Punk/ New Wave

In the mid-1970s, the Australian charts were dominated by pop icons, hard rockers and disco divas all competing for a spot on Countdown. But a new loud, fast and defiantly anti-establishment sound was also roaring out of small, smoky venues across the country. Punk had arrived.

Each city had its own hometown heroes: The Saints and The Go-Betweens in Brisbane, Radio Birdman in Sydney, The Scientists and The Triffids in Perth, and the Boys Next Door and progeny The Birthday Party in Melbourne. Despite their regional variations, punk and post-punk musicians were united in rejecting the growing commercialism of the pub rock scene and embraced an ethos of DIY and independence.

For many, punk’s spiritual home was the Crystal Ballroom in St Kilda, with its faded Victorian elegance creating an atmosphere of dark, dank bohemia. Both bands and audiences played important roles, with many Ballroom regulars being aspiring musicians from art school or fashion backgrounds which added an air of theatricality to the venue.

Punk’s DIY mantra found its way into all aspects of the scene from recording to distribution and promotion. Bands and fans published their own fanzines, posters, flyers and badges. Community radio and small independent record labels provided support, but commercial success eluded most bands.

Innovations in technology led to much experimentation in producing sound both in performance and in the recording studio. Rowland S. Howard re-imagined the limits of the electric guitar, while the adoption of synthesisers saw a move towards a New Wave sound as Australia entered the 1980s.


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