During the 70s and 80s, Tony Clarke discos were the hottest tickets in town – and a surefire way of raising much needed funds for a wide range of community organisations.
Coaxing blokes onto the dance floor with eligible young ladies was Tony’s goal and he also managed to teach a generation the military two and three steps.
Turning up with his super loud speakers, turntables, mirror balls and boxes of the latest 45 singles (and some of the older ones), Clarkey had all bases covered.
A local Tarlee boy, Tony sort of fell into DJ’ing when he received some big speakers for his 21st birthday which he used to take to Rural Youth shows, where he would fill in the gaps when the band took a break.
It wasn’t ‘til he returned from an overseas trip when he was 25 that he decided to give it a red hot go, starting with a mate’s 21st.
He also recalls doing the music for his sister’s wedding as an early gig and seemed to muddle through that.
Tony was also an innovator. He was the first DJ to utilise a data projector and play music videos in his venues.
Tarlee discos became a regular thing at the Tarlee Institute, with weld mesh sides installed outside to allow for the growing numbers and to enable an outdoor bar.
His enthusiasm was infectious and many local married couples, not to mention their offspring, owe it all to Tony.
Given the right connections, you might also sneak up on stage and give him your request for the latest Bryan Adams or the only Buggles hit, or simply ask him how his season on-farm was tracking. When the show was over and the lights came on, it was left to Tony and his roadies to load up his gear and head home. I doubt there were many Saturday nights where Tony hit the hay before 3am, when his discos were at their peak.
This was way before Spotify and AppleMusic, and Clarkey had all the best dance tracks catalogued and ready to go.
At the height of his popularity, if he was unavailable, you had to be pretty sure he was far enough away as to not impact on your alternative event.
He also did numerous 21st birthdays and weddings and still does the occasional show today.
Clarkey also had a lash at DJing for local radio station 5AU. In between all this he ran a successful farming business and did a bit of sign writing on the side.
Tony has spent some time collating his Top 100 hits and I’m sure there are a few there that will take you back to the 80s and 90s and for many it will be like you never left.
So here you go – the exclusive Plains Producer Tony Clarke Australia Day Hottest 100 play list.
I have also logged this into Spotify, so this Australia Day, crack a coldie, turn up the sound and reminisce about your favorite Sparks’ disco moments.