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The Bondi Lifesaver Remembered

By Nicola Travers-Robinson on March 30, 2020 in News

Cold Chisel backstage at the Lifesaver in 1978. Photo: Violet Hamilton

Back in 2012, The Beast published an appeal to anyone who had information about a long-forgotten music venue that once stood near the corner of Newland and Ebley Streets. The Bondi Lifesaver had lived on in the minds of many and it became one of our most commented on online stories.
Ten years later, owing to a massive effort from those who loved the Lifesaver, a book has been published honouring its legacy. Craig Griffiths, the author of The Bondi Lifesaver: Sydney’s 1970s Sex, Drugs & Rock n Roll HQ, spent many nights during the seventies under the Lifesaver’s roof.
“It was like a cubby house for degenerate music lovers and musicians,” he told The Beast.
The Lifesaver’s reputation for “sex, drugs and rock n roll” was widely known in an era before the sobering realities of drug addiction and the AIDS epidemic set in.
When Griffiths looked for information about the beloved venue in 2010, two years before his colleague John Ruffels wrote to The Beast, he couldn’t find anything online or in print.
“I Googled it and there was nothing. And I looked through the many music books I had and there was nothing,” he explained.
Griffiths started a Facebook group to find other people who remembered the Bondi Lifesaver and was faced with an uphill battle. After six months there were twelve people in the group and after a year there were only forty. It took him three years just to find a photo of the front of the venue.
“Because it wasn’t easy, it made it more worthwhile… as time went on more and more people came out of the woodwork, everyone was really pumped when they heard about the book,” Mr Griffiths told The Beast.
The book was self-published and funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Each contributor received a copy for Christmas last year and it went on sale to the public at the beginning of 2020.
The book itself is less a history than a collective memory, built by those who loved the Lifesaver and designed and edited by Mr Griffiths himself.
Its pages are filled with a wide range of memories, from John Paul Young, Kevin Borich and Glenn A Baker to punters who just loved to be there.
Randwick resident Glen Smith still remembers the Lifesaver as a venue unlike any other.
“The Bondi Lifesaver was a dedicated live music specialist; I think all the good bands wanted to perform there. The sound was great, the vibe was outstanding,” Mr Smith told The Beast.
“It was really different,” Griffiths agreed. “It was just there for music. It wasn’t set up for anything else, just for rock and roll. You didn’t go there for lunch or coffee, you just went there to see bands. If there weren’t bands, it wasn’t open.”
Unlike other popular 1970s venues like the Astra at Bondi Beach, which is now a retirement home, the Lifesaver building no longer exists. The only thing left to remember it by is the corner of the Kmart carpark.
Griffiths’ book is significant because it honours something that has been lost to time. When a band promoter asked him to help with creating a “Back to the Lifesaver” evening, Griffiths declined.
“I said no because you just can’t do it,” he explained.
“There’s been nothing like it since and there never will be again.”
The book is available from