Pig City by Andrew Stafford - Read Online
Pig City
0% of Pig City completed

About

Summary

From cult heroes the Saints and the Go-Betweens to national icons Powderfinger and international stars Savage Garden, Brisbane has produced more than its share of great bands. But behind the music lay a ghost city of malice and corruption. Pressed under the thumb of the Bjelke-Petersen government and its toughest enforcers—the police—Brisbane’s musicians, radio announcers, and political activists braved ignorance, harassment and often violence to be heard. This updated, 10th anniversary edition features a scathing new introduction by the author, assessing the changing shape of Brisbane, its music, and troubling developments since the return of the state of Queensland to conservative governance.
Published: University of Queensland Press an imprint of Independent Publishers Group on
ISBN: 9780702254680
List price: $11.99
Availability for Pig City: 10th Anniversary Edition
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.

Reviews

Book Preview

Pig City - Andrew Stafford

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1

‘Impeccably researched and passionately presented, Pig City is the work of a committed writer and fan. It’s also a rare achievement: a rock book that sheds light on more than just a wall of sound.’

The Bulletin

‘A definitive written history that ascertains why Brisbane has proved such a fertile breeding ground for musical talent, placing it in perspective to the city’s growth and changing political climate.’

Time Off

‘Stafford graphically sketches the violence and paranoia [of Brisbane’s history] in an economic, sober and gripping style, neatly weaving touching personal reminiscences into his narrative.’

The Courier-Mail

‘Exceptionally researched and compellingly written, Pig City is first-rate cultural analysis that sets a benchmark for future studies of Australian popular music.’

The Swine

‘It is the discussion of the political environment and its effects on Brisbane music that gives Pig City the depth that makes it more than a rock’n’roll indulgence and creates interest for readers who have no connection with Brisbane and its underground.’

The Age

‘This is an absorbing, entertaining and well-researched story told with vitality and passion.’

Australian Bookseller & Publisher

Born in Melbourne in 1971, Andrew Stafford has worked as a freelance writer, university tutor and occasional environmental consultant. Because none of these things is especially lucrative, you may also find him behind the wheel of a cab. You can find Andrew online at

www.andrewstaffordblog.com, or on Twitter as @staffo_sez.

contents

Author’s note (2014 edition)

Author’s note (2006 edition)

Introduction (2004 edition)

PINEAPPLES FROM THE DAWN OF TIME (1971–1979)

1. A Million People Staying Low

Brisbane (Security City)

2. Guerrilla Radio

The difficult birth of 4ZZZ

3. The Most Primitive Band in the World

The Saints

4. The Striped Sunlight Sound

The Go-Betweens

5. Task Force versus the Brisbane Punks

Early punk on the Brisbane scene

6. Swept Away

The Riptides; the Apartments

UPS AND DOWNS (1980–1989)

7. Last of the Leather Age

The Fun Things; the 31st; the End; the Screaming Tribesmen

8. Everybody Moves

The bands leave home

9. Brisbane Blacks

Aboriginal rock

10. Too Much Acid

Sydney or the bush

11. SS Brigade

The eviction of 4ZZZ

12. Cyclone Hits Expo

The impact of the Livid Festival

AFFIRMATION (1990–2000)

13. Rock Against Work!

The Brisbane scene post-National Party

14. Spring Hill Fair

The Custard collective

15. Black Ticket Day

4ZZZ in the 1990s

16. The Human Jukebox

Regurgitator

17. New Suburban Fables

Powderfinger

18. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

Savage Garden

Epilogue – No, Your Product

Notes

Appendix – Cast of Characters

Bibliography

Permissions

Acknowledgments

Index

Picture section

Imprint page

author’s note – the wrong road

Since Pig City’s initial publication in October 2004, many things have happened. Let’s start with the freezing over of hell: yes, in 2007, the classic original line-up of the Saints – Ed Kuepper, Chris Bailey and Ivor Hay, sans only bass player Kym Bradshaw – reformed, initially for a one-off show in Brisbane, then for a national series of festival performances.

Following the tragically early death of Grant McLennan in May 2006, the Go-Betweens had a new Brisbane bridge named after them. A young female pop duo called the Veronicas swept all before them, cracking the US top 20 in February 2009. Powderfinger, after a two-decade run, broke up. Darren Hayes came out. (Betcha didn’t see that one coming.) Then again, that last development aside, who could have predicted any of these things? Not me, that’s for sure.

Other events have conspired to date the original book in unexpected ways. A few words, then, are in order – as well as a spoiler alert, since in introducing this new edition it’s practically impossible to avoid picking up where I left off. A couple of things from this book’s conclusion, in particular, seem unintentionally prescient: back in 2004, a new lord mayor, Campbell Newman, was promising to build no less than five tunnels under the city. ‘He may yet be serious,’ I wrote. Ten years later, Brisbane now has three, with a fourth near completion and a fifth in the pipeline.

Newman, of course, is now the state premier. ‘If liberty’s price really is eternal vigilance, our collective amnesia will ensure we see Bjelke-Petersen’s like again,’ I wrote, rather portentously, in a note to this book’s second edition. We didn’t have long to wait.

Pig City certainly touched a nerve in its home town, and it was supposed to. Brisbane was, after all, the main character in a book populated by them, and the ‘slatternly, ugly’ city David Malouf once described in Johnno had grown up – as the book’s original blurb over-confidently bragged. I’m not so sure about that now. These days I’m more inclined to describe Brisbane as a city experiencing growing pains. But at the time of the book’s initial publication, the Queensland capital was in the middle of a passionate love affair with itself.

By 2004, Brisbane’s new self-image – and the image it projected to the rest of the world – was of a confident modern metropolis. Of course, this process had begun as early as World Expo ’88. But that was at the time of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the anti-corruption purge that ultimately did far more to modernise the political, social and judicial affairs of the state. Queensland had to step out of the darkness of the Moonlight State, as the now-legendary Four Corners episode dubbed it in 1987, before it could afford to bask in the sunshine.

The rhetoric had changed. Suddenly, no one seemed to want to talk about the weather any more. ‘It wasn’t just beautiful one day and perfect the next. Frankly, it was hot out there,’ I wrote in Pig City’s conclusion – implying that the state, or at least the capital, was finally developing an inner life to match its bountiful natural beauty.

I wasn’t the only one waxing lyrical on this theme. ‘Yes, Brisbane, you can go to the ball,’ wrote demographer Bernard Salt in The Australian in 2005. The city, he said, had undergone a makeover. In an article headlined ‘Brisbane: it’s booming, it’s brilliant, it’s downright sexy’, Salt opined that the suburban, monocultural city parodied in the term Brisvegas had acquired an edgy new market segment – attracted, apparently, by minimally fitted-out restaurants and a burgeoning creative arts scene, dating back not to the Saints, but to the arrival of Movie World on the Gold Coast in 1988.

I’m not so sure about that, but that’s not to say there has not been genuine progress. The opening of the justly lauded Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) has arguably given Brisbane its first world-class cultural landmark. Political advances, too, have reflected a changing cultural landscape. For a time, Queensland supplied an extraordinary trifecta: the country’s Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd), Treasurer (Wayne Swan) and Australia’s first female Governor-General (Quentin Bryce). If the seat of power remains in Canberra, then the wellspring, at least briefly, seemed to be situated north of the Tweed.

Perhaps most notably, in September 2007, the state’s first female premier, Anna Bligh, was sworn in. Bligh took over the premiership from Peter Beattie, who served four electoral terms before relinquishing his post. At that point, Labor had been in power for all but two of the last 20 years, furthering an old Queensland tradition of dominant incumbent parties ruling more or less unhindered by impotent oppositions. And a lack of effective opposition in government leads inevitably to complacency, to administrative decay, to bad decision-making, and to corruption.

Bligh won her first election as leader comfortably in March 2009, becoming the first popularly elected female premier in Australia in the process. A few months later Tony Fitzgerald QC, on the 20th anniversary of the handing down of his celebrated report into political and police corruption, declared that Queensland had ‘joined the mainstream of political malpractice’ and was slipping back to the dark old days. ‘Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed and retired politicians exploit their connections to obtain success fees for deals between business and government,’ he wrote. ‘Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short-term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power.’

In July 2008, the state divisions of the Liberal and National Parties merged to form the LNP. Individually, each faced insoluble issues – the National Party’s declining rural base and perennial infighting among the Queensland Liberals. It was this new entity, led by the Nationals’ Lawrence Springborg, that Bligh defeated the following year, with a reduced but still sizeable majority. The end, however, was at hand.

It was Bligh’s decision to privatise five government-owned corporations in the wake of the global financial crisis that finally saw substantial portions of her own constituency abandon both her and the ALP. All the LNP needed was a figure that appeared credible to voters east of the Great Dividing Range. While Bligh’s poll numbers bounced in January 2011 during her stewardship of Brisbane’s worst floods since 1974, it was Newman – the Liberal lord mayor standing next to her at television conferences for much of that awful week – who suddenly appeared as a viable alternative.

Newman challenged for, and was granted, the LNP leadership three months later, before he even had a seat to call his own in the state parliament. But while he was forced into a relatively tough battle to win Ashgrove, in Brisbane’s comfortable inner west, the rest of the city – and state – turned on Labor with a vengeance in the election of March 2012. The wipe-out was unprecedented: Labor was reduced from 51 seats to seven in a parliament of 89. These were depths that the party had not plumbed even when handicapped by a grossly distorted electoral system. With almost no opposition, and no senate to act as a handbrake, the scale of Newman’s victory ensured him almost untrammelled power.

There is simply too much to talk about, and not enough space, to go into extended detail about how that power has been used since Newman’s government took office. Suffice to say that in no instance has it been abused more obnoxiously than in its confected war on bikies.

It started as a classic moral panic. In September 2013, a score was very publicly settled outside a Gold Coast restaurant between rival members of the Bandidos and Finks. There was a brawl. Four police officers were injured. The state’s inexperienced Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Jarrod Bleijie, decided that conventional existing laws of affray and assault were inadequate to deal with the perceived threat to public safety. New legislation was required, and so the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) Act 2013 was born.

There was no irony to be found in the fantastically Orwellian title. Under the Act, any associate of a bikie gang found guilty of the most minor offences covered under the legislation would face a mandatory jail term of 15 years on top of the original sentence. For gang office holders, 25 years. Twenty-three hours a day would be spent in solitary confinement in a bikie-only prison especially commissioned for the task. In an extra twist of pointless humiliation, male prisoners would wear shocking pink overalls, supposedly as an additional affront to their masculinity.

This is not a joke. As of March 2014, over 600 gang members and associates have been arrested under the Act, which prohibits three or more bikies from publicly associating. They include the so-called Yandina Five – five men in club colours enjoying a beer at the Yandina Hotel on the Sunshine Coast – as well as five Victorian men who stopped for an ice-cream on the Gold Coast. They also include a librarian, never charged with a criminal offence in her life, observed having a beer with her bikie partner and another friend in a pub in Dayboro, less than an hour’s drive north-west of Brisbane.

‘Take off your colours, get a real job, act like decent, law-abiding human beings and become proper citizens in the state of Queensland and you won’t have to go to jail,’ Newman said. His police minister, Jack Dempsey, added an additional note of reassurance: ‘People need to know when they go to bed at night and the darkness of the evening comes over, that they can sleep safely in their beds.’

In one of the most celebrated moments of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, the last witness to appear before the commission, former premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, was asked to describe his understanding of the doctrine of the separation of powers. The doctrine is an ancient democratic cornerstone that seeks to divide the roles of the executive, the parliament and the judiciary, in order to avoid one arm grasping sole power. Bjelke-Petersen simply had no idea. Neither did Russell Cooper, who led the National Party to defeat in the 1989 state election.

Days after the VLAD laws were enacted, Campbell Newman was interviewed on a local radio station, and similarly grilled as to his understanding of the doctrine. ‘It’s more of an American thing,’ he said. ‘My understanding is very clearly parliament is supreme because the parliament is the manifestation of the will of the people.’ Newman’s contempt for the judiciary was made plain when he described lawyers acting for bikies as ‘hired guns’ who were part of a ‘criminal gang machine’.

Once again, Queensland has come full circle. Tony Fitzgerald (and his senior counsel assisting at his inquiry, Gary Crooke) entered the fray, writing despairingly of seeing the state’s fragile democratic foundations traduced: ‘Almost all politicians, even those who care only for ideology and power and who regard both democracy and ordinary people with contempt, claim to represent and speak for those ordinary people . . . Arrogant, ill-informed politicians who cynically misuse the power of the state for personal or political benefit are a far greater threat to democracy than criminals, even organised gangs,’ he wrote for the ABC in February 2014.

If you’re picking up Pig City for the first time, all of the above may seem like an odd way to introduce a book ostensibly about music. But it was never just about that. The story of the Bjelke-Petersen government, and the strange intersection of art and politics in Queensland, is an enduring tale, and a cautionary one, too: of how easily and quickly a liberal democracy can decay into a quasi-fascist state. But Pig City was also meant as a triumphant, culture-driven coming-of-age story – we weren’t supposed to be back here.

I’m not the same person I was when I wrote this book. It’s for that reason as much as anything that I’ve resisted the temptation to substantially revise it (other than excising the instantly obsolete soundtrack/discography that rounded out earlier editions – there’s not much you can’t find out about the collected works of the bands contained herein, and plenty more besides, via Google, iTunes, YouTube and eBay). And much as the scene now is stronger than it ever was, it’s for another, younger writer to document it.

Pig City only ever aimed to spotlight a particular period of Brisbane’s history; it was never intended to be a rolling chronicle. I’m happy to let it be – a slightly naive, optimistic snapshot of a time and place that’s long passed. But the faint echo of history repeating itself may make for somewhat eerie reading.

– AS

July 2014

author’s note

When I first began contemplating a book on Brisbane’s music history, one question was at the centre of my curiosity. To what degree did growing up in Queensland – especially the Queensland not only ruled, but defined by its premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, from 1968 to 1987 – influence the outlook and output of Brisbane’s artists, writers and especially musicians? The answer was more complicated than it appeared, and dictated that Pig City would ultimately be less a book about music than it was about my (adopted) home town.

Of course, I wanted to pay tribute to the bands, most of whom had received short shrift in other Australian music accounts. Far more important, though, was the realisation that an entire generation had grown up since Bjelke-Petersen’s fall from grace, and memories of the fallen dictator had softened. He did, we were told ad nauseam, ‘great things for Queensland’. Yet his resignation from parliament in 1987 could scarcely have been more ignominious – his administration discredited; his party dead in the water; his state a laughing stock; and Joh himself soon to face serious criminal charges.

Political scientist Paul Reynolds once observed that ‘Queensland is where populism came to die’. Peter Charlton, in his 1983 book State Of Mind, countered that if this was the case, ‘it has been an unconscionable time dying’. Charlton was paraphrasing Charles II, but he may easily have used the same words 22 years later to describe the passing of Joh Bjelke-Petersen on 23 April 2005. As media reports described Joh slipping in and out of consciousness during his last days, a friend quipped that this was final proof that ‘the devil didn’t want him either’.

Plenty of Queenslanders would have appreciated more of this kind of honesty. We are taught not to speak ill of the dead, but too often this leads to cowardice and hypocrisy when assessing the legacy of public figures: had death come to Joh 10 years earlier, it would have been unthinkable for the event to be marked by a state funeral – an honour granted by premier Peter Beattie at the request of the deceased’s family and broadcast live around the state by three television stations.

If liberty’s price really is eternal vigilance, our collective amnesia will ensure we see Bjelke-Petersen’s like again.

– AS

October 2005

introduction – know your product

She comes from Ireland, she’s very beautiful

I come from Brisbane, and I’m quite plain

– The Go-Betweens, Lee Remick

If popular music really is a universal language, it’s curious how easily a song – even a commercially obscure one – can come to symbolise a city’s identity. The stories of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Dunedin, Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, New York, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle are inextricably entwined with the music made there. Robert Forster, however, could never have imagined that his self-deprecating paean to an actress would become so fabled in his home town.

This is understandable. Queensland’s often stifling subtropical capital doesn’t exactly spring to mind when discussing the world’s great musical cities. Partly this comes down to Australian pop and rock’s poor-relation status next to the United States and the United Kingdom. Inside Australia, too, Brisbane for decades wore a provincial reputation as a big country town, at least in the southern capitals of Sydney and Melbourne.

Of course, one of the most successful bands in recording history began life in Brisbane in the late 1950s. But the Bee Gees didn’t so much outgrow the city as outgrow Australia. Struggling for recognition, the Brothers Gibb began an exodus of musicians out of the country when they left for their native UK at the beginning of 1967, the year before a peanut farmer, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, took control of Queensland’s ruling Country Party (later the National Party).

The literature on Australian pop is only beginning to accumulate, so again it is understandable that Brisbane, so far, has rated little more than a footnote. The bigger problem is that the footnote has remained the same, recycled in various contexts by various authors: that music in Brisbane – especially the punk scene of the late ’70s – was overwhelmingly a reaction to the repression of the Bjelke-Petersen era.

This is partly true. Bjelke-Petersen’s rule of Queensland between 1968 and 1987 was nothing if not iron-fisted. Public displays of dissent were often brutally suppressed; the rule of law was routinely bent to the will of those charged with its enforcement; minorities were treated as simply another obstacle on the path to development. To top it all off, the electoral system was hopelessly rigged in favour of the incumbents. ‘Here,’ writes Rod McLeod, ‘in a city practically under police curfew, you fucked and fought, got stoned, got married, or got out of town.’¹

But it makes little sense to give a politician too much credit for the creation of a music scene. Major cultural movements result from an intersection of local, national and international factors. The Saints were not so much a reaction to living in a police state as they were a response to the music of not just the Stooges and the MC5, but the Easybeats and the Missing Links. And it’s doubtful the national success of a string of Brisbane acts in the ’90s – from Powderfinger to George – could have happened without the nationalisation of the Triple J network.

Of course, it would be naive to suggest that growing up in a climate of fear and loathing did not heavily distort the prism through which these artists saw the world. As Saints guitarist Ed Kuepper says, ‘I think the band was able to develop a more obnoxious demeanour, thanks to our surroundings, than had everyone been really nice.’ In the words of Australian music historian Ian McFarlane, ‘That Australia’s most conservative city should give rise to such a seditious subcultural coterie is a sociological phenomenon yet to be fully explored.’²

This book is my attempt to document the substantial yet largely unsung contribution that Brisbane has made both to Australian popular culture and to international popular music. In doing so, I aimed to chart the shifts in musical, political and cultural consciousness that have helped shape the city’s history and identity. In its broadest sense, Pig City is the story of how Brisbane grew up.

Pig City concentrates on the quarter-century from 1975 to 2000. It only touches on the ’60s and early ’70s, by way of explaining the convergence of political and cultural forces that began to exert their pull upon the city at the dawn of the punk movement.

By the 1980s National Party campaign billboards featured the benign face of the premier accompanied only by the words ‘Joh’ and ‘Queensland’, so synonymous had the two become. Thus, when the government finally fell in 1989, it marked a divorce that could only be read as a metaphor for broader changes. As novelist Andrew McGahan writes in Last Drinks, his fictionalised account of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption that eventually resulted in the government’s downfall:

For 30 years those in government and their friends had, in looking after their own interests, kept Brisbane frozen in time. The city was caught in the perpetual twilight of the 1950s, as though the ’60s and ’70s that had wrought so much havoc around the rest of the world had quietly passed Brisbane by. But it couldn’t have remained frozen that way forever. Even if the Inquiry hadn’t come along and split the state apart, something else would have given somewhere. But because it had all been dammed up and fettered for so long, it meant that when finally the regime did fall, decades of pent-up energy burst forth in a fury. It wasn’t simply a generational change. It was an explosion.³

As it happened, the state election of 2 December 1989 coincided with the second Livid Festival. Away from the bands, a crowd of punters gathered around a single black and white television to watch as the results poured in. The city’s youth had always reserved a special place in their hearts for the National Party: when it was announced from the main stage that the government had been overthrown, the answering roar was just about the loudest thing heard all day.

The first Livid Festival, held on 21 January 1989, was a circuit-breaker for Brisbane. Featuring a line-up consisting almost entirely of expatriate Brisbane artists, it emphasised the unusual strength of the connection between the city and its music scene. ‘We had some really great home-grown stuff, and we wanted to bring it all back, put it together and have a best of Brisbane,’ festival producer Peter Walsh says. Queensland is a parochial place, and not just about its football teams.

Truly universal pop songs, though, may as well come from outer space. Savage Garden, for example, grew up in the city’s working-class southern outskirts, something that had no discernible impact on their sound. Yet when the pop duo played the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, they were heralded as municipal ambassadors at home. For Darren Hayes, however, playing to a worldwide audience from the biggest stage in the world was simply the fulfilment of a childhood ambition:

I just know that ever since I was about 12 or 13 I’ve had this vision of standing on a stage in front of about 80,000 people. I sometimes wonder if, when I get there, I’ll actually like it, but it’s necessary. For whatever reason, I have to follow this through to its logical conclusion. I can’t see any other way.⁴

In a book of this scope, many worthy performers have inevitably fallen through the cracks. Pig City was never intended to be an encyclopaedia of Brisbane bands. Nevertheless I have tried to give space to those groups who, while not being afforded wider recognition, succeeded in leaving their mark. To have excluded the likes of Razar and the Parameters for the perfectly sound reason that relatively few people even inside Brisbane have ever heard of them would not only have been neglectful of their contributions, it would have been an abrogation of this book’s purpose.

While history’s light always shines most brightly on the successful and the influential, Pig City at least attempts to place their achievements within the context of their surroundings, and to provide a glimpse into the soul of a town that, for all its banality, unwittingly tilled the soil of its very own rock & roll creation.

pineapples from the dawn of time

(1971–1979)

CHAPTER ONE

a million people staying low

The fist made a sound like two footy boots smacking together and the blood spurted and the student went down, and the line of police blue seemed to smile benignly.

— Pat Burgess¹

When the charge came, it was as unexpected as it was brutal. As the police stormed over Wickham Terrace with batons raised, protesters paused in shock, frozen for an agonised second, caught as their minds instructed their bodies to fight or flee. Many were inexperienced campaigners at their first demonstration.

Steve Gray was not one of them, though. He’d been here before, been at this very spot the previous evening, when nothing untoward had happened. Restless, he’d been cruising around the scene, cheekily pointing out the undercover officers mingling among the crowd. But now things were serious. With the screaming crowd breaking up all around him, he fled down the hill into the darkness.

Reaching the bottom of the hill, Gray paused over the steep drop as two friends rushed to join him. Some jumped heedlessly; others turned towards the rocky face and clambered down. Most just slid on their backsides. Small and agile, Gray negotiated the small cliff-face with ease, but one of his friends fell, twisting an ankle. Moving more slowly, they soldiered on towards the brightly lit Roma Street markets.

Once safely inside the maze of alleyways, the trio relaxed, and began making their way back to the safety of Toowong. Rounding a corner, they almost collided with three heavy, brown-shirted police officers. Quick as a snake, one of them grabbed Gray by the hair. Twisting its length around his wrist, he hoisted his slightly built opponent to eye level.

‘Bang. Bang. Bang,’ said the sergeant. ‘If I ever see you at a demonstration again, I’m going to kill you.’

It’s both an understatement and a cliché to say that Queensland is different. Peter Charlton wrote a book trying to explain why in 1983. He came up with two words: ‘Distance. Climate.’² It is indeed an enormous state: from the capital, it is nearly a 24-hour drive north to Cairns, even further west to Birdsville. It’s also hot: even Brisbane, in the south-east corner of the state, endures a prolonged summer in which the mercury hovers around 30°C for five months or more. Winter days, if they can be labelled as such, average around 20°C.

More to the point, as any southern visitor will moan, it’s bloody humid. From September onwards, thick black thunderheads form over the MacPherson and Main Ranges to the south-west before dumping huge amounts of rainfall over the city. With the humidity comes a certain sluggishness, and it’s equally a cliché to observe that isolated cities in warm climates move at a slower pace than elsewhere. While fostering a more casual attitude to clothing and a laid-back demeanour, such places also tend to be conservative, slower to warm to new ideas.

But Brisbane made an early exception for rock & roll. In February 1958 Buddy Holly played three of his six Australian shows at the Cloudland Ballroom. The same year the Bee Gees arrived in Australia from the Isle of Man and began performing anywhere they were allowed, including the television program Brisbane Tonight. Another teenage guest was one Little Rock Allen, later known as Billy Thorpe. After both the Bee Gees and Thorpe moved on to seek their fortunes elsewhere, the Beatles’ Festival Hall show in June 1964 provided an infinitely bigger jolt to the city’s youth culture.

For a few short years the doors of the city’s clubs were thrown open to rock & roll bands. The best of them was, unquestionably, the Purple Hearts. Playing a brash, uncompromising brand of R&B – their name was derived not from the war medal but from the uppers favoured by English mods – the band’s tough sound was easily the equal of the early Master’s Apprentices and even Sydney’s Missing Links, whose song Wild About You the Saints would, years later, cover on their debut album.

But with less than an album’s worth of material released during their entire existence, the Purple Hearts lack the recording history of the few breakout Australian acts of the ’60s. After moving to Melbourne, the band broke up in January 1967, their promise largely stillborn.

Queensland had been ruled since 1957 by Country Party leader Frank Nicklin, a farmer, teetotaller and Methodist preacher. It was a background shared by many of his colleagues and, indeed, the Labor opposition of the time. Queensland politics was peculiarly rural in outlook, with the Country Party (renamed the National Party in 1973) the dominant conservative coalition partner over the city-based Liberals. Such remains the case today; the reverse, of course, applies in all other Australian states.

The sharpest illustration of the primacy of the bush in Queensland political life was the infamous gerrymander, introduced not by the Country Party but by Ned Hanlon’s Labor government in 1949. In fact, the term gerrymander was something of a misnomer. A gerrymander represents the drawing of electoral boundaries in a way that serves the interests of the governing party. This certainly took place in Queensland, but it was the malapportionment, which meant that one vote in the west of the state was worth up to three in Brisbane, that was the critical issue.

The ‘malamander’ was designed to prevent the metropolitan zones, which held the largest number of voters, from dictating political terms to those in the regions. It did more than that: for four decades the malamander ensured the vast, sparsely populated territory west of the Great Dividing Range lorded it over the populous cities. Originally the malamander had advantaged the Labor incumbents it was meant to serve; when the disastrous Labor Party split of 1957 handed government to the Country Party, the situation was reversed.

After further tweaking the electoral system to their own benefit, the Country/National Party found itself able to secure a majority of seats in parliament even if it polled the lowest percentage of primary votes. Over time, this reduced both the Labor and Liberal parties to virtual irrelevancy and laughing-stock status.

Having the seat of power lying out beyond the black stump threw up some interesting parliamentary statistics. By the late ’70s the members of the National Party cabinet all shared very similar backgrounds. All were men, hailing from the bush or small country towns. All had worked in the primary industries sector before entering politics. None had undertaken tertiary studies; many, including the premier, had barely progressed beyond primary school. All were married and had raised their children long before the social challenges of the ’60s and ’70s.³

For much of the 20th century, education in Queensland was chronically neglected. Between 1919 and 1939, the textbooks in the small number of secondary schools remained unchanged; between 1924 and 1952, not a single new