ROCK GODS: Newcastle band A Rabbit performing at Nobbys Beach in January 1977. From left, Jim Porteus, David Hinds, Dave Evans and Barry Litten. Picture: Courtesy of David Hinds
THE pub rock scene in Newcastle during the 1970s and ’80s was a time far removed from the city’s current entertainment trends.
Across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s suburbs pubs and clubs rocked with music, in some cases, almost seven days a week.
One woman who was at the heart of the scene, former Timeworx and 7th Heaven vocalist Gaye Sheather, has released a book detailing the rise and decline of Newcastle’s supposed musical golden age. It outlines the sounds and flavours of the scene and the many bands it gave birth to such as The Heroes, DV8, A Rabbit and The Globes.
Rock This City: Live Music in Newcastle, 1970s-1980s was the result of countless hours of research and interviews dating back to 2005. Sheather initially used her research to complete a thesis through the University of Newcastle in 2013 on the city’s live music scene during the “Countdown years”. The professional historian and researcher then spent a year rewriting her thesis into a more compelling story for her publishing debut.
“In the Countdown years we knew pub rock was happening all over Australia,” Sheather said. “I was interested to know what was really going on in Newcastle at that time, when we were watching Countdown on television, and how it developed in Newcastle and why it did.
“The baby boomers were starting to turn 18. Whereas before they got their music from community halls and converted theatres, once they became of age they wanted to go to a pub and drink alcohol, but they were so used to having that live music they wanted that to be part of their entertainment as well.”
In the process of writing the book Sheather conducted 26 interviews with luminaries of Newcastle’s pub rock scene, including Mark Tinson (A Rabbit, The Heroes), Greg Bryce (DV8), Dana Soper (The Magic Bus) and former journalist and musician Leo Della Grotta. Sheather also paints a vivid picture of the city’s many forgotten musical haunts such as Kotara’s Bel-Air Hotel, The Ambassador, The Jolly Roger and the infamous Star Hotel.
Newcastle has maintained a reputation for live music. Venues like Lizotte’s and the Cambridge, Lass O’Gowrie, Stag and Hunter and Wickham Park Hotels book live acts weekly. However, Sheather said the frequency of shows and number of venues had diminished.
“People may have live music a little bit, but it’s not all live bands like it was back then and it’s certainly not every night of the week,” she said. “If you look in the gig guides you might get Friday and Saturday night, but it’s sprinkled with DJs as well. Back then it was basically six, and sometimes seven, nights a week. There were lots of bands and lots of venues.”
Source: Newcstle Herald August 2016