1 9 6 5 – 1 9 6 7 (Australia)
In December 1965, the fledgling Australian Channel 0-10 (now Channel Ten) launched a teen music show called Kommotion.
At the time, most pop music shows were shown at the weekend, but Kommotion went to air daily at the perfect time for school kids. Indeed this was the first Australian TV programme to cash in on the young teenage market.
The host was disc jockey Ken Sparkes, who greeted the audience with his trademark “Hi team . . . gang”
The show’s concept was a throwback to the earliest days of Australian television. A group of around a dozen Melbourne teenagers, chosen for their looks, fashion sense and dancing ability, were hired to mime to current hits by overseas artists.
One of those young stars was Ian Meldrum, a young mod journalist and leader of the St Kilda VFL cheer squad (who would go on to become the most powerful personality in the Australian music industry thanks to his mega-rating TV show, Countdown).
His fellow journalist, Tony Healey, was also picked as a regular on the show. Another was ace go-go dancer Denise Drysdale.
It was curiously inspiring television. Here was a group of virtual unknowns who had been dragged off the streets of Melbourne, placed in a studio and told to do what most teenagers did in front of the bedroom mirror. . .
The producers liked to match each of the performers with a certain style of music.
Jillian Fitzgerald, a girl chosen for her dancing ability, was given the soul category (despite her fair skin).
She also covered classics like Ike & Tina Turner‘s River Deep Mountain High. Ian Meldrum specialised in the then-popular, high-camp 1930s style numbers. Another of his turns was Peter & Gordon‘s Lady Godiva.
But it soon became obvious that what had begun as an innocent and cheap means of presenting radio with pictures was getting out of hand. The massive television audience apparently believed that Jillian Fitzgerald was the true voice behind Aretha Franklin‘s Respect.
Ditto with Meldrum and his ‘greatest hit’ Winchester Cathedral. There are people who still remind Molly how much they liked his version of that song!
Many of the mime artists became virtual pop stars. Tony Healey was one of the most popular. He even had a fan club. Alex Silbersher, another of the Kommotion gang was chased up three flights of stairs when a promotion at a Sydney shopping centre got out of control.
The show was axed early in 1967 when Actors Equity instigated a ban on miming to other people’s songs. It was an understandable reaction; there were real singers out there struggling for recognition.
Unfortunately, some of the Kommotion gang believed they actually could sing and formed a splinter group called The Kommotion Rebels. They made appearances at the Scene Discotheque, but their careers as genuine performers were short-lived.
Most of the Kommotion gang settled down to careers as lawyers, clothing manufacturers and PR consultants. Only two (Meldrum and Drysdale) went on to successful careers in showbiz, although Grant Rule became a TV executive.
Norm Willison died in suspicious circumstances of a drug overdose in Sydney in 1978.