The Bigger The Better: Aussie Amps of the Sharpie Era – Mixdown
Words by Paul French
Sometimes, size does matter.
Australians make the worst historians. You can put that on the coat of arms.
Whether it’s a by-product of colonialism, the cultural cringe or us failing to see our perceived cultural value in the face of an ever expanding global economy (my money is on the latter), there is little denying our tendency to let local history slip by the wayside.
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This especially rings true in the fickle world of musical subcultures, where locally borne movements tend to bubble under the surface for a period before quickly being extinguished to make way for the next big import or the next big repurposing of the 808.
But this wasn’t always the case.
The Sharpies were an army of homegrown proto-punks who ruled the working class suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney from the mid ’60s right through to the late ’70s, but whose influence can still be heard in a bunch of bands of the current era (ECSR, Amyl & The Sniffers, POWER etc.).
A truly endemic subculture with its own customs and conventions, the Sharpies were a welcome antidote to the squeaky-clean prosperity and rampant consumerism of post-war Australia. So called for their ‘Sharp’ appearance, the Sharpie uniform of shaved head/mudflap mullet and boots was almost as striking as their choice in music: ragged, locally-produced guitar boogie played at unspeakably high volume.
This was during a period where the battle for