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Apollo Stadium. Memories of Live Music Bands

JUST the mention of Apollo Stadium to almost anyone who lived in Adelaide in the 1970s will have them reeling off the international musical superstars they saw perform there over the decade.

Some of the biggest names on the planet strutted their stuff to sellout audiences on the makeshift stage in a building originally designed as a basketball stadium.

Until 1969, Centennial Hall at the Wayville showgrounds had been our city’s main entertainment venue, but the new Richmond location offered better acoustics, a larger capacity of up to 4000 seats, some tiered seating arrangements and much easier car parking. The stadium was built and opened in the same year Neil Armstrong stepped from Apollo 13 on to the surface of the moon, and the structure was named in tribute to that momentous event. It was also Adelaide’s major basketball arena and the home court of the National Basketball League, including the Adelaide 36ers.

But most people remember it more as a concert venue that hosted some of the greatest musical talent the world had to offer. There is some debate now about which artist starred in the very first concert at the new centre.

What is known, though, is The Kinks were definitely among the first, along with gigs by Jerry Lee Lewis and jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

Other major names in the early ’70s included a memorable performance by Creedence Clearwater Revival and concerts from Black Sabbath and Status Quo.

But it was far from being the perfect venue. Dave Carey says his uncle was involved in basketball back then, and running certain aspects of Apollo Stadium. “He was, and still is, a pretty old-school kind of guy and much preferred craft fairs to the likes of Queen, who he described as ‘animals’,” Dave says. “Apparently they urinated in the corner of the ‘green room’. He told me, however, that there were no separate toilets for the artists and they were forced to use the public toilets.

“Can you imagine a mid-1970s Freddie Mercury getting to and from the toilet unscathed with 4000 Queen fans?”

Concert tickets then were generally around the $6 to $8 range – not a small amount at the time. Bronny Townley felt the worst thing was the added expense of getting to and from the concerts “In those days, public transport didn’t go beyond 10.30pm and when you had to catch more than one bus, there was little choice but to drive a car or catch a lift with neighbours,’’ she says “It was almost impossible to park on a side street, so on top of the price of the tickets, there was the $10 cost of parking”

Not all concerts were an outstanding success, though, as Lance Sturtzel recalls. “I saw Dionne Warwick there in the ’ 70s some time, I think on her first ever trip to Adelaide,’’ he says.

“She only had a three or four-piece band behind her and sadly only a third-full audience. She seemed decidedly unhappy at not having a full house (which she definitely deserved to have) and her performance showed that. She was on stage for just over an hour and that was it. She refused to come back for an encore, even though the audience clapped for almost five minutes, hoping to get her back out again but she refused. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of respect for her that night, after treasuring every one of her hits and albums since 1963. I never bought another one of her records from that day on.”

I also recall a Joe Cocker concert that ended rather abruptly when Joe passed out on stage after about the first three songs. It seems funny now but I remember there were some very unhappy fans milling about after the concert, some demanding their money back. Joe was OK, had a bit too much of what he was on or taking or sniffing at the time but he lost a lot of fans that night.

The Apollo Stadium continued as our biggest concert venue throughout the 1980s antil the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, with seating for up to 12,000, built at a cost of $44 million and opened by Premier John Bannon on July 20, 1991.

A year later, the 36ers opened the Clipsal Powerhouse stadium in Findon with 8000 seats – and Apollo Stadium was no longer required. It became a church for a while but was sold and demolished and the area was redeveloped for housing.

As far as I’m aware, nothing remains of the once popular entertainment venue. Apollo Stadium is only a memory these days, but still looms large as the place where we experienced some of the greatest artists of our generation and listened to some of the greatest music ever made.

34 Responses to Apollo Stadium. Memories of Live Music Bands

  1. Peter November 19, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Used to go to the Apollo Stadium to watch the Roller Derby’s. The place was packed out every time they came. The Roller Derby was BIG back then. Los Angeles Thunderbirds, Detroit Devils etc.

  2. Danny Bocchino November 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Whenever I visited Apollo Stadium was when there was a rock/ pop/ country concert being performed by international artists.

    I had experienced great concerts by:
    1) Suzi Qatro (twice)
    2) Dr Hook (twice)

  3. Garry Daglish December 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I had some great times at Apollo Stadium, during the 80’s I saw somegreat bands.

    Adam & the Ants
    Tears 4 Fears
    Howard Jones
    Little Heroes
    James Brown featuring Maceo Parker

  4. John Mathews January 15, 2015 at 7:52 am #

    As a young teenager I saw my first concert, T Rex with Coloured Balls, (the support band) on 6th November 1973.

  5. Noel Forth January 20, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    I had front row seats for both night of the Paul McCartney & Wings concert in 1975 (great show, I took lots of photos & even some silent super 8!). I queued over night in the laneway at the rear of Allan’s to get tickets. At about 4am it was announced that each person would only be allowed to buy 4 tickets for each show. So there were a lot of people who couldn’t buy tickets for their friends, as they’d planned to. The line-up went about 2-3 abreast from the rear door of Allan’s to Rundle Street (as it still was back then), up Gawler Place to Grenfell St…all the way down Grenfell St to Twin St….back up to Rundle St…& actually met the original queue at the laneway’s entrance behind Allan’s by the time the box office opened.
    An enterprising young lady about 19-20 turned up at the start of the enormous queue at about 3am with a bag full of hamburgers & cans of coke…stood for few moments, then said something like, “wow, I bought way too much…anyone want a free hamburger & can of coke!”…….well…….you can imagine…….everyone said yes…..me!!!! (we were starving). So she handed out what she had…then sat down next to the people in about 4th-5th place (I was 2nd) & everyone who got some food tucked into it. After a while I asked around me who she was actually with….but it turned out she wasn’t with (or friends) with anyone at all… she just joined in the queue…for the price of a bag of food & drink…now, how clever is that….top marks!

  6. Nick Penn March 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    I remember three separate concerts at the Apollo: Bert Bacharach, The Hollies and Jose Feliciano. These would have been in the 1970s. I still have the tickets but, unfortunately, the year is not mentioned, only the months, Also, the price of the tickets is not mentioned, either.
    The ticket price would not have been anything like the prices of today’s concerts, but it’s all relative, I guess, with the times.
    For example, I have a ticket for The Rolling Stones at Memorial Drive back in 1973 for $5! So, I’m guessing those others would not have been dearer than that concert.
    Artists in the ’90s, like Joe Cocker were commanding $45, Phil Collins $62, John Mellencamp $43, Deep Purple $62.
    I also have tickets for a Hollies concert at Memorial Drive in February 1970, where the support act was Johnny Farnham – he was booed off the stage, by the way! Price of that concert was a princely $2.

    • Rick phillips December 1, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      The hollies concert at memorial drive February 1970 also featured Adelaide bands “Travis Wellington hedge “and” the Harts” cheers Rick Phillips .

    • Ron Rowlands January 23, 2016 at 2:53 am #

      What a load of Crap John Farnham was not booed of the stage , I remember the concert , very well , as I went to the rehearsals in the afternoon as the Orchestra was Adelaide Musicians

      • Nick July 27, 2016 at 12:41 am #

        Sorry, Ron R, but JF WAS booed off the stage at the concert . . . and what have the rehearsals in the afternoon got to do with the concert anyway?

  7. Sandy March 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    I remember going to the Apollo Stadium to see the Bay City Rollers and Cliff Richards, fun and happy memories 🙂

  8. John Olde October 10, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    Yeah I remember seeing Meatloaf in concert at the Apollo stadium back in 1978, sitting in the stands, side on to the stage, great view & a great concert!

    I also sat outside the Apollo stadium back in November 1975, to listen to Paul McCartney & Wings (Wings over the World tour), that was a great concert too, just disappointed I wasn’t inside to see them live!!!

    It is disappointing that the Apollo stadium is no more, but just a great memory for some of us that had the opportunity to be a part of that great era! Long Live the Apollo!!! (-:

  9. Ian Salter October 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    Saw Jethro Tull, Santana, Queen, Yes, Supertramp, Graham Parker & The Rumour (got blown off stage by JJZ & The Falcons), The Eagles (matinee performance, awesome, Joe Walsh had only recently joined), Status Quo, Ike & Tina Turner……etc
    Great memories Tull concert ticket was $5

    • Jilly January 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

      Me too ,with all these great memories – I would often” rock up ” at the top exit doors and the bouncers would get sick of me hanging around and wave me in , just after 1/2 time interval ?????

    • susan martin August 20, 2018 at 6:07 pm #

      wow

  10. Libby Norris April 18, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    I remember seeing The Jackson Five at Apollo Stadium – probably about 1972.
    We sat on the side of the stage and were within 10 feet of the group.
    Amazing show.
    Adelaide is so lucky to have international artists playing here and we are still close enough to see them and feel part of the show.

    Hoadly’s Battle of the Bands was totally awesome.
    Adelaide had the best bands, best music, best crowds and best atmosphere.
    Best Best Best.

    Does anyone remember the Arkaba shows – in the middle of the afternoon – wonderful.
    We would come out from a concert and it would still be broad daylight.
    Fun fun fun.

    • Virginia September 5, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

      Yes my sister and I saw the Jackson 5 You were much closer to artists there than these days But one of the surprising artists who I found so enjoyable was Gene Pitney

  11. Andy Simpson May 6, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

    I was at INXS around ’85 and noticed all the people around me quickly moving away and wondered what was going on (someone fart?) then my legs and feet started getting wet and some drunk bastard was spewing his guts up and I thought maybe wearing shoes would have been a good idea or even thongs.
    Another memory was Robert Plant telling us the next song is “an old classic” the punters went off but alas it wasn’t a Led Zeppelin number!
    When I saw Cold Chisel perform there Jimmy Barnes shared his Vodka with me… spat it all over my face and into my mouth, yummy.
    I even saw the sixers play and got reprimanded by the game’s announcer for bringing my beer back to the seat “This is not Football park” he told me over the PA system.
    Saw the Harlem globetrotters and one of them slammed the ball into the court and it bounced up at 100 mph and shattered a ceiling tile which then landed on a little girls head!

  12. Sandra Ramsay July 4, 2016 at 3:07 am #

    Can anyone remember deep Purple & black Sabbath playing at the Apollo on the same night or was I taking too much LSD & they were separate nights.

    • Ian October 17, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Manfred Mann all on the same night.

      • susan martin August 20, 2018 at 4:47 pm #

        YES I DO…..BUT NOBODY BELEIVES ME!!!!! I WAS THERE.
        CALL ME

    • David Hartley April 4, 2018 at 4:46 am #

      Maybe it was too much LSD…the concert I saw was Free, Deep Purple, and Manfred Mann, with Fraternity as the support act (as if one was needed). No Black Sabbath that night (May 8, ’71)

  13. Alex July 15, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I saw Doobie Brothers and 10cc in the late 70s at Apollo Stadium – it was a great venue then because we were close to the stage/artists. None of this 10,000 people capacity!

  14. PHIL Harvie October 14, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Does anyone recall what year the Bees Gees first performed at Apollo Stadium. I am thinking it was 1969 or 1970?? Thanks Phil

  15. Linda November 25, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    My girlfriends and I met Santana’s band in Allen’s Music Store Gawler Place Adelaide, in the 70’s. They invited us back to their motel and gave us free tix to their concert that night. Carlos was behind closed doors the whole time. After the concert we went back to their motel for drinks. We had to leave early as we had school the next day.Had to tell our parents a few porky pies.

  16. Josie May 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    My sister Cathie and I went to see Kris Kristofferson in about 1974-5 at Apollo stadium? He was amazing along with his then wife Rita Coolidge. Great memories and so happy to have seen Kris live.

  17. John Noble June 22, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Yeah saw queen a Apollo fantastic does anyone know who was on with tem

  18. Ken January 26, 2018 at 9:29 pm #

    Just talking about apollo stadium concerts with a mate reminiscing. Saw fraternity free deep purple and manfredd mann on same show. Free were the best band on the night and still one of my favourites. Joe cocker, cat stevens, bob marley, graham parker just a few of the others we saw.

  19. kathy Lange February 1, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

    I saw 10cc, Brian Ferry, and Leo Sayer there. No seats. Was so close to the front each time. Does anyone know when 10cc played there? I’m thinking around 1977/78?

    • Alex February 3, 2018 at 9:04 pm #

      Hi Kathy,
      I went to the 10cc concert. They played Apollo Stadium 21 September 1977.
      They still sound good. 🙂

  20. Julia February 27, 2018 at 1:10 am #

    Did Cream ever play at Apollo stadium? In Adelaide

  21. Max March 12, 2018 at 10:08 pm #

    Girlfriend and I saw Joe Cocker in October 1972 and Leon Russell (way cooler) and had to get a taxi home as transport was so crap to Apollo stadium. Back then I was earning $18/week, board at $12/week and a concert at $6 didnt leave a lot spare. Strange thing remember outside the venue clearer than the concert. Oh what memories

  22. Dianne Athans June 29, 2018 at 12:07 am #

    I used to live a street behind Apollo stadium in Kinnaird Ave actually. The most people who attended a concert was for Paul McCartney and Wings. I’d never seen so many people in my street before- the queue was so long. Also when I heard the artists practising and tuning instruments for the night’s show I’d rush to the stadium to get and autograph. I was a teenager then.I got the Police, Bryan Ferry (he was so cool- a gentleman), Blondie (she asked where she could buy some cigarettes) and AC/DC.( Bon Scott would not give any autographs,what a pity though). I wish we had mobiles then I would have got selfies of these great artists. Also I had walked into other concerts and I also saw the globetrotters in the 70’s as a kid.It was great living and growing up in this neighbourhood.

  23. John November 6, 2018 at 11:30 pm #

    I saw a lot of great shows there but the best still in my mind is the JJ Cale concert in 76. Pretty confident that was the year. I still can’t find any info on the set list for that night. Does any one have it. I would love to see it.

  24. Steve February 23, 2019 at 8:27 pm #

    Apollo 11 – 50th anniversary this July.

    Definitely remember Queen in 1976, still at school. Cold Chisel support.
    Many others in the late 70s to 80s

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