Brisbane punk rock

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The Brisbane punk rock scene, according to music historian Ian McFarlane, which occurred between 1975 and 1984, is generally regarded as producing "some of the most anarchistic bands of the Australian punk rock era".[1] The development of Brisbane's punk rock movement during the late 1970s to early 1980s differed to other Australian cities because of its relative remoteness and distant isolation from the rest of Australia. The Brisbane scene was also considered to have received an excessive amount of scrutiny from the local police. This helped to generate a uniquely antagonistic and individual so-called "snot" driven punk bands.

Whilst these Brisbane bands had the environmental and political factors at play, it also could be seen from hindsight that the movement can be roughly dissected into four phases. First, there was the pioneering chapter, which lasted from 1975 to 1977. These bands were either innovators or part of the first wave of punk bands. Foremost of all Brisbane bands, The Saints are acknowledged as "Aussie punk pioneers".[2] Then the second phase could be placed somewhere between 1978 and 1980 for which Ian McFarlane described the groups as "the second generation".[3] The next period faceted "the third generation"[4] of punk groups that spanned from around 1981 to 1984 and diverged into two categories; the hardcore punk and the post-punk punk or dark punk. Brisbane's dark punk has been identified as closely related to the subgenres of horror punk and Deathrock from the West Coast USA that happened roughly around the same time. The following period during 1985 to 1988 spawned three main divergent styles or strands. These styles were Detroit rock and the closely aligned garage punk, hardcore punk and the Skate punk.


The Pioneers[edit]

Kid Gallahad and The Eternals had formed as early as 1973 and created in Brisbane what was to become Brisbane's ill-reputed punk attitude after their debut at an RSL venue in the western suburbs of Brisbane. Chris Bailey, singer for the group, recollected his observations of this first gig's calamity to the fanzine Sniffin' Glue in 1976, "Then after our second drummer walked out and we almost called it 'quits' but we decided to keep playing to the 30 people (from an original 150 patrons) who were still with us. Before the last number the manager of the hall arrived with cops, turned off the power... The cops told us they would confiscate our equipment if we didn't go, so we went".[5] By the end of 1975 the band inducted Kym Bradshaw onto bass and moved Ivor Hay onto drums. Following this the band changed its name to The Saints.

The Saints came to the attention of the English musical press with the "(I'm) Stranded" single. This song arrived with much fanfare, as it fitted neatly into the conventional punk sound and attitude in London. Jon Savage, UK journalist and punk historian, noted that The Saints "had been developing in near isolation for three years, but it took just one review in Sounds magazine to make their career."[6] The Saints arrived in England in 1977 but soon found that their hair and image didn't fit the idealistic, English punk, stylistic dress codes. The English were hoping for spiky hair and brothel creepers, instead finding an appearance similar to street bums with attitude. Ed Kuepper, guitarist for The Saints reflected on their arrival in the UK, "By the time we got here the initial spirit already died out, it was very contrived. There were too many people following slavishly after. We had problems because we didn't look new wave."[7] However, that aside, The Saints reached the UK charts with their song "This Perfect Day", when the Sex Pistols were at their most infamous with their chart topping "God Save the Queen" single. Eventually in 1978 The Saints disbanded but not before releasing two albums, "(I'm) Stranded" and "Eternally Yours" and the classic "Know Your Product" single. It has been said the "[The Saints] created one of the greatest R&B – fuelled rock songs of all time."[8] The "Prehistoric Sounds" LP was released in 1979 after they had disbanded. The Saints reformed in 1980; however, their punk edge was lost without "Ed Kuepper's relentless power chords."[8]

I'm Stranded, the song, has since been awarded Australian Performing Rights Association's Top 30 Australian songs of all time, reaching number 15, in 2001 to celebrate APRA's 75th anniversary.[9]

Around 1976, The Leftovers formed in Sandgate, far north Brisbane, to eventually gain local cult fame due to the stories of the band's existentialist approach to life. "Raw, intoxicated, energetic and antisocial" proclaimed 4ZZZ's Behind the Banana Curtain, a CD compilation of bands that documents 25 years of 4ZZZ broadcasting.[10] The Leftover's history was plagued by many altercations and distractions that included "story of prison, the shocking aftermath of attempted suicide and now-numerous deaths".[11] In 1979, they released their only single, "Cigarettes and Alcohol" which is considered a seminal part of Brisbane's punk history.

Another punk band from the early period was The Survivors. They were included on the "Lethal Weapons" compilation of Australian punk bands that came out in early 1978. Their drummer, Bruce Anthon, a proficient musician, went on to play various instruments for more sophisticated blues and jazz groups. Jim Dickson, their bassist went on to play for profile bands that included The Barracudas, Passengers, The Deniz Tek Group and Radio Birdman.

During this era Brisbane punk rock occasioned mostly halls such as the Hamilton Hall and Toowong RSL hall as venues. Doug Hutson and Gavin Sawford, who co-wrote in 1988 the book Out Of The Unknown: Brisbane Bands 1976-1988, stated that the "Two of the more notorious DIY venues were the Saint's 76 Club, a Petrie Terrace house in which the Saints threw a regular open invitation party, (largely because they couldn't find work anywhere else) and the Baroona Road Hall, scene of numerous 'one-off' multiple band gigs".[12]

Brisbane's newly founded FM radio station in November 1975, 4ZZZ, became Brisbane's most important local music content broadcaster. John Stanwell, original Arts Administrator for 4ZZZ, commented in 2000 that 4ZZZ was "The first (Radio) station in the world to play The Saints" .[13] The era was close-documented by a number of publications, firstly the fanzine SSuicide Alley, which was arguably Australia's first punk fanzine, produced in Brisbane in early 1977 by Andrew McMillan and Clinton Walker. Both went on to become noted (music) writers, and Walker in particular offered detailed coverage of the late 70s Brisbane scene through his contemporary work for UQ paper Semper and the fanzine Pulp, and his later books Inner City Sound (1982) and " Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977-1991" (1996).

The Second Phase[edit]

The Brisbane punk movement took off following 1978. A lot more bands formed and were given air time on Community radio station 4ZZZ, with it being said that "4ZZZ FM DJs Michael Finucan, Tony Biggs, Bill Riner, Mark Bracken, Phil Cullen and Andy Nehl were influential in playing the new music."[14] One of the bands that benefited from 4ZZZ airplay was Razar with their song Task Force, the B-side to the Stamp out Disco single. Their music was tight, fast and brash, led by the energetic playing of their guitarist Steve Mee. The song Task Force essentially was about the Queensland Police Task Force special branch. As stated in the Behind the Banana Curtain CD, "Razar's Task Force, released in 1978, referred to Brisbane's notorious undercover police."[10] Razar was like a beacon to the local constabulary, as were most high profile Brisbane punk groups, often receiving intense scrutiny from the local constabulary. Dave Darling, 4ZZZ's and (later) an independent concert promoter, recalled such events, "We encountered problems with police just like everybody else did that tried to run a venue...9 out of 10 of them I don't think ever made the final song...and disguise them from Task Force knowing they were on, but eventually in the course of the night one of them would find out and next thing you know you had all of them there..."[15]

Hutson and Sawford suggested that, "In fact it wasn't uncommon for police, both uniformed and Special Branch plainclothes, to regularly break up concerts by bands such as Razar, the Leftovers and the Sharks, who were considered among the more subversive and threatening local talent".[12]

The Fun Things, originally known as The Aliens, were an outfit that characterised the Detroit inspired "Sydney Sound" and did homage to the "spirit of their heroes"[16] Radio Birdman with the song called When the Birdmen Fly released on The Fun Things self-titled EP. However, the song Savage seemed more closely connected with Brisbane's punk identity. Although The Fun Things were not quite as socially rebellious towards Brisbane society in compared to other leading Brisbane punk bands, they nevertheless enjoyed a reputation for tight energetic music. According to Brad Shepherd, singer/guitarist for the group, "The Fun Things were if not gifted plagiarists, at the very least a bunch of excitable Brisbane teenagers with extremely good taste in music."[10] The band members, Brad Shepherd, John Hartley and Murray Shepherd went on to join other bands, most notably in the early to mid-1980s with the Hoodoo Gurus for Brad and The Screaming Tribesmen for Hartley and Murray Shepherd.

Zero, an electronic styled punk band (although some would consider Zero more New Wave), were ever present on the local scene. Their contributions were seen as "colourful and imaginative".[12] Zero changed its name in the 1980s to Xero and released a highly respected EP in 1982. This band featured members John Willsteed and Lindy Morrison who both went on to The Go Betweens. Robert Foster also played a stint with this band in 1979.

Other players from this second phase included The 31st., The Alphabet Children, The Bodysnatchers, Flying Squad, Gerry Mander and the Boundaries, Just Urbain, The Leftovers, The Pits, Same 13, The Survivors, The Swell Guys, The Toy Watches, The Upsets, The Young Identities,[12][17][18] The fractions, The Fuji Angels, The Hard Ons (not to be confused with the later Sydney surf thrash band), The Lounge Lizards, Malicious Joy and Sabotage.

Most of these bands, with the exception of Fuller Banks & the Debentures, who supported The Stranglers at the Queens Hotel, played rather spasmodically, generally around hall gigs. The Stranglers went on to record a single in 1979, called Nuclear Device which was sardonically written about the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Peterson and his political regime. The song was a minor hit in the UK charts.

Also during 1979 the song Sunset Strip released by The Numbers, later renamed The Riptides, sounded like a punk-like tune, which had regular 4ZZZ airplay, however, it has been regarded as more English-flavoured 1960s-inspired pop sound than punk rock.[19]

Venues that hosted punk gigs, largely booked and promoted by 4ZZZ, during this second phase include The Exchange Hotel, The Queens Hotel, The Curry Shop, The Baroona Hall, The Ahepa Hall, The Silver Dollar Disco, The Brisbane Hotel, Colossus Hall, Cloudland, The Majestic Hotel, Sally's Coffee Lounge, Caxton St. Hall, Darra Hall, Pinnochios, The Cleveland Sands Hotel, The Seven Hills College of Art, Griffith and Queensland Universities and even Pips Nightclub. Other places worth a mention were Rotten Import Records, a shop dedicated to punk music in 1978 and The Elizabeth Street Bar (nicknamed White Chairs) which became an important hang out for those of a Punk/ New Wave/Alternative persuasion during the stretch of 1980 to 1987.

Brisbane's Third Generation[edit]

This phase centred on the early to mid-1980s. The dark mood of the bands reflected the changing dynamics of punk. "As the restrictive measures of punk, and all the clichéd fashion statements it entailed, came to a close, post punk groups took up the gauntlet. These exciting new bands used the DIY spirit to launch a more introspective, even gloomy, but still vibrant sound." said Jason C. Reeher in his review of Post Punk. Many of the Brisbane bands absorbed the darker edge due to the post-punk fashion; however, several of these newer groups continued on the same seditious punk path that was distinctive to Brisbane.

Zits, an infamous punk venue in the Fortitude Valley during 1982, was instrumental for putting on the early appearances of last wave punk groups such as Mystery of Sixes (mix of hardcore punk and death rock influenced by The Stranglers and Bauhaus),[20] Vampire Lovers (garage – death rock style of punk) and Public Execution (Black Flag inspired). T. Flew suggested in his paper about the music scene in Brisbane of the time, "Part of the reason live music in The Valley was so prosperous during this time was the abundance of illegal brothel and casinos located in the area which were frequented on a regular basis."[21] > After the closure of another punk venue, The Aussie Nash (at the Australian National Hotel) [22] there was a general decline in punk band numbers participating in the local scene.

The Black Assassins were another popular live punk band from the early 1980s. The band claimed that, "Their songs and stage act were energetic and highly political, focussing on issues of the day, having fun with imagery evoked by their name and the topics of their songs.".[23] The Black Assassins continued to play sporadically in Brisbane till 1985, including supporting the Dead Kennedys at Brisbane's Festival Hall in 1983. Fronted by Mohammed El Jackal this theatrical band became known for being "Brisbane's Ugliest Band".".[23] This group eventually released their recorded material in 2005 on CD called "Black Assassins Greatest Hits".

The Mystery of Sixes self-titled song Mystery of Sixes received substantial airplay on 4ZZZ. Jello Biafra, (Dead Kennedys) reviewed their EP's songs as such, "this Brisbane band is a little more on the post-punk side. They definitely live in their own world, especially when the Arabic – style vocals on the title song are taken into account. The lyrics have Satanic overtones."[24] Les 'Bez' Jobson, their vocalist, diversified their sound by adding percussion to some of their songs. It was asserted in 2000 that "the band quickly gained a reputation for courting controversy," by being banned by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and by the acts of violence at various times perpetrated upon them with knives and guns.[20] Behind the Banana Curtain CD notes on the band commented, "In true rock'n'roll form, they rolled their van near Sarina, signed a bad contract and were shot at by a disgruntled punter while at their practice room at Kuraby.[16] The Mystery of Sixes, along with Public Execution. supported the Dead Kennedys in Brisbane in 1983. The Mystery of Sixes broke up in 1985. Bez Jobson later went on to form punk/metal band The Dreamkillers in the early 1990s with other members of mid 1980's bands Pictish Blood, Insane Hombres, as well as 1990's Psychotic Lemmings and FAT.

Meanwhile, the Vampire Lovers were the type of group, according to the Bucket full of Brains magazine, to "embody an enjoyably snotty early eighties zombie-punk-schlock vibe."[25] The Vampire Lovers had a tumultuous kind of spirit that caused some notoriety but "they overcame" their adversities to "succeed in releasing two popular singles" in 1983 and 1984.[26] Buzzsaw Popstar, their first record, according to the Behind the Banana Curtain compilation CD, "became an Australian 'indie' chart success."[16] The Vampire Lovers featured Axle 'Axe Babe' Conrad whose "uniquely tortured pipes"[27] was complimented by the raw guitar work of Matt Nasty. They disbanded in 1984 only to reform in 1988 after the popularity of the Buzzsaw Popstar 1987 single re-release. They went on to mix their sound with a hybrid of later 1980s hard psyche/ speed metal/ punk thrash styles.

During the same early 1980s period 'hardcore' punk bands also appeared in Brisbane, particularly from 1983 onwards. The two of the more prominent hardcore groups were New Improved Testament and the La Fetts. New Improved Testament featured Nick Swainson on vocals and Fred Noonan on drums. Fred Noonan also drummed previously with Public Execution and went on much later to Six Ft Hick.

In 1985, La Fetts wrote a song SEQEB Scabs, which was about the sacked electricity workers of the time. In the Behind the Banana Curtain CD it was stated that, "Despite the fear of litigation, 4ZZZ still played the song on high rotation for many months."[28]

Of other Punk bands of Brisbane's third generation were Aftermath, Dumb Show, Kicks, Pictish Blood, The Pits, Strange Glory, Toxic Garden Gnomes, Xero,[12][17] The Differentials and studio band The Parameters – who were known for their punk spirited song Pig City released as a single in September 1984.

Popular venues from this particular time include Amyl's Nitespace, Zits, The Australian National Hotel, The New Exchange Hotel, The Atcherley Hotel, Whispers, Griffith and Queensland Universities, The Factory, The Palomino (later The Outpost), Runcorn Hall and the South Brisbane Blind Hall. The Treasury Hotel downstairs, near the Elizabeth Street Bar (White Chairs) became an important hang out for those of a Hardcore Punk and Oi! persuasion during the stretch of 1983 to 198(?)

From Punk to Alternative Rock[edit]

During 1983 a large number of Alternative acts appeared in the local underground music scene. Brisbane's original spirit of punk begun to wane; eventually it was lost in 1985. It was superseded by the Alternative Rock movement. It has been said, "Essentially, "alternative" is a catch-all for post-punk bands that appeared as new wave began to die out in 1983–84, and runs all the way into 1995, when alternative pop/rock is the mainstream."[29]

Although a number of Brisbane bands continued with punk after 1984, they became part of the alternative rock scene. The Brisbane punk groups of the late 1980s were influenced by the strong Sydney music scene. Generically speaking, the punk music scene in Brisbane during the mid to late 1980s period split mostly into three main basic categories. These categories during this time were the Detroit rock and the closely aligned Garage punk groups, with Hardcore punk bands being almost as large in number. A smaller contingent of Skate punk groups made the third category. Stylistically or in a Punk fashion sense, many of the bands (except for some of the hardcore scene) and their fans replaced the generic style of outlandish hair (for the period), cheap items of attire, sewn-in tight trousers, leather and PVC for longer hair, casual clothing sometimes incorporating skater shorts and skateboards, which was in line with the skate punk style.

Bands of the early 1980s, such as The Screaming Tribesmen and Presidents 11[30] originally began with aspects of punk, however, they quickly diverged beyond the punk genre to explore wider alternative tastes. Also since the early 1980s, an assortment of Punk fusion bands speckled the local punk movement, with a mixture of various musical styles that belonged outside punk rock including Country and Western (The Kingswoods and Tex Deadly and the Dum Dums, both early to mid 1980s),[12] Ska (Blow Hard, late 1989 to 1990s), Rockabilly (The Skeletones, mid 1980s) [12] and Heavy Metal (The Dreamkillers, late 1989 to 1990s)

Brisbane punk bands that belonged to the particular era between 1985 - 1988 are as follows. ACT, The Adorable Ones, Bad Ronald, Criminally Insane/ Rabid Souls, Death of a Nun, The Dinky Flyers, Disorderly Public Outbreak, The Four Horsemen, The Girlies, The Horny Toads, Hotel Breslin, La Fetts, Insane Hombres, The Pineapples from the Dawn of Time, Post No Bills, Prince of Weasels, Psycho Circus, Reality Damage, Sanity Assassins, The Slam, Subsonic Barflies, Thrash this Trash, Vampire Lovers, Voodoo Lust,[31] Crucified Truth,[32] Dementia 13, Mungabeans, Sentinel and Trash of all Nations.[33] [1]

Venues include The Belfast Hotel, The Outpost, The Tube Club, The Hacienda Hotel, Mac's, The Lands Office Hotel, The Op Shop, The Roxy, Sensoria and The Love Inn.

In October 2006, Fat Mans Cleavage, an independent punk rock band from Brisbane, won the Radio Triple J Unearthed Taste of Chaos Competition in Queensland.[34] This enabled them to play on the same bill as US bands Anti Flag and Taking Back Sunday at the Taste of Chaos show in Brisbane at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Demographics of Brisbane Punk Bands 1976 to 1986[edit]

The Brisbane punk scene, during the later 1970s to the early 1980s, consisted of a broad array of punk bands. However, a lot of these bands were either formed or located in a cluster situated within the southern suburbs of Mount Gravatt and Macgregor, Queensland (The Survivors, Sentinel, Razar, Just Urbain, The Young Identities/Kicks, AlphabetChildren/Flying Squad, Vampire Lovers and Strange Glory). Some other south suburb punk bands came from the outer region near Beenleigh (The Hard-Ons, Sabotage/Mystery of Sixes, Die Tanzen). Inner-south Brisbane bands were Malicious Damage/Public Execution. The Pits originated from Brisbane's South East. Woodridge Robert Warren, joined Died Pretty.

However, almost just as many punk bands were formed in the western suburbs. The region ranged from the inner suburbs, which was nearby to the University of Queensland, to the middle-outer areas such as Gailes and Goodna and the far outer suburbs like the satellite city of Ipswich. Many fans of hardcore punk, Oi! punk and the skinhead movement originated from these western suburbs. Westside bands include The Saints, The Numbers, Funthings, The Upsets/Resistance, Toy Watches, The Differentials, The Black Assassins, The Fits/La Fetts and Dumb Show.[35]

Terms like Gap kids (West) from The Gap, Queensland and Macgregor kids (South) were used by punks in the late 1970s and early 1980s to describe the punks from that suburban region or High School in which they belonged to or attended.[36]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, p. 237
  2. ^ "The Saints – Nostalgia Central". Nostalgia Central. 
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, p. 706
  4. ^ The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, p. 661
  5. ^ Perry, Mark (1976). "The Saints". Sniffin' Glue. 
  6. ^ England's Dreaming, p. 246
  7. ^ England's Dreaming, p. 384
  8. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, p. 548
  9. ^ "APRA's Top 30 Australian songs". APRA. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Behind the Banana Curtain (Media notes). Various artists. 4ZZZ. 2000. p. 2. 
  11. ^ (2005) Album notes for Tales from the AUSTRALIAN UNDERGROUND, p. 7. Shock Records.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Hutson, Doug; Sawford, Gavin (1988). Home Town Connection. Time Off. p. 7. 
  13. ^ Google Groups Forum "Who was • The first FM Stereo rock music station in Australia ?" webpage
  14. ^ Macpherson, David. "Brisbands". ToxicoH. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  15. ^ Darling, Dave (2004). Young, Fast & Non-Boring. Queensland Performance Arts Centre Museum. p. 53. 
  16. ^ a b c Behind the Banana Curtain (Media notes). Various artists. 4ZZZ. 2000. p. 3. 
  17. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop,
  18. ^ Spencer, Chris (1989). Who's Who of Australian Rock. The Five Mile Press. pp. 16 to 846. 
  19. ^ "The Riptides...History". Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "MYSTERY OF SIXES, Dangerous Days". Time Off Magazine. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  21. ^ Terry, Flew (17–20 July 2003). "Music, Cities and Cultural Policy: A Brisbane Experience". Proceedings Sonic Synergies, Creative Cultures. Sonic Synergies, Creative Cultures. University of South Australia. 
  22. ^ "28624 Brisbane Punk Bands 1983-84". One Search. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  23. ^ a b "Who is Brisbane's Ugliest Band?". The Black Assassins. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Biafra, Jello (1983). "The Mystery of Sixes". Maximum RocknRoll (10). 
  25. ^ Gulland, Hugh (2004). "Vampire Lovers". Bucket Full of Brains. 
  26. ^ At the Solicitor's Request (Media notes). Various Artists. Rubber Records. 1987. 
  27. ^ "13 TASTELESS MASTERPIECES – Vampire Lovers". I-94 Bar. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  28. ^ Behind the Banana Curtain (Media notes). Various artists. 4ZZZ. 2000. p. 8. 
  29. ^ "American Alternative Rock / Post-Punk". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  30. ^ [[[:Template:Http://]] "Brisbanes Presidents 11 uncovered"]. Turkeyneck. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  31. ^ "Out Of The Unknown: Brisbane Bands 1976-1988", p.9 to 43
  32. ^ Spencer, Chris (1989). Crucified Truth. The Five Mile Press. p. 177. 
  33. ^ McKinnon, Robert; Negric, Frank (1986). The Absolute Beginners Guide to Brisbane Bands. Semper Floreat. p. 13. 
  34. ^ Triple J unearthed webpage
  35. ^ "Differentials – Thriving Metropolis 7" EMI Custom 13061, 1981". Wallaby Beat. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "Queensland in Quarantine – Various Artists". John Pearce. Retrieved 11 June 2013.