Punk, Australian Style: 1976-1979

Punk, Australian Style: 1976-1979

aussie punk
Radio Birdman (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Yep, we're loving Punk, the Iggy Pop-produced series on SBS, but we're a bit disappointed there's been no mention of the Australian scene in the first couple of episodes. Not even of our beloved Saints, whose first single "(I'm) Stranded" was released before any of the English bands had records out. "(I'm) Stranded" of course had a significant impact on the nascent UK scene, and the group, which started out as Kid Galahad and the Eternals in 1973 - ahead even of the Ramones - are universally acknowledged now as prime punk movers. It's a shame that, as so often happens with these things, the story is told from one or two geographic locations and anything outside misses out.

Of course, none of the other Australian punk bands had anywhere near that sort of impact that The Saints did internationally, although Radio Birdman have had an enduring effect, and Boys Next Door, when they morphed into much more extreme Birthday Party, certainly changed music in the '80s, and gave the world Nick Cave. But there were plenty of others, many of whom are well-remembered because they were able to release a record or two.

So here is a little feature on early Australian punk that we reckon makes for a decent adjunct to the series that SBS is now showing. What we have here only covers the time frame of the first two episodes, which are all that have screened here so far. We'll see where the next two episodes go and perhaps come back with a follow-up then!

The Saints - (I'm) Stranded

Classic track, classic video. Recorded in June 1976, originally released three or so months later on their own Fatal label. The video followed after they signed to EMI.

Radio Birdman - New Race

Killer live version of Birdman's thunderous teen anthem. Birdman, who had formed in 1974, were influenced by many of the same things as the early punks in New York and London - the Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground etc. 

Spare Change – Let's Get Rich Together

Not so obviously punk, but if these Adelaide guys had been New York-based, they would've been sharing bills with Television and Patti Smith. Formed in '74, they cut their teeth, like so many of the early punks, on material by the likes of the Velvet Underground, MC5, John Cale, Sparks and Flamin' Groovies. By the time they recorded in 1976 they were in Melbourne, impacting on the Carlton scene. It's time they were discussed in this context.

Babeez - Nobody Wants Me

The first real punk record out of Melbourne, from late '77. Babeez had started as the Fallen Angels in 1975, inspired by the likes of the New York Dolls. As the Babeez, they were influenced by the Ramones. By 1978, they had changed their name to News.


The Cheap Nasties - Cheap & Nasty

Probably the first Perth punk band, although that's much-debated, The Cheap Nasties never got a record out at the time, but their influence was felt in the two groups that formed out of their split, The Scientists and The Manikins.  

Psycho-Surgeons - Horizontal Action

The first of many Sydney bands to be formed by fans of Radio Birdman. Famously, their 1978 single came in a white card sleeve splattered with pigs' blood.


The Last Words – Animal World

Early Sydney punks who managed to get themselves signed to Rough Trade Records in London. A re-recorded version of "Animal World" reached No. 8 in the UK Alternative Charts in 1979.

Black Chrome – Australia's God

Mysterious early Adelaide punks, from 1978. "Australia – you're God is apathy!" 

The Victims- Television Addict

The classic Perth punk single, from '78. Dave Faulkner and James Baker would later form the Hoodoo Gurus. New EP and a complete collection of '77/78 recordings available now!

Young Charlatans - Shivers

Best known for featuring Rowland Howard pre-Boys Next Door, and for recording a rough early demo of "Shivers", this lot also featured Ollie Olsen, who'd been in the first Melbourne punk band the Reals.

X- Hate City

Legendary and iconoclastic Sydney band, featuring former Rose Tattoo bass-player Ian Rilen!

News – Dirty Lies

Former Babeez in full-on Commie Ramones guise! A Melbourne classic!  

The Leftovers - Cigarettes & Alcohol

Legendary early Brisbane punks who were sort of scene The Saints arch-rivals. And yes they came up with this title 15+ years before bloody Oasis!

Teenage Radio Stars – I Wanna Be Your Baby

Featuring a young Sean Kelly and James Freud, and famously owing much to "Baby Baby" by London band The Vibrators. Signed, along with the next few, to Michael Gudinski's infamous punk cash-in label Suicide Records. 

The Negatives – Planet On The Prowl

Formed out of the ashes of Melbourne's first punk band The Reals, by vocalist Garry Gray. Their lengthy track on Suicide Records' Lethal Weapons collection sadly didn't catch them at their best.


Boys Next Door – These Boots Are Made For Walking

Suicide didn't catch Nick, Mick, Tracey and Phil at their best either, although early fans still gave a soft spot for this. 


Jab – Let's Go

Early Adelaide electro-punks who came to Melbourne and signed to Suicide. Drummer Johnny Crash and synth player Ash Wednesday would go onto form The Models with Sean Kelly and Mr Pierre from the Teenage Radio Stars. 

X-Ray-Z - Three Glorious Years

Another bunch of Adelaide punks who moved to Melbourne, these guys released a one-off single on Mushroom and toured nationally with Lou Reed before signing to Suicide.


The Numbers (aka The Riptides) - 77 Sunset Strip

Originally known as The Grudge, The Numbers released this great piece of low-budget punk-pop before changing their name and then reissuing it as The Riptides.


The Thought Criminals – More Suicides Please

Influential Sydney band with a sound like the early Buzzcocks. These guys started the prolific Doublethink label and were themselves very prolific.

The Screaming Abdabs - Norbie, Sorta Love Story  

Short-lived and barely known Sydney group fronted by the outrageous Carmel Strelein, one of only a handful of women working in the early Australian punk scene. Listen here.

The Accountants - Elizabeth City Riots

The Dagoes "This Perfect Band"

The U-Bombs "Give Me A Medal"

Three more of the early Adelaide bands – and some fantastic Super-8 footage!

Whirlywirld - Window To The World

Ollie Olson had already done Stooges-style guitar punk in The Reals and became an early adopter of electronic sounds in the legendary Whirlywirld. 


The Chosen Few - There's A Lot Of It Going Around

From Melbourne's' Mornington Peninsula, these guys started out as Death Wish and were as influenced by Lobby Loyde as they were Radio Birdman.

The Lipstick Killers - Sockman

When Peter Tillman of unrecorded Sydney punk legends Filth joined up with his mates The Psycho-Surgeons, a new band was born. The Lipstick Killers ended up moving to Los Angeles where they shared bills with the early Gun Club and others before splitting. 

Razar - Task Force

Teenage political punks from Brissie. "Task Force" was their condemnation of Bjelke-Petersen's police state. They also had a go at Molly Meldrum in "Shutdown Countdown".

Voigt/465 - State

Usually referred to as "post-punk" because they weren't straight-ahead punk, Sydney's Voigt/465 formed early in the piece – 1976 – and were into Krautrock and noisy experimentation.

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