40 Years Ago In A Pub Near You

40 Years Ago In A Pub Near You

aussie pubs 1978 midnight oil
(Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

1978 was a good year for Aussie pub rock, and November 1978, in particular, was something of a watershed month. Let's enter the time tunnel and come out exactly 40 years ago to see what Midnight Oil, the Angels, Cold Chisel and Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons were up to as the penultimate year of the 70s was drawing to a close.

Former Cold Chisel manager Rod Willis is on record as having said that “the so-called golden age of pub rock started in mid-to-late 1979 and lasted until around mid-1983”, but things were already looking pretty healthy in the late months of 1978. There was the thrill of the new; future goliaths were still not so big, and their music still sounded revolutionary.  All the major players were active and were playing a lot, and radio was picking up on it. In November, four bands whose names were already synonymous with pub rock had milestone moments; let’s check them out.

Midnight Oil

November 1978 marked the release of the Oils’ first album. Already subject of a rabid fanbase in the Sydney pubs, Midnight Oil were highly skilled and diamond hard, and played with a punk-like energy inspired by recently departed underground legends Radio Birdman. Some reckon their first album failed to capture the band's power; those folks just weren’t playing the thing loud enough. Turn up your computer and enjoy the stunning “Used & Abused.” 

Cold Chisel

Chisel were one step ahead of Midnight Oil – they’d been around for considerably longer – and had already experienced that ‘your album doesn’t cut it’ feeling, despite having a near hit with “Khe Sanh” from their first album. To make up for the perceived inability to capture their sound in the studio, Chisel decided to make their next record a live one, and the mighty You’re Thirteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine 12” EP was the result. With a title and back cover photo that wouldn’t cut it these days – it’s hard to believe that it cut it back then, to be honest – the EP had been recorded at the Regent Theatre in Sydney a month earlier, and it reeked blood, sweat, and beers. “Home & Broken Hearted” is one of their best early songs and way under-rated.  

Read more: Take The Aussie Pub Rock QUIZ

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons

12” EP’s were a new thing in 1978, and quite a few local bands took to them in addition to Chisel. Melbourne’s Falcons were a hugely popular live R&B outfit who’d twice failed to capture their live energy in the studio. They’d made amends with the scorching Live!! Loud & Clear EP in February,  and like the format that they followed it up with a 7-track studio release entitled So Young. The title track would become the band’s first significant hit, and establish Jo Jo Zep – Joe Camilleri - as not just a great frontman and sax player but a great singer and songwriter too. Elvis Costello heard the song while on tour and ended up covering it, as did legendary Scottish R&B singer Frankie Miller. 

The Angels 

The Angels ruled in late 1978. Their second album for Alberts, was, in November, some five months old, and peaking nationally at #18, just as the band were out on tour with David Bowie. On their own, they were pulling massive crowds whose response to the band’s precision-tooled high energy attack was akin to that of frenzied cult members. Of course, having been recorded with Vanda & Young protégé Mark Optiz at Alberts, Face To Face suffered none of studio sound shortcomings that the others featured here had suffered, and neither would their next album No Exit, which was only half a year away.  

Fans of this stuff should get stuck into our Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock playlist on Spotify...


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