Essendon Airport (band)

Essendon Airport was an Australian electronic music, post-punk group formed in 1978 which explored experimental minimalist and funk music. Founding mainstays were the duo of David Chesworth on electric piano and drum machine and Robert Goodge on guitar. They were joined in late 1980 by Ian Cox on saxophone and Paul Fletcher on drums. In 1982 they added Barbara Hogarth on bass guitar but disbanded in the following year. The group issued a four-track extended play, Sonic Investigations (Of the Trivial) (May 1980), and a studio album, Palimpsest (May 1982). They reformed as the original duo line-up for occasional performances in 2003 after the issue of a compilation album, Sonic Investigations of the Trivial. A new double CD version of Palimpsest, and other live material, was released by Chapter Music in August 2011.

Essendon Airport
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
Years active
  • 1978 (1978)–1983 (1983)
  • 2003
  • 2011
Associated acts
Past members


1978–80: Formation to Sonic InvestigationsEdit

Formed in Melbourne, Essendon Airport began as an instrumental electronic music duo in 1978 by Robert Goodge on lead guitar and David Chesworth on Wurlitzer electric piano and a home made drum machine,[1] bought via the Trading Post. Both members lived in or near the suburb of Essendon, and took the name of Essendon Airport which since 1971 was no longer an international terminal (replaced by Melbourne Airport in Tullamarine).

The duo version released a four-track extended play, Sonic Investigations (Of the Trivial), in May 1980 on Innocent Records.[1] The duo described the EP's tracks, "songs which combine many of the most facile and insipid kinds of music in a redeemingly dignified manner... creating new trivia out of old. All this takes place along with a kind of pedantic fetishism for small-repetition games - the music travels in circles, spirals and solid blocks of sameness and difference." The label, Innocent Records, was co-owned by Chesworth and Philip Brophy (of performance group, → ↑ →).[2][3]

Essendon Airport followed with a single, "Talking to Cleopatra" (September 1980), with Anne Cessna (a.k.a. Anne Sanger) on lead vocals.[1][4] Sanger later recalled working with the duo, "we were sitting around one night when Robert and David were tossing around the idea of recording a single with a vocalist. But who should that be? I said I'd do it. I was partly being facetious. I wasn’t at all sure I could sing. Neither were they."[4] According to's writer, "[it] went on to be something of a cult favourite among the Melburnian alt-music scene of the early 1980s."[4]

This manifestation of Essendon Airport is less well known than the later ones but played memorable performances around Melbourne including the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre and supports at the Crystal Ballroom in front of bemused audience members waiting for bands like Midnight Oil or Jimmy and the Boys.

1980–83: Palimpsest to break-upEdit

Late in 1980 Essendon Airport became a four-piece, adding Ian Cox on saxophone and Paul Fletcher on drums.[1] They performed around Melbourne's newly emerging post-punk inner-city venues such as The Crystal Ballroom, various galleries such as the George Paton, and the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre (CHCMC), a venue for experimental music, performance and film during this time. They worked closely with → ↑ →.[3]

Embellished with Fletcher's arrhythmic drumming and Ian Cox' sweet, brittle saxophone, the four-piece provided a range of styles from extreme minimalism to plundering the hidden resonances in the popular song. Examples can be heard on the debut studio album, Palimpsest (Innocent Records), which appeared in May 1982. The group also made recordings for Fast Forward cassette magazine and a disc give-away for the Art Network magazine.

Adding bass player, Barabara Hogarth (from Government Drums with Willy Zygier and Richard Pleasance), the group developed material with a funk feel and performed head-lining shows at the Jump Club, and Crystal Ballroom, and toured to Sydney. Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described the five-piece line-up, "[they] played a hybrid of modern jazz, rock and funk."[1] No recordings by the quintet were released until 2011, when the 2× CD verson of Palimpsest included live and studio tracks, including a live-to-air performances on 3RRR FM from the Crystal Ballroom which was their final performance. The group disbanded in mid-1983.[1]

After the dissolution of Essendon Airport, Chesworth continued performing as a soloist and in 1985 formed a new group, Whaddya Want?, with Warwick Bone on synthesiser, Phillip Jackson ex-Whirlywirld, Equal Local) on synthesiser, Bill McDonald on bass guitar and Michael Tinney on lead guitar.[1] Goodge, Cox and Hogarth formed the nucleus of the successful pop-funk band, I'm Talking in late 1983, which included Kate Ceberano as lead vocalist.[5] Three years after the dissolution of I'm Talking, Cox, Chesworth and Goodge collaborated again, in 1990, in the group, Power Trip featuring Mr Larry Weems, alongside John Course, Angus Davidson, Mark Forrester, John McCall and Simon Polinski.[6] Chesworth later formed the instrumental group, the David Chesworth Ensemble, for which Goodge has occasionally performed.[1]

2003–present: ReformationsEdit

In 2003 a compilation CD was released via Chapter Music entitled Sonic Investigations of The Trivial, comprising live and studio recordings of the duo from 1978-1980. Following this release Essendon Airport have given occasional performances in their original duo guise. They perform their original music having painstakingly transferred the drum machine sounds from old tapes onto computer and have also added some new pieces. Graham Lee (ex-The Triffids) has been accompanying them on pedal-steel guitar. In 2011 Chapter Music reissued Palimpsest as a 2× CD with additional live tracks, and a four-piece version with Chesworth, Fletcher and Goodge were joined by Phil Bywater to perform live in support of the release. Bywater stood in for original saxophonist Ian Cox.


  • David Chesworth – Wurlitzer electric piano, keyboard, drum machine, vocals (1978–83, 2003, 2011)
  • Robert Goodge – guitar (1978–83, 2003, 2011)
  • Ian Cox – saxophone (1980–83)
  • Paul Fletcher – drums (1980–83, 2011)
  • Barbara Hogarth – bass guitar (1982–83)
  • Graham Lee – pedal steel guitar (2005–10)
  • Phil Bywater – saxophone (2011)



  • Palimpsest (May 1982)
  • Sonic Investigations of the Trivial (compilation album, 2003)

Extended playsEdit

  • Sonic Investigations (Of the Trivial) (1979) Innocent Records


  • "Talking to Cleopatra" (by Anne Cessna & Essendon Airport) (September 1980) Innocent Records


  • McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2018. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h McFarlane, 'David Chesworth' entry. Archived from the original on 13 August 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Essendon Airport". Punk a Photographic Journey: The History of the Melbourne Punk Scene. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b McFarlane, 'Phil Brophy' entry. Archived from the original on 15 June 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Video Premiere: Anne Cessna & Essendon Airport". 7 June 2017. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  5. ^ McFarlane, 'I'm Talking' entry. Archived from the original on 28 August 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Razor Cuts Vol. 1". Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2018.

External linksEdit