Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Alley formerly known as "Corporation Lane"

On a Friday afternoon in early October 2004, then Lord Mayor of Melbourne, John So, stood on a ladder in Melbourne’s central business district and fastened a screw in a sign that read “ACDC Lane”. He then addressed the assembled crowd: “As the song says, this is a highway to hell. But I say this is a lane to heaven. Let us rock!”

Lord Mayor So punched the air in his best stadium rock style and bagpipers in attendance launched into one of AC/DC’s anthems,
It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll).

Prior to Lord Mayor So’s proclamation, Corporation Lane was a short, thoroughly unremarkable cul de sac between a restaurant and a café. A few steps away was the rear entrance to the imposing 101 Collins Street office tower, the home to Melbourne’s business elite and possibly the city’s most exclusive and expensive address. Corporation Lane, initially named in 1905, featured some stencil art, peeling posters promoting upcoming dance parties, a set of rubbish bins and an almost indistinguishable door that, after dark, provided access to “Cherry”, described in a City Council proposal as a “rock grunge bar”. The lane’s only daylight inhabitants were city office workers intent upon a discrete cigarette. At night, it hosted drinkers on their way to Cherry or the nearby “Honkytonks” club. Little may have changed upon the departure of Lord Mayor So and the bagpipers, but by then Corporation Lane, in name at least, was no longer.

The Melbourne City Council voted to rename the lane “ACDC Lane” at a meeting held in September 2004, the idea having first been floated by local music journalist Patrick Donovan. Once made, the Council was keen to emphasise the rebel rock cred of its decision: a victory against the squares by a Council riding high on an “onslaught of support from AC/DC fans” that included a petition from an AC/DC fan club in Sweden. For some time however, the move was in serious doubt. Objections were received and the Council almost shelved the proposal, looking at alternative ways of recognizing the band. As neighbouring businesses offered stern resistance, City Councillors were forced to defend suggestions that a lane named after AC/DC would bring an undesirable presence to the location.

The owner of a nearby restaurant campaigned against the proposal, claiming that the people who would be attracted to a lane named after AC/DC would “cause trouble”. Even prior to Lord Mayor So climbing his stepladder in October, the owner of Cherry Bar reported that pilgrims were arriving at the site to have their photos taken. Extra copies of the “ACDC Lane” sign were duly manufactured in anticipation that devotees would try to leave the location with a lasting souvenir, although one City Councillor noted that to succeed “you’d have to come with some pretty good equipment”.

When asked whether he was the AC or the DC, Bon Scott used to say, “Neither, I’m the lightning flash in the middle!” Devotees of AC/DC who make it to the lane named in the band’s honour have to settle for the absence of what the Melbourne City Council described as “the distinctive slash or lightning bolt used to separate the AC from the DC”. The Council explained that the Office of the Registrar of Geographic Names would not permit its inclusion.

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