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ROCKSTAR CITY: Ashley Robinson remembers a vibrant music scene on the Coast in the 80s.
ROCKSTAR CITY: Ashley Robinson remembers a vibrant music scene on the Coast in the 80s. john mccutcheon

FLASHBACK 1980s: The holy grail of music

AT A time when social status was defined by the size of your hair, blue eye-shadow was prioritised higher than breakfast and moustaches travelled further down your face than your chin allowed, Ashley Robinson's favourite floral shirt was hardly on the crazy side.   

But it may have contributed to winning over the love of his life.   

It's 1983 and Ashley's just met his wife-to-be at the Mooloolaba Surf Club.  

"I had my floral shirt on and bright yellow pants - I thought I was Christmas," he said.   

Thirty-four years later, the now manager of the Alexandra Headland Surf Life Saving Club credits his impeccably on-trend style as the starting gun to his happy marriage. But that's not the only reason he holds the 80s close to his heart.   

For a bloke working in the hotel industry, the 80s was a never-ending swell of bands and musicians flowing in and out of the Coast, so it's no surprise music is his second love.   

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sunshine Coast, we're looking back through the decades as lived by our locals. This is part three; welcome back to the 1980s.   

Having worked across multiple venues, Ashley played a significant part in bringing some of the biggest names in Australian music to the Coast. The live music scene was thriving, and Ashley was smack-bang in the middle of it.

"It was huge. I can remember a week where it was something like Wednesday was Cold Chisel, Thursday was INXS, Sunday was Split Enz, then a week later it was The Angels, Midnight Oil and Hunters and Collectors," Ashley said. 

He started as a security guard for venues like Surfair Beach Hotel and the Mooloolaba Hotel before taking over as manager at Mooloolaba in the late 80s.  

It was a time when these now internationally- acclaimed musicians were still trying to find their feet.   

"I remember when INXS came and we had no idea who they were. They had this black and white poster with just the letters INXS on it and all us dumb-asses were calling them 'inks' and thinking 'that's a weird name and a plain poster' they're probably nothing great," he said.   

Photographer Lou O'brien looks back on some images she took of INXS back in 1994. Nicola Brander / Sunshine Coast Daily
Photographer Lou O'brien's shot of INXS in their prime. Nicola Brander

He recalls a night when The Angels played and in Doc Neeson had to be assisted off stage after knocking himself out mid-show.   

"He just came to the bar, had a drink and back on he went," Ashley said.   

Some visiting stars were as genuine as the locals, but Ashley said there were a few divas, too.   

"Russell Crowe was great. He came with his terrible band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and heard we were having a rodeo the next day and was devastated he couldn't stay to have a crack at riding a bull," he said.   

"Max Merritt was another who played here a couple of times and would love to hang out after the show - you'd have to push him out the door to go to bed.   

"But there were a few sticky ones - Chrissy Amphlett was always difficult. She was a little bit scary actually. You didn't want to get on the wrong side of her.  

"And Jimmy Barnes was the worst! They'd have these bins full of grog in their dressing rooms and you knew when you went back in it would be totally empty. You'd never believe how much four blokes and four roadies could consume but there was never a stubbie left.

"I remember him asking for aerated water. In those days we were thinking 'what the heck was that?' Then they'd request to have healthy food, but 'wait let me drink this whole bottle of bourbon before I go on stage'!"  

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To celebrate the Sunshine Coast's 50th anniversary, we're looking back through the decades.

He said the 80s were the epitome of fun, but a whole different world.   

"You'd always see cars rolled over in the cane fields where people had drifted off the road the night before - if you drunk drove you were an idiot, but if you made it home you were a legend," Ashley said.  

But it was a bikini parade at the Mooloolaba Hotel that got him in trouble with the cops.   

"It was a Sunday afternoon and I got convinced to put on a bikini parade. The beer garden was right on the esplanade and the police had to come and tell me to put an end to it because traffic was bedlam - all these people stopping on the road to check out these semi-clothed girls. It caused a total traffic gridlock!"  

Bikinis aside, Ashley said being a part of the live music scene in the 80s made him feel for the people of today.    "Sound meters didn't come in until the 90s so music was as loud as you wanted it to be and if people complained they'd get told to put cotton wool in their ears," he said.   

"I've probably got industrial deafness, but these days there are so many rules and regulations around it."  

But he's optimistic live music is making a comeback on the Coast with festivals and venues focussing on showcasing musicians.   

This Flashback series is brought to you by Yaroomba Beach, a world-class destination for all.