Rockbrat Remembers: The Manly Vale Hotel

photo: Garth Boyd

 The Manly Vale Hotel at 250 Condamine Street, Manly Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches was one of Sydney’s premier suburban rock venues in the 70’s, 80’s and continued to host live bands up until the pubs demise in the mid 90s. Back in the 1980’s, you didn’t need to travel to a big Entertainment Centre or the big Olympic stadiums to see a high profile band like you do nowadays. Back in those days, the rock n roll war was being fought in the Sydney suburbs, and these suburban beer drinking crowds were often the litmus test for any band. If you could make it playing to the often hostile but still rock savvy suburban crowds, you could make it anywhere – as evidenced by the success of bands like INXS, the Oils, radiators, Angels etc. Chisel’s Phil Small remembers “The Manly Vale Hotel, you’d maybe get 1500 people in there. Places like that would have the proper stage. I don’t remember but I think they had the in-house PA, even back then. They used to pack them out. We were pretty much peaking around ’80, ’81. Most of the time they’d pack them in like sardines. A lot of the time when I was on stage I’d see this sea of people and I’d think, how ? To me that’s not having a good time – standing there, squashed up, it’s smoky, you can’t get a drink. And some venues were quite stretched. At the Manly Vale, it was always plastic cups, never any glasses.”

The large band room held around 3000, and it often sold out. The pub was originally called Millers Manly Vale, then Bryant’s, but it was always known as simply the Manly Vale. Consider just some of the bands who played here. Deep Purple in the mid 70s, Simple Minds in 1982, UB40, Cold Chisel, Dead Kennedys in 1983 and many more profile international bands that escape me now. New Race also recorded part of their live album here.

The Manly Vale was one large hotel, a beer barn with many bars and rooms.  I have great memories of trudging up those steps to have an ice cold schooner, see a great band, put some cash through a cardie or have a punt, often stopping to talk rugby league with the bouncer, none other than former Manly Warringah Sea Eagles flyer Stuart ‘The Bug’ Davis. Great days my friends.

Around 1990 you could still see bands in the big room. I recall seeing the Dubrovniks there one night, with Chris Flynn belting out a killer version of ‘Fortunate Son’ and cans of Tooheys NEW at only 2 bucks each, well you didn’t really need much more than that. I also recall seeing TMG there in 1990 and chatting with the band backstage. The mid 90’s saw the Rockbrat living in Manly Vale, immediately behind the pub, which was by no means coincidence.

This was a strategic move so the Rockbrat could live close to the pub, although by now, it was called the Peninsular Hotel, and the big band room upstairs was closed, with only the Basement downstairs hosting bands, particularly local bands. The Rockbrat saw many gigs here too, including Asteroid B-612, Brother Brick, Panadolls, Nitocris, Toxic Blonde, Medusa, Mark Of Cain, Fur, Hanging Tree, Sugar Shack, Freeloaders, Powder Monkeys, Iron Sheiks, and Powderfinger. In fact the very last band I saw here (I think) in late 1996 was the then final gig by the Psychotic Turnbuckles. When I drove past in April, 1997, the pub was replaced by a block of units. Here is an article that appeared in The Manly Daily in 1996 at the time of the venue’s closure.


7 thoughts on “Rockbrat Remembers: The Manly Vale Hotel

  1. In 1976, My father Mr Michael Clarke, while working for the Millers Group, was asked to manage the then Bryants Hotel, the nearly 12mths we spent living on the premises i was able to see many of the bands that were performing here, my Dad would put a table inbetween the kitchen double doors and we, my sisters and I would stand/dance on the table to many great bands, one in which went on to become one of our Austrailan greats, Dragon. The turned up on the pub doorsteps asking my father if they could play here, they told him that none of the other pubs around Sydney would let them play, so Dad let them play that Friday night, not halfway thru their first gig my father was on the phone to a man that was a talent scout, whatever it was, he’s title, he came to Byrants on the saturday night to hear this band called Dragon……………………………….and today i tell anyone who will listen, that it was because of my Dad Mr Michael Clarke that we have to thank for allowing them to play all those years ago. I am now 45yrs old, (i was 8yrs when we lived at the pub) and we sadly no longer have either my Dad or Marc Hunter with us, this coming Australia Day is my Dad’s 4th Anniversary. I felt a tinge of proudness for Marc Hunters Daughter Bella Hunter when she applied for The X Factor last year & was of course disappointed when she didnt get thru. So thankyou for letting me share my littel clain to fame with you. 🙂 Moo

  2. i remember traveling from holsworthy army barracks on friday afternoons to manly to stay so as to spend the weekend at the pub.great times.and the chicks.need i say anymore.

  3. I met my husband at Miller Manly Vale on 3rd August 1973 !!! 💛 We were both wondering does anyone know what band was playing that night ??? We were both so love struck that we can’t remember …

  4. The final scene in the Radiators video of “No Tragedy” shows the band leaving the Manly Vale surrounded by well wishers.

  5. So remember clothes smelling of smoke, drenched in sweat. Didn’t realise it was a special place at the time. Saw the Radiators many times. When they played ‘I wish I was 17 again’ I’d think to myself, hey I am 17. That was 37 years ago.

  6. I had my wedding reception downstairs with a killer band made up of friends. While this was going on the locals were rocking out to Aussie crawl .
    It was a great venue say Canned Heat , Gillian, jimmy and the boys and many more there.

  7. My friemds and I saw many bands at Bryant’s, but th fondest memories I have are of when the Sunny Boys played – raw, catchy music, great times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s