As stated in Part 1 a couple of months ago, former Cold Chisel manager Rod Willis is on the record saying that “the so-called golden age of pub rock started in mid-to-late 1979 and lasted until around mid-1983”.
We’ve already seen that things were looking more than healthy in late ’78, so as we move towards that “mid-to-late 1979” period we’re going to start regularly looking back 40 years through our taproom time tunnel to see how things were developing. Here’s what we see when looking back from early 2019…
Having officially unveiled themselves to a packed audience at the legendary Bondi Lifesavers Club on New Year’s Eve 1976, the Tatts seemed to scare the shit out of most industry people and took some time to find their legs, despite their undoubted popularity with the most hardcore pub crowds. Having nearly signed with Melbourne indie Champagne Records in ’77 (a single – “Bad Boy For Love”/”Rosetta” – produced by Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews is still sitting in Matthews’ tape archive) they were eventually picked up by Vanda & Young at Alberts, thanks to a tip from Angus and Bon from AC/DC. A Vanda & Young produced version of “Bad Boy” would become the band’s first hit single, but not before songwriter and bass player Ian Rilen quit to form the punkier band X, putting the Tatts’ ascent temporarily on hold. With Angry’ s old bandmate from Buster Brown, Geordie Leach, coming in to play bass, they finally completed their first LP, which came out at the end of 1978. The album made the Top 30 and would eventually become recognized internationally as a hard rock landmark, but it’s long gestation seemed to suck the life of the band, who spent the early months of ’79 doing the pub circuit grind before taking a break in July.
Mental As Anything
Formed in 1976, the Mentals built themselves a solid inner-city Sydney following with small but packed gigs at dives like the Unicorn and the Civic with a quirky and raw mix of rockabilly and 60s pop that was influenced by early good-time locals like the Hawaiian Housewreckers and the Mangrove Boogie Kings and Melbourne’s Pelaco Brothers. As had happened in London and Melbourne when back-to-basics pub-rockers got caught up in the emerging punk & New Wave scenes, the Mentals became unexpectedly cool, so much so that the late ’78 release of their first 7” EP, Plays At Your Party, on the nascent indie Regular Records, garnered the band considerable national attention in the early months of ‘79. As the band began touring the country, a remix of EP track “The Nips Are Getting Bigger” was being readied for a single release on Regular through Festival Records. The other two songs, the fab “CYO Dance” and “Golf Shoes”, remained exclusive to the EP.
After three years of trying to crack the UK, which followed a couple of years in Australia, where acceptance came surprisingly quickly, New Zealand’s Split Enz must’ve been wondering when that big break would come. Wilfully obtuse in their earlier days, they caught some of the directness of punk in 1978, and the high energy rush of Tim Finn’s “I See Red,” released in December, gave them their first Top 20 hit single in Australia. “I See Red” would lead the way for Frenzy, which was released in February. The band played over 100 shows in Australia in 1979, including an intense run from early Feb through mid-March.
Mi-Sex had hit Sydney in August 1978, and we’re already venturing to Melbourne and Adelaide – describing themselves as “New Zealand Export Quality” in the tour ad - where they played shows in February and March. With industry runs on the board back home and a name borrowed from an Ultravox tune, the band, was an A&R man’s dream mix of old school professionalism and new wave sounds. Signed quickly to CBS, they prepared their first Australian single “But You Don’t Care” for a May release as they started work on an album and continued gigging.
Paul Kelly & The Dots
Paul Kelly & The Dots, or just The Dots as they were initially called, made an immediate impact when they formed in Melbourne in late ’78. Kelly, who had a arrived as a solo singer-songwriter from Adelaide in ’76, had already made an impression with The High Rise Bombers, the band he shared with future Sports guitarist Martin Armiger, but he finally found his glorious folk-rock sound with the new band. Not that you’d really know from their two poorly produced Mushroom albums, but their early ’79 self-released EP, on the other hand, is close to perfect. Oh to hear the whole show from which the EP’s three live songs were taken from!!
For more great tunes of this ilk, follow our Glory Days Of Aussie Pub Rock playlist on Spotify...