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Graeme "Shirley" Strachan
Wind gust caused rock star's crash
By GLENIS GREEN
31st of August, 2001
A GUST of wind hit rock legend and television personality Graeme "Shirley" Strachan's helicopter before it flipped it over and spiraled into a death plunge, an eyewitness said yesterday.
Shirley Jones, who lives with her husband Tom on an acreage about 800m from the rocky Mount Archer hillside where Strachan crashed on his first solo flight on Wednesday afternoon, said the chartered Bell 47 chopper was turned upside down.
"It went up over the hill a little way and then I think it got a gust of wind because it just turned upside down and went down . . . about two spirals before it went down behind a ridge," Mrs. Jones said. "I couldn't believe it. It was so quick, just seconds."
Sunshine Coast Energex rescue helicopter pilot Jim Campbell, whose crew battled "tricky" conditions to retrieve Strachan's body just before 11 am yesterday, said conditions on the day of the crash were "rough as guts" but "handleable".
"It was very bad [then]," he said, adding that weather forecasts for the area had warned of "severe turbulence and mountain waves" with westerlies gusting up to 34 knots or about 70kmh.
"I don't know why he was flying that way [route] - he wasn't right on track."
Mrs. Jones had been sitting on the verandah of her home near Kilcoy when she saw the helicopter coming from the east.
"It got quite close and it was going slowly. I had my binoculars, so I watched it as it came around," she said.
"It was just a chance in a million that I was sitting there with my binoculars and saw it.
"It was very windy and as it came into the full force of the westerly wind it went very slowly."
Mrs. Jones said she had been able to hear the helicopter's engine when she first saw it, but after it disappeared from view "it just went silent".
Mrs. Jones said she did not know until she saw the evening television news that the crash victim was Strachan.
Strachan's wife, Sue, was being comforted by friends and family at their Sunshine Coast acreage home at Cooroy, west of Noosa.
Tearful but stoic, she said it was "too soon" to talk about the tragedy and asked that the family's privacy be respected.
Mrs. Strachan said a public memorial service would be held in Noosa and details announced within days.
Strachan took his ill-fated flight from Sunshine Coast airport in a helicopter owned by Blue Tonge Helicopters' Graeme Gillies.
Mr. Gillies said after the crash that Strachan had intended to fly over Somerset Dam and across to Kenilworth before returning to the airport, north of Maroochydore.He said yesterday the popular entertainer had loved flying "with a passion".
© 2001 The Australian
Shirl dies in chopper crash
+ Stars who've died in air crashes
POLICE will today begin the grim task of retrieving the body of Australian rock legend and television star Graeme "Shirley" Strachan from the Queensland mountain where he died in a helicopter crash yesterday.
Police said the former Skyhooks front man was a student pilot with Blue Tongue Helicopters at Maroochydore Airport on the Sunshine Coast, and had only a few hours of flying time left to complete his license. Mr. Strachan, 49, left the Sunshine Coast about 2:30pm AEST, and was planning to fly to Somerset Dam, Kenilworth and Nambour before returning to Maroochydore.
But Redcliffe Police Sergeant Frank Sparreboom said an eyewitness saw the entertainer's helicopter disappear behind Mount Archer near Kilcoy. "She just happened to be looking through her binoculars and she saw this helicopter, she saw it fall from the sky... in her words the plane did a straight vertical descent," he said. A searching helicopter located the wreckage where it had apparently struck a cliff face in rugged country, and after a crewman was winched down to confirm there were no survivors, rescuers were forced to pull out again because of approaching darkness.
Police said rescuers camped close to the crash scene overnight before starting on today's retrieval mission.
ABC-TV last night dedicated its weekly episode of the history of Australian rock and roll "Long Way To The Top" to the memory of Strachan.
Stars killed in air crashes
December 15, 1944 - Glenn Miller, trombonist and leader of a hugely popular dance band, killed when his plane disappears on flight from England to Paris.
February 3, 1959 - Rock stars Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens killed when chartered plane crashes in Iowa, US, en route to a show.
March 5, 1963 - Patsy Cline, whose country hits included Crazy and She's Got You, and fellow singers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins killed in plane crash in Tennessee.
July 31, 1964 - Country singer Jim Reeves killed in crash of a small plane in Nashville, Tennessee.
December 10, 1967 - Soul singer Otis Redding killed when plane crashes into a lake in Wisconsin.
September 20, 1973 - Singer Jim Croce, known for hits such as Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, killed in plane crash in Louisiana.
October 21, 1977 - Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Stevie Gaines of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band killed in plane crash in Missouri.
December 31, 1985 - Rick Nelson, Ozzie and Harriet TV star turned rocker, killed when plane catches fire and crashes in Texas.
August 27, 1990 - Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan killed when a helicopter crashes into a hill in Wisconsin, after departing from a concert.
March 16, 1991 - Seven members of singer Reba McEntire's band are among 10 people killed in crash near San Diego.
October 12, 1997 - John Denver, 1970s superstar with hits like Take Me Home, Country Roads, killed in crash of his experimental plane off California coast.
August 26, 2001 - American singer and actress Aaliyah, 22, among eight killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas.
August 29, 2001 - Former Skyhooks front man Graeme "Shirley" Strachan, 49, killed north of Brisbane while on a helicopter training flight.
The program featured a segment on his former band, 70s rock icons Skyhooks.
Strachan had been a popular television and radio personality for more than 20 years.
Since 1993 he had been a presenter on the Nine Network's lifestyle program Our House.
Countdown would not have been Countdown without Graeme "Shirley" Strachan, music guru Molly Meldrum said as he paid tribute to the popular Skyhooks fronton.
Australia's rock and entertainment industries were in shock today at the death of the singer and TV personality.
Mr. Strachan, 49, was remembered by contemporaries, friends and musicologists as one of the best singers Australian rock had ever produced, with his own distinctive style.
Rock guru and former Countdown host Mr. Meldrum remembered Strachan as a great mate and an "amazing lead singer".
"He was part of, obviously, the whole Countdown thing when Skyhooks broke, and Countdown wouldn't have been Countdown without a personality like Shirley's.
"He could take over and host a show but there was the other side of Shirl that was the mate of mine ... which was the carpenter and the surfie in him.
"Many many times he'd sort of shake me and say listen you've got to pull your act together and ... I tried to do the same with him but he'd make me laugh.
Former Skyhooks guitarist Red Symons said a conversation earlier this year had made him realize the bond between them.
"Shirley said something very poignant to me which he'd never said before," Mr. Symons said.
"He said we were lifelong friends.
"I can't imagine a better way for him to go - in charge and busy."
Paul Clarke, the producer of A Long Way To The Top, ABC TV's history of rock and roll, said Strachan had been a pivotal figure in Australia's changing 1970s music scene.
"There was something about Shirley Strachan's vocal style that gave voice to some of the most incredible lyrics ever written about Australian culture and youth culture.
"He is a pivotal performer on the Australian music stage and it's after "Living in the Seventies" (Skyhooks' first album) that things really begin to get interesting in Australian music.
"That was a watershed album.
"Growing up as a teenager watching him he was for me and my friends and extraordinary role model.
"His place in Australian rock music history is absolutely assured as one of the greatest singers we've ever produced.
Mr Clarke said the ABC dedicated last night's show to Mr. Strachan.
Another 70s contemporary, Wilbur Wilde, was devastated by the news.
"He was out there and living a really normal sort of life, just getting down to it, having a ball then just cut down like this," Mr. Wilde told Melbourne radio station Gold 104.
"He (was) a contemporary Australian icon.
"A great Australian, Shirley."
As well as being Skyhooks lead singer, Mr. Strachan had been a popular TV and radio personality for more than 20 years.
Since 1993 he had been a presenter on the Nine Network's lifestyle program Our House.
Nine CEO David Leckie today paid tribute to the show's favorite carpenter.
"Shirl was a great rock-and-roll legend and a terrific television performer," Mr Leckie said.
"He was one of Channel Nine's favorite sons and it will be hard to imagine this place without him."
Rock historian Glenn A Baker says the music of Skyhooks changed the way Australians felt about themselves.
He says that after Skyhooks, Australians didn't feel so self conscious about Australian places and Australian pursuits.
He says as the leader of Skyhooks, "Shirley" was completely irrepressible, rambunctious and outrageous.
He says he really was a classically great Australian rock singer.
The Following excerpts were culled from the Skyhooks Yahoo eGroups Discussion Board
I don't mean to alarm people with this post as I don't know all the
details..but I will report what I've heard on the radio here..3aw Melbourne has
reported that Shirl was on a helicopter that crashed at around 4 PM
today..they have said that the pilot has died in the accident but no
mention of passengers....channel 7 Brisbane has announced that Shirley was
one of the people on board. Apparently the chopper was doing some test run
or something.more news as I hear it.
fingers crossed that shirl is okay
I don't know how to report this..but seems the worst has happened in relation
to this in relation to Shirley Strachan in the helicopter accident. Again
I don't have details and it saddens my heart to send this post but reports
have it that Shirley has passed away in the accident. Apparently it has
been a leading item on news services in Melbourne. I watched channel 7 news but
didnt see anything on that one maybe out of respect to him being a
celebrity with the channel.
I felt just as jumbled and messed up Pete....how do you report something as
disastrous and sad as this was what I was thinking..and still am in shock
commiseration to all that knew shirl and connected with him thru his music
a very very sad day...
Hello, my name is John Taylor, a reporter with the ABC's national radio current affairs program "AM".
It is now the night of wed 29th August, and I am compiling an obituary of Shirley Strachan who died today in Queensland.
I was seeking to do an interview tonight for a piece to air tomorrow morning nationally.
My phone number is 07 3377 5164/ 0411 690 951
regards john Taylor.
It's ironic that a lot of us have been waiting for tonight to watch the countdown years on the ABC's long way to the top which should strongly feature shirl and Skyhooks.
Man oh man..what a shocker!
jdndrew Ratyna <ARatyna@StandardWool.com.au>
seems true. On the NineMSN now as we speak.Still Speechless
Shirl's dead Mark, really. Died in a chopper crash
M A C M E C H A N I C S
I can't believe it. How can this be? I'm in total shock.
At this stage it looks like it is true, have spoken to all the band members, so everyone is aware of this very sad news. Fred was only talking to Shirl last night, and I was chatting to Greg about Shirl this morning, it just seems totally impossible, but as of 6.00 it looks like it is true. I'm hopeless at Posts like this, Skyhooks were my first band I ever worked with, the first band I ever really loved, and if it wasn't for the Hooks my job for the past 20 years probably wouldn't exist. In my head, if Shirl wasn't part of the Skyhooks formula (and lets not forget those amazing songs) I seriously doubt Skyhooks would of became known to me.
Shirl I will always have memories, of an amazing front-man, totally unique, always a wicked glint in his eye.
But there was a part of him that was overshadowed by his humor, and that was an incredibly sensitive side. When Red's young son was incredibly ill, Shirl was so moved, many things have been said and written but I will always remember that side of him.
Like the rest of the guys I'm totally shell shocked, it feels like a total hoax, and I'd love for that to be the case but (sadly) it's real. I'll probably send in another post further down the track, I'm sorry if this
is very jumbled, it all feels very odd.
I am in total shock. How can this have happened?
Police have confirmed the former lead singer of seventies pop group, Skyhooks, has died in a helicopter crash northwest of Brisbane.
What more can we say.
He'll live in our Hearts and the Music we all Treasure.
Again.. not confirmed but it seems shirl was the solo pilot of the copter on
training and smashed into a cliff in the accident
This is the greatest tragedy to hit Oz music. Shirl (and band) were my
"I hate to say it but ain't it so typical of Shirl, Upstaging the History of Aussie Rock featuring the Hooks.
Point in the distance from the Guilty album seems apt to me at this moment. Its strange to feel
so much for some one I've never met."
I grew up to the strains of Skyhooks in our house. My Older sisters always playing their songs and going to all the gigs. I had their music in my veins from a very young age thanks to them......and to you Graham 'Shirley' Strachan, may you rest in peace. You and your band started a legacy in Australian music that was never to be repeated. Your music can never be duplicated, distinct in its sound and its ethnicity,
TRUE AUSTRALIAN ROCK....
Many sincere condolences to your family, your partner, your colleagues, and to all of your fans, I know we will miss you dreadfully.
The Hogarth Family
This is my first post. I am lost for words and still can't quite believe it! I am deeply shocked and saddened. Skyhooks and Shirl WERE the 70's to me. It was only last night that I discovered I own 4 copies of Living in
the 70's! I look back on the 70's with great fondness (being my formative years). Life was so much simpler then. My heartfelt condolences go to Shirl's family, loved ones and friends.
There will never be another Shirley Strachan.
You will be deeply missed Shirl. Thank you for the joy you brought to me.
Rest in Peace
I'm stunned as well and almost in tears. I didn't buy many Skyhooks records, I just stole the ones my older brother bought. <g>
and made tapes of them. They were the first band I became really
interested in and I remember pestering my mum to buy mags that
featured them so I could cover my walls with posters of the band and
to be allowed to watch Countdown.
I, too, send out my cyber sympathy to Shirl's family, friends and
many, many fans. The music and memories will live on forever.
It was a shock to hear about the death of Shirley...A character to the end, friend and treasure to us all.. Gone but not forgotten..kind thoughts and condolences to his family.
....for Melbourne fans, tune into Gold 104, Craig Huggins is taking calls on
peoples memories of Shirl.
Some great stories out there, brought a smile to my face in the midst of all
Enjoy Long way to the Top special tonight, the Hooks really shine.
I have just been playing all my HookS c.d.'s
thought it would cheer me up, but made me sadder.
Called all our old Hookscrew friends
everyone is the same- no one can believe this.
Wherever you are Shirl, you were the best.
p.s.-well said PG. (called Peggy in the U.S.A and told
her too-so one less off your list).
What a disasterous day.. I cant believe its true, i owe so much good
times to the voice of Shirl. It feels really empty and weird all the way
around the globe here in Stockholm.. Theres no words really that
that can express my sorrow.. Rock n roll has lost one its true heroes..
Fredrik Notling, Stockholm, Sweden
> peter, please can you share some of these stories with us (for those of us
> who are in NSW). i am just so numb at the moment.
> Vanessa :-)
at the moment the phones are just ringing off the Hook, press and radio,
concerned friends and old band mates, roadcrew etc...... after each call I'm
starting to feel fried.....and even more saddened, maybe one of the other
listeners could do this......
It appears that our lovable ol' Shirl just made an incredible amount of
My heart really goes out to Joyce and Ron (and the 3 sisters)..Shirl was the
apple of their eyes and so incredibly proud.
During the early years of the Hooks the family supported them in so many
ways, even the song on the site was recorded at Shirls parents place, so
they must be devastated. Joyce took me aside when we put together the Hooks
exhibition (Ego...) at the Performing Arts Museum...and she said that she
was the proudest Mum in the world. To lose your only son would be a cruel
anyway sorry I'm sure I'm making you guys feel worse (if that's possible).
If you have a vibe in the other states call up radio and request a Hooks
song, seems like ages since we all made the effort....a musical salute
across the country.
I keep expecting him to Pop his head around the corner and give that silly
grin and say "fooled ya"!
Personally. I am devastated. Skyhooks were a tremendous part of my growing
up. Musically, intellectually, whatever. "The Skyhooks Collection" is on
my random right now. So this band has always been a part of my life. Peace
and love to all of us.
I'll miss you Shirl. I've never met you but I'll always miss you. You made
me very happy. Every time I hear your voice. You always will.
I I don't even know what to say. I've been a Skyhooks fan since the beginning.
I met them in 1976 backstage at a show in New Jersey and have been Hooked
ever since. I logged onto my e-mail during lunch this afternoon to discover
the tragic news. Like the death of John Lennon, I feel as though I have lost
a friend I never really knew. As mentioned by Peter Green, Shirl was a
pretty sensitive person. Back in '76 during our one time meeting, It was
Shirley who went out of his way to make me comfortable backstage--as did all
the members. I had gone to see them to conduct an impromptu cassette tape
interview (I was only 16) to which they all warmly responded with messages
to folks back home and opinions of the tour as well as their viewpoint of
America--they couldn't wait to get back home!
My condolences to all of Shirley's family and friends. My heart and thoughts
are with you on this very sad day. He will truly be missed.
There is nothing, that I can say that hasn't been said. I'm like everyone else in total shock!
I have talked to Shirl a number of times and he was just like you saw him on stage and TV. He was a great bloke and what a sense of Humor. I'm off to see The Ol' Skydaddys tonight, that is going to be a interesting
gig. How hard is it going to be for Bob & Fred ? that's if it goes on. WHAT A LEGEND,. WHAT A WASTE !
Imagine you're 12, living in England and you've been sent Jenny Brown's biog by your long-lost Australian Uncle. You have no idea (and no way of easily finding out) what this group *sound* like, but you know these boys are special. Now imagine being lent a cassette (taped from the speaker of an AM radio station) of Skyhooks introducing tracks from 'Ego is not a dirty word' by a girl who's in England for a year.
By now you know that this band is good. Really good. People singing about their lives, not some faux Americana. Now imagine grabbing anything by Skyhooks when it appears from wherever you can get it (this is the 70's, and you're the other side of the world remember) and the poring over every detail, trying to understand it all (no interviews or other background, remember). Now imagine, ten years later, discovering (at the end of a Hunters & Collector's video) a trailer for "Right there on my TV". Your heart stops - for the first time, you can *see* as well as hear what a great little band this was. Tonight my heart stopped again. I got home to dozens of posted commiserations on the egroup. One suggested live audio on 104.3GOLD. The first words I heard were The Who singing "Talking 'bout my generation". Listen to your favourite 'hooks and relive the memories. Best wishes to friends and family and to egroup members.
Hello all ...
This came from today's Sunday Herald Sun on page 18.
It's an open letter from Greg to Shirl.
September 1, 2001: I haven't slept too well since Wednesday.
A myriad of thoughts and memories keep swirling around.
1969: You'd drive over to Eltham from Mt Waverley in the panel van for a weekend of partying and mayhem.
Sunday night it was back down Warrigal Road for an early start with Ron on the building site.
1970: We formed The Frame with Pat, Sintjio and Fred. The gigs at Mt Buller - long drives in the Kombi
listening to Cat Stevens and Santana on the eight-track. You cracking jokes all the way and itching to hit the slopes if there was time before the gig. You seemed to have friends all over the place and we'd be stopping here and there for a cup of tea.
1973: Freddy and myself needed a singer when Steve left the Hooks after Sunbury. We drove to Phillip
Island and back before finding you at Mt Waverley.
You agree on the spot, learn all the lyrics and the next weekend we're onstage in front of Lobby's Sharpies at the Frankston Police Boys Club.
1974: The train started rolling. Late nights at TCS studios. You double tracking so perfectly that Ross
Wilson asks you to muck it up a bit. The smartarse banter with John French through the talkback.
1975: Heading north through the canefields of Townsville. The only guy I'd really trust on a long
drive. You love raising hell at the local radio stations. The country DJs can't cope when you take
Allison Durban off mid-song and start promoting tonight's gig at the Rockhampton Civic Centre.
Festival Hall Melbourne - we park the HR out the back and you have 5000 kids mouthing every word. That
voice, way up high, always clear, distinct even through the worst PA.
1976: You're taking the piss out of the Yankee truckers on the CB radio coming into Atlanta.
1978: That long high C# at the fade out of 'Women In Uniform' - phew, now that brings a tear.
1983: Back in the saddle, back to Festival Hall for five sold out shows and then 1984. You're joshing
with Daryl and Ossie back in the studio and we're in front of 25,000 at Olympic Park.
1990: You take the jukebox to the top of Mt Buller for a photo shoot and call me excitedly from the summit.
'Macca, I've got the shot, you'll love it.' We're both Capricorns. Always climbing one mountain or another.
1997: Drinking plunger coffee overlooking the Brisbane River - rabbiting on about the chopper lessons, MMM and the new golf clubs.
As I get into the Honda I instinctively look back over my shoulder knowing you'd be watching me from the 16th
We wave goodbye.
Didn't think that would be the last time. See you mate. I'm not looking forward to how much I'm going
to miss you."
Follow up to John Dokken's Message from:
Club to Pay Tribute to the Passing of Graeme "Shirley" Strachan Thursday, 30 August 2001
PLAYERS from the Hawthorn Football Club will wear black armbands for this weekend's match as a mark of respect for the tragic passing of club patron and supporter Graeme "Shirley" Strachan. The club also will pay tribute to the former Skyhooks singer and TV and personality with a special video and musical tribute before Saturday night's MCG clash against St Kilda.
Shirley Strachan was a long-time supporter and member of the Hawthorn Football Club and more recently was a special patron. Hawthorn Football Club chief executive Michael Brown today extended his best wishes to Sue Strachan and the rest of Shirley's family. "Shirley Strachan was an integral part of the club's on-field success during the 1980s," Brown said.
"Even though he has lived in Queensland in recent years, he has been an outstanding supporter and contributor to the club. "Shirley was made a special patron and was part of a distinguished group who dedicated their services to the club beyond the call of duty." "We are saddened by the loss of such a colourful personality and club identity."
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mellow Dick Mgmt." <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2001 6:31 PM
Subject: [Skyhooks] AFL football tribute to Shirl
> Shirl's beloved Hawthorn football club in the Australian Football League
> with will wear black arm bands during tomorrow's game against St. Kilda
> Football Club (who Michael Gudinski is on the board of - molly is also a
> nutter follower of) I also hear there will be a tribute to Shirl
> on the main score board after the game...
Still coming to terms with the fact that Shirl is gone and so are any remote hopes of more reunions or new material. Maybe we will finally get the stuff locked away that no-one will release. Not that of course I can ever go past the early stuff that is still so relevent today.
I hope i'll be able to communicate with other mad "hookers" and I hope that everyone enjoyed tonites
"Longway" show. Its been interesting!! I guess thats all for now, I'll go to bed and dream my dreams of Skyhooks who will never BE again.
RIP Shirl you were the coolest.
There are many "lurkers" out there who not only share the
tremendous shock and grief at this incredibly sad tragedy, and
whose hearts are going out to Shirls family, friends and colleagues,
but who also have enjoyed and appreciated the website and fan
club efforts over time.
So this is one such lurker signing on (finally) to say "you take care
My sincere condolences to Shirl's wife and family and friends.
Jo from Gisborne (VIC).
Just came across this group via the website.
Probably a bad time to do an intro, given the news today of Shirl's tragic
Just briefly, my name is Jurek, I'm in Canberra (Australia) and have been a
Hooks fan from the time they burst onto the charts with Living in the 70s
(when I was just a young teenage lad - those were the days!!)
Look forward to reading and where time permits, participating in the
Tonight, however, I'm feeling very empty.
My mum called from the Gold Coast tonight, she thought she was
breaking the news but of course the internet beat her to it.
My ex-wife even emailed to tell me about it and remind me
of the time we saw them at the Alex Hills pub. ('90?)
I'm working the graveyard shift tonight (only happens twice a year)
so I brought the Roadcase in to play it through all night.
Although no one has said it I guess this means the end of the 'Hooks
as far as any chance of new tours or releases. History has proven you
can't replace Shirl.
From Billboard Bits: VMA, Doobie Awards, Folkways, Skyhooks
Graeme "Shirley" Strachan, singer of '70s Australian glam band Skyhooks, died yesterday (Aug. 29) in a helicopter crash, Billboard Bulletin reports. He was 49.
Skyhooks' first two albums on Mushroom, "Living in the Seventies" (1974) and "Ego Is Not a Dirty Word" (1975), sold a combined 500,000 units, according to the label, despite most of the tracks being banned on radio. Strachan left the band in 1978 and carved out a career as a TV and radio presenter.
-- Christie Eliezer, Melbourne
Dear All ...
Here is an eloquent farewell letter from Red to Shirl which was published in The Age on Saturday. Sorry for
the delay in posting this.
For those members who are not Melbourne residents, you can read more of Red's work by going to the Age
website and clicking on the little button with his face on it (it's a little way down the page on the right hand side). He updates every Tuesday. Here is the link.
"Here is a simple equation. People loved Shirley Strachan because Shirley loved people.
Goodwill radiated from him with such incandescence that the stultifying mechanics of television, radio
and painstakingly manufactured records were no impediment to that energy.
He embodied some of the best aspects of that Australian temperament, an optimism innocent of
history and a complete lack of pretension. He was a chirpy bastard.
I was his lifelong friend and intimate, but if you ever glimpsed him on television or radio or singing a
song, then you knew him as well as I did. Shirley didn't just let you into his life, he came round to
your place to yak about it. He was a natural performer because he was, first of all, a natural.
His cheekiness was in service of reminding us that many aspects of our fraught and self-important lives
are not really important at all. Get over it. He was a golden child. He was happy, lucky, pretty and handy. We should envy the carpenters of the world. They need never doubt that they are doing something useful.
Shirley Strachan was never particularly interested in art. He just liked making stuff. Effortlessly, he
voiced the sound of a pivotal moment in Australian cultural history when the nation, in the early 1970s,
discovered and claimed its own identity. Then he went and did a kids' show on telly. He was 'just
Popular music is a clock ticking in the background of our lives. A human voice glides over a sequence of
notes and we are transported to another time and another self. We grieve his passing because we grieve
at the passing of our own lives. That fragment of a song is a fragment of our youth. It has passed.
Don't grieve for Shirley. He had a good life. Helicopter crash? What a bloody show pony.
I love you mate."
(The Age, Saturday, 1 September 2001)
Skyhooks album sales skyrocket
Tuesday 4 September 2001
Sales of Skyhooks albums have leapt since the death last week of the band's frontman, Graeme "Shirley" Strachan.
A Festival Mushroom Records spokesman said a compilation of Skyhooks hits, which would normally sell about 60 copies a week, had recorded about 2000 sales in five days.
Sales of the band's most popular album, Living in the Seventies, had increased 10-fold to about 1000 copies since last Wednesday.
JB Hi-Fi's 15 stores sold out of Skyhooks titles within a day of Strachan's death, said the company's CD product manager, Derek Durrant.
The HMV Australia Bourke Street store in Melbourne restocked yesterday after running out last Thursday.
"It's an indication of how popular they were and how much people are affected (by the death)," said HMV store manager David Martin.
A public memorial service for Strachan will be held at Noosa on Thursday. - AAP
Hey Julie and Fans
From the USA.. My Brother and I where big fans of the hooks when we lived in
Australia . My brother and I are australian and together we where in a
little band of our own and we called it "Mushroom". after the record lable.
We loved the hooks, so much so we tried to do a lot of there songs and
managed a few but most where so brilliant we just could not do it justice.
I now live in America and my brother terry is still in OZ. We will miss
shirl and the fabulous " skyhooks".
>From: "julie mangnoson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Re: [Skyhooks] My Tribute To Graeme "Shirley" Strachan
>Date: Sat, Sep 1, 2001, 10:31 PM
>Dear Mark and all other 'hooks fans
>I left it until this week to get onto this site- call it fate but the timing
>is eerie. I have been a devotee since 1974 and the events of this week have
>left me stunned, first Shirl and the Ted Mulry. I beleive in 3's so I hope i
>am wrong on that score.
>Its been amazing to see so many tributes and memories to Shirl and from
>overseas too where obviously the music still stands up.
>When all this craziness settles down I hope to get in contact with Peter
>Green who I haven't corresponded with for probably 20 years!! I met him when
>I came over to Melbourne taht long ago so maybe he may remember and we can
>Anyway I'd love to talk to anyone who wishes to about my memories and great
>times of this incredible band.
>>From: "Mark Lamborn" <email@example.com>
>>Subject: [Skyhooks] My Tribute To Graeme "Shirley" Strachan
>>Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2001 21:46:32 -0400
>>I'm not really finished with this site. In fact, it's the first effort that
>>I've made to updating it since my PC crashed and I lost all of the previous
>>info for my Skyhooks site. I've included many comments from everyone in
>>Anything that you would like me to add, let me know.
This announcement was on the Our House DIY community page:
Graeme "Shirley" Strachan
1952 - 2001
Graeme "Shirley" Strachan will be farewelled in a private ceremony attended
by family and friends at Noosa Heads on Thursday, September 6. There will
then be a public gathering at 11.00am on Noosa Beach to pay tribute to
Graeme's life. His ashes will be spread over Laguna Bay from a helicopter.
This may be observed from the length of Noosa Heads Beach from Hastings St
to First Point.
As a lifelong devoted surfer, Shirley Strachan was passionate about the good
work of our Surf Life Savers. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, the family have
asked that donations be made in his name to Surf Life Saving Australia.
Donations can be made directly to your local Surf Club or mailed to:
SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTRALIA
Locked Bag 1
Brighton-le-Sands NSW 2216
Gra, we miss you terribly,
memories of happy times,
love you heaps.
Ron & Joyce,
Pat, Max, Lyn, Andrea & all the family
(Graeme's parents & the family of Graeme's wife, Sue)
On behalf of Sue Strachan and the family of the late Graeme "Shirley"
The Ties That Bind
By RED SYMONS
Tuesday 4 September 2001
Oh, so now Iím supposed to write a nice little light entertainment? Maybe not.
Iíve had a busy week. My rather public friend died rather publicly. I feel like the boy who brings a note from his mum, saying that thereís been an upset in the family so could the teacher please go easy on the lad.
My children have been a great comfort in the last few fraught days. Their reactions are varied and dependent on their maturity. My wife was weeping and my three-year-old looked up, distracted from the important work of concocting a contretemps between Thomas and Gordon, the big engine.
"Mummy sad", he pronounced, drawing on the full range of his observational and communicative faculties. Having apprised us of the situation, he went back to playing with his trains . . . and singing. It was quite nice really. There is a place for oblivious heartlessness in the spectrum of human emotion. Life goes on.
My eight-year-old, on hearing the news, immediately rushed to the CD player and pumped out Living in the Seventies. He was well-intentioned but, somehow, pushy, look-at-me, frock-rocking didnít quite capture the tenor of the occasion. Then thereís the subtext Ė living in the '70s as opposed to . . .?
I picked up my 10-year-old from the school disco on Friday night and apprehended him playing the piano. Then I noticed he was playing to entertain a little friend of the female persuasion. Gawd, here we go again, I thought.
There are very few situations from which you can't draw at least some mordant humor. There are Jack Newton jokes and John Lennon jokes. Why should my friend be denied his place in the pantheon?
It occurred to me that, had he made his exit 15 years ago when he hosted the lottery draw on television, newspaper editors would have been unable to resist references to his number being up. Also, Wednesday is a fairly convenient day to die, in media terms, because it is just enough time for newspapers to stretch it over the weekend. A lift-out maybe? Iron-on transfers, remember them? Not that he would have given a toss.
Interestingly, although I was asked for comment from lots of different sources, radio stations that play music were noticeably under-represented. I guess they didnít want to let an external reality interfere with the hermetically precise play-list of songs that they smart-bomb into their buyersí world.
You've heard the music now . . . that telephone number again . . . we play the same songs in a better order. FM stations are more generous with their prizes than AM stations for the simple reason that they have more digits in their call-signs.
I toyed with one really wicked idea. When a prominent person dies there is always the opportunity to those closest to them to fabricate some phoney last words to push whichever personal barrow.
"Yes, I spoke to him only hours before it happened. We were talking about the current refugee crisis and he said . . ."
Iíve enjoyed people in the last few days.
Friends that I havenít spoken to in decades have been in touch and Iím determined to draw them back into my life. On Saturday I went to a launch for Tim Robertson's gorgeous book about the Pram Factory theatre and the Australian Performing Group. It busks on the same intense period of artistic and social life that my friend was first part of.
I was so fashionably late that I missed the whole thing. Beyond cool, that's me. I walked home, solitary, through a Carlton and Fitzroy that was no longer the í70s. In Brunswick Street, an open-faced young man came out of a restaurant and our eyes met. He correctly deduced from my gaze that he could dispense with pointless deference and say hello. He offered his condolences and we chatted briefly.
He had a sunniness, an ableness and a readiness that I found most pleasing. He told me that he worked in a wood-yard.
As I said goodbye, I paid the young man the highest compliment available to me on the day.
"You remind me of him," I said.
Fitting farewell to Shirl
By GLENIS GREEN
THE ashes of rock great Graeme "Shirley" Strachan will be scattered among the waves he loved to surf at Noosa Heads.
They will be spread from a helicopter tomorrow morning in a poignant reminder of the helicopter crash that killed him at Mt Archer, near Kilcoy, last week.
A private cremation was held for the former lead singer of Skyhooks yesterday at Tewantin.
A statement from the Nine Network and signed by his family said Strachan, a star of Our House, would be farewelled in a private ceremony at Noosa Heads before a public gathering at Main Beach at 11am.
Inquiries into the cause of the crash have already begun.
Shirl Returns To The Surf He Loved
By GREG ROBERTS
Friday 7 September 2001
Sue Strachan at a reception later.
Picture: JOHN FRENCH
Two magnificent grey and white sea eagles, their wings upswept, soared overhead as the ashes of Graeme "Shirley" Strachan drifted from the hovering helicopter on to Laguna Bay. As the colored sands of Cooloola shimmered on the horizon, 800 people flocked to the main beach of Noosa to pay tribute to the former Skyhooks singer and television personality at a public memorial service.
Ten of Strachan's best mates, including ironman Trevor Hendy, paddled from the beach on surfboards, each with a yellow lily in his teeth, to a point 100 metres offshore. They placed the flowers on the water and linked arms in a circle. Behind them was a line of kayaks, an honor guard from the Noosa Surf Lifesaving Club; the singer's family had asked for donations to the lifesavers in lieu of flowers.
His mates saluted the helicopter as it hovered and clapped the water as it disappeared to the south. Sitting on their boards, they took turns to tell their favorite yarns about Shirl, who was killed last week when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in gusty winds into Mount Archer, in the D'Aigular Range south-west of Noosa. He was 49. Flying and surfing had been his passions.
Strachan was cremated early this week. His friend Dean Miller, Radio 4MMM's breakfast announcer, said he had left clear instructions about his funeral. "He said that if anything happened to him, he wanted it be short and to the point. There was to be no big deal."
Friends from the entertainment industry there yesterday included former Sherbet lead singer, Darryl Braithwaite, who consoled former Skyhooks guitarist Red Symons.
Skyhooks manager and Mushroom Records founder Michael Gudinksi said it was fitting that Shirl was being remembered on such a superb day in such a picture postcard setting.
Michael and Elle Purcell had a boat berthed on the Gold Coast next to Strachan's boat. "He'd bring you in a cup of tea first thing in the morning," Elle said. "He was such a loveable, ordinary bloke."
Many on the beach had never met Strachan, but "he was my all-time favorite," said Skyhooks fan Bernard McKeaten.
After the service, Shirley's widow, Sue, and his parents, Ron and Joyce, embraced friends and family as they gathered for a wake at his favorite Noosa restaurant, the Cafe la Monde.
Sales of Skyhooks CDs are reported to have rocketed and the Nine Network's Our House show is to screen a special tribute on Sunday to celebrate Strachan's eight years with the program.
A tribute concert is planned for the Palais, St Kilda, on Tuesday.
- with AAP
News From Mushroom Records Web Site
A fond farewell to Shirley
As the frontman to Skyhooks, Graeme 'Shirley' Strachan was far ahead of his time. When others were decked out in denim, Shirley lead Skyhooks through a collection of colourful outfits and even more colourful songs. Causing constant controversy, Skyhooks lead the Australian Music revolution, and appealed simultaneously to the uni students, tennyboppers and 'freaks'.
They created a phenomena with albums like Living In The 70's and Ego Is Not a Dirty Word, mostly thanks to Shirley's striking and often androgenous good looks.
The tragic death of Shirley Strachan has only reaffirmed the influence Skyhooks played in Australian music history. Many grew up worshipping the Skyhooks in the seventies, or Shirley's after career in television throughout the eighties and nineties.
From all at Festival Mushroom Records, we send our deepest sympathy to the family, loved ones and fans of Shirley Strachan.
Submitted by:Andrew Ratyna <ARatyna@StandardWool.com.au>
Laughter celebrates life of Shirley Strachan
By ANDRA JACKSON
Wednesday 12 September 2001
Shirley in his heyday as lead singer with Skyhooks
It was that engaging grin that always ensured Shirley Strachan could get
away with saying things others wouldn't dare, a memorial celebration for him
heard last night.
First there was rock guru Molly Meldrum divulging that when he once tried to
admonish the then Skyhooks singer over performing the song Smut on an ABC
children's program, Strachan told him "Don't be such a drama queen".
Former Channel Nine chief Ian Johnson told how Strachan's cheeky grin always
got him in the door to plague him about an idea for a program.
And former Hawthorn footballer Dermott Brereton related how at half-time in
the change room, Strachan, a keen Hawks supporter, "would come in with that
grin and just say `Pull your finger out, will you?"'.
It was appropriate that a blown-up black-and-white image of Strachan
breaking into that trademark grin, was suspended over the stage of St
Kilda's Palais theatre during the tribute.
Strachan, 49, lead singer of '70s group Skyhooks, died when the helicopter
he was learning to fly crashed north of Brisbane two weeks ago.
That image of his smile beaming out from the stage set the tone for the
Melbourne tribute to the performer whose career turns included children's
television host, radio breakfast presenter and television handyman.
Meldrum told the gathering of about 500 family, friends, rock industry
personnel and fans that "he was such a good friend to me".
Quicksilver's Alan "Greeny" Green disclosed that Graeme Strachan was dubbed
"Shirley" by the surfing fraternity at Phillip Island in the early '70s,
"from Shirley Temple, because of the curls and the high-pitched voice".
Singer Daryl Braithwaite had to slip into falsetto in tribute to "the voice
of the '70s" as he led the remaining Skyhooks with a version of All My
Friends are Getting Married.
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