Pub rock (Australia)

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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 where most of these bands originally played — inner-city and suburban pubs. These often noisy, hot, and crowded establishments were largely frequented by men and women in their late teenage years and 20s. "Pubs" originally come from England and the concept spread due to British settlers in colonies such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.


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 licensing 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 liberalizing 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 Sunday Observance Acts were repealed, pub opening hours were extended, discriminatory regulations — such as the long-standing ban on women entering or drinking in public bars — were removed, and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 realized 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.

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