Archie Roach live radio performance of ‘Charcoal Lane’
Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter perform 'Charcoal Lane' from the 1990 album of the same name.
The footage is filmed live in the 3CR radio studio during the 9 September 1990 broadcast of the Building Bridges Across Australia nationwide hook-up between a number of radio stations.
A single fixed camera provides an adequate document of this performance. It was not intended for any other public use but in retrospect it's a shame that the vision and sound quality is not better.
This unassuming footage now has special significance because of its rarity as one of the early filmed performances of two beloved Australian musicians. Archie's choice of an electric guitar instead of an acoustic one also makes it a rarity.
The song ends with the words 'I'm a survivor of Charcoal Lane' – a sentiment Archie still reflects on today. Charcoal Lane was a drinking spot in Fitzroy, Melbourne where Aboriginal people met up, shared stories, built community and reunited with family members that had been separated by the Australian government's policy of forced removal of children from their families (which created the Stolen Generations).
Archie's honest reckoning with his own story of homelessness, alcoholism and recovery, both through his music and working as a drug and alcohol counsellor in the 1980s and early 1990s, has helped many.
He says in his autobiography Tell Me Why (2019):
I look back now and see the darkness that would have touched every moment unless we numbed it with beer and port and sherry. We were part of an obliterated culture, just intact enough to know it existed, but so broken we didn't think we could be put back together again. We lost mates and family young, and we would again ... There was death in our past, and death in our future, but we craved a carefree and happy present, and booze offered us that ... We wanted to forget, and retell the stories of our lives as triumphs and comedies, not tragedies. That's why we drank I think.