Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story – movie review

Ego focusses on the impact and legacy of Michael Gudinski through his five-decade involvement in the Australian music industry, from the inaugural Sunbury Music Festival in 1972 through to the establishment of Mushroom Records and to his work promoting tours from both local and international artists. Gudinski was a larger-than-life figure full of passion and energy, who wanted to share Australian music with the world. And many international artists wanted to tour with Gudinski’s company because of his reputation for making them feel welcome and part of a family-like environment while away from home.

Mushroom was Australia’s largest independent record label with a stable of artists that included Skyhooks, Jimmy Barnes, Kylie Minogue, Split Enz, Hunters & Collectors, and lots more. The documentary features plenty of interview with artists who worked with Gudinksi, with Jimmy Barnes, Neil and Tim Finn, Paul Kelly, Red Symons and even Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and Ed Sheeran sharing personal insights and colourful anecdotes and lavishing Gudinski with praise. We get some more intimate and personal insights from family members like his sister, who shares some details about his childhood and relationship with his parents, and we also hear from his supportive wife Sue and his son Matt, who now runs the family business.

One segment of the documentary also details Gudinski’s support and championing of the music of first nations performers with artists such as Archie Roach.

The film has been directed by Paul Goldman, who began his career directing music videos before venturing into feature films with The Night We Called It A Day, Australian Rules and the AFI award winning Suburban Mayhem to his credit. Goldman effectively uses the split screen to great effect to help convey lots of information throughout the fast paced documentary and he packs a lot of information into the 110 minutes. The film largely unfolds in chronological order with plenty of archival footage of live gigs, and historical moments from the local music scene and including his death and funeral.

Goldman also explores some of the low moments of Gudinski’s career, including how he had to sell his share of Mushroom Records to Festival records, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp organisation, and how he felt conflicted by that decision. We also learn how he passed on the opportunity to sign both Cold Chisel and Men At Work to the label, the latter of which may have provided him the vital breakthrough to the lucrative US market. Gudinski was also concerned at the impact that COVID and the world’s longest lockdown would have on the local music scene, and how he endeavoured to keep it alive through projects like Songs from the Homefront.

This fascinating and informative documentary is a must see for fans of Australian music.

Greg King

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