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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 Punk

Sends a permanent shiver down my spine

The Boys Next Door, 1978 Michel Lawrence
The Boys Next Door, 1978 Michel Lawrence. © Michel Lawrence

Robert Forster and Grant McLennan met as students at the University of Queensland in 1975. Brisbane ‘had a hayseed image’ back then, Forster says, ‘lacking the cosmopolitan groove of Sydney or Melbourne’. Yet it was Brisbane that gave rise to The Go-Betweens (formed by Forster and McLennan in 1977) and The Saints – bands whose originality was as unforeseen then as it is venerated now.

1The Saints, London, 1978 Gary Ede. Courtesy of the artist. © Gary Ede. 2The Saints, CCAE (Canberra College of Advanced Education), 7 March 1980, Chris Bailey (vocals) 'pling. Courtesy of the estate of the artist. © Estate of 'pling.

For Ed Kuepper, a founding member of The Saints, Brisbane was a stimulus: ‘You’re forced into a situation where, okay, if you want to do something, you’ve got to do it yourself’. In 1976, without having been blooded on the Sydney or Melbourne pub circuit, The Saints recorded a single – ‘(I’m) Stranded’ – and distributed copies themselves locally and overseas. With its grungy, unadulterated guitar riffs, it was described by the UK’s Sounds magazine as the ‘Single of this week and every week’, and earned The Saints the distinction of releasing a punk single before The Sex Pistols did.

1Radio Birdman (cover shot for Radios Appear album), 1977. 2Radio Birdman, 1977. 3Radio Birdman, 1977. All Bob King. Courtesy of the artist © Bob King

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Radio Birdman – formed in 1974 by Rob Younger and Deniz Tek – had garnered mainstream distaste with their unpredictable, almost visceral, performance style. In 1977 though, once punk had become a thing, Radio Birdman were signed to record their first LP, Radios Appear. Earlier that year, Nick Cave had seen Radio Birdman and The Saints live in Melbourne. For Cave, as writer Clinton Walker says, the Saints gig ‘was living, breathing confirmation of what was possible, even out of little old Australia’s supposed backwater’.

1Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party), 1983 Bleddyn Butcher. © Bleddyn Butcher. Bleddyn@Tenderprey.com. 2Nick Cave, 1999 Howard Arkley. © Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art. 3Dave Graney, 1996 Bleddyn Butcher. © Bleddyn Butcher. Bleddyn@Tenderprey.com. 4Dave Graney and Clare Moore, 1996 Bleddyn Butcher. © Bleddyn Butcher. Bleddyn@Tenderprey.com.

"Sends a permanent shiver down my spine" taken from ‘Shivers’. Written by R Howard (Mute Song Ltd / Mushroom Music)

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
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.