Pioneering Journalist and Oral History interviewer
BY KAREN HEWITT
Anthony O'Grady – music author, editor and producer – passed away on 19 December 2018.
It seems Anthony was always going to be a writer. He told interviewer Dave Laing in 2016, ‘Studying English literature at high school honours level got me entranced with language. At Sydney University I joined the student newspaper Honi Soit at a time when student radicalism was in the fomenting stage. I went to advertising rather than journalism because advertising was then a hotbed of creativity.'
O’Grady’s first publication came about when Fairlight creator Kim Ryrie asked him to edit his magazine Ear for Music. Anthony lived and understood the ideals of the time; combined with his love for live music, this was the obvious vehicle for his voice.
Writing articles for Go Set magazine during the early 1970s, O’Grady planned to go back to advertising. All this changed when he saw Skyhooks perform at Sunbury in 1975. There was no going back; the same year, O’Grady started RAM magazine.
Editing the fortnightly magazine RAM with its colourful covers on bland newspaper-grade paper, O’Grady created in-depth articles and a healthy balance of international and local artists. Rock'n'roll music in Australia was exploding with artists such as Jeff St John, Wendy Saddington, Chain, The Angels, Cold Chisel and Radio Birdman. Anthony O’Grady saw and heard it all. He had the knack of defining the mood and spirit of the time.
O’Grady left RAM in 1981 and worked on radio and television specials. He put together the soundtrack for Street Hero in 1985 and won an Australian Film Institute Award. He edited the in-store magazine for record retailer Brashs and wrote pieces for The Bulletin. In 1994 Anthony teamed up with artist manager John Woodruff and created The Music Network. In 2001 he released to great acclaim his book Cold Chisel: The Pure Stuff.
The NFSA worked extensively with O’Grady, whose knowledge of – and connection to – the music industry made him an ideal Oral History interviewer. Over a 15-year period he recorded interviews with some of Australia’s music icons including Doc Neeson (The Angels), Todd Hunter (Dragon), Les Gock (Hush), Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman), Don Walker (Cold Chisel) and Kevin Borich. He also interviewed Jimmy Barnes in mid-2018, for our Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Man online exhibition.
A man who loved to communicate his insights and knowledge of the Australian music scene, O’Grady has left a legacy of books, radio programs and oral histories for those who will come after him.