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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Capital Cool

Stop in all the byways, playin' rock 'n roll

Guthugga Pipeline, Christmas Show, upstairs, The (old) Griffin Centre, Civic, 22 December 1979. Crowd, L-R : Ben Donaldson, Anne Redmond, Nick Vollis, Esa  Makela, Megan Woodrow (Mohawk), Andy Hall (scarf) 'pling
Guthugga Pipeline, Christmas Show, upstairs, The (old) Griffin Centre, Civic, 22 December 1979. Crowd, L-R : Ben Donaldson, Anne Redmond, Nick Vollis, Esa Makela, Megan Woodrow (Mohawk), Andy Hall (scarf) 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist. © Estate of 'pling

Outsiders tend to give Canberra a bad rap: sterile, plagued by politicians, a comatose capital for professionals and academics. Those naysayers might find it hard to believe that Nick Cave once said he didn’t like the city because there were too many punks. But the history is unequivocal: in the 70s and 80s Canberra had a diverse and vibrant live music scene, punk rock and otherwise, with touring bands often stopping for midweek gigs on the byway between big smokes Sydney and Melbourne.

1 Ramones, Hellenic Club, Woden, 16 July 1981. Performing in front of "Gabba Gabba Hey" banner, 16.7.1981. 2 Sharon O'Neill, Hellenic Club, Woden, 27 August 1980, 27.8.1980. 3 Ignatius Jones, Jimmy and the Boys. Captain Cook Uni Bar, 30 December 1979, 1979. 4 Men at Work, The Jam Factory, (Colbee Court) Phillip, ACT, 1981. 5 INXS, Michael Hutchence (vocals), ANU Union, Canberra, 18 June 1981, 18.6.1981. 6 Split Enz, Canberra Theatre, 27 March 1981, 27.3.1981. All 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist © Estate of 'pling.

Enthusiasts from the era would well remember sweat-soaked nights at the ANU Bar and Refectory, or later sessions at Kingston’s Boot and Flogger (those memories may be hazier for some). Days were spent with the radio tuned to Double J or 2XX, and hanging out at Impact Records. The ANU proved a melting pot for talent; Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, who studied law at the campus, said he learnt his craft playing cold winter nights in the capital.

1 The Lighthouse Keepers, ANU Union, Canberra, 1983. Juliet Ward (vocals), Greg Appel (guitar), 1983. 2 The Vacant Lot, Ainslie Rex Hotel, 21 November 1979. Patrons having fun, 21.11.1979. 3 Cold Chisel, ANU Union, Canberra, 18 September 1979. Jimmy Barnes (vocals), 18.9.1979. 4 The Numbers, Annalisse Morrow, (bass, vocals), ANU Refectory 18 September 1979, 18.9.1979. 5 The Saints, CCAE (Canberra College of Advanced Education), 7 March 1980, Chris Bailey (vocals), 1980. 6 Young Docteurs, Kingston Hotel, 6 March 1980 (Chris Shakallis vocals and Paul Hayward guitar), 6.3.80. All 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist © Estate of 'pling.

The 1980s scene in Canberra was fastidiously documented by photographer ’pling (Kevin Prideaux). From the psychedelic punk energy of The Young Docteurs to the feral-country-indie sound of The Lighthouse Keepers, and all the touring bands in between – The Saints, Ramones, Men at Work, INXS – ’pling was there to quietly and generously capture the multitude of live performances, and the rapturous community that supported them.

1 INXS, ANU Union, Canberra, 18 June 1981, 18.6.1981. 2 The Numbers, Annalisse and Chris Morrow, ANU Refectory 18 September 1979, 18.9.1979. 3 Young Docteurs, ANU Bar, 24 November 1979, 1979. 4 Guthugga Pipeline, Christmas Show, upstairs, The (old) Griffin Centre, Civic, 22 December 1979. Gavin 'Gus' Butler (vocals), Stephen O'Neil and Nick Ketley (bass guitar), Wayne Millar, (drums), Greg Appel (guitar), 22.12.1979. 5 The Lighthouse Keepers, ANU Union, Canberra, 1983. Steven Williams (drums), Blue (Michael Dalton- bass), Hairy (Stephen O'Neil- sax), Alex Hamilton (trumpet), 1983. 6 Cold Chisel, ANU Union, Canberra, 18 September 1979, 18.9.1979. All 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist © Estate of 'pling.

"Stop in all the byways, playin' rock 'n roll" taken from ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’. Words and music by Ronald Scott, Malcolm Young and Angus Young. © Copyright BMG AM Pty Ltd/Australian Music Corporation Pty Ltd. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction is illegal.

1 Ignatius Jones, Jimmy and the Boys. Captain Cook Uni Bar, 30 December 1979, 1979. 2 Ramones, Hellenic Club, Woden, 16 July 1981, 6.7.1981. 3 Men at Work, The Jam Factory, (Colbee Court) Phillip, ACT, 1981. 4 The Numbers, Annalisse Morrow, (bass, vocals), ANU Refectory 18 September 1979, 18.9.1979. 5 Guthugga Pipeline, Christmas Show, upstairs, The (old) Griffin Centre, Civic, 22 December 1979. Gavin 'Gus' Butler (vocals), Nick Ketley (guitar), 1979. 6 Guthugga Pipeline, Christmas Show, upstairs, The (old) Griffin Centre, Civic, 22 December 1979, Wayne Millar (drums), 22.12.1979. All 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist © Estate of 'pling.

Related information

Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews

Pub Rock

Your backstage pass to 70s and 80s sounds and scenes

Previous exhibition, 2020

Celebrate the people, places and sounds of Australian pub rock and its enduring impact on our nation’s identity.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency