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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.

Oz Indie

Under the Milky Way tonight

The Go-Betweens, London, c.1986 Warwick Orme
The Go-Betweens, London, c.1986 Warwick Orme. © Warwick Orme

It was the era of recording your favourite songs directly from the radio; of gluing yourself to the screen to see the latest acts and clips on Countdown; and when the Aussie bands you saw on TV and heard in the charts were the ones you could see live at the pub.

1 Get Wet series (Greedy Smith), 1979. 2 Get Wet series (Reg Mombassa), 1979. 3 Get Wet series (Martin Plaza), 1979. 4 Get Wet series (Peter O'Doherty), 1979. 5 Get Wet series (David Twohill), 1979. All Paul Worstead. © Paul Worstead.

In 1983, Hoodoo Gurus’ first hit ‘My Girl’ was aired to saturation point on the radio. Their quirky, hugely popular video clips were gaining international attention, yet a Sydney punter could stroll down to see them live at a Kings Cross watering hole. Mental as Anything formed at art school; the influence was clear in the design elements of their debut album Get Wet, and in the group’s clips – TV samples of the vibrant eccentricity of their live gigs at Narrabeen’s Royal Antler Hotel or West Melbourne’s Festival Hall.

1 Hoodoo Gurus, 1984 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 2 The Church, 1985 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 3 INXS, Sydney 1985, 1985 Stuart Spence. Courtesy of the artist. © Stuart Spence. 4 Split Enz, 1979 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King.

The Church’s Steve Kilbey remembers the diversity of the early 80s: ‘We were never really fitting in anywhere; we were opening for Mi-Sex, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil and Men at Work … There was no “sound” but definitely a scene.’ With myriad venues to choose from, a fan could see something to suit their taste on any given night of the week: rock, pop, new wave, metal, punk, post-punk, neo-psychedelic, alternative – the list went on.

1 Dorland Bray and Deborah Conway, Do-Re-Mi. Sydney c.1985, c. 1985 Stuart Spence. Courtesy of the artist. © Stuart Spence. 2 Falling Joys, La Perouse, 1992 Tony Mott. Courtesy of the artist. © Tony Mott. 3 David McComb (of The Triffids), 1987 Bleddyn Butcher. © Bleddyn Butcher Bleddyn@Tenderprey.com. 4 The Triffids, Sydney, c.1986, c. 1986 Stuart Spence. Courtesy of the artist. © Stuart Spence. 5 The Cockroaches, Darlinghurst, 1989 Tony Mott. Courtesy of the artist. © Tony Mott.

For some, the local gig scenes weren’t cutting it. Indie acts The Go-Betweens and The Triffids headed to post-punk London, gaining critical acclaim, which in turn increased their popularity back home in Australia.

1 Robert, Lindy, Grant, 1981 Jenny Watson. © Jenny Watson. 2 Neil Finn, Crowded House 1986, 1986 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 3 Grace Knight, The Eurogliders 1985, 1985 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 4 GANGgajang 1987, 1987 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall.

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 building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

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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