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Rob Greaves

Mark Barnes: Gone to God and the place where all unique people go!

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ID:	18131Netting hung across the entire ceiling and through out were scattered various strange objects. His walls were covered from floor to ceiling with posters of groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the like. The whole room was lit by one dim coloured light. This was the bedroom, the inner sanctum of Mark, and the year was 1963.

I met Mark through a mutual friend, well known Melbourne guitarist Mick Elliott. Having decided that I wanted to start a band I had advertised for any interested guitarists and Mick had answered. He then introduced me to his friend, Mark - Mark Barnes.

Right from the moment I visited Mark with Mick, and was taken in to his room, I was struck buy his enthusiasm, confidence and wit! He had the most amazing collection of cartoons he had drawn, they were weird, bizarre, clever and downright dark, but I loved them.

He turned me onto Musique Concrete, way back in 1964! Little did I know that 14 years later it would form the basis for my love of electronic music. Now as I think of Mark I guess that was a pretty apt description of him - weird, bizarre, clever and dark.

We did form that first band - The Sonics, which quickly became The Sound before mutating into the Moppa Blues, with the addition of Graham (Snowy) Townshend. If there was a practical joke to be played, Mark would be behind it. His wit was in fact razor sharp and he could be cutting in his remarks.

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Mick Elliott, Mark & myself - 1964

He had the looks, he had the skill and he had the attitude so it was no wonder he would eventually end up playing Bass in Campact.

But his amazing mind, and his absurd sense of humour, manifested its self in other ways. He became the Art director for SCRAG - the student newspaper for Swinburne Institute of Technology (as it was known in the late 1960's). He encouraged me to take top the job as Editor, and along with other notable writers such as Dr Pepper (David Pepperell), we set about turning a staid political student newspaper into something without peer when it came to insanity.

SCRAG proved to be the perfect mechanism for Mark to revisit his humor that was manifest through his drawings and cartoons, and he took great delight in designing SCRAG covers that were sure to upset someone - anyone. He succeeded.

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A typical Barnes SCRAG Cover

"I hate the song about the piggies. You
know the one where they say sort of all about the little piggies living little piggy lives. I mean it's disrespectful to the force

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It took almost 12 months before the Student Representative Council dared to take us on over the SCRAG publication, but in true Mark style, he didn't fight them, he just commented that "our" work was done - and we all promptly resigned.

He took on Producing the Swinburne Student Review in 1970! Once again Swinburne didn't know what hit it! led by Mark, David Pepperell, Marks girlfriend Mary and myself, it was pure Dadaism mixed with Monty Python.

It was, complete anarchy. There were scripts but many of the sketches, particularly the one’s with Barnes, Pepperell and myself, relied significantly upon clever ad-libbing. We drew upon the images of people and personalities that we had come across and mixed them with Pythonesque type situations. Sadly there are no known photographs of the shows, but once the audiences got the hang of the fact that this was a show where they needed to totally suspend their belief systems, they really enjoyed it and it was a raging success.

Mark was also one of the first "hippies" to move into Greveille Street in Prahran, and he set up a small household of like minded and talented people in the building that was known as Dobies Bakery.

Mark would decorate the front window of the shop with all many of weird and wonderful but utterly useless things; such as opened empty matchboxes, bent coat hangers, torn photographs, a rusty can and faded plastic pegs- you get the idea, and he would label them very carefully (just as carefully as he arranged them in the window) with, "Display Purposes Only - Not For Sale!" In some ways was an extension of "Swallow A Camel" in a shop version.

Marks foray into Music promoting is best known for him starting and being the driving force behind the now legendary Station Hotel, in Greville Street. Everyone who was anyone in the music business either played there or was part of the audience in its long and memorable history.

His incredible energy and foresight saw the best groups play there and when David Pepperell and Keith Glass came up with the idea to do a live recording, Mark was the absolute and natural MC. The result is the amazing "Live At The Station Hotel" Album, that came out in 1976.

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The 1970's were for Mark, somewhat his halcyon years when he was active and incredibly focused.

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Dingoes Party - 1975, with Graham (Snowy) Townshend

It was toward the late 1970's that a life of indulging in all forms of stimulants, particularly alcohol,began to take its toll on Mark, and as the years went on he gradually withdrew into an isolated world where he had less and less contact with others.

I lost contact and didn't reconnect with Mark until late 2010. He was living an almost hermit like existence in his home in Footscray. He welcomed me like a long lost brother, and I felt great happiness. We spent many afternoons reminiscing, he would show me his garden out the back which he was very proud of, and we would have a few music jams.

He offered me one of his guitars, a Guild I think, as he knew I was wanting to move out of my comfort zone of electronic music, back to basics. I refused, I just couldn't accept such a generous gift. I wish I had, for it would have been a physical connection to him now he has passed.

Sadly, with the bringing back of live music to the Station Hotel in October 2011, Mark's blackness descended once again and because I had decided to record that final performance, in his mind I had joined his (perceived) enemies and he cut me off again! That final visit to him in August 2011 was the last time I saw him at his home, although he did come to the final show at the Station Hotel.

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At the Station Hotel

He wasn't a well man, he knew all too well the damage he had done to himself physically, but he always had a happy and cheerful disposition. What was sad was that he could not recognise that he was also suffering cognitively, and this inability to deal with his demons isolated him from so many, many people who, while not accepting his behaviour, still loved him.

Mark was not the best bass player in Australia, he was not the most erudite musician in Australia, he may very well have been the most unique and unusual, but what is for absolute certain is, that he was the most unforgettable.

He did leave his mark, if you will excuse the pun, most decidedly. He has also left a lot of friends and colleagues who would loved to have had a reconciliation, but true to the end, he instructed his long time partner, Morag, not to inform people and she carried out his wishes, so we were not even able to have a reconciliation at his grave.

How Mark was that?

Mark, I am so angry that you left this world without saying goodbye, but I forgive you because even here you left a lesson for us all. Don't go through life with unfinished business between friends.

You were a crazy bastard, possibly a flawed genius even. You opened my eyes and my mind to many possibilities. I will always have you in my heart as one of my longest and truest friends, because friends are people where you overlook their faults to love and appreciate them for what they are.

Mate, you helped shape my life in so many ways and I will never forget you.

May you now truly find the Peace you so deserved.

One of David's close friends from the 1960's is Melbourne writer and identity, Dr Pepper, who as Marks friend David Pepperell, wrote the following about Mark.

My dear friend and brother Mark Barnes has passed away apparently from the effects of prostate cancer. Mark was the most brilliant person I have ever known.

He could do anything - play music, write stories, draw, produce theatre works, manage a rock & roll venue, out-drink any man (or woman) in the house, edit a newspaper and spot upcoming musical talent.

As bassist in the Sound, Moppa Blues, Pink Finks (fleetingly), Roadrunners, Delta Set and Cam-Pact he was a major contributor to the group's sound and a magnet for the female fans.

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Early Campact with Mark 4th from the left with Rob Lloyd, Chris Stockley, Greg Cook & Keith Glass

As an entrepreneur he founded the first Rock & Roll pub in Melbourne - the Queensbury Hotel in Carlton - and then outdid himself with Australia's finest music venue - the legendary Station Hotel in Greville Street, Prahran - where he reigned supreme for all of the 70's and a bit of the 80's.

Any band that wanted to say they made it in Australia had to play the Station and they all did: AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Daddy Cool, Mighty Kong, Madder Lake, Dingoes (just about the house band), Richard Clapton, Saltbush, Split Enz - the list is infinite and endless.

You could always go to the Station without even knowing who was playing because you could trust Mark's taste to only feature the best bands in town. There were many lesser known bands also, maybe forgotten now, but loved by the Station Hotel Desperadoes, that contributed to the legend of the place.

Keith Glass and I recorded an album there in 1976 which has now become a classic and if you are lucky enough to have a copy you can look at the pics of the wonderful crowd there and even hear Mark himself extolling the virtues of the mighty Dingoes.

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DNP, Mark & Keith Glass 1981

I first met Mark in early 1966 and we clicked from the outset - same silly humour, same contempt for the straight world that we never wanted to live in. I have had more funny times with Mark than with any other human being and his legendary exploits - the 700 beer shout, the self-exposure in the back of a sports car, his ability to take care of business in any state of consciousness, his many great venues - have passed into legend.

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Clapton, DNP, Blanchfield & Barnes 1983

I loved him dearly and will miss his wit, vivacity, opinions, laughter, madness, adventurousness, love, friendship, belief and delight in life for the rest of my life.

Dear Mark, my partner in crime, my brother-in-arms, my best friend, my inspiration, my soul mate - how will I live without you?

RIP lovely brother - like Vincent, too beautiful for this messy world. Gone to God and the place where all unique people go.

Sincere condolences to Morag and Mark's sister.

- with love from David N. Pepperell (Doctor Pepper)

And tributes have poured in on Facebook. Here is a selection.

"I spoke to Morag last night he died a few weeks ago from prostate cancer he had been sick for quite a long time. He told Morag he didn't wish to tell anyone. Apparently he accepted his fate with his usual bravado and sense of humour the hospital staff were constantly regaled with stories from his past and had trouble keeping him in bed. I am just sorry I never got to say goodbye in fact the last time I spoke to Mark we were talking about our health issues both of us have HPc and he jokingly said I will live longer than you. I had cirrosis of the liver at the time, luckily I had a liver transplant two years ago and are back to normal on the physical side anyway. I had a listen last night to Mark's rave on Live at the Station last night brought a tear and laugh sadly missed one of the true characters on the Melbourne scene." -Stephen Convey

"A Mark "memory" has just come to me. Mark had said he would go to Geelong with the Pink Finks (think one of them was ill). They came to Chicago to pick Mark up and he had changed his mind but didn't want to face them. Us "girls" and think think some of the guys hid him in the ladies. They were not amused with him and I don't think he lived it down for a long time (don't think it was Stockley, although with my memory it could have been ... you were there and would remember it.)" - Barbara Clapperton (nee Hall)

"Mark was known to me for years through The Delta Set and then Campact as a zany extroverted and funny guy. he was always up for fun and later when I returned to Melbourne remember him as a troubled soul who offered me a job sorting out his record collection 3years back which I declined RIP Mark." - Robert Lloyd

"Condolence's to all friends and family, the 'robin hood' of rock & roll was a great friend back in the seventies, a funny, funny man and ran everybody that was anybody through his Station Hotel venue. WOW it has now been 2 hours since I got the news here in California so I have put this small piece together... for him, his family, his mates & friends.... 'Barnsey' during the years I knew him well , working at his venue ( Station Hotel) as a player with Danny Robinson's band Hit & Run from the mid seventies until early eighties. When Danny came back to music we were given a four week season of Saturday nights for openers. Every band around Australia that ever came to anything worked that room. He was a dynamo and knew just about everyone. I believe AC/DC played there, Little River Band, Billy Thorpe, Bo Didderly and even Cold Chisel were doing Thursday Nights while we did Saturdays.

He was instrumental in helping us release our EP record (1,000 copies) sold it out in 21 days. He was a pint sized brilliant ideas man with a Scot name hahahahahaha. I will share with you one instance of his brilliance...

Was a Saturday arvo in the front bar of the Station Hotel and Marino(owner) had mentioned that the crowd were all there for the arvo show, but no-one was drinking much - he said to Marino quick as a FLASH, gimme a hunnert. So Marion gives him the 100 dollars at which point he launched himself onto the bar and standing on tit he bellowed - righto you dishevelled swine, I'll shout 100 beers. Girls, Marino - 100 BEERS PLEASE.... at which point the taps, just kept flowing while those BEERS were all pulled.

He then slips me a $100 from Marino and sez to me, second me mate, at which point I leapt onto the BAR and got a big HELL YEAH on my 100 BEER order. We both hadn't half finished that BEER when someone in the crowd did the same thing. Well that went on for another 8 or 9 shouts - a financial pleasure on a slow saturday arvo! Yep he was an ideas man. The part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is, the owner made more money than he ever could have dreamed of making though Barnsey & the acts he booked, yet when he had that stack 'o' moolah - he gave Barnsey & his music the flick, and opened a businessman's bistro. Melbourne lost the best venue it ever had, and the 'robin hood' of rock & roll lost his job.

Well me little mate, yer at PEACE now, and I'll bet your still nailin' it spirit side.... R.I.P. bros, aye !" - Mac Thunder

"Mark a really talented gifted person who suggested I move to the bakery and opened up a whole new chapter in my life. Fond memories of sessions with Mark and Mary. I recall Marks rallying call from the golden years" party party! Where's the party" - Robert Williamson

"Sorry to hear this, Mark and Morag were instrumental in the early 70,s "Musical Center of the Universe"! If it wasn't for mark and Morag, the music scene would have turned out very differently in Melbourne --mine included" - Ed Knightofrealmwestgarth Bates

"Barnsey!!! the real thing........" - Roger Taylor

"Best known for being Mr Station Hotel grumble guts fun, snarky but for me it was a front, he was the best at winding us up just ask Dr Pepper. R.I.P. Mark - Richard Morcom

In true mark style of keeping his "cards" close to his chest, it took almost 10 weeks for his passing to be made known.
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(Jeffrey) Mark Barnes [18th September 1949 - 28th May 2014 ]
Thank you to everyone who provided a story and, particularly a photograph.

The following pictures were taken from four slides I found in a tin, some six hours after this article was published. So those that have already read it have missed them, but to those who read later - here are four bonuses.

The pictures were taken at Portsea on Melbourne's Peninsular and the year was probably 1967.

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Updated 17th August 2014 at 03:22 PM by Rob Greaves

Rob Greaves , Authors and Contributors