Tributes are flowing for founding RAM editor Anthony O’Grady, a towering figure in Australian music journalism who championed the likes of Radio Birdman, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil and brought rock ‘n’ roll to the masses in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
O’Grady, who passed away on Wednesday (Dec. 19), gave a voice to a long line of fledgling Aussie guitar bands through the nationally-distributed RAM (or Rock Australia Magazine), which became the voice of Sydney rock ’n’ roll between 1974 and the mid-’80s and a source of inspiration for generations of homegrown music journalists.
O’Grady is remembered as a trailblazing music journalist, editor and author, who was equally at home covering stories for the trade press as he was the mainstream media. He also wrote for consumer titles in Sydney for some years, edited a music magazine for the Brashs music store chain in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and co-wrote the programs for the early ARIA Awards with a young John Watson, then a music writer who was mentored by O’Grady.
When industry entrepreneur John Woodruff and former Icehouse/Flowers bass player Keith Welsh established The Music Network magazine in the early ‘90s Anthony was its first editor, taking the reins at the trade title for several years before moving to regional NSW to support his then wife who had retrained as a social worker. They had two children, a boy and a girl.
During his prolific career, O’Grady wrote a book on Cold Chisel, The Pure Stuff, and contributed many in-depth interviews on essential Aussie rock figures for the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). He was active until recently, turning in copy for the Sydney Morning Herald and other mastheads.
Various leaders of Australia’s music industry and artist community paid tribute to the trailblazing music writer.
Cold Chisel keyboardist and chief songwriter, Don Walker
Anthony was a good friend of ours. There was a time when music journalism mattered, when magazines and fanzines from around the world were passed around every classroom, carrying the news of what was really going on beneath the soporific lag of radio. The most important of these in Australia was RAM, founded and edited by Anthony O’Grady.
In an era when what was written about music was often a lot better than the music, rock editors like Anthony wielded a lot of power, and they knew it. Anthony mentored bands, like Radio Birdman and Dragon, and Cold Chisel. He levered Cold Chisel from unknown to through our first album. His then partner Abby Beaumont did the album artwork.
He remained a good friend of ours for the rest of his life. Rod Willis has written an especially good tribute on Facebook. Anthony was a good friend to me, and we saw each other regularly, but in hindsight not enough.
It’s been a tough year for those of us who are involved with music, with the loss of Jimi Bostock, Spencer Jones, John Power and Conway Savage. Anthony had his medical problems over the years but I never expected to see the last of him this young. It makes for a thoughtful Christmas. I’m sure I speak for everyone in Cold Chisel in offering our condolences to his family.
Foxtel’s Danny Keenan
I was initially introduced to Anthony O’Grady purely via his words and his name in RAM. The first time I actually met him was in the early 90’s when Brashs launched their in-house magazine with him as the editor.
He was an iconic music journalist who championed Australian talent. I was a young bloke starting out in the music biz. We got on well and had a singular mission of promoting and publicising new music at Brashs.
Following that, as co-founder alongside John Woodruff, we launched Australia’s first industry trade publication – The Music Network.
Anthony was tremendously influential in those formative days for TMN and offered another string to his bow in supporting new music. A mountain of long days, late nights and editorial debate shaped the magazine and Anthony was knee-deep in the trenches. We discussed music all the time.
His demeanour was gentle, his sense of humour dry, his knowledge deep and his passion strong. His words meant something. I hope people take the time to revisit some of them.
Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst
In the beginning there was RAM magazine – Australia’s own street press bible. In the late 70s and early 80s we used to devour it, top to bottom.
Anthony O’Grady was the founder/editor. Anthony and his committed, excitable scribes – Andrew McMillan, Greg Taylor, Stuart Coupe and others – wrote fortnightly live performance and album reviews for a generation of local punk and pub rockers: Radio Birdman, Cold Chisel, the Angels, Dragon, Rose Tattoo, Mental as Anything and Midnight Oil.
Anthony was a huge music fan; a softly-spoken advocate for the best new music, local and international. Along with Double J and 3RRR, Anthony O’Grady and the RAM magazine writers were our most loyal champions: hey! back then we needed all the friends we could get!
Midnight Oil, band and management, respectfully say goodbye. And thank you so much Anthony.
Manager and label owner John Watson
Growing up as a music obsessed teenager in sleepy regional Australia RAM was like a message in a bottle from another universe. I discovered so many great bands via Anthony’s incisive journalism and all the great writers and photographers he fostered. In the late 80’s Anthony took me under his wing as a young freelancer and I learnt a lot from him. He was widely respected across several generations of music industry people for his intelligence, his integrity and his undeniably world class writing.”
Managing Director of EMI Australia and former Associate Editor of Rolling Stone magazine John O’Donnell
You cannot overstate the importance of the contribution that Anthony O’Grady made to a uniquely Australian culture in the 70s/80s – and beyond. He not only prioritised and championed Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Radio Birdman, Split Enz/Crowded House and other musicians who resonate to this day, but he fostered a generation or two of amazing writers and photographers who found a home in RAM magazine to get Gonzo and more. His legacy is vast and huge!
Former Warner Music MD and current Creative Director of Origin Music Philip Mortlock
Many will know Anthony’s role in shaping, observing and articulating the machinations of the Australian music scene since the early 70’s. He was a dear friend. We shared many good times and i shall miss him immensely.
Skyhooks’ guitarist Red Symons
Anthony and I gained volition at the same time in the 70’s; he as a writer and editor, me as a musician.
I barely laid eyes on him in the last twenty years but we were perennially in touch.
Our conversations were long, without agenda and the exchanges of two friends coming from the same place.
Lars Brandle has reported at the frontline of the international music industry for almost 20 years. A former musician, Lars joined the American music trade “bible” Billboard in 2000 and went on to serve as Global News Editor, based in London. Now Billboard’s Australia correspondent and senior writer with The Industry Observer, Lars’ voice has been heard on CNN, the BBC and ABC, American Public Media's Marketplace and South Africa's EastCoast Radio, and he has spoken at Midem in Cannes, Music Matters in Singapore, Amsterdam Dance Event, London's City Showcase and at industry gatherings on both sides of the Tasman. His works have been published by Reuters, Media Week, Spin, and The Hollywood Reporter, and he has featured as a pundit in the Australian Financial Review, Business Review Weekly and Britain’s The Independent.