|Cultural origins||1970s, Australia|
Pub rock is a style of Australian rock and roll popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and that was still influencing contemporary Australian music in the 2000s decade. The term came from the venues where most of these bands originally played — inner-city and suburban pubs. These often noisy, hot, small and crowded venues were not always ideal as music venues and favoured loud, simple songs based on drums and electric guitar riffs.
The Australian version of pub rock incorporates hard rock, blues rock, and/or progressive rock. In the Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (1999), Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane described how, in the early 1970s, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Blackfeather, and Buffalo pioneered Australia's pub rock movement. Australian rock music journalist Ed Nimmervoll declared that "[t]he seeds for Australian heavy rock can be traced back to two important sources, Billy Thorpe's Seventies Aztecs and Sydney band Buffalo".
The emergence of the Australian version of the pub rock genre and the related pub circuit was the result of several interconnected factors. From the 1950s to the 1970s, mainly because of restrictive state liquor licensing laws, only a small proportion of live pop and rock music in Australia was performed on licensed premises (mostly private clubs or discotheques); the majority of concerts were held in non-licensed venues like community, church or municipal halls. These concerts and dances were 'all-ages' events—often with adult supervision—and alcohol was not served.
During the 1960s, however, Australian states began liberalising their licensing laws. Sunday Observance Acts were repealed, pub opening hours were extended, discriminatory regulations — such as the long-standing ban on women entering or drinking in public bars — were removed, and in the 1970s the age of legal majority was lowered from 21 to 18. Concurrently, the members of the so-called "Baby Boomer" generation — who were the main audience for pop and rock music — were reaching their late teens and early twenties, and were thus able to enter such licensed premises. Pub owners soon realised that providing live music (which was often free) would draw young people to pubs in large numbers, and regular rock performances soon became a fixture at many pubs.
In the early 1970s Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Blackfeather, and Buffalo pioneered Australia's pub rock movement.In March 1970 Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs consisted of Thorpe on lead vocals and guitar, Jimmy Thompson on drums, Paul Wheeler on bass guitar and Lobby Loyde (ex-Purple Hearts, Wild Cherries) on lead guitar. They released a cover version of Willie Dixon's "Good Mornin' Little School Girl". They had developed a heavier sound and in July that year, Warren `Pig' Morgan (piano, backing vocals) had joined and the band recorded The Hoax Is Over, which was released in January 1971. Thorpe described their sound "[It was] like we were standing on a pair of Boeing 747 engines. It cracked the foundations and broke windows in neighbouring buildings".
By early 1971 Blackfeather consisted of Neale Johns on lead vocals, John Robinson on lead guitar (ex-Lonely Ones, Monday's Children, Dave Miller Set), Robert Fortesque on bass guitar and Alexander Kash on drums. Their debut album, At the Mountains of Madness, appeared in April 1971. 15 on the Go-Set National Top 40 Singles Chart. Buffalo formed in August 1971 by Dave Tice on co-lead vocals (ex-Head) with Paul Balbi on drums, John Baxter on guitar, and Peter Wells on bass guitar. Their debut album, Dead Forever... , appeared in June the following year. According to Australian rock music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, "The seeds for Australian heavy rock can be traced back to two important sources, Billy Thorpe's Seventies Aztecs and Sydney band Buffalo".In May they had a hit with "Seasons of Change", which peaked at No.
Many city and suburban pubs gained renown for their support of live music, and many prominent Australian bands — including AC/DC,Cold Chisel, The Angels and The Dingoes — developed their style at these venues in the early days of their careers. Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described how AC/DC took "the raw energy of Aussie pub rock, extend its basic guidelines, serve it up to a teenybop Countdown audience and still reap the benefits of the live circuit by packing out the pubs". He found that Cold Chisel "fused a combination of rockabilly, hard rock and rough-house soul'n'blues that was defiantly Australian in outlook". He noted The Angels had "a profound effect on the Australian live music scene of the late 1970s/early 1980s. [They] helped redefine the Australian pub rock tradition ... [their] brand of no-frills, hard-driving boogie rock attracted pub goers in unprecedented numbers". The Dingoes provided a "spirited combination of R&B, country and red-hot rock'n'roll was imbued with a delightful sense of time and place" according to McFarlane.
Notable pub rock venues include the Largs Pier Hotel and the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Adelaide, the Royal Antler Hotel in Narrabeen, Sydney and the Civic Hotel in Sydney's city centre, the Star Hotel in Newcastle, New South Wales and the Station Hotel in Prahran, Melbourne, which was one of the premier pub-rock venues in Australia for more than two decades, Poyntons Carlton Club Hotel in Carlton Melbourne's first Sunday night live pub rock venue, Charles Hotel in Perth is the only remaining Pub rock venue in Perth.
As the pub rock phenomenon expanded, hundreds of hotels in capital cities and major towns began providing regular live music, and a thriving circuit evolved, enabling bands to tour up and down the eastern and southern coast of Australia from North Queensland to South Australia.
It could be argued that the very venues many of the bands played in (pubs), had a major influence on the evolution of their music and sound. The venues were more often than not small and the crowds — alcohol-fuelled — were there for the experience rather than to see a "name band". Thus, an emphasis on simple, rhythm-based songs grew. With the sound in many of the rooms far from ideal for live music, an emphasis on a very loud snare and kick-drum and driving bass-guitar grew. Guitarists tended to rely on simple, repetitive riffs, rather than more complex solos or counter-melodies. This might explain why, even in studios and larger arenas and stadiums, many of the bands who originated in pubs relied on an exaggerated drum sound and fairly simple musical arrangements.
A band like Hunters & Collectors, for example, saw their sound harden from their arty origins (which included a brass-section, experimental percussion and complex arrangements) to a more straightforward rock sound with emphasis on drums, bass and simple guitar riffs; a sound that more suited the beer barns they were to play in over their extensive touring career.
Though Australia has a relatively small population, the proportionally high number of venues that bands could play in, mainly along the Eastern coast[ citation needed ], meant that a band could tour extensively, often playing every night for long periods. This would allow bands such as AC/DC, Cold Chisel, INXS, Midnight Oil, Rose Tattoo and others to take their live skills into large venues in the US and Europe with ease.
Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs were an Australian rock band formed in Sydney, New South Wales. The group enjoyed success in the mid-1960s, but split in 1967. They re-emerged in the early 1970s to become one of the most popular Australian hard-rock bands of the period. Thorpe died from a heart attack in Sydney on 28 February 2007.
Sunbury Pop Festival or Sunbury Rock Festival was an annual Australian rock music festival held on a 620-acre (2.5 km2) private farm between Sunbury and Diggers Rest, Victoria, which was staged on the Australia Day long weekend from 1972 to 1975. It attracted up to 45,000 patrons and was promoted by Odessa Promotions, which was formed by a group of television professionals, including John Fowler, from GTV 9 Melbourne.
Cybotron were an Australian electronic, experimental music band formed in 1975 by Steve Maxwell Von Braund on synthesiser, electronic percussion, and alto saxophone; and Geoff Green on keyboard, organ, and synthesiser. The group issued three studio albums, Cybotron (1976), Colossus (1978) and Implosion (1980) and disbanded by 1981. Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, noted that they were "a bona fide experimental outfit, and the band's eponymous debut album featured a mix of heavy synthesiser kinetics, organ drones and pulsating electronic beats".
William Richard Thorpe AM was an English-born Australian singer-songwriter, and record producer. As lead singer of his band Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, he had success in the 1960s with "Blue Day", "Poison Ivy", "Over the Rainbow", "Sick and Tired", "Baby, Hold Me Close" and "Mashed Potato"; and in the 1970s with "Most People I Know Think That I'm Crazy". Featuring in concerts at Sunbury Pop Festivals and Myer Music Bowl in the early 1970s, the Aztecs also developed the pub rock scene and were one of the loudest groups in Australia.
The Purple Hearts were an Australian R&B, rock group, formed in Brisbane as the Impacts in 1964. The band included lead vocalist Mick Hadley, lead guitarist Barry Lyde, rhythm guitarists Paul Steffen (1964–65) and Fred Pickard (1965-66), bassist Bob Dames, and drummers Adrian "Red" Redmond (1964–66) and Tony Cahill (1966-67). The group issued an extended play, The Sound of the Purple Hearts (1966), and several singles, including "Long-legged Baby" (1965) and "Early in the Morning" (1966). They disbanded early in 1967.
Buffalo was an Australian rock band formed in August 1971 by founding mainstay Dave Tice on lead vocals (ex-Head). Fellow founders, also from Head, were Paul Balbi on drums, John Baxter on guitar, and Peter Wells on bass guitar; together with Alan Milano on lead vocals (ex-Mandala). Milano left after their debut album, Dead Forever..., and Balbi was replaced on drums by Jimmy Economou. Their next two albums, Volcanic Rock and Only Want You For Your Body, were also issued by Vertigo Records. After 1975 line-up changes resulted in a more commercial sound and the group disbanded in March 1977. Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane noted that there was "nothing subtle about Buffalo's primal, heavyweight sound, but it was delivered with a great deal of conviction ... combining the dense, occult riffing ... with the progressive blues chops ... the band certainly captured the arrogant disposition of the times in a bold and thunderous fashion". Alongside Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and Blackfeather, Buffalo pioneered Australia's heavy metal, pub rock and psychedelic rock movements. Peter Wells died on 27 March 2006, aged 58.
Blackfeather are an Australian rock group which formed in April 1970. The band has had numerous line-ups, mostly fronted by founding lead singer, Neale Johns. An early heavy rock version recorded their debut album, At the Mountains of Madness, which peaked at number seven on the Go-Set Top 20 Albums chart. It provided the single, "Seasons of Change", which was co-written by Johns with lead guitarist, John Robinson. In July 1972 a piano-based line-up led by Johns issued an Australian number-one single, "Boppin' the Blues".
Fraternity were an Australian rock band which formed in Sydney in 1970 and relocated to Adelaide in 1971. Former members include successive lead vocalists Bon Scott, John Swan, and his brother Jimmy Barnes. Their biggest local hit was a cover version of "Seasons of Change" which peaked at No. 1 in Adelaide, but nationally it was overrun by the original Blackfeather version. The group won the 1971 Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds with the prize being a free trip to London. Fraternity went through various line-ups and was renamed as Fang, Fraternity (again). In the late 70s some Fraternity former members created the bands Some Dream and Mickey Finn. Mickey Finn disbanded in 1992.
Lobby Loyde, also known as John Barrie Lyde or Barry Lyde, was an Australian rock music guitarist, songwriter and producer.
Douglas John Parkinson was an Australian pop and rock singer. He led the bands Strings and Things/A Sound (1965), the Questions (1966–1968), Doug Parkinson in Focus, Fanny Adams (1970–1971), the Life Organisation (1973), Southern Star Band (1978–1980) and Doug Parkinson Band (1981–1983). Doug Parkinson in Focus's cover version of the Beatles' track "Dear Prudence" peaked at No. 5 on the Go-Set National Top 40. The follow up single, "Without You" / "Hair" (October), also reached No. 5. Parkinson released solo material and performed in musical theatre productions.
Band of Light were an Australian blues rock quartet formed in October 1972 by Tony Buettel on drums, Phil Key on lead vocals and guitar, Peter Roberts on bass guitar and Norm Roue on slide guitar. Roberts was soon replaced by Ian Rilen on bass guitar. They had a top 20 hit single, "The Destiny Song" on the Go-Set National Charts. The group released two albums, Total Union – which peaked at No. 13 – and The Archer (1974) before disbanding in late 1974. Phil Key died in May 1984 of a congenital heart condition; Ian Rilen died of bladder cancer in October 2006.
Innocent Bystanders were a Perth based band formed in 1983 featuring vocalist/songwriter Brett Keyser and guitarist Diesel.
Paul Adrian Christie is an Australian rock music bassist and vocalist. He was a member of various groups including Kevin Borich Express (1978–79), Mondo Rock (1980–82) and the Party Boys. As a member of Mondo Rock he performed on the tracks, "State of the Heart", "Cool World", "Summer of '81", "Chemistry", "No Time", "The Queen and Me" and "In Another Love".
Wendy June Saddington, also known as Gandharvika Dasi, was an Australian blues, soul and jazz singer, and was in the bands Chain, Copperwine and the Wendy Saddington Band. She wrote for teen pop newspaper Go-Set from September 1969 to September 1970 as an agony aunt in her weekly "Takes Care of Business" column, and as a feature writer. Saddington had Top 30 chart success with her 1972 solo single "Looking Through a Window", which was written and produced by Billy Thorpe and Warren Morgan of the Aztecs. After adopting Krishna Consciousness in the 1970s she took the name Gandharvika Dasi. In March 2013 she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, and died on 21 June, aged 63.
Buster Brown was an Australian rock and roll band, which featured vocalist Angry Anderson and drummer Phil Rudd, that was formed in Melbourne in 1973. Their sound was hard rock mixed with blues rock influences. Their first album, Something to Say was produced by Lobby Loyde and released in 1974. Rudd left to join an early version of AC/DC while Anderson continued with new line-ups and eventually disbanded the group in November 1975. Anderson joined Rose Tattoo which later included former Buster Brown bandmates, Geordie Leach on bass guitar and Dallas "Digger" Royall on drums.
Leo de Castro was a New Zealander funk and soul singer-guitarist. From 1969 to 1995 he worked in Australia in a variety of bands before returning to Auckland. He contributed to Rocco (1976), as a member of Johnny Rocco Band; Voodoo Soul – Live at The Basement, by Leo de Castro and Friends; a live album, Long White Clouds (2007), which had been recorded in January 1988 using two separate backing bands, The Dancehall Racketeers and Roger Janes Band.
Fanny Adams was a briefly existing hard rock super group formed by ex-pat Australians and New Zealanders in mid-1970. The quartet comprised Johnny Dick on drums, Vince Melouney on guitar, Doug Parkinson on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and Teddy Toi on bass guitar. They relocated to Australia in December and broke up there after a few months. Their debut eponymous album appeared in June 1971, which Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described as "adventurous, heavy, progressive blues-rock... Melouney's crunching, multi-layered Jimmy Page-styled guitar riffs kept the whole thing together."
Flake were an Australian pop and rock group which formed in 1968. They released an album, How's Your Mother!, in December 1971 on the Violet's Holiday label, distributed by Festival. The group appeared on the Go-Set National Top 60 singles chart with cover versions of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire", Marmalade's "Reflections of My Life", Vanda and Young's "Life is Getting Better" and Honeybus' "Under the Silent Tree". The group disbanded in 1974 but reunited in 1989 to support a compilation album, Reflections: The Festival File Volume Thirteen, before breaking up again in 1991.
Band of Talabene were a briefly existing Australian blues rock band formed in April 1972 as Willy & the Philtones by Tony Buettel on drums, Phil Gaunt on bass guitar, Phil Manning on lead guitar and lead vocals, and Tony Naylor on guitar and vocals. According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, their name was both, "[a] homage to bands like Derek and the Dominoes and because it comprised two Phils and two Tonys." In July Gaunt was replaced on bass guitar by Gus Fenwick (ex-Pleazers) and they were renamed as Band of Talabene. Manning explained that his young daughter had dreamt of a band, Talabene, with pumpkins playing guitars.
Dallas Leslie "Digger" Royall was an Australian hard rock drummer. He was a member of Band of Talabene (1973), Buster Brown (1975) and Rose Tattoo (1976–1983). He died of an unspecified cancer in 1991 while being treated for heroin and alcohol addictions.