Pub rock (Australia)

Pub rock (Australia)

Pub rock is a style of Australian rock and roll popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and still influencing contemporary Australian music today.

The term came from the venues at which most of these bands originally played at — inner-city and suburban pubs (short for "public house", which is rarely used in Australia in its full form). These often noisy, hot, and crowded establishments are largely frequented by men and women in their late teenage years to their early 20's. "Pubs" originally come from England and the concept spread due to British settlers in British colonies such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.



The emergence of 'pub rock' and the pub circuit in Australia was the result of several interconnected factors. From the 1950s to the 1970s, mainly because of restrictive state liquor licencing laws, only a small proportion of live pop-rock music in Australia was performed on licensed premises (mostly private clubs or discotheques); the majority of concerts were held in non-licensed venues like community, church or municipal halls. These concerts and dances were 'all-ages' events -- often with adult supervision -- and alcohol was not served.

During the 1960s, however, Australian states began liberalising their licensing laws. Sunday Observance Acts were repealed, pub opening hours were extended, discriminatory regulations — such as the long-standing ban on women entering or drinking in public bars — were removed, and in the 1970s the age of legal majority was lowered from 21 to 18.

Concurrently, the members of the so-called "Baby Boomer" generation — who were the main audience for pop and rock music — were reaching their late teens and early twenties, and were thus able to enter licensed premises. Pub owners soon realised that providing live music (which was often free) would draw young people to pubs in large numbers, and regular rock concerts soon became a fixture at many pubs.

Many city and suburban pubs gained renown for their support of live music, and many prominent Australian bands — including AC/DC, The Angels and The Dingoes — cut their teeth at these venues in the early days of their careers. Notable pub-rock venues include the Largs Pier Hotel and the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel in Adelaide, the Royal Antler Hotel in Narrabeen, Sydney and the Civic Hotel in Sydney's city centre, the famous Star Hotel in Newcastle NSW and the Station Hotel in Prahran, Melbourne, which was one of the premier pub-rock venues in Australia for more than two decades.

As the pub-rock phenomenon expanded, hundreds of pubs in capital cities and major towns began providing regular live music, and a thriving circuit evolved, enabling bands to tour up and down the eastern and southern coast of Australia from North Queensland to South Australia.

It could be argued that the very venues many of the bands played in (pubs), had a major influence on the evolution of their music and sound. The venues were more often than not small and the crowds — alcohol-fueled — were there for the experience rather than to see a "name band". Thus, an emphasis on simple, rhythm-based songs grew. With the sound in many of the rooms far from ideal for live music, an emphasis on a very loud snare and kick-drum and driving bass-guitar grew. Guitarists tended to rely on simple, repetitive riffs, rather than more complex solos or counter-melodies. This might explain why, even in studios and larger arenas and stadiums, many of the bands who cut their teeth in pubs still relied on an exaggerated drum sound and fairly simple musical arrangements.

A band like Hunters & Collectors, for example, saw their sound harden from their arty origins (which included a brass-section, experimental percussion and complex arrangements) to a more straightforward rock sound with emphasis on drums, bass and simple guitar riffs; a sound that more suited the beer barns they were to play in over their extensive touring career.

Though Australia has a small population, the sheer number of venues that bands could play in, mainly along the Eastern coast, meant that a band could tour extensively, often playing every night for long periods. This would allow bands such as AC/DC, INXS, Midnight Oil plus many others to take their well-honed live skills into large venues in the US and Europe with ease.

The Screaming Jets have the unenviable title of the "Kings of the Sticky Carpet" regarding the volume of gigs performed in venues (pubs) which had carpet floors that had alcohol, sweat and vomit spilt over it on a regular basis.


Changes to entertainment options have to a large extent ended the tradition of Aussie Pub Rock as a viable circuit. The increasing fragmentation of popular music and the growing popularity of dance music and the DJ pheonmenon have reduced the interest in 'traditional' rock/pop entertainment.

Sydney in particular has seen many staple live music venues close, falling victim to increasing rents in gentrified areas, noise restrictions imposed by local governments in response to local residents' demands; the popularity of the DJ and dance music; and the supposedly greater profitability of poker machines. As it turned out, these poker machines were not nearly as popular as expected, and in recent times a number of pubs have resumed hosting live bands.

Melbourne, too, has lost venues, including the Continental in Prahran and the Punters Club in Fitzroy.The newer generation of bands that could be considered the followers of the Pub Rock tradition includes: Airbourne, Jet, The Living End, Magic Dirt, and You Am I.

Notable pub rock bands

*Australian Crawl
*Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs
*Cold Chisel
*Cosmic Psychos
*Hoodoo Gurus
*Hunters and Collectors
*Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons
*Magic Dirt
*Mental As Anything
*Midnight Oil
*Painters and Dockers
*Radio Birdman
*Rose Tattoo
*The Angels
*The Celibate Rifles
*The Choirboys
*The Hard Ons
*The Living End
*The Radiators
*The Screaming Jets
*The Sunnyboys
*You Am I


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