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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 Rock

Gettin’ robbed, gettin’ stoned, gettin’ beat up, broken boned

Angus Young, AC/DC, LA
Angus Young, AC/DC, LA, 1978 Rennie Ellis. © Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. www.RennieEllis.com.au

Two of the music industry’s highest-selling performers originated in suburban Australia. The Bee Gees started out in Brisbane, for instance, and AC/DC – whose Back in Black (1980) has sold more than 50 million copies – played their first gigs at a nightclub in inner Sydney.

1 Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia, 1978 (printed 2010) Rennie Ellis. © Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive www.RennieEllis.com.au. 2 AC/DC, 1977 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 3 Malcolm and Angus Young, AC/DC, 1976 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 4 Bon Scott, AC/DC with fans, 1977 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 5 Dave Tice, 1978 (printed 2018) Gary Ede. © Gary Ede. 6 Angry Anderson, 2006 Sally Robinson. © Sally Robinson. 7 Jimmy Barnes and Ian Moss, Cold Chisel 1980, 1980 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall.

Formed by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in 1973, AC/DC exemplify the brand of pounding, guitar-driven rock that was increasingly thrashed out in suburban pubs and clubs from the early 70s onwards. There was Buffalo, with the ‘demented vocals’ of Dave Tice; The Angels, fronted by the rangy, raucous Doc Neeson; heavily-inked hardmen Rose Tattoo; Cold Chisel, sweaty, wired and boozy; and Divinyls, led by the edgily enigmatic Chrissy Amphlett. Each were among the many bands to have built their styles and followings in venues now considered crucibles of a characteristically local contribution to the genre.

1 Chrissy Amphlett "Temperamental", 1989 Ivan Durrant. © Ivan Durrant/Copyright Agency, 2021. 2 Chrissy Amphlett, Sydney, c.1988, c. 1988 Stuart Spence. Courtesy of the artist. © Stuart Spence. 3 The Divinyls performing on Countdown, n.d. Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 4 Divinyls, Sydney, c.1988, c.1988 Stuart Spence. Courtesy of the artist. © Stuart Spence. 5 Doc Neeson, The Angels 1982, 1982 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 6 Doc Neeson, The Angels 1982, 1982 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall. 7 Doc Neeson, the Angels 1982, 1982 Wendy McDougall. Courtesy of the artist. © Wendy McDougall.

Despite their surly, insalubrious breeding grounds – and outré rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles – hard rock bands proved more palatable to the local industry than the innovative homegrown exponents of new wave emerging in the same period. AC/DC in particular distanced themselves from punk. ‘We thought that punk and the new wave thing might spoil it a bit for us,’ AC/DC frontman Bon Scott said in 1977, ‘but people ... want more than someone up there screaming “anarchy” and “rape” and this sort of crap, you know, and we’re it’.

1 Mark and Nick Seymour, 1997 Nathan Kelly. © Nathan Kelly. 2 Daddy Cool, Melbourne, 1974 Rennie Ellis. © Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive www.RennieEllis.com.au. 3 Skyhooks, Hordern Pavilion, 1976 Bob King. © Bob King. 4 Skyhooks, Capitol Theatre, Sydney, 1983 Bob King. © Bob King. 5 Sherbet, 1974 (printed 2002) Lewis Morley. © Lewis Morley Archive LLC. 6 Marcia Hines, c. 1981 Lewis Morley. © Lewis Morley Archive LLC. 7 Adrian Rawlins, 1977 David Campbell. © Estate of David Campbell. 8 Glenn A Baker, 1989 (printed 2018) Gary Ede. © Gary Ede. 9 Molly Meldrum, 2004 Robin Sellick. © Robin Sellick.

"Gettin’ robbed, gettin’ stoned, gettin’ beat up, broken boned" 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.

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