|Born||an Alexander Meldrum|
29 January 1946
Orbost, Victoria, Australia
|Other names||Molly Meldrum Willie Everfinish|
|Occupation||music critic, journalist, record producer, musical entrepeneur, author|
|Home town||Melbourne, Australia|
|Known for||Countdown compere|
Ian Alexander "Molly" Meldrum (born 29 January 1946 in Orbost, Victoria) is an Australian popular music critic, journalist, record producer, and musical entrepreneur, best known as talent co-ordinator, on-air interviewer and music news presenter on the now defunct popular music programme Countdown and widely recognised for his trademark Akubra hat, which he has regularly worn in public since the 1970s. Meldrum acted as talent coordinator for the entire run of Countdown from 1974 to 1987, and his on-air role was between the years of 1975 and 1986. Many consider Meldrum to be an icon in the Australian music scene and throughout his tenure with Countdown and beyond he has earned a reputation as a champion of Australian popular music both in Australia and internationally.
Early years Edit
Meldrum began his music career in the mid-1960s as a "roadie" for a band named The Groop. Sharing a house with singer Ronnie Burns, he first started writing for Go-Set magazine in 1966, a new Australian pop music magazine, after befriending the editor Philip Frazer. Soon he was writing for the magazine on a regular basis. Meldrum continued writing for Go-Set on a weekly basis until it folded in August 1974. It was during this period that he was given his nickname, "Molly", by his friend and fellow Go-Set writer Stan Rofe, a Melbourne radio DJ. This first appeared in published form in a column written by Stan Rofe in Go-Set in 1968.
Around this time, Meldrum also began hanging out at a Melbourne recording studio owned by Bill Armstrong,which opened in late 1965 and soon became the leading pop studio in Australia. While he learned production and engineering techniques, he became involved with producing a number of artists including the Masters Apprentices, as well as working on Kommotion, a teen-oriented pop music "mime show" (where performers would mime to the latest overseas hits), which ended soon after when Actors Equity banned the practice.
In 1968 Meldrum became the manager and producer of solo singer Russell Morris, who had recently quit his previous band, Somebody's Image. Meldrum produced Morris' first solo single, a John Young composed song "The Real Thing". Young had written the song for Meldrum's friend Ronnie Burns, but when Meldrum heard Young playing it backstage during a taping of the TV pop show Uptight, he determined to secure the song for Morris, reportedly going to Young's home that night with a tape recorder and refusing to leave until Young had taped a "demo" version of the song for him.
In collaboration with Armstrong's house engineer John Sayers, Meldrum radically transformed "The Real Thing" from Young's original vision of a simple acoustic chamber ballad backed by strings, into a heavily produced studio masterpiece, extending it to an unheard-of six minutes in length (with much encouragement from Stan Rofe) and overdubbing the basic track with many additional instruments, vocals and sound effects. To achieve this, they used the services of The Groop as backing band, with contributions from vocalist Maureen Elkner and The Groop lead singer Ronnie Charles, guitarist Roger Hicks from Zoot who played the song's distinctive acoustic guitar intro — and arranger John Farrar. The single is reported to have cost AU$10,000 — the most expensive ever made in Australia up to that time — and features one of the earliest uses of the studio technique known as "phasing" on an Australian recording. "The Real Thing" became a national number one hit for Morris in mid-1969 and is widely considered to be one of the finest Australian pop-rock recordings of the era.
Meldrum also produced several other hits — including Burns' number one single Smiley — while continuing to write for a variety of magazines. After splitting with Morris in about 1970, he travelled to the United Kingdom, where he began working for The Beatles' company, Apple Corps. During this time he met Paul McCartney and John Lennon. His association with The Beatles enabled him to score a scoop interview with Lennon and Yoko Ono, in which Lennon revealed publicly for the first time that the Beatles were breaking up.
The Countdown Years Edit
After returning to Australia in the early 1970s, Meldrum continued writing for the music press as well as venturing back into television as the presenter of a short-lived TV children's show, where he met producers Michael Shrimpton and Rob Weekes.
In 1973, Meldrum, Shrimpton and Weekes approached the ABC with the concept for a new weekly pop music show, based on the British show Top Of The Pops and on the Australian pop show Kommotion, on which Meldrum had appeared in the mid-1960s. Countdown premiered in November 1974, with Meldrum as the show's talent coordinator. He did not originally appear in the series, which had a different guest host each week; his first on-screen appearances were in the "Humdrum" music news segment in mid-1975, but by the end of that year he had become the face of the series.
Originally broadcast weekly, at 6.30 on a Friday evening for 30 minutes, Countdown was fortunate to have begun just before the introduction of colour television in Australia in March 1975. Equally crucial to its success was the move in January that year to the 6pm Sunday timeslot, with the show being extended to 60 minutes. Its reach was further enhanced by the fact that a midday Saturday timeslot was used to repeat the previous week's show. The combination of the ABC's nationwide reach, the novelty of colour broadcasting and the show's dual timeslot enabled Countdown to reach an unprecedented number of viewers. It soon became the most successful and popular music program ever made in Australia and exerted a massive influence on Australian music over the next decade.
Countdown benefited from the fact that it appeared just as the music video genre was taking off. Indeed, the show was instrumental in popularising the use of purpose-made promotional videos — which had previously only been a minor part of pop show programming — and its extensive use of film-clips and videos by both established and emerging overseas acts (who at that time toured Australia only rarely) made Countdown an important venue for breaking new songs and new groups.
One new group Meldrum broke nationally was The Ferrets, he had signed them to Mushroom Records and started producing their debut album Dreams of a Love on 19 July 1976. After nearly a year, production was still incomplete, so The Ferrets took over (assisted by recording engineers Tony Cohen and Ian MacKenzie) and completed on 15 August 1977 with Meldrum attributed as Willie Everfinish. Meldrum had carefully crafted their first single's A side "Lies" taking weeks but the B side "Don't Fall in Love" was rushed in three hours. The Ferrets premiered on Countdown and used "Don't Fall in Love" which reached #2 on the Australian singles chart. Many customers wanted a copy of The Ferrets' album, however there was concern at Mushroom Records as Meldrum had not organised an album cover: a white hand stamped cardboard sleeve was issued with a promise of the album artwork to follow.
The series is credited with giving early exposure to, and generating breakthrough Australian hits for, a number of major international acts including ABBA, Meat Loaf, Blondie, Boz Scaggs, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Michael Jackson , sometimes years before they became international stars. Meldrum made many overseas trips and became personally friendly with many of the top pop and rock stars of the period, enabling Countdown to gain many international exclusives.
Meldrum's on-screen performances were often criticised, and he became legendary for his rambling and sometimes incomprehensible commentaries and interview questions. When giving his album reviews he would usually hold the album awkwardly in front of camera with the lights glaring off the surface making it difficult to see the cover at all. If he thought the album was worth buying his catch phrase was, "do yourself a favour."
In 1985, when Meldrum was crowned King of Moomba he quipped "I was at the cricket the other day and the boys in Bay 13 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were all yelling out 'Moomba' and 'hail the king'... not to mention a few 'hail the queen' ". Later that same year, Meldrum compered the 1985 Oz for Africa concert (part of the global Live Aid program) running for four hours. It was broadcast in Australia (on both Seven Network and Nine Network) and on MTV in the US.
He was also noted for several famous on-screen gaffes, including one famous incident during an interview with Prince Charles in which the clearly anxious Meldrum gushed, "I saw your Mum in London!" to which the Prince icily replied, "Are you referring to Her Majesty the Queen?" Despite such episodes of ineptitude, Meldrum became a major star in his own right. He was also notable as a champion of local Australian talent and for his regular use of the show to pressure local radio to play more Australian music. As a result of his efforts, Countdown was soon in a position to make overnight hits with songs and performers it featured, and through the late 1970s and early 1980s it was the key factor in determining the direction of Australian popular music.
After Countdown Edit
After Countdown finished its run, Meldrum presented a regular music segment, titled Molly's Melodrama, for the popular Australian variety show, Hey Hey It's Saturday for several years in the 1990s. He travelled extensively, conducting interviews for the segment; one of these was a one-on-one with each member of The Rolling Stones.
On Australia Day 1986 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the fostering of international relief and to youth. In 1993 Meldrum received an Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) The Special Achievement Award for services to the music industry.
A televised roast, in 2003, for the openly gay Meldrum, Molly: Toasted and Roasted, was characterised by Meldrum as a "Gay bashing" due to its excessive homophobic slurs. Footy Show star Sam Newman received boos from the audience during his speech. Meldrum became a judge on 2004's Popstars Live, a reality program on Channel Seven.
Meldrum's trademark cowboy hat headwear, enthusiasm for popular music, and sometimes incoherent interviewing style remain well known. He is an amateur Egyptologist. That his extensive general knowledge extended beyond popular music was perhaps less well-known until, as a contestant on a celebrity edition Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, he won $500,000 for a charity, the equal biggest win on the Australian version of the program until October 2005, although he only got the $500,000 by phoning a friend, Red Symons of Skyhooks fame. He appeared on the fourth series of the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars in 2006 and was voted off after the first round. He was also on an episode of Deal or No Deal (Dancing with the Deals) on 13 February 2006.
In September 2006, Molly's interview with Prince Charles on Countdown was listed at #41 in TV Week's 'Top 50 most memorable moments on Australian television' list. In 2007 Molly appeared in the award winning movie Remembering Nigel. Meldrum is listed as coauthor of Jeff Jenkin's 2007 book Molly Meldrum presents 50 years of rock in Australia where he provided comments on various Australian rock acts from 1958 to 2007.