‘Holden by the Esplanade’
Queer artists who tackle Australiana (and, indeed, Kiwiana) themes will find themselves portraying a Holden or two eventually. In 1976 a young gay art student called Brad Levido exhibited a drawing called ‘Holden by the Esplanade’ at his class’s graduation exhibition, held at the Newcastle Art Gallery in New South Wales. It shows an early 1960s EK Holden parked next to the Esplanade Hotel, seen from the eastern end of Hunter Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. In 1975, the predatory dating culture of Hunter Street had come to national attention through the popularity of Bob Hudson’s ‘Newcastle Song’, which tells the story of a group of men cruising up and down the street in an FJ Holden, hoping to attract women. It’s easy to imagine a link between Hudson’s song and Levido’s drawing but, sadly, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever find out if that was the artist’s intention. However, we can be more certain about the gendered ambiguity of another Hudson song about Newcastle from 1975, ‘Girls in our town’, covered by feminist singer-songwriter Margret Roadknight in early 1976. It became Roadknight’s most commercially successful release: if Wikipedia is to be believed, it charted higher (top 40) than such legendary 1976 ‘Oz rock classics’ as The Saints’ ‘(I’m) Stranded’ (didn’t chart) or, sorry Adelaide, The Angels’ ‘Am I ever going to see your face again’ (top 60).