‘It’s our heartland’: Goanna on coming home to Geelong to celebrate 40 Years of Spirit Of Place

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‘It’s our heartland’: Goanna on coming home to Geelong to celebrate 40 Years of Spirit Of Place

Goanna rehearsing in Drysdale. Back row: Richard Tankard, Ruben Shannon, and Marcus Ryan. Front row: Rose Bygrave, Shane Howard, Rose Bygrave and Graham Davidge. Credit: Jay Town
Words by Tammy Walters

Australia’s most iconic band Goanna will bring their extensive national tour home, with a special one-night-only homecoming performance at Geelong’s Costa Hall, supported by Luke Biscan and Mick Ryan.

Chrissy Amphlett, Magic Dirt, King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard are all major claims to the Geelong talent resume but there is another reptile species on that list that should be perched atop the solid rock.

Born northwest of Warrnambool in the coastal town of Dennington, Shane Howard landed in Geelong to undertake a Bachelor of Education at Deakin University where he would become the first Student Council president. 

This is where the uniquely Geelong story of Goanna begins. 

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

After enrolling at Geelong Teachers College, Howard recruited members for a new folk-rock band under the title Ectoplasmic Manifestation. It was through this process that he met Mike Biscan, Richard Griffiths and Rod Hoe, and with a name change in 1977, Ectoplasmic Manifestation was shed and Goanna thrived.

They cut their teeth on the sharp edges of the Great Ocean Road including being part of the Otway Benefit and playing fine Geelong establishments including Eureka Hotel.

“Geelong had an incredible live music scene back in those days. There was so much talent and many bands; great bands like The Trouts and Mike Thomas were just starting up back then. There were bands five or six times a week and we would see Richard Clapton, Midnight Oil, and Cold Chisel all at the Eureka Hotel – Joe Camilleri! It was all happening and it was amazing. 

“Melbourne had a great music scene that everyone flocked to but Geelong had its own unique character. You can’t subtract Geelong and the rock scene of the surf coast and the Otway ranges from the Goanna sound. It was informed by what was happening here,” Howard reminisces.  

“I have a funny story about Eureka Hotel,” Howard explains. 

“We were warming up for a gig there one night and had been working on the initial form of ‘Solid Rock’ and it was the first time we were playing it. There were these two Aboriginal guys at the bar and you could tell they weren’t local. I had been to Uluru at the time and had written the song and Rose [Bygrave] was trying to create a drone to sound like a didgeridoo.

“This guy came up and said “what are you doing”, and Rose explained, and he said “I play didg. I’ll go home and get it”. He went home, got the didg and we ran through it together and that was the first time we played it live with a didg. He came on stage that night at the Eureka Hotel in Geelong, and the crowd erupted – it was electric. The didg through a PA, the first time this song had been heard and it really felt in that moment that our generation was ready for change.”       

Whilst their most significant song, a song that almost didn’t make the cut as a single thanks to label pushback, was written in the dusty red centre about Uluru, the song came to life in Geelong and has since garnered a lasting legacy not only within Australia as a social song of protest and protection, it made its mark globally within First Nations communities. It was also recently celebrated at the 2022 AFL Grand Final with contributions from a supergroup of artists Christine Anu, Emma Donovan, Tasman Keith and William Barton.


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As the album that birthed the anthem, Spirit of Place, reaches its 40-year celebration, the Goanna story which has resonated beyond the Geelong confines, makes its way home. The final show of their celebratory tour echoes both their final tour of 1986 at Geelong Arts Centre and their Deakin history. 

On Friday 18 November, Howard and the current Goanna family will close the curtain at Geelong Arts Centre and Deakin University hybrid venue, Costa Hall. It’s further a full circle moment with support coming from local legends, Mick Ryan, and Luke Biscan. Biscan is the son of the Goanna founding guitarist, the late Mike Biscan. 

“We’ll finish back in Geelong because it’s our heartland; it’s where we got our break and it’s where we cut our teeth. Geelong is really central to our story and our identity! We did finish our tour in Geelong in 86 and we got back together to do a benefit for the Bali bombings at Costa Hall so Geelong really is our roots. 

“We’ll come back every time.”

With such a rich history in the Geelong epicentre, it’s time we start the petition to get a Goanna statue or name a laneway after the iconic, trailblazing band.

Goanna brings the Spirit of Place 40th Anniversary Tour to Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool/Peek Whurrong on Thursday, October 27 and Friday, October 28, Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo/Dja Dja Wurrung on Saturday, November 5, Wendouree Centre For Performing Arts in Ballarat/Wadawurrung on Sunday, November 6, and Costa Hall in Geelong/Wadawurrung on Friday, November 18. 

Tickets to witness their tour and homecoming can be purchased here