The Quiet Ones, by Wendy Smith

I really enjoyed this memoir about a group of Melbourne girls who became friends – not groupies – with Skyhooks and AC/DC in the mid ’70s, before those bands became really big.

Wendy Smith has drawn on her diary entries from 1974 and 1975, supplemented with the reminiscences of the friends who she’s remained close to in the intervening 50 years, to sketch out how these girls became fans and friends with two iconic Australian rock and roll bands.

Being of a similar age, I strongly identified with the zeitgeist and lifestyle Smith describes: high school, Countdown, local bands, buying records, the clothes, Kodak cameras …

The difference for Smith and her friends is that they were there at the taping of the first Countdown shows, backstage at concerts, on the bus with the boys in the bands, and in their dressing rooms.

She’s completely convincing that nothing untoward ever happened, and that these guys were polite, protective, and caring toward these 15 and 16 year old female fans. It’s only toward the end of the book, as the bands find success and the adulation that came with it, that the expected rock’n’roll madness starts to appear, and that – along with the end of their high school days – is the cue for the friendships to fade.

All the members of Skyhooks and AC/DC are well drawn characters, along with a supporting cast of roadies (hi, Tana!), other pop stars, sharpies & hippies, and parents more tolerant than mine ever were.

Melbourne plays a starring role, as the girls traipse from suburb to suburb to see their idols in action.

I have to add, the book itself is superbly produced. Self-published, it is high quality throughout, from the paper to the print, the photograph reproductions, the layout, and the editing. It is rare that I encounter any book where I don’t find a single typo.

Even the cover is beautiful, meaningful, and clever. The more you look, the more you see.

And Smith’s writing is extremely engaging: it’s not easy to be warm, funny, and articulate about being a band-obsessed, naive and self-deprecating teenager. The Quiet Ones is beautifully paced, and the structure of short diary entries followed by expansive elaborations of them holds up well throughout.

Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

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