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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 Origins

A little bit louder now

Fans at an Easybeats concert, Sydney Stadium, 1965 Bob King
Fans at an Easybeats concert, Sydney Stadium, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King

Australia’s passion for rock ‘n roll was kindled by American and British acts in the 1950s and 60s. Elvis, Little Richard and Cliff Richard were among the names that got pulses racing, with the novel genre’s driving, licentious rhythms and voices capturing imaginations and libidos, not to mention aspiring young musicians. From the 1950s a number of hot home-grown acts emerged, garnering attention in live settings and on the local charts. Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye were two who took up the local mantle, each producing hits in the 50s and 60s.

1Johnny O'Keefe "A little bit louder now..", 1999 Ivan Durrant. © Ivan Durrant/Copyright Agency, 2020. 2Col Joye, 1957 Ern McQuillan. © Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs.

Post-war migration from Europe and the UK would have an indelible impact on the nascent scene. It brought new audiences and appetites, along with five pioneering spirits who would become Australian rock music legends. The Easybeats’ founding members – from England, Scotland and the Netherlands respectively – met at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in 1964. Their six years together produced fifteen Australian Top 40 hits, including the iconic ‘Friday On My Mind’, the first international rock hit by an Australian act.

1Stevie Wright, 1975 (printed 2011) Gary Ede. © Gary Ede. 2Stevie Wright, London, 1976 Gary Ede. Courtesy of the artist. © Gary Ede. 3Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 4Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 5Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King.

Crossover influences were a feature of early rock in Australia, with the folk-rock stylings of The Seekers finding great popularity both locally and internationally. Little Pattie also made a splash with her surf-rock hits, including ‘He’s My Blonde-Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy’ (1963). As these bands developed, television played an increasing role, beaming the stars and their music into suburban Australia with programs such as Bandstand, which launched in 1958.

1Little Pattie, 1966 (printed 2019) Ern McQuillan. © Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs. 2Graham Kennedy and the Seekers in Melbourne, c. 1967 Robert Whitaker. © Robert Whitaker. 3The Seekers reunite 50 years on, 2011 Helen Edwards. © Helen Edwards.

"A little bit louder now" taken from ‘Shout’. Written by O’Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley and Rudolph Isley. © EMI Longitude Music. Licensed by EMI Music Publishing Australia Pty Ltd. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Related information

Chrissy Amphlett "Temperamental", 1989 Ivan Durrant
Chrissy Amphlett "Temperamental", 1989 Ivan Durrant
Chrissy Amphlett "Temperamental", 1989 Ivan Durrant
Chrissy Amphlett "Temperamental", 1989 Ivan Durrant

Pub Rock Highlights Tour

Daily event from Sat 19 Dec 2020 until Sun 14 Feb
2:30pm

Take a 30 minute tour of the exhibition.

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

Current exhibition

from Saturday 5 September 2020

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

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Phone +61 2 6102 7000
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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.