Last time in our '40 Years Ago In A Pub Near You' series we heard from Cold Chisel, they had just released the infamous You’re 13 You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine 12” EP. They’d wanted to do a live record after the disappointment of what they felt was the toned-down recording of their first album. But lessons weren’t learned, and with another unsympathetic producer at the helm (Richard Batchens replacing Peter Dawkins), their second album Breakfast At Sweethearts again felt a bit reserved. In hindsight, both albums sound more than fine; if anything it’s the band who sound like they’re holding back in comparison to thier live shows. Regardless, Breakfast At Sweethearts was another collection of strong tunes, the title track, “Goodbye Astrid” and “Shipping Steel” amongst them. The album was also the first Cold Chisel record that the Australian music industry at large really anticipated, and it shot straight into the charts upon release, ultimately reaching the Top 5 nationally. In April and May, the band was in the middle of their national Come ‘n’ Get It tour; on April 27, their incendiary performance at Melbourne’s Bombay Rock was broadcast on 3XY in Melbourne, 2SM in Sydney and other East Coast affiliates. Released as Vol. 2 of Chisel’s The Live Tapes series in 2014, that performance now serves as a readily available reminder of how hot Chisel were in their pub prime.
That Chisel performance at Bombay Rock followed a March performance by the band that was part of the now-legendary venue’s 1st-anniversary celebrations. With Michael Gudinski signing the cheques, Bombay Rock brought the suburban pub rock scene closer to the city and enabled a new generation of bands to mix it with some of the older guard. Nick Cave’s Boys Next Door and James Freud’s Radio Stars were semi-regulars, as were Mike Rudd’s Instant Reply and Russell Morris. The likes of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and The Sports, who bridged the divide, ruled the roost. Internationals, from Graham Parker & The Rumour to the Boomtown Rats to the Knack, all graced its main stage. Some of the bills were absolutely mouthwatering.
And, Australian Crawl dropped the multi-story Brunswick venue’s name in their first single “Beautiful People”, released later in the year.
Another artist with close associations with Bombay Rock was Dave Warner’s From The Suburbs, who recorded their live second album, Free Kicks, at the venue in late 1978. The album would be released in mid-79; this time 40 years ago, they were in the midst of an extensive national tour - an example of how hard bands worked back in the day – Dave and the boys had only two days off from Feb 27 through to March 25, and a few times they played a couple of shows a night! Of course, Dave had hit it big with “Just A Suburban Boy” in ’78 – a rarity from a Perth act at the time – and the pub crowds loved his raunchy, honest, funny and confronting songs of suburban sex and football. More than radio did it turned out – the band never had a second hit, although “Nothing To Lose”, which preceded Free Kicks by some months came close. A killer single, “Nothing To Lose” highlighted the band's combination of punk energy, clever musicianship (the mainstream pub rock audience wanted their musos to have their licks down right) and Australian humor perfectly.
The Stranglers were the first band connected to the English punk scene to hit Australia. Initially booked for a theatre tour, pub gigs were added at the last minute. The band’s infamous show at Brisbane’s Cloudlands was stopped by police – this was when Queensland was still the police state that Skyhooks sung about in "Over The Border" – and a televised interview on Channel 7’s Willesee program, which had the interviewer baiting the band with stupid questions about punk, and Willesee himself cutting things short in fit of faux-outrage. Inadvertently, Stranglers songwriter, singer & frontman Hugh Cornwell is touring Australia in May, close to 40 years since he ended his first tour here. Here’s some great footage of “Hanging Around” from 1978 that is no doubt similar to what audiences saw here 40 years ago, including a bit of abuse from Hugh before and after the song!
Dragon were a well-established force on the Australian scene by 1979, but in the early and mid-months of 1979, were in crisis mode. In an act of forced self-destruction they’d given Marc Hunter the boot at the start of the year. Marc was obviously the face of the band, as well as it’s voice, but his behaviour while in the US in late ’78 had pretty much ruined the band’s chance of breaking there. Initially bringing in Melbourne singer-violinist, who’s played on their Ozambizi album to fill the frontman spot, after one show they realised something else was needed, so Perth-based sax player Billy Rogers was brought in to share the spotlight with Lee. The band ditched their entire repertoire and decided to start from scratch, playing blues covers and the like. The pub crowds were somewhat confused though, even after the band rush-released a new single with Rogers upfront, called “Loves’ Not Enough”. The band would record one more album with Rogers handling the vocals – the somewhat underrated Powerplay in September ’79 but split as soon as it became evident the album was not connecting. “Motor City connection” was the band’s last single before the split.
Not long after Melbourne’s Bombay Rock celebrated its first birthday, a now iconic Sydney venue, the Civic Hotel, celebrated its own. Situated at the corner of Pitt & Goulburn Street in the heart of the city, the Civic road the punk and new wave explosion as it broke into the pub rock mainstream. It provided a strong mid-city based for The Angels and Midnight Oil as they were both respectively set to break out – both held house records there – and was a regular haunt in ’78 and ’79 for up & comers like Mi-Sex, The Flowers, Mental As Anything, The Hitmen, The Radiators and The Numbers. It also regularly played host to Rose Tattoo and legendary punk bands The Lipstick Killers and X, featuring original Tatts bass player and songwriter Ian Rilen, as well as much loved could’ve-beens like The Lonely Hearts and Young Modern – check them out on Festival’s The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock compilations.
Oddly enough, Slim Dusty’s daughter Anne Kirkpatrick had a long Monday night residency, bringing a little bit of Tamworth and some cool Gram Parsons and Byrds covers to the city years before alternative-country was a recognised thing. Let’s remember the Civic with the classic 1979 debut single “Didn’t Tell The Man” by a great Sydney band formed out of the ashes of Radio Birdman, The Hitmen.