Rockin' Australia With Starman Books

Rockin' Australia With Starman Books


Lots of great of great Aussie Rock books out at the moment. We’ve already covered off on Michael Lawrence’s Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel tomes, and have coverage of David Nichol’s mindblowing Dig: Australian Rock and Pop Music, 1960-85 coming your way shortly, amongst other things. Someone who is shaping up as a major player in this field is James Anfuso and his Starman Books imprint. Starman kicked off in 2016 with the incredible – and incredibly hefty – 3 volumes-in-a-box - Rockin Australia: 50 Years of Concert Posters, and followed it up with The Jeff St John Story.

To give you a glimpse of what you’ll find in Rockin’ Australia – and to help us celebrate the release of Festival Records’ The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock Vol.2 – James sent us a bunch of scans of posters from his massive collection (see gallery above), which was the basis of the books. Check them out, then read on, because we  chucked James a few questions and his answers are below. Oh and if Rockin Australia looks like your kind of thing you’d better order quick as it’s nearly sold out and won’t be reprinted.



Q: James, thanks for the poster images you’ve kindly shared with us relating to The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock Vol.2. I assume that all these posters not only feature in your legendary collection, but also appear in Starman’s first book, Rockin’ Australia: 50 Years of Concert Posters 1957-2007. Please tell our readers about that book?

A: Thanks Dave, yes I’m privileged to be the temporary guardian of these posters. Rockin Australia was published in 2015 by Starman Books, it is a 3 volume boxset with over 1200 pages and 2250 full color poster images – it’s a limited release of 666 hand numbered and signed copies. It came about because I wanted to share my poster collection with other music and art lovers. There are still a handful of copies left so if anyone is interested they can contact me at or check out

Q: Can you tell our readers about your collection and how you came to start it and build it?

A: I’ve been a music lover and collector since my sister took me to a Normie Rowe concert when I was 10 years old. I started out with records, mags, tour programs, ticket stubs etc. Then some 30 years ago I realised that unlike the USA and UK no-one in Australia was seriously collecting concert/gig posters and it concerned me that these fragile paper images were in danger of disappearing forever and that someone had to stop that from happening. And that is what got me started. I’m also a different sort of collector, as whilst most people collect a particular band or two or a particular genre of music, I’m more a hoarder type collector and collect all music related posters. The downside of this addiction is that is has overrun our home. The upside is that over 10,000 posters have been ‘saved’ and these images scanned to a music database that we are happy to share with others for any music related project. 

Q: So how did Starman start in the first place, and what inspired you to start it?

A: Starman started because I wanted to publish a poster book comprised entirely of images in my collection – I knew no mainstream publisher would be interested in a 3 volume boxset that weighed 13kg so if I wanted to share these images with others I would have to do it myself. What surprised me though, was after we published Rockin Australia I started get inquiries from writers asking if I would be interested in publishing their book. Like posters, I believe it is important that we preserve as much of our rock’n’roll history as possible for future generations. Unfortunately time eventually catches everyone, and an increasing number of our music community from the 50s-70s in particular have passed away in recent years. Many of their memories and achievements will be forever lost, and this cannot be allowed to continue. With mainstream publishers only focussed on artists with a large fanbase ie AC/DC, we saw this as an opportunity to fill a void. And that is where Starman fits in, we are more like an independent record label – where getting an important music related book published is far more important that hitting the best seller list or hitting the top of the charts.

Q: You also published Jeff St John’s biography last year. How did that come about and how has it gone?

A: What a wonderful experience that was. Jeff became an instant hero of mine when as a 17y.o. I saw him perform live for the first time. He blew me away – seeing a guy in a wheelchair turn his disability into an asset as he rocked as hard and as energeticly as anyone I had seen before or since was a revelation – he was the first person who made me believe that anything was possible.

After publishing Rockin Australia I was approached by a Melbourne DJ who had previously interviewed me about my book asking if I would be interested in meeting a friend of his who also lived in Perth and had a book he was looking to publish – that turned out to be the legendary Jeff St John. We have been delighted with the response from fans and the media and in particular to the very limited signed and numbered Deluxe Edition of 200 copies.

Q: And you’ve done a very limited run of a Jeff St John Poetry volume??

A: Jeff is a prolific writer and to this day continues to write poetry. Last year he turned 70 years of age and I thought it would be a great birthday present if we put together a collection of his poetry aptly titled Mind Candy for the Poetically Inclined and limit this to 70 signed and numbered copies.

Q: All your books are very limited edition and not available through regular retail outlets. Please explain how that works.

A: Starman’s philosophy is a simple one – we want to produce music books of the highest quality and to achieve there a significant price tag attached. We have no interest in publishing a small ‘generic’ style paperback autobiography with a handful of pics stuck in the middle. It is really important that we produce books that are worthy of the subject – which is why all our books are large deluxe coffee table size hardcover publications.

We believe an autobiography should tell a story and fully allow a reader into the writers’ life. To achieve this, it is essential that words and imagery merge together so the reader visually and emotionally experiences the writers’ journey. Jeff St John’s book has 330 full color images interwoven through the text – the impact of this on the reader experience is why Starman exists.

Given our philosophy of producing high quality books in very limited numbers the only way we can make Starman viable is to limit the distribution of our books to primarily through our website. This method of distribution also ensures our existing customers get first option to purchase each new publication, it is very important that we reward our customers for sticking with us and believing in what we are trying to achieve.

Q: And next up you have a big project with Ray Ahn from the Hard-ons – tell us about that.

A: It’s a very exciting time as we are about to the hand the manuscript over to the printers to start pre-production work. I first met Ray in August 2016 when we discussed the possibility of Starman publishing a book of his artwork – I had sent Ray a copy of both Rockin Australia and The Jeff St John Story so he was familiar with who Starman was and the quality objectives we have as a publisher. Ray is simply amazing – not only a wonderful musician in one of Australia’s most iconic bands but I believe he is the most original and prolific rock’n’roll artist Australia has seen to date.

He is original, innovative, refreshingly humble, and has a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to his artwork – whilst many people may have a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ mentality, Ray is the first person I have met who actually delivers on this – he is very unique, which is something I think everyone who has met him would understand.

For this project we are doing an amazing Deluxe Edition which not only includes a 300 page full color hardback overview of his life’s work but a second book, entitled The Comic Art of Ray Ahn that contains reproductions of the 7 comic books he has published. These two books are housed in a custom designed slipcase and limited to 200 hand numbered and signed copies – each one with an individual handdrawn cover done by Ray – how amazing is that!

The fact that Ray was prepared to draw 200 individual and different covers is testimony to the way he thinks and his commitment to the fans who have followed him and the Hard-ons for over 30 years. Most of these 200 copies have already been presold – which is a sensational achievement for a small independent publisher like Starman and something we are extremely proud to have achieved.

Q: After Ray’s book, what else?

A: At the moment, we have many wonderful new rock’n’roll books in pre-production, these include books on the Melbourne music scene of the 60s and 70s, another on those legendary rock festivals of the 70s, a book on the Artists of Australian Rock, one focussing on Australian songwriters and the list goes on. What we produce in the next two years is gonna be mindblowing – that said, we are always on the hunt for a great rock’n’roll manuscript and keen to talk to anyone who believes they have a story that must be told.

In addition, we recently reached agreement with an overseas independent music publisher to distribute their books. This will be great for both our writers and Starman as our catalogue will exceed 200 book titles and give us a significant market presence and make us the largest distributor of music related books in Australia.

Q: You obviously have a big love of Australian Music. What are your favourite 10 Aussie Pub Bands and Records, and any other favourites you want to mention? 

A: Wow – what a tough question. I love Australian music and was very fortunate to have an older sister and brother who in the early sixties opened my eyes to the world of rock’n’roll. Faves from that period include Normie Rowe (I still have his first album It Ain't Necessarily So, But It Is on high rotation) and the Easybeats (I desperately wanted to be little Stevie Wright and constantly got into trouble at the strict catholic school I attended for the length of my fringe). Like Normie’s album, the s/t debut album from The Masters Apprentices, (which was the first record I bought) is still on high rotation. Along with Normie and The Masters, The Loved Ones (Magic Box album) remain intricate to my love of 60s Australian rock.

Things started changing in the 70s, music moved in all sorts of new directions and then there was the birth of pub rock. In Perth, some amazing new bands emerged including Bakery (Rock Mass for Love and Momento) and the wonderful Fatty Lumpkin (who released a few singles but never an album). I saw some emerging superstars like the Farriss Brothers and the fledging AC/DC. Perth pubs were packed with visiting eastern states bands like Redhouse who had the first ‘strobe’ light show I had ever seen. From this era there are a few standout bands - my fave live act was Dave Warner’s From The Suburbs – like us, this guy was just a suburban boy and knew what it was like to be rejected every night. The pub band from the east I enjoyed most was Australian Crawl (their debut album The Boys Light Up is another on my list of the best of the best.) I lost count of the number of Aussie Crawl shows we saw, but we always left every gig extremely happy and of course legless.

Gig experiences in the mid to late 70s that totally changed my perception of music included early gigs by the Victims and Scientists with barely a handful of people in the crowd. The obvious classic pub rock bands like early Angels, Cold Chisel and Midnight were also a must-see on the pub circuit. A few other faves that remain so to this day including the long surviving Hoodoo Gurus (Stoneage Romeos and Mars Need Guitars) and in my mind, Australia’s best two songwriters Richard Clapton and Paul Kelly. I’ll leave it there or this will become the never-ending story. Thank you for letting me tell my story.

Thanks James!

- DL

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