About Ian "Molly" Meldrum
Ian Meldrum is a legend in the history of Australian music.
Dubbed "Molly the Music Guru", he has helped put Australian music on the world map with his recognition and appreciation of contemporary music.
Molly will be making monthly picks of the freshest Australian talent, which will appear in this section.
Initially interested in a law degree, Ian found his passion lay with music, and since the 1960's, has been presenting the best and latest in music and information to Australian audiences.
His efforts have earned him a close relationship with some of the biggest names in the industry, and because of this he has had numerous world exclusives. The first one was back in 1969, when Ian was in London working for Australia's rock paper Go Set, he was invited by John Lennon to do an interview with himself and wife Yoko Ono. It was during that interview that Lennon announced that The Beatles would be breaking up. It was a world scoop.
Other exclusives include an interview with Madonna in 1986, where she insisted that Meldrum fly from Australia to New York to do an interview for MTV America, she would do the interview with no one else.
Another was in 1987 when he interviewed Michael Jackson exclusively for 60 Minutes.
Meldrum, apart from Countdown, filmed a 24 program interview series called The Meldrum Tapes, which was televised on the ABC in Australia and subsequently aired on MTV in the U.S., Asia and Japan.
He was responsible for the institution that was Countdown and for thirteen years it showcased the finest from the music world, both local and overseas. It also became known as one of the forerunners for nurturing new talent.
Countdown established itself almost immediately in 1974 as a world class program and was responsible for introducing the Abba phenomenon to the world. By 1975, Countdown was world-renowned and any performers visiting the country would appear on Countdown. As well, local groups made their mark through the program - ACDC, Skyhooks, John Paul Young and Sherbert. It was an exciting era.
Ian's interest can be traced back to his early days when he grew up in an era with the phenomenon's of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Like so many of his generation, he was able to identify with their form of music.
By 1966, Ian was helping out local groups both in Melbourne and on the Victorian coast. Apart from music and sport, Ian's great love was also surfing. It was during this time, at a coastal Victorian town called Anglesea, that Ian's friends had formed a group, ironically called The Groop. So when Ian wasn't surfing, he sort of became their part-time roadie. Because of their popularity The Groop landed a record deal with CBS Records, which is now Sony. Finally in the summer of 66 when they returned to Melbourne and recorded their first material, Ian accompanied them to the recording studios because of his interest in possibly becoming a recording engineer.
"I was so keen on the idea that I went into Bill Armstrong's recording studios every day all day while The Groop were recording. And thanks to a young engineer by the name of Roger Savage, and Bill Armstrong who owned the studios, they allowed me to spend all of my spare time in the studios teaching me to become a panel operator"
During this time, Ian was sharing a house with Ronnie Burns' family. Ronnie was already making a name for himself as a rock/pop performer. First as the lead singer with a group called The Flies and then going out as a solo artist.
At the same time as this was happening, some young university students from Monash had started up a music weekly newspaper called Go Set. Shortly after it was published they asked Ian if he could write a story on Ronnie. After this first story they then invited him to become a regular writer.
Thoughts of study faded as Ian became involved with Go Set as well as record production. In fact in that area he learned on the job at W & G Studios on a 3 track Ampex Recorder.
When the cast of the top rating Kommotion on the 0 Network (Now the Ten Network) walked out after a producer's dispute, the production company asked Ian to be part of the new on-camera team. Initially Ian said no, but was persuaded by Go Set's Editor Phillip Fraser to become a part of it because Phillip felt it would be great promotion for Go Set.
As a full on mime top 40 program, it proved to be tremendously popular. It toured and everyone loved it. Ian mimed such hits as Little Red Riding Hood, Why Don't Women Like Me, Winchester Cathedral and Peter and Gordon's Lady Godiva. The Peter part of that duo was Peter Asher who is now one of the major heads of Sony for the world and ironically is one of Ian's close friends. Molly actually jokes with Peter about the fact that unbeknownst to him, he gave him his first chance in the business.
"Kommotion gave me a huge insight into the basics of television. It was a half hour program 5 nights a week and an hour on Sunday. We got through these shows because of the huge team spirit." (Kommotion ceased in 1968 when Actors Equity banned miming)
Ian was now principle writer for Go Set and was also producing and managing a group called Somebody's Image with the lead singer being Russell Morris.
With the demise of Kommotion Ian joined a new television show on the 0/10 network called Uptight, with the host being Ross D. Wylie. This was a four hour show, from 8 - 12 on Saturday mornings, featuring live bands.
In January 1968, Ian left for London on the ship The Castle Felice with The Groop who'd won this trip in the Battle of the Bands competition. Apart from helping out The Groop in London, Ian would also be writing a weekly report for Go Set. On the day of it's departure from Melbourne, Ian was given the news that Somebody's Image "Hush" which he had produced, had gone to number one on the Melbourne charts.
During Ian's stay in London he became friends with a gentleman called Terry Doran, who was the acting head of Apple Records, representing The Beatles. Terry also managed Apple Record's first signing - a group called Grapefruit, which had in it's line up Alex Young, who was the eldest brother of the famous Young Brothers, George from the Easybeats, and Angus and Malcolm from ACDC.
It was through Terry Doran that Ian finally met his idols, The Beatles. "I met Paul McCartney in a restaurant. It was such a shock to actually meet him that I tried to shake hands, but I still had the knife in my hand. I met John Lennon at a nightclub called The Revolution. I fainted at the shock, and fell over a waitress who threw a drink all over him."
In May 1968, Ian flew home to Australia to attend his mother's funeral. Instead of returning to London, he staying in Australia and continued to write for Go Set and pursue his record production.
By this stage Russell Morris had left Somebody's Image and wanted to pursue a solo career. So Ian not only became his manager, but his record producer as well.
Johnny Young had written two songs - The Girl That I Love and The Real Thing. "I thought The Real Thing was perfect for Russell. We recorded it in three weeks and it was No. 1 nationally for nine weeks." Ian was now on his way as a record producer. In late 1969, he produced Smiley for Ronnie Burns and records for Zoot, Masters Apprentices and helped out on John Farnham's One.
At the end of 1969, Ian again travelled to London (and also to Egypt, a country with which he fell in love).
No longer managing Russell Morris, Ian joined EMI in London, which meant that he would be able to work in the Abbey Road studios. In fact for the first 2 months Ian lived in the EMI apartment right next door to the studios and overlooked the road which was used for the cover of The Beatles' album Abbey Road.
Ian continued to send stories to Go Set with occasional reports for Uptight. He also joined Apple Records as a part time publicist in 1969/70.
It was during this time in December 69 that John and Yoko granted Ian an interview where, much to Ian's surprise, they announced to Ian that the Beatles had broken up. John's words were "The marriage is over".
Ian left London in 1970 travelling to the United States visiting New York and Los Angeles checking out the music scene and writing stories for Go Set.
"Knowing the Beatles, at that time, was like a passport, if you knew them, you got in anywhere - they were the biggest thing since sliced bread."
When he arrived back in Australia he knocked back an offer to host Happening 70, a four-hour music program which was to replace the existing Uptight.
Jeff Phillips became the host but Ian continued as a co-host and reporter.
Ian also returned to the thing he loved most - producing records. During this time he produced two major hits for Colleen Hewitt, The Star and Day By Day. He also produced the Australian Cast Recording of the musical Godspell.
In 1973, the Happening 70's series program had finished, but Ian was still writing for Go Set magazine. He was also doing rock reports for radio stations 3AK and 3UZ. During this time Ian also joined Channel 7 to become part of the cast in Ian Buckland's children's show called Do It, which was five nights a week and four hours on Saturday.
By this stage, Go Set had come to an end so Ian joined Listener In TV as their music/rock writer. But it was a short stint before joining TV Week, where he is still writing a column each week.
After Ian Buckland left Do It, which meant the show had come to an end, Molly began hosting his own children's show on Channel 7 called Anything Can Happen.
And anything did! Elton John would just pop in out of the blue, as did the Osmonds. "The studio was so small," laughs Molly, "that we had to sit on top of each other when the Osmonds came in. It was quite bizarre."
It was during this period when Molly was doing Anything Can Happen that Countdown was born. Initially a half hour Friday night program in 1974. Countdown started in 1975 - an hour long prime time Sunday night timeslot, with Ian as talent co-ordinator and later as presenter. It was initially hosted by guest D.J's and John Farnham hosted the first one hour program. Countdown was immediately accepted by everyone in the industry. ABBA owed it's success to Countdown and helped give it credibility as a show, along with Billy Idol, John Cougar Mellencamp and Madonna.
Ian continued to produce records - Supernaut, I Like It Both Ways, The Ferrets, Don't Fall In Love and Cheetah, Walking In The Rain. All were number one's. "It was a heady era and was huge for Countdown and the music industry in this country."
During this time, there were many highlights for Molly. In 1985 he was the King of Moomba in Melbourne. "I felt very odd wearing a crown and waving to people in the streets," he laughs.
It was also that same year where through Bob Geldoff, Ian became involved in Live Aid. Molly became the Australian Chairman of Live Aid and hosted the 16 hour television marathon.
In 1986 he was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to music and charities.
It was also that year that Molly was a host to the Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and Princess Diana in a concert in Melbourne called Rockin' With The Royals, featuring INXS, The Models, I'm Talking with Kate Ceberano as lead singer, and Kids In The Kitchen.
With the demise of Countdown in July 1987, Molly was asked by 60 Minutes of the Nine Network to become their special one-off reporter to interview Michael Jackson in Tokyo. This came about when Michael refused to be interviewed by anyone else. It was such an honour," said Molly, "because I felt that being in the same league as Jana Wendt, Ray Martin and George Negus, if only for a week, that I'd finally become legitimate. Mind you, it did take 43 takes for me to say "And I'm Molly Meldrum".
A week after that assignment the Ten Network gave Molly an assignment to go to Turin in Italy to interview and host a Madonna special, which they were putting live to air. "It was so exciting walking out on stage in front of 70,000 Italians introducing Madonna. Mind you, they didn't understand a word I said."
In 1988, Molly joined the madcap crew at Channel 9's Hey Hey It's Saturday presenting a weekly segment called Molly's Melodrama.
Ian also joined forces with his long time friend and business associate Michael Gudinski to form his own record label called Melodian, which had international successes with such artists as Peter Andre, Jo Beth Taylor, Indecent Obsession and Roxus.
In his twelve years with Hey Hey It's Saturday, Ian spent a lot of time overseas gaining more world scoops, including travelling to Tokyo for the legendary Rolling Stones concert. He was the only one in the world granted face to face, one on one interviews with all the Stones.
In 1992 Ian was awarded the Special Achievement Award by ARIA for his services to the industry. "Of all the awards I have received, this is the most special."
During this time Molly also joined Foxtel and hosted his own show on Australia's Channel V which is called The Drum, which is now broadcast to over 300 million viewers around the world.
Ian is also writing an autobiography with Jeff Jenkins for Random House titled Some Of My Best Friends Aren't.
Ian is presently kept extremely busy continuing to host The Drum, writing for TV Week, having his own hits page on MP3.com.au and forming a new record label with Michael Gudinski, called Luxor.
Since the end of Hey Hey It's Saturday, in November 1999, Ian recently joined the Ten Network to anchor, with Leah McLeod, a weekly prime time TV show called House Of Hits.
Ian laughs at this latest development and says "Talk about a blast from the past. I guess Alisha Bridges sums it up the best "Right back from where we started from"!
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