Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Oz Origins

A little bit louder now

Fans at an Easybeats concert, Sydney Stadium, 1965 Bob King
Fans at an Easybeats concert, Sydney Stadium, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King

Australia’s passion for rock ‘n roll was kindled by American and British acts in the 1950s and 60s. Elvis, Little Richard and Cliff Richard were among the names that got pulses racing, with the novel genre’s driving, licentious rhythms and voices capturing imaginations and libidos, not to mention aspiring young musicians. From the 1950s a number of hot home-grown acts emerged, garnering attention in live settings and on the local charts. Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye were two who took up the local mantle, each producing hits in the 50s and 60s.

1 Johnny O'Keefe "A little bit louder now..", 1999 Ivan Durrant. © Ivan Durrant/Copyright Agency, 2021. 2 Col Joye, 1957 Ern McQuillan OAM. © Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs.

Post-war migration from Europe and the UK would have an indelible impact on the nascent scene. It brought new audiences and appetites, along with five pioneering spirits who would become Australian rock music legends. The Easybeats’ founding members – from England, Scotland and the Netherlands respectively – met at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in 1964. Their six years together produced fifteen Australian Top 40 hits, including the iconic ‘Friday On My Mind’, the first international rock hit by an Australian act.

1 Stevie Wright, 1975 (printed 2011) Gary Ede. © Gary Ede. 2 Stevie Wright, London, 1976 Gary Ede. Courtesy of the artist. © Gary Ede. 3 Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 4 Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King. 5 Easybeats, 1965 Bob King. Courtesy of the artist. © Bob King.

Crossover influences were a feature of early rock in Australia, with the folk-rock stylings of The Seekers finding great popularity both locally and internationally. Little Pattie also made a splash with her surf-rock hits, including ‘He’s My Blonde-Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy’ (1963). As these bands developed, television played an increasing role, beaming the stars and their music into suburban Australia with programs such as Bandstand, which launched in 1958.

1 Little Pattie, 1966 (printed 2019) Ern McQuillan OAM. © Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs. 2 Graham Kennedy and the Seekers in Melbourne, c. 1967 Robert Whitaker. © Robert Whitaker. 3 The Seekers reunite 50 years on, 2011 Helen Edwards. © Helen Edwards.

"A little bit louder now" taken from ‘Shout’. Written by O’Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley and Rudolph Isley. © EMI Longitude Music. Licensed by EMI Music Publishing Australia Pty Ltd. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Related information

Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews
Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel 1984 (detail) Grant Matthews

Pub Rock

Your backstage pass to 70s and 80s sounds and scenes

Previous exhibition, 2020

Celebrate the people, places and sounds of Australian pub rock and its enduring impact on our nation’s identity.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency