From the sleepy Mt Gravatt suburb of Brisbane in the mid-70s, a high school garage band comprising of 18-year-old Greg Wackley (drummer) his 16 yo brother Robert Wackley (guitar) Marty Burke (vocals) 17 and Steven Mee also 16, burst onto the Brisbane Punk scene in 1976 as RAZAR.
In an oppressive and political corrupt climate under Premier Joh Bjelke Peterson and with attitude to burn, anarchistic RAZAR wrote of their disdain for the police, mocked conservative culture of the day, and soon started to chart their way into punk history after playing their first gig at The Atcherley Hotel.
Venues were scarce except The Curry Shop, the odd hotel and hired halls, which made bands susceptible to the scrutiny and reach of the law. RAZAR quickly attracted the notice of the local Task Force, a division of the Police Force and heavy arm of the Joh regime. To this day RAZAR still hold a police file, adding to their urban legend status.
Playing around the suburbs and city at the same time were punk icons The Saints and The Leftovers, also holding Brisbane’s scepter in punk sovereignty for a proud Australian counter culture.
With few opportunities to advance in Brisbane musically, RAZAR like many others took the trip south to Sydney in a transit van, stayed in dodgy hotels around Central Railway and made little money but still ended up being able to cut their first single STAMP OUT DISCO and TASK FORCE released in 1978.
As Wikipedia reads:
“The Brisbane punk movement expanded from 1978: the “second generation” of bands were formed. They were given air time on 4ZZZ, David Macpherson of ToxicH website described how the “DJs Michael Finucane, Bill Riner, Tony Biggs, Andy Nehl and others were influential in playing the new music.” One band, which benefited from such airplay, was Razar with their track, “Task Force (Undercover Cop)” (1978). Hutson and Sawford described them as a “Youthful and popular punk outfit which attracted a lot of attention due to their controversial material.” The lyrics of “Task Force” dealt with the Queensland Police special branch, or “Brisbane’s notorious undercover police.”
Razar, and most high-profile Brisbane punk groups, received intense scrutiny from the local constabulary with their venues often raided and closed. 4ZZZ’s Dave Darling, and an independent concert promoter, recalled: “We encountered problems with police just like everybody else did that tried to run a venue… 9 out of 10 of them I don’t think ever made the final song… and [we would] disguise them from Task Force knowing they were on, but eventually in the course of the night one of them would find out and next thing you know you had all of them there… Hutson and Sawford elucidated that, “In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for police, both uniformed and Special Branch plainclothes, to regularly break up concerts by bands such as RAZAR, the Leftovers, and the Sharks, who were considered among the more subversive and threatening local talent.”
Finally calling it a day only a few short years after they started, RAZAR went into hibernation again until a notorious Albert Street Speakeasy gig in 1989. Approximately 900 people over packed the venue to see the local boys reform again and history was rewritten. The booze ran out, the building shook, fans got heat stroke and the siren made famous in Task Force shorted out from too many drinks spilled on it. Ah, RAZAR no wonder we love you.
Ipswich darlings of the early Brisbane Punk scene, and perennial crowd favourites, have only ever done 2 reunions, once in 1983 and again in 2014. This interview below was on 4ZZZ for the 1983 reunion.
Ipswich, 40 km west of Brisbane had three main subcultures in the 1970’s church youth groups, fast cars, and Rock and Roll. As the decade moved to a close, a movement which became known as The Bremerbeat ( after the Bremer River which flows through Ipswich) evolved where bands moved from cover bands into original bands playing very fast and very loud. Venues like the Palais Royal in the middle of Ipswich were willing to give these bands a go, and from here evolved Toy Watches.
On June 27th 1979, Toy Watches played their first Brisbane gig at the now infamous Curry Shop in Roma Street, and on the same bill were The Go-betweens. As 1980 rolled around the band caught the eyes of promotor Dave Darling and promotor Graham Hutchinson. This put the band in the ideal spot where they were playing independent venues in Brisbane including The Silver Dollar, The Hotel Brisbane, The Cleveland Sands, Pinocchio’s in the Valley, and Sally’s in Annerley. But with the input from Graham Hutchinson Promotions connected with Dave Darling they were also playing larger venues including Pip’s nightclub, Thompsons Hotel Mooloolaba, The Patch and The Jet club Coolangatta, and even as far north as Gympie and Bundaberg.
These times were legendary for Brisbane live music with the likes of The Riptides, The Lemmings, 42 street, Gerry Mander and The Boundaries, The Humans, Xero, Scrap Metal, The End and The 31st, all playing around The Valley with Toy Watches also performing at the first ever all-Brisbane line-up for a 4 ZZZ Joint Effort along with the Lemmings, and The Swell Guys.
In 1980 the band released a single Too Long and Hawaii on Peanut Republic Records, a company established by Graham Hutchinson Promotions. The band was also fortunate enough to make a film clip for the song Too Long, with the help of Cherie Bradshaw, a student at the time of Griffith University. Although not credited, snippets of the film clip are shown several times during the 2015 ABC documentary I’m Stranded.
The band was known for their quick snappy songs with titles like She’s a Mess, Tonight, and 5 cent shuffle supported by the mesmerizing front man Shaun McGrath. Like many bands of the time, as Clinton Walker put it about Toy Watches in his book Inner City Sound, “they appeared suddenly, shone briefly and then disappeared.”
The Return to The White Chairs will have original singer, Shaun McGrath, rhythm guitarist Ian Davies, bassist Noel Howe and drummer Cameron Howe. Due to a work place accident Toy Watches lead guitarist John Spresser now resides at Young Care and is not able to perform. For this gig, Vacant Rooms guitarist, Michael Melling will step up. Although a youngster at the time, Michael is also from Ipswich keeping the Bremerbeat alive for the reunion.
The band promises it will be sharp, tight and will deliver memories of the early 1980 Brisbane gigs.
Scrap Metal were a Brisbane Post Punk/New Wave group that played from 1978 to 1983
The band formed in Inala in mid-1978 with Alex Waller (vocals, guitar), John McQueen (vocals, guitar) and Bryan Batley (bass). The band recruited Brian’s workmate Paul on drums and played their first ever gig at the Exchange Hotel in Xmas week 78.
In Jan 79 the band recruited Greg Iselin on drums and started playing regularly at venues such as the Curry Shop, The Silver Dollar, and the Exchange Hotel.
Initially playing a mixture of Punk/New wave and 60’s covers, the band quickly started to write songs and develop their own musical style. In mid 79 Scrap Metal recorded 5 tracks on cassette, which, although receiving regular airplay on 4ZZZ, was never commercially released. Throughout 1979 the band built a large following, playing Joint Efforts, Cloudland, and doing supports for the likes of Split Enz and The Laughing Clowns.
In 1980 the band took a break and went to the UK for 6 months. On returning to Brisbane, the band had dramatically changed musical direction, playing with a fresh and revitalised darker approach revolving around strong bass and drum rhythms, and sparse, melodic, guitar and vocals.
Scrap Metal became increasingly popular, headlining the opening of the 279 Club and from June till Dec 81 played 38 shows, which, considering the paucity of venues catering to original music at the time, was remarkable.
This pace continued in 1982 with the band touring interstate, appearing on the second ever 4ZZZ live to air, (with Xero), and playing supports for The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, and most infamously, at Cloudland supporting The Clash.
To coincide with The Clash support, the band changed their name to Ducks in Formation and in August 82 released the Darkness Falls EP on Green records. The record was well received and Ducks In Formation continued to tour and promote the EP but by early 1983 the band had folded.
In 1980, Public Execution started out as a 3 piece Punk combo with Terry Devery on vocals and bass, Steve Playford on guitar, and Fred Noonan on drums. They were among the earliest local punk bands to draw on the emerging American hardcore scene for influence. Citing bands like Black Flag, The Dils, and the Dead Kennedys as contemporaries. They quickly absorbed a fan base with their blitzkrieg live shows, menacing stage presence and short sharp original songs. Changing to a four-piece with Lindsay Delgliesh taking over bass while Terry handled vocals. The band went on to release a single and couple of cassettes and then stopped for a while. With the Dead Kennedys tour coming up ,the band got back together and did the support at Valleys Leagues club and then shortly after imploded. Pulblic Execution reformed in 2013-2014,with Roddy Mcleod playing bass, and played around mainly for fun and something to do .3 new songs have been recorded and hopefully will be released in the near future.