set as they were not expecting to play, nor were they physically prepared for the event. In fact, they all looked pretty out of it.
Nevertheless, they slammed into some prime grunge-metal jamming which was quite amazing in contrast to the more technical flash of Treatment. One of their dole-queue anthems, ‘Lucky Country’, got the full treatment and was incredible. A very promising outfit.
Link: Grand_Hotel Broadway