Revolution Rock Oral History of Brisbane Music 1942-present
Rescued from Archive.org at the request of the author, Bruce Anthon. Original website, Revolution Rock, © Kelvin Johnston.
Bands Bands Bands....no denying that along with "the punters", the conglomerations of "hungry-wanna-bes" formed the core of this particular avenue of Brisbane culture over the past "whatever" years. However they did NOT do it alone, & in many cases, would've got no further than the "school dance" if not for the outward support of:
- Local/City record shops (making way for the "IMPORT/INDIE" record shops from 1970 onwards;
- Major Print Media;
- Street Media...from mid-60's onwards;
- Local Radio AM & FM;
- Local TV;
- Musical Instrument Shops.
(See below for other worthy contributors not covered in this article under the title: They Also Served)
All these seemingly "soul-less" apparatuses actually gave "the audience" focus, & thus helped create the feeling of a local "scene" which over time gave rise to an identity within the Australian context and, finally, a world identity that is now almost taken for granted. Put simply, "We can do this....so let's do it!'"
- Record Bars/Shops/Import-Indie Shops During the '50's & '60's, "Kings" (aka "King & Kings") & "Palings" were the mainstays for budding performers of all persuasions to obtain that precious "sound" that would then be dissected and reproduced "live" for local audiences ASAP.
The two "great houses" existed well into the '70's with Palings finally closing in the late '80's. Many a musician/punter bought their first record there! It must be said that these two shops (& their suburban branches) existed in this town for over 80yrs+...their main contribution was probably in "print" music & instruments, but that's another story.
Record Bars: What's that?...well it was hip "slang" aligned with the "milk bar" concept of the early '50's where one could "pop in & pick up" the latest single...yes this was a '60's term predominantly...& most sales were in singles (approx. $1.00-$1.25 @1967-'69) not in the "exy" LP's at a princely sum of $5.25/$5.50/$5.95. These were usually reserved for birthdays, Xmas....or BIG "dependable" artists like The Beatles, Stones, Elvis...Easybeats, Normie Rowe etc. (It was the "albums" of such artists that over time really helped show the way for budding performers, plus gave them a "ready-made" repertoire of sorts). Probably the most notable "record" or "singles" bar in the city was in Coles, Queen Street. If it was on the "TOP40" or "bubbling under"/"Hit Prediction"...they had it!!! & continued into the '80's as a force. Most department stores (i.e. McDonnell & Easts, Penny's, David Jones, Myer, Woolworths etc.) had their own "record bar" and they were usually staffed by "young" people on the look-out for the latest sound/fashion from overseas & locally. Having said that, there were many suburban "record bars" that flourished through the '60's & early '70's in such areas as Fortitude Valley, Mt. Gravatt, Nundah, Chermside, Ipswich - to name but a few.
It was here that you'd meet your friends, catch up on the latest "in" sounds of the "peer group" & see who was playing where & when. This was the genesis of what became the "IMPORT SHOP" of the early '70's. By the mid-'70's "Record Bars" and single sales were definitely on the wane, with record retailing in Brisbane taking its first tentative steps toward "generic-mass marketing".
Oops!!!There was one "maverick" shop that spanned the '50's/'60's type store ("Palings"/"Record Bar") and the new emerging "IMPORT SHOP". This shop was run by a visionary of sorts, Brian Hockey. The shop was "THE RECORD MARKET". Begun in 1961, it had always stocked the more unusual (i.e. jazz, r'n'r, r&b, blues, imports of all genres etc.) alongside a huge range of classical/mor/soundtracks & popular sellers. To top it off, there was Brisbane's largest "SECOND HAND" lp's & 45's selection. All in all, this was a mecca for music-lovers & musicians alike.
Brian, himself very knowledgeable, employed what seemed "music fanatics" ONLY!! Some were musicians, some ardent fans (all very "colourful") while some, like John Simpson, walking encyclopedias. This was also an outlet for local recordings from the very early days, & hence became an essential part of the "local" scene. Brian's shop also quickly built up a national reputation as a mecca for all things "music" & was immediately identified with Brisbane culture of all kinds - art, stage, classical, jazz, pop ...& even punk & indie as time went on. Unfortunately, Brian passed away in the late '90's, the store closing soon after, a casualty to the "generic" onslaught begun in the late '70's within record retailing.
However to the very end, THE RECORD MARKET was a focal point for all Brisbane culture, quite often mirroring the times and tastes of our city more accurately than was realised at the time. Thank you Brian Hockey.
Footnote: Although trading under new owners, the classical & second-hand areas are somewhat still intact...
Import/Indie Stores/Import Record stores began to take root in the city 'round 1970 as "the album" replaced "the single" as the hip currency worldwide. You still could get "the good shit" from Palings, Kings and The Record Market, but since the beginning of the "underground" movement in the UK & USA in the late '60's, musicians & punters alike were looking for more & more obscure (for the times e.g. Pink Floyd) releases that they'd read about in overseas magazines or more & more in the emerging local "underground" press. Post-Woodstock also gave rise to the "Head Shop" styled outlet catering for all the "hip" sounds etc. one needed to "tune in, turn on &...". Soon Brisbane, like the southern cities, had its IMPORT SHOPS.
These were usually run by VERY cool people who quite often new what you wanted before you did!! They had "fold-out" cover editions of albums, superior pressings & releases that never came out in Australia, plus the latest "underground" sounds from the local/Australian scene. The shops were small, dark (mostly) with "the sounds" playing very LOUD. They were usually situated in an arcade (all the rage in Brisbane through the '60's & early '70's) or in older, out-of-the-way buildings close to the city centre (where rent was cheaper). The walls would be covered with posters (gig & decorative) & the most recent music & fashion mags would be on hand. Also there would be plenty of "revolution" reading material (both local & overseas). These shops really started to galvanise the local musicians/punters, & soon they became central meeting points for a whole generation in and around Brisbane.
Some of the early "shops" were corners in clothes boutiques or poster shops, but this soon gave way to such establishments as DORA'S HOUSE OF WAX (where you could even buy "live" bootlegs!!! ...unheard of, eh!!), FRENDZ (run by"Captain" Noel Hutchinson) & the re-vamped PICADILLY ARCADE RECORD BAR (run by Linda Gilmore).
As the mid-70's hit, these gave way to WIZARDS (they even had two shops in the city for a while), BROWN SUGAR (based at Surfer's Paradise), DISCREET (Phillip Smith & Mary MacDonald) &, of course, ROCKING HORSE (Warwick Vere aka "Frank"). Times were changing, too!! Pink Floyd gave way to West Coast country-rock, which was embraced heavily in the Brisbane area, while from Europe was coming electronic & weird progressive sounds like Can & Kraftwerk.
Also, DISCREET had got the first Ramones LP... & I think a band from Oxley may've got a copy!! The wide selection in these stores was quite amazing. By 1975-76 the shops had lost much of the "Head" image & while the local record companies had kinda caught up with the "LA sound", the IMPORT SHOPS were about to go INDIE... i.e. PUNK!!!! & NEW WAVE.
Soon ROCKING HORSE & DISCREET (& later ROTTEN RECORDS) were supplying the new "DIY" punk sounds from London & New York alongside the usual progressive sounds of UK/Europe. Once again it was these shops that became the focus for a new Brisbane music culture, along with street press and more importantly... 4ZZZ Radio. Many of the old music outlets were "left standing" with the exception of THE RECORD MARKET (thanks to Kelvin Geck & Petra).
By 1977 a major NEW player had emerged called SKINNY'S run by Col Rankin. He had the RECORD MARKET & IMPORT/INDIE idea... combined them and became a major player in supporting local & Australian talent. In some ways he was the "happy medium" between all the "players" & many a young "punk" or "new-waver" bought their first album from Col.
ROCKING HORSE, DISCREET & SKINNY'S supported Brisbane "indie" music shamelessly, even financing recording sessions & helping with distribution. DISCREET was the first shop to stock (& sell) the Saints's "I'm Stranded" 45. All shops were very closely aligned to 4ZZZ, & all had musicians in and around their respective helms steering the stores towards the NEXT BIG THING. All stores supported any "local" event, and soon the young buyer would be doing "the rounds" to catch up on all the goss! There was fierce/friendly competition and a lot of detail paid to "customer" needs.
1977 to 1982 was a boomer time for local INDIE stores and Brisbane Indie bands/audiences.
By 1982 the local releases had caught up, DISCREET & ROTTEN had gone, & ROCKING HORSE now sold local & import pressings.
Col sold SKINNY'S, & THE RECORD MARKET just got bigger! Also two new (large) suburban players had emerged (with "hip" staff) ... TOOMBUL MUSIC (Barry Bull) & HARLEQUIN (Chris Warner). By the mid-'80's the INDIE/IMPORT scene was in full swing, with KENT RECORDS (Clark, Bruce & Neale), ROCKING HORSE & SKINNY'S all complementing each other's efforts, while selling an ever-increasing number of local "indie" releases.
Ten years on from "I'm Stranded" the local scene was FULL of new music, some even now making it to compact disc. 4ZZZ was playing more & more local material, & gigs were very plentiful. Each shop had huge areas devoted to local culture in a way never seen before. The indie club & dance scene was about to explode too!! (This is an area of Brisbane culture that is often ridiculed by "the old-timers" of rock & punk ...very silly 'cause this is probably the most vibrant area as we head into 2003.
Similarly we should not forget the Heavy Metal/Grunge explosion of the '80's & '90's, as this too was huge in Brisbane ...and still is!!!) By 2000, ROCKING HORSE (who had its early links with DORA'S & is still owned by "Frank") & SKINNY'S (on its third owner) were all that was left of the IMPORT/INDIE retail scene.
The BIG "generic" shops had moved in, & times had changed (again) ...however there is no let up on the indie music front & no lack of support from these "survivors". These often "misunderstood" businesses were & are an essential part of the art/performing culture of Brisbane.
Mention should also be made of The Discerning Ear & The Country Music Shop. The Discerning Ear was a classical specialist store that had a large interest in the local classical scene, as did The Record Market. The Country Music Shop has been successfully catering for C&W; state-wide & beyond.
The following areas will NOT be treated in the same detail as I do not have the same first hand knowledge but I'm sure someone out there does!! The next sections I hope will act as a catalyst for a full examination.
- MAJOR PRINT MEDIA: Papers like The Courier-Mail, Telegraph etc. are often thought by young musicians & artists (especially with the emergence of the "street press") as "straight" or "square". On the contrary!!!!
Pre-1970, they held a treasure trove of information and photos, as this was quite often the only detailed press coverage an artist or show would receive. Within context of the paper, the article took on another dimension by seeing ads of the day etc. This media is today still a VERY important tool, & is still a very good way of gauging success. Front page of your hometown paper ...hmmmmmmmmmm! still sounds good eh!!
Many writers started out reviewing the "local" scene and cut their teeth on such stories as the Festival Hall/Normie Rowe riot of 1966, or some "punk" happening at the UQ. Some of these writers have since gone on to fame while some have since returned to reviewing Brisbane culture years later.
By the way, how many musicians remember the Saturday classified column "Musicians & Dances"? I know someone who answered an ad there for "Drummer Wanted.....". The band was Kid Galahad & The Eternals. I'm sure we all relied on this media more than we realised.
- STREET MEDIA: This really came into its own thanks to the universities & the Vietnam War. Soon Brisbane culture was entwined with radical politics and "Ban The Bomb" styled journalism.
As the '70's progressed, the "Punk" movement chose "fanzines" as a way to get their message across in print. In some cases, poets were printed alongside a gig review. By the '80's, bonafide "mags" like TIME OFF had really started addressing the issue of "alternative" press coverage for Brisbane culture. There have been many "mags" over the years, & while TIME OFF (Sean Sennett, Col Rankin) is the longest running, all "mags" have contributed greatly to the continuation and growth of Brisbane culture. There are similarities between the INDIE music shops & the STREET PRESS/UNIVERSITY PRESS.
A special mention should also be made of the "alternative" book shops that have exited in tandem with all this local youth/popular culture. Ones that come to mind immediately are The Red & Black Bookshop (Elizabeth Arcade, next to DISCREET), Folio Books, The American Bookshop... and there are many many more. This is an area that should really be dealt with in detail as the connection between music & print is inescapable.
Many of these shops stocked books mentioned by our "heroes" and it was at these places that one could order the latest "pop" culture book or "underground" tome. Many similarities with the INDIE/IMPORT record shop exit here. The shops were quite often staffed by some very "colourful" people, not un-like the indie record shop assistants & many had strong links to other areas of Brisbane culture (i.e. bands, stage, theatre).
- LOCAL RADIO AM & FM: Bill Gates giving the Bee Gees their first spin... heard that story? True or false... who cares? Did 4BC play The Purple Hearts? ...probably. Did 4IP play Chain's "Black & Blue" ...yes! Does 4ZZZ still play The Saints & Go-Betweens.... ....what do you think?!!!!
Radio has always been there, sometimes a bit behind, but always there. Some of those late late night DJ's of the '60's & early '70's really did play some very hip sounds, & squeezed in local acts where possible, while the stations were always involved in promoting local shows for over 50 years. Even in 2000 radio still gets out there and supports local made good bands like Powderfinger, Savage Garden, Regurgitator etc. (B105, FM104).
4ZZZ certainly has worked very closely with youth culture in general since its beginning in the mid-'70's, & is possibly the one constant thread from the early '70's till now regarding Brisbane culture & its ever changing face. Not many Brisbane musicians or punters could say that 4ZZZ was not part of their "scene" at some time. Many gigs!!! Many posters!!! Quite a few top media people!!! Now there's a story, eh!
Within the jazz & classical area, 4MBS has been a tower of strength, supporting many local performers for many years. Today there are a host of "community" radio stations (e.g. Bay FM in the Redlands) all actively supporting local talent to the hilt!
4ZZZ & 4MBS showed the way!!!!
- LOCAL TV: Remember "Eyeforce" Ch2 6.30pm Fridays with Peter Hitchiner. Live Brisbane bands, record reviews etc., circa 1970.
Afternoon "pop" shows in the late '60's & early '70's. Local variety shows from 1959 (when we got TV) through to mid '70's.
Telethons!!!!!!!remember them? Full of local talent.
As an important sideline, Brisbane Film productions should also be included along with the "Film Festivals" & stage/theatre/performance art productions, as many were very "cutting edge", involving not only the obvious players, but often musicians, press etc.
- MUSICAL INSTRUMENT SHOPS: Fords, Sound Stage, The Drum Shop, Guitar World, Drumworld, Queensland Academy of Music, Ellaways, Drum Worx, Col Gillies, Music Junction, Drowyns, Palings, Kings... the list is endless... thanks for all the patience what with "Wipeout", "Satisfaction", "Smoke On The Stairway To Roadhouse California" ...plus the PistolsNirvanaVanHalenSuperMegaTappenRiffinBonanza of the last 20 years echoing round your shop... and that's before the drummers start trying out cymbals!!! Without the Music Instrument Shops, things would be kinda QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
These shops were a hot bed for ideas and world domination ...and still are!
There's a REAL story in there... go on... write it, Freddy!!!
Thought I'd forgot to mention "THE ACADEMY"... ...IMPOSSIBLE!!! Just as Brian Hockey really opened up Brisbane with records, so did Johnny Morris with instruments & tuition. Many Brisbane musicians started off by going up to Leichhardt Street....pluggin' in & going for it! (and many haven't stopped). The Academy supported all of the arts, and it was a sad loss when it changed hands in 2001. Many "older" musicians still haunt the "new" shop.
THEY ALSO SERVED:
I haven't mentioned Record Companies... Festival, Sony etc or such home-grown labels as "The Able" Label. In there lies a whole other story... suffice to say that many "colourful" characters passed through the ranks over the years, & many a local band were courted by these gentlemen... some VERY successfully.
Some people who always had the local talent in mind are/were Mick Delanty (Festival/Sony), Mike Theiss (WEA), Ernie Craft (Festival), Paul Curtis (Valve)... the list goes on but you should really ask them...
If you wanna break the ice... ask them 'bout Jason James or Stan Hill... great characters, full of life & fun!! The stories will flow on forever.
Mick Delanty & Mike Theiss are still very active in the industry... years of experience. Now contactable at MRA Records.
Similarly, I have omitted venues, poster artists, promoters & managers, rehearsal space operators, recording studios & their personnel, not because of a lack of importance, but because this is a HUGE area that needs careful research & is begging to be attempted. These people played a major role in the whole shebang and continue to in every way.
And... fashion... hmmmmmmm! The clothes shops did play a big role too but shit... I'm a drummer so what do I know?
Finally as "the Captain" did say "The Dust Blows Forward"
P.S. Have you seen "Hi-Fidelity"?... or better still read the book? Yes it's true... we'd see a bunch of office workers at lunch time in Rocking Horse & have 15 or so Derek & Clive -"Live" lps in stock. I'd say to Steve Mee (Razar)... "put one on & let's sell 15" ...it always worked!!! Cheap Thrills!!
Artists that never failed (so beware!!)
- Dead Kennedys
- Chaotic Dischord
- Sex Pistols
- 7 Seconds-The Crew
- Miles Davis-Kind of Blue
- John Coltrane-Ballads
- Morbid Angel
- Cruel Sea
Obviously these are but a few & had "sell by" dates but the next time you're in your local "generic" music supermarket, take particular care not to buy what they're playing without careful examination of your surroundings.
I hope you guys are still playing your Morbid Derek & Chaotic Slayer records 'cause we drank your dough!
Thanks..... & turn the fucker up!!!