Inpress: Remembering The Primitive, Pioneering Glory Days Of Street Press

24 April 2024 | 12:00 pm | Jeff Jenkins

This was the world of Inpress – rough and raw but real. To celebrate The Music's street press archive launch, music journalist Jeff Jenkins explores the history of Inpress.


Inpress (Source: Supplied)

It’s hard to believe that you’re probably reading this story on your phone or some sort of mobile device. Back when I started writing for this publication, I would type my column on a dodgy old typewriter, jump in my Gemini, drive to the office late on a Sunday night, slide the column under the door and somehow, it would miraculously appear in the paper that hit the streets three days later.

For me, Wednesday mornings in Melbourne used to mean one thing – “Exile On Bob Street”.

There was quite a team back in those “old days” of Inpress – founding editors Andrew Watt and Rowena Webber, assistant editor Katrina Hall, advertising reps Michael Parisi and Frank Varrasso, film reviewer Leigh Paatsch, and, of course, the legendary Jim Bob Young.

Creatively, I was in awe of Andrew Watt. Back then, he wrote about half the paper every week. I don’t know how he found time to do all the interviews, let alone write the articles.

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But socially, we were all in awe of Jim Bob. In his Exile column, he told us ridiculous tales of wrestling, rock ’n’ roll and romance, as well as the latest exploits of himself, Mitch Bob, and Michael “Donut” Parisi. We lived vicariously through Jim Bob (who signed one of his columns: “Jim Bob ‘No one can touch me when it comes to freeloading’ Young”).

A highlight of my creative life was seeing one of my stories featured in Exile. I told Jim Bob about a girl I was dating. She was an animal scientist who worked with pigs. One of her jobs was to masturbate the pigs to get semen samples. The story fitted beautifully in that week’s column.

Another week, Katrina Hall wrote about my hopeless love life in “Monitor”, which was kind of the female equivalent of Exile: more tasteful but just as biting.

In her 2019 book The Great Music City, Andrea Baker cited “localism” as the key reason for the success of street press. “The impetus for starting Inpress was having that pulse on the street, like The Village Voice does in New York City and The Austin Chronicle in Austin, Texas,” Andrew Watt explained.

Inpress landed on the streets of Melbourne on July 13, 1988. The initial print run was 12,000 copies. I remember Molly holding up the first edition on Hey Hey, and I found a copy at my local 7-Eleven, which was pretty impressive—street press had gone next-level. But in other ways, it was an inauspicious debut. The first cover star was MTV host Richard Wilkins, but his name was spelled Wilkens.

Welcome to the world of street press – rough and raw but real.

Samuel J. Fell – who cut his teeth writing for Inpress – documents the rise of street press in his new book Full Coverage: A History of Rock Journalism in Australia. “While not unique to Australia,” he states, “the medium found a bigger audience here than it did in America and the UK.”

“There was almost a religious vibe [to picking up the street press on a Wednesday],” former Inpress editor Andrew Mast tells Fell. “It was a part of your week.”

Inpress wasn’t the first major street press title in Melbourne. It was actually a breakaway from Beat, which had started in 1986. Rowena Webber and Andrew Watt were two of Beat’s first employees. They thought they could do a better job, so they secretly plotted their own paper.

Michael Parisi, who studied Criminal Psychology at university, did some writing for Beat. “I was super enthusiastic and I’d take on any review or interview Rowena flung my way.” She then told Michael about the plan to start a rival publication. “I think I said yes before Rowena even finished the question.” 

Michael quickly learned that selling advertising for a new street mag was “the toughest job on earth – juggling that role and doing reviews and interviews would break even the toughest of minds. It was 24/7.” But he developed a serious work ethic and a tough skin, learning how to not take no for an answer. “I’ve tried to live by a motto that Gudinski taught me when I first met him in those early Inpress years: ‘It’s a YES until someone says NO.’” 

Katrina Hall’s friend Kate Torney – an early Inpress contributor who later became the ABC’s news director – suggested she get in touch with Andrew Watt, so she met Andrew and Rowena at the pub. “The first issue was in the works, but a few weeks away, so we had a beer and a chat,” Kat recalls. “I do remember being super nervous because I really, really wanted the job. I’m pretty sure they were both nervous too, because of the hugeness of what they were doing, creating a paper in opposition to Beat, and it was all top secret at this stage.”

Kat showed the duo some film reviews she’d written for a local paper, The Melbourne Times, but believes they were more interested in her typing skills. “All the copy needed to be put into a word processor by hand, and that was one of my primary jobs.”

Kat admired Andrew and Rowena’s bravery. “Starting something from scratch, renting an office, a bromide machine, putting on staff – they had no financial backing at all.”

The rumour was that Andrew’s “secret silent partner” was promoter Paul Dainty; Andrew had been general manager of Dainty’s music publishing company, Marble Music. “I wish it were true,” Andrew says. He and Rowena actually took out a bank loan to get Inpress up and running.

“And it might even be true that Andrew covered our wages from his own pocket in the very early days,” Kat believes.

When Inpress launched, Beat’s publisher, Rob Furst, was not happy. The Age labelled this time in Melbourne “The Street Press Wars”, but Andrew claims that he and Rob “never hated each other”.

But the competition was fierce and real.

“The rivalry between the two papers was huge,” Kat recalls. “The winning measure was how many pages we produced each week, which was decided by the number of ads. If Beat did more than us one week, we’d be flat for a day and then we’d work harder the next – especially the ad team. It was a weekly contest to have more pages, and I honestly think having the two papers and the pressure we felt to win made both papers better.

“If I’m right, the first issues were around 26 to 32 pages, and in a year or so, both papers were averaging over 50 at least. That means more editorial—more stories about the bands and also theatre, comedy, and film, and a lot was locally focused. That had to have had an impact on the scene.”

To be honest, I’m not sure if the average Melbourne music fan knew the difference between the two papers – they just wanted a gig guide and something to read while they had a coffee or were waiting for a friend at the pub. Even now, mates will ask me: “Are you still writing for Beat?”

Both papers produced some fine journalism, with some stellar writers rising through the Inpress ranks, including Clem Bastow (whose memoir Late Bloomer was published in 2021), L.B. Bermingham (who wrote a best-selling biography of Guy Sebastian), Anastasia Safioleas (now a contributing editor at The Big Issue), Nova Weetman (one of Australia’s leading authors of young adult fiction), Fiona Scott-Norman (who lives with eight heritage bantam chickens and wrote the acclaimed book This Chicken Life: Stories of chickens and the Australians who love them), Mikey Cahill (DJ, trivia host, Hawthorn football club mascot and leading rock writer), Damian Slevison (managing director of Liberation Records, who signed The Temper Trap), Catherine Haridy (manager of Bob Evans and Jebediah and Angie Hart and Frente), as well as the esteemed writers Cyclone and Bryget Chrisfield who continue to contribute to The Music.

“Andrew and Rowena set the bar high when it came to copy,” Kat says. “I’m biased completely, but if we were to compare Beat and Inpress back then, I’d say our stories were better, but as I said, completely biased.”

I wasn’t there for the start of Inpress, but after I joined the team in October 1990, I wrote something in every one of the next 1162 issues until Inpress was renamed The Music. I then wrote for every edition of The Music until the print version was grounded by a global pandemic in March 2020. (I think I rose to the ranks of “senior contributor”, which essentially meant “old bastard we can’t get rid of”.)

Most writers start at street press and work their way up. But I worked my way down.

And I loved it.

I’d been the music writer at The Sun, the nation’s biggest-selling daily paper. But music was a low priority and the bosses thought I was wasting my time interviewing pop stars. I looked enviously at the passion of the Inpress crew and thought, “That’s where I want to be.” 

1990 was a bleak time for me personally: Collingwood beat Essendon in the Grand Final, The Sun and The Herald merged, and I lost my job. And then Rowena Webber rang and threw me a lifeline. “Maybe you’d like to do some writing for us?”

I would type my column and then Katrina Hall would re-type the copy into the paper’s one and only computer. Other writers would deliver their handwritten words on various scraps of paper. Essentially, Kat would type the entire paper every week. And depending on how big her weekend had been, there would occasionally be some wonderful typos.

Michael Parisi recalls Kat “typed faster than a speeding bullet and with a wit to match”.

“Despite the typing, it was a dream job for me,” Kat says. “And I honestly never hated going to work.”

Kat and Inpress business manager Miranda Macdonald fondly remember lots of free tickets, free drinks and nightclub memberships. “We were sitting on a beehive of exciting stuff every day,” Miranda says.

“We were pretty tired some days, but not once did we miss a deadline,” Kat adds proudly. “I was there for the first four years and we were never late with an issue. We all took it so seriously. And you’d really have to be drastically unwell to call in sick on a Monday, which was deadline and the most gruelling day ever.”

The Inpress team – which included Janet English from Spiderbait, who was in charge of the layout – would often work until 3 am Tuesday, before returning at 10 am to make sure that week’s edition safely made it to the printer.

They were good days. Record companies still had money, and we all lived on beer and finger food at record launches. And on Wednesdays we’d go to “Hard ’n’ Fast” at Chasers nightclub, where DJ Jim Bob would introduce us to the latest rock hits, as well as the complete works of The Rolling Stones.

But things changed in the mid-’90s. Jim Bob grew up. He started one 1996 column: “I’m afraid, it’s official – I am a very old c*nt. I am typing these words on my 30th birthday and can feel my teeth growing longer with every keystroke.” 

He became James Young, relocated to RRR and married Miranda Macdonald (“the First Lady of Wrestling”). In another column, Jim Bob wrote about married life: “What was the thing I missed the most now that I was married? There is no doubt that the aspect of my single days that I miss the most is farting in bed.”

And then in 1997, Andrew Watt and Rowena Webber sold Inpress. Andrew moved to New York and became Julia Darling’s manager (she should have been huge). He also looked after Russell Crowe’s music career and then became a TV producer (responsible for the dog reality show Bark-Off). He’s now the Australian and New Zealand representative for SXSW and the partnerships manager for SXSW Sydney.

Rowena became a proud mum and moved to Bonnie Doon with her husband, Paul. Tragically, Rowena died of cancer in 2019, aged 55. She is much missed. “Rowena was sassy, funny, determined, indefatigable and tough when she needed to be,” Andrew wrote in a moving obituary. “Rowena was also a pioneer. In 1988, there were few women at the head of companies in the media and music industries.”

The paper’s first ad reps became mainstays of the music industry. Michael “Donut” Parisi became a record company executive – “the greatest A&R guy Australia has ever seen”, according to Roger Grierson, the former head of Festival Records. Michael signed The Superjesus, Regurgitator, Motor Ace, Machine Gun Fellatio and many other acts. He is now a prominent manager (Vera Blue, Kian, Bella Taylor Smith) and Andrew Watt is his lawyer.

Inpress was Michael’s training ground. He worked so hard he would often crash on the Inpress couch. As well as selling ads and writing articles, he was also moonlighting as an A&R scout for Chrysalis Records, working for the late-great A&R man Neil Bradbury. “He would pay me $250 a week to scout the bars and pubs of Melbourne.” Michael discovered a band called Killing Time [who later changed their name to Mantissa], who Jim Bob would often write about in his column.

“With Neil’s blessing, I was the guy who gave them $2000 to record some demos on the proviso they didn’t shop them around,” Michael reveals. “And guess what? They did. It became a record label bidding war and we opted out. So I guess that’s one thing that always stayed with me: ‘Never get involved in a label bidding war as it will only lead to disaster.’”

Frank Varrasso was also shaped by his time at Inpress. His first dealings with the publication came when he was booking and promoting Melbourne venues The Club and the Evelyn Hotel. “Months of collaboration and liaising with Inpress to provide event listings not only acquainted me with the magazine’s team but also deepened my understanding of the pivotal role it played in promoting local music events,” Frank recalls.

He joined Michael Parisi in the advertising department and says his stint at the paper was “a transformative experience that left me with a treasure trove of invaluable lessons”. Frank is now head of Varrasso PR, helping Australian artists promote their music on radio and TV, and says “memories of my colleagues at Inpress are etched in my mind as a source of inspiration”. Frank has been instrumental in the careers of many acts, including country star Casey Barnes

Another former Inpress advertising manager, Tim Janes, is now the boss of Virgin Music Australia.

Inpress has quite the alumni.

The paper was also Myf Warhurst’s entrée to the showbiz world. While studying arts at uni, she started writing gig reviews. “Pre-internet, the role of these publications can’t be underestimated,” Myf wrote in her best-selling memoir Time Of My Life. “Getting a byline in there, well, that was just crazy talk.”

Myf calls Inpress “truly a formative period in my evolution”. She rose to become the paper’s managing editor. “I think it’s safe to say we loved the adrenaline of putting the mag out each week, drunk on the power of deciding which pics were included in the club photos section and making up the weekly horoscope.”

The technology remained primitive. During Myf’s reign, the pages had to be printed on photographic paper before being sent to the printers. “The margin for error was huge,” she recalls. “An article could literally fall off, unnoticed, and you’d have a blank page or the wrong thing could be pasted in a space and be missed by exhausted eyes.”

Myf also remembers the haze of smoke in the Inpress offices. “A full ashtray meant there had been a full day of meetings. If you thought Mad Men was a long-gone ’60s fantasy, I can tell you that aspects of that lifestyle were still to be found in ’90s Melbourne office life.”

Inpress ended up in the capable hands of the trailblazing Treweek brothers, Craig and Leigh, who started Street Press Australia, creating a national street press empire, adding Sydney’s Drum Media and Brisbane’s Time Off to the stable and starting Drum Perth. They rebranded the titles “The Music” in 2013, selling the company to the current publishers, SGC Media, in 2021.

In the Melbourne edition of The Music, my Australian music column Howzat! was well-read, not because of the quality of the content but for the fact it was featured on the same page as Fred Negro’s must-read Pub Strip, which was like a visual version of Jim Bob’s Exile: outrageous and funny and occasionally redacted with a slab of black ink. 

Fred – the lead singer of I Spit On Your Gravy, The Brady Bunch Lawnmower Massacre and The Fuck Fucks, and famous for having sex onstage with a frozen chook – did more than 1400 Pub Strips. “Basically, what I do is just chronicle the history of ratbags in St Kilda,” he explained.

“Once he draws you nude, your popularity skyrockets,” Tim Rogers noted.

Fred would often depict Michael Parisi as a donut. “Thanks to James Young for coining that nickname,” Michael laughs.

Fred – the subject of the 2022 documentary Pub: The Movie – tried to sell the strip to Sydney street paper On The Street but they said, “No, it’s too Melbourne.” As the late great Rowland S. Howard remarked, “You haven’t made it in the Melbourne music industry unless you’ve appeared in Fred’s Pub Strip.” (My moment finally came in Pub #1226 when Fred asked, “You’re not related to the former Collingwood great Graham ‘Jerker’ Jenkins are you?”)

Inpress and street press has been a long, strange trip. So much has changed since those primitive early days. As Sam Fell laments, the street press was “beloved, inky, weekly paeans to music scenes long gone. The memories, though, remain.”

Katrina Hall went on to a successful career in writing and publicity but has never been able to recapture the thrill of putting out a paper every week. “My next job after Inpress was a proper one, in that I needed to be on time, and well-dressed. And I really struggled with the seriousness of it all. To be honest I still do – it’s like, when can we sit around and laugh at each other?”

Kat remains great friends with the Inpress team, particularly Miranda Macdonald, who’s now Miranda Young (author of the recent Olivia Newton-John biography Grace and Gratitude). “I was so pleased when Miranda started at Inpress,” Kat says. “It was a friend at first sight; she was just hysterical and brutally honest. We were always plotting to convince Andrew to pay us more, and that was the only shortcoming, really, of working there, that we got paid very little. I worked a second job on weekends to pay the rent, but I wouldn’t change that.”  

And, Kat points out, there were plenty of other perks. “Andrew got us all into the secret Mick Jagger gig at the Corner Hotel. That was amazing.”  

Of course, street press in 2023 looks nothing like it was 35 years ago. Assorted band members no longer have a second job, delivering the mags to cafés and pubs every week. The music world has migrated online, where the latest news is just a click away. There’s a lot of great stuff there, but you know what, I’d still love a decent local gig guide.

And I have to admit I miss Jim Bob’s Exile, though if I need a dose of his classic humour, all I have to do is drop into Cherry, Melbourne’s most famous rock ’n’ roll bar, which he now owns. Jim Bob might have grown up – just a bit – and become James Young, but he still loves his good times and rock ’n’ roll.

I do, too.

While I’m reminiscing, let’s end this long trip down memory lane with a Jim Bob joke, which opened his Exile column in Inpress – or “Jimpress” – #396:

“What can a goose do that a duck can’t and a lawyer should?

“Shove his bill up his arse!”

And Jim Bob, a former lawyer, was fond of including a Rolling Stones reference in his column, which, of course, was named after Exile On Main St. He concluded his column in edition #224:

“What about Keef’s quote: ‘Nirvana, never heard of ’em, but I’ve been there.’ Legend.”

I’m not sure if we found nirvana in the glory days of street press. But, boy, we had a good time.

To celebrate the launch of The Music’s street press archive, this week will see us expand further on its history and legacy in Australia with a deep dive into 3D World by renowned journalist Cyclone Wehner.

If you want to visit the archive, go to, find “Street Press Archive” in the main menu and register to start your journey through Australian music history. Happy reading!

Can you help us fill the gaps in our collection? Click here for details on how to add to our archive.