Pub rock (Australia)

Last updated

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 Sunday Observance Acts were repealed, pub opening hours were extended, discriminatory regulations — such as the long-standing ban on women entering or drinking in public bars — were removed, and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. [1] [2] [3] 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 Morning, 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. [1] 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". [4]

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. [2] In May they had a hit with "Seasons of Change", which peaked at No. 15 on the Go-Set National Top 40 Singles Chart. [2] [5] 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. [3] 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". [6]

Many city and suburban pubs gained renown for their support of live music, and many prominent Australian bands — including AC/DC, [7] Cold Chisel, [8] The Angels [9] and The Dingoes [10] — 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". [7] He found that Cold Chisel "fused a combination of rockabilly, hard rock and rough-house soul'n'blues that was defiantly Australian in outlook". [8] 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". [9] 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. [10]

Notable pub-rock venues include the Largs Pier Hotel and the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Adelaide; the Royal Antler Hotel in Narrabeen, Sydney; 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. Additionally, Poyntons Carlton Club Hotel in Carlton was 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.

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; it was a sound that more suited the beer barns they were to play in over their extensive touring career. [11]

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 build their reputation and take their live skills into large venues in the US and Europe with ease.

See also

Related Research Articles

Cold Chisel Australian rock band

Cold Chisel are an Australian pub rock band, which formed in Adelaide in 1973 by mainstay members Ian Moss on guitar and vocals, Steve Prestwich on drums and Don Walker on piano and keyboards. They were soon joined by Jimmy Barnes on lead vocals and, in 1975, Phil Small became their bass guitarist. The group disbanded in late 1983 but subsequently reformed several times. Musicologist Ian McFarlane wrote that they became "one of Australia's best-loved groups" as well as "one of the best live bands", fusing "a combination of rockabilly, hard rock and rough-house soul'n'blues that was defiantly Australian in outlook."

The Dingoes are an Australian country rock band. They were initially active from 1973 to 1979, and reformed in 2009. Initially based in Melbourne, the band relocated to the United States from 1976. The most stable line-up comprised John Bois on bass guitar, John Lee on drums, Broderick Smith on vocals and harmonica, Chris Stockley on guitar, and Kerryn Tolhurst on guitar. Mal Logan on keyboards joined after Stockley was hospitalised when shot in the stomach by Melbourne drug-dealer, Dennis Allen, who was attempting to gate crash a party. The Dingoes' debut single, "Way Out West", was released in November 1973, and peaked in the top 40 of the Australian Kent Music Report singles chart. Subsequent singles were "Boy on the Run", "Smooth Sailing", and "Into the Night", which did not reach the top 50. They had three top 40 albums, The Dingoes in 1974, Five Times the Sun in 1977, and Orphans of the Storm in 1979.

Spectrum are an Australian progressive rock band which formed in April 1969 and broke up in April 1973. The original line-up was Mark Kennedy on drums, Lee Neale on organ (ex-Nineteen87), Bill Putt on bass guitar, and Mike Rudd on guitar and lead vocals. In August 1970 Kennedy was replaced by Ray Arnott on drums. These members also performed under the alter ego, Indelible Murtceps, from 1971 to 1973. Spectrum had a number-one hit, "I'll Be Gone", on the Go-Set National Top 60 singles chart. After Spectrum and Indelible Murtceps disbanded, Putt and Rudd formed Ariel. In 1999 the pair formed Spectrum Plays the Blues, which later trimmed their name back to Spectrum. On 7 August 2013 Bill Putt died, after a heart attack.

Sunbury Pop Festival

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.

Billy Thorpe Australian singer-songwriter from New South Wales

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".

Lobby Loyde Musical artist

Lobby Loyde, also known as John Barrie Lyde or Barry Lyde, was an Australian rock music guitarist, songwriter and producer.

Doug Parkinson Australian singer

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.

Kerryn William Tolhurst is an Australian country rock musician, songwriter and producer. He was based in the United States from late 1970s to the late 1990s, although he periodically returned to Australia. He was a founder of the Australian group, the Dingoes and co-wrote their top 40 hit single, "Way Out West". It was covered by fellow Australians, James Blundell and James Reyne in 1991, which reached No. 2 on the ARIA Singles Chart. He also formed a short-lived group, Rattling Sabres, and wrote their single, "All Fired Up" (1987). The track was reworked by Pat Benatar and released as her single in June 1988, which peaked at No. 2 in Australia and reached the top 20 in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

Richard Batchens is an Australian record producer and audio engineer. From 1971 to 1976 he was the main in-house producer for Festival Records' imprint Infinity Records. His work includes most of the early albums and singles for Sherbet, one of Australia's most successful pop bands of the 1970s, and the first six albums by singer-songwriter, Richard Clapton. He also produced some of the early Cold Chisel material, including the single, "Goodbye " (1978), and their second album, Breakfast at Sweethearts (1979).

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.

<i>Aztecs Live at Sunbury</i> 1972 live album by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs

Aztecs Live! At Sunbury was a double live album released in August 1972 by Australian hard rock group Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, which was recorded at the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival in late January.

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".

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.

Philip John Manning is an Australian blues singer-songwriter and guitarist. Manning has been a member of various groups including Chain and has had a solo career. As a member of Chain, Manning co-wrote their January 1971 single "Black and Blue" which became number one on the Melbourne charts and also Judgement, which reached number two in Sydney. The related album, Toward the Blues followed in September and peaked in the top 10 albums chart.

Leo de Castro was a New Zealand 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.

Dallas Royall Australian musician

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.


  1. 1 2 McFarlane, 'Billy Thorpe' entry. Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 McFarlane, 'Blackfeather' entry. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  3. 1 2 McFarlane, 'Buffalo' entry. Archived from the original on 15 June 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  4. Creswell, Toby; Samantha Trenoweth (2006). "Billy Thorpe". 1001 Australians you should know. North Melbourne, Vic: Pluto Press Australia. pp. 221–222. ISBN   978-1-86403-361-8. Note: On-line copy has limited view.
  5. Nimmervoll, Ed. "Top Records for the Year of 1971". Go-Set . Waverley Press. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  6. Nimmervoll, Ed. "Rose Tattoo". Howlspace. White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 4 August 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  7. 1 2 McFarlane, 'AC/DC' entry. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  8. 1 2 McFarlane, 'Cold Chisel' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  9. 1 2 McFarlane, 'The Angels' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  10. 1 2 McFarlane, 'The Dingoes' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  11. McFarlane, 'Hunters & Collectors' entry. Archived from the original on 7 June 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
General references