Book Review: Stuart Coupe’s Roadies hands the mic back to Australia’s road crew

There’s no question that Australia’s roadies know their way around a microphone. A concert set-up doesn’t magically appear out of nowhere. It take tireless crew members toiling away to unpack, set-up, test and re-pack the staging and equipment; and repeating this process as they travel to different towns and venues. For too long, roadies may have been backstage, but their stories never made it behind a microphone. That is all set to change with Stuart Coupe’s latest book.

In Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll, Coupe interviews around fifty former, and current, road crew members. They are representative of the Australian industry – from those shambolic, early days of the Wild West to today’s modern, and some would argue, more professional regime. Famous roadies like Rockwiz’s Dugald McAndrew, and the late Cold Chisel roadie, Gerry Georgettis appear here. Whilst, Ronald Clayton, the loyal Ted Mulry Gang crew member who has notched up over 50 years of service, also features alongside our very first female roadie – Tana Douglas.

According to Coupe there were many more crew members he could have interviewed, though this would have meant the book was about ten times longer. So, fingers crossed this means there might be a sequel is in the works. Whilst, this book may not be the definitive and exhaustive account of Australian crew, it does cover a lot of ground and shines a much needed light on these interesting subjects from many perspectives.

Coupe is, of course, no stranger to the Australian music industry. Notably, he has written biographies about Tex Perkins and the entrepreneur, Michael Gudinski. Coupe is also a journalist, broadcaster, artist, publicist and former music manager. So it is safe to say he has some experience with what goes on behind-the-scenes in the music business. Roadies is an absolute gem, for that very reason,  it captures those hidden stories (hidden at least to us mere mortals) from behind-the-scenes. Roadies are all-seeing and all-knowing creatures. This is a true, fly-on-the-wall account of some of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest artists and crew, including: AC/DC, Blondie, INXS, The Rolling Stones, Crowded House and more.

Roadies covers a wide spectrum of emotions, from the joyous adrenaline rush of watching live gigs to some sobering and sad moments. There are some truly heart-wrenching parts too, for example, where you learn about the high suicide rates for local roadies, and discover just how difficult it is for former crew once they leave the industry. Some roadies lack a stable family life, and find it difficult to get other work, despite possessing true ingenuity. As a prerequisite, roadies require intelligence, complex problem-solving and strong people skills to help best negotiate all kinds of logistical curve-balls, inflated egos and fragile artists thrown their way. They make performers sound and look their absolute best, and are often integral to our enjoyment of the show. Roadies shouldn’t be on-stage, but they should be stuck on a bloody pedestal.

Roadies are excellent storytellers, as this work proves and celebrates. Sure, the anecdotes may be a little embellished, and perhaps may not always be the whole truth, but these are fine stories, and entertaining ones to boot. Once you’ve finished reading this mostly fun and rollicking title you will not look at roadies in quite the same manner ever again.

Roadies is a candid, honest and thrilling look at Australia’s road crew industry, and is brimming with interesting stories of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. By telling us what happens on tour, Coupe gives some hard-working, unsung heroes their due credit. Coupe’s book is like holding up a lighter to and for the roadies. It illuminates their hard slog and allows audiences to show their appreciation for those tireless guys and girls in black.



Roadies – The Secret History of Australian Rock ‘N’ Roll by Stuart Coupe is available now through Hachette Australia.

Tags: , ,