The Andrew Durant Memorial Concert

The Andrew Durant Memorial Concert

andrew durant
Andrew Durant. Image via YouTube.

It was an unprecedented – in Australia at least - coming together of artists to share a stage and pay genuine and emotional tribute to one of their own. And it was one of those things on TV that always seemed to be on repeat. Forty years ago this month, the Andrew Durant Memorial Concert – featuring the surviving members of Andy’s band, Stars hosting an all-star cast of friends and fans, including Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss and Don Walker from Cold Chisel and Oz rock icons Richard Clapton, Renee Geyer and Broderick Smith, uniting in tribute to the fallen guitarist and songwriter – left an indelible mark on a generation of Australian rock fans.

Andy Durant wasn’t even a member of Stars when the band formed in Adelaide in 1975, and he didn’t play on their first couple of singles. The group was very much the baby of its other guitarist Mal Eastick, who together with vocalist Mick Pealing, fronted the band from its inception to its original ending, which coincided with Andy’s passing. (Mal and Mick picked up again a few years so and front a line-up of the band again now – we’ll look at that in a future piece.) But Andy was something of the golden child. 21 when he joined the group, and only 25 when he died, Andy Durant became a much-loved guitarist and songwriter in his brief time in the spotlight, contributing significantly to his group’s development and enduring success.  

Famously, Stars were the band that Michael Gudinski signed when he could’ve had Cold Chisel. Both were Adelaide bands, and both captured that mid-’70s zeitgeist – blues and boogie and a bit of country rock – in a way that pub-going audiences loved. Stars were more country-rock leaning than Chisel, wearing cowboy hats early on. And Mushroom had no complaints - while hit singles weren’t really forthcoming, Stars were probably a year or two ahead of Chisel and got off to a solid start more quickly. Their albums sold well, and the band seemed ripe for the new era of FM radio that was starting. If Gudinski regretted signing Stars ahead of Chisel, he still had the opportunity to get Chisel; Chisel wouldn’t sign to WEA for another 18 months. And Stars were considerably more successful than later but likeminded signing, Stockley See & Mason, featuring Chris Stockley from the Dingoes, Sam See from the original Sherbet and Fraternity, and Glyn Mason from Chain, Ariel and others.

Andy had been part of a previous band with Eastick, the unrecorded Astra Kahn, which formed in 1972 and split in ’74 when Durant decided to travel overseas. Eastick formed a covers band called Flash that would evolve into Stars in early ’75. After being discovered by the Little River Band’s Beeb Birtles and signing to Mushroom, they moved to Melbourne and had minor hits with their first two singles “Quick on the Draw” and “Winning Hand”. With Andy on board in time for their single “The Mighty Rock,” they perhaps gained a more lyrical edge. Stars, perhaps more than Chisel would have, carried on a Mushroom Records tradition that included the likes of Chain, Sid Rumpo and especially the Dingoes.

The Andy-augmented Stars established themselves on the Melbourne pub circuit and secured support spots to the likes of Joe Cocker, the Beach Boys and Linda Ronstadt. And they released two successful albums, Paradise and Land of Fortune.  But by the time the later was released, Andy had already been diagnosed with cancer. The band performed its last show in November 1979. A farewell live album was assembled, but Andy didn’t live to see its July 8 release – he passed away on May 6, 1980.

Mal Eastick took it upon himself to organise the tribute to his mate, and on August 19, 1980, the Andrew Durant Memorial Concert took place at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre. Featured artists included Eastick on guitar, Stars bandmates Glyn Dowding on drums and Graham Thompson on bass, Mick Pealing sharing vocals with the all-star line-up of Jimmy Barnes, Richard Clapton, Renee Geyer, Ian Moss and Brod Smith, and other guest players including Glyn Mason, LRB’s Ric Formosa, Chisel’s Don Walker and Kerryn Tolhurst of Country Radio and the Dingoes. It was a massive event. Epochal even; although Cold Chisel’s greatest successes were to come, the concert somehow signified the end of an era – the ‘70s – in Australian music. 

The double-album recorded at the event was released on March 9 1981, with proceeds going to the Andrew Durant Cancer Research Foundation. The set went Top 10. Highlights from the concert were regularly screened on Channel 7’s Nightmoves program, and soon released on video. The concert video and a 1978 Stars live performance were combined in a double-DVD package in 2008. 

It was fitting that all but three of the tracks performed at the memorial concert were Andy Durant originals. The album stands as a testimony to his burgeoning songwriting abilities, as well as the respect that some of Australia’s most celebrated singers had for his songs. One of the few non-Durant songs, Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”, became synonymous with Andy to a generation of Australians thanks to the version performed on the night. 

We’ll have a deeper look at Stars as a band in coming weeks (and you can stream their stuff via the links below). We’ll include some performance footage of the man in action then; in the meantime, enjoy these highlights from the tribute concert, as our own tribute to the late great Andy Durant.  

“Good Times”  

“The Last of The River Boats”   

“Ocean Deep”  

“Look After Yourself”  


“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”  

Listen to Stars on Spotify:  

Listen to Stars on Apple Music:

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