Why Punk?

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Greg Wadley (a punk) In 1976/77 a new musical movement swept the world. Much of this happened in the UK and USA without the support of the established music industry of the time, which mostly supported other artists and styles.

At the same time, it became more difficult for new bands to get signed to recording contracts. There was a widespread belief the music industry was run by "boring old farts" who wanted to preserve the industry for their own purposes. New music had no place in their schemes.

Brisbane's radical radio station 4ZZZ FM, then based at the University of Queensland, was the only one in Brisbane playing this punk music at that time, as the music was thought too subversive by the mainstream broadcasters.

It was even harder for musicians in Brisbane. Australia's recording industry was based in Sydney and Melbourne. They had their own punk music scenes developing. In order to get somewhere, many people left Brisbane for overseas, or to Sydney and Melbourne. It took courage and determination to stay in Brisbane.

Lots of young people were forming music groups in the late 1970's. But hey, just because a bunch of people form a group and learn to play a few songs doesn't mean anyone wants to know.

Let's face it, most punk bands could hardly play their instruments. In a live situation, originality was often valued far higher than technical ability.

It was hard to get gigs at the best venues. Often times it was easier to hire a hall instead.

When looking for gigs, it always helped to have a band recording to show organisers. Even a ratty old cassette tape of the band practicing sometimes got gigs.

Peace Rally Gig Extensive networking was involved in teaming up with other bands to make up the play-list for planned functions. Lots of alcohol etc was consumed in the process. Often equipment, or even players, were shared by bands on the night. It helped to be cooperative.

Many new bands were able to make use of newly affordable sound recording equipment to finance and distribute their own vinyl records or cassette tapes. A "do it yourself" mentality gave rise to many enthusiastic but appalling performances.

This didn't matter so much to a lot of the audience. They were also there to see their friends. Punk gigs were very social, with a chance to meet others with similar interests. The usual boy meets girl stuff went on too, of course.

Young musicians from all over Brisbane were forming their own music groups. Bedroom band practices must have bothered the neighbours in Sandgate, Goodna, Camp Hill, Coorparoo, Indooroopilly, and many other suburbs. Nearby cities of Ipswich and Gold Coast also had bands that played in Brisbane.

Young students coming to Brisbane from all over Queensland often became involved in the growing punk scene. College life wasn't supportive of noisy musical pursuits.

Eventually many people preferred to rent in Brisbane's inner city suburbs of Red Hill, Spring Hill, West End, Dutton Park, New Farm, and Toowong. This led to many creative young people living in close proximity.

Indooroopilly RSL Hall poster As always, choice of instrumentation was a big factor in forming the punk sound. Most bands had three, four, or five members. Some bands swapped instruments during performances.

Punk rock bands almost always used electrically amplified guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. Sometimes keyboards were added. Really adventurous types added horns or percussion instruments.

Cheap amplifiers cranked up really high gave a suitably distorted sound to guitars. Early fuzz-boxes were becoming affordable.

Since most of the aspiring musicians were young and broke, cheap or second hand instruments were the rule. Some workers were able to raise loans to get better equipment.

Some acts went as far as purchasing their own PA systems. Bands with their own PA's could play more easily, or organise their own gigs. In the end, bands with the best equipment usually got the best gigs.

Some really lucky bands (e.g. The Go Betweens) found rich benefactors and went overseas.

Others made no compromises to their art, and stayed "self funded", at home in Brisbane.

Capitalism at work again....


Out of the Unknown, 1988 Know Your Product Program of Events


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Information provided by David Macpherson
Brisbane, Australia