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The pop music scene in Australia in the 1960s

posted on 2017-02-16, 04:46 authored by Zion, Lawrence
This thesis examines the circumstances under which the pop music scene existed in Australia during the 1960s. It is not concerned specifically with intepreting the music of the period itself. Instead the more central issues are, on the one hand, to chronicle the developnent of the pop scene (a term explained in the introduction), and, secondly, to interpret the context of involvement with pop music in Australia during this period. In the attempt to realise these aims there is a broader if less explicit agenda. This is to question some of the more conventional approaches ani assurrptions frequently invoked in the study of "culture" in Australia, both in the sense of "culture" as a ''way of life", and in the context of "culture" as artistic and intellectual pursuits. The introductory chapter is concerned with explainirq how best to examine the pop music scene in Australia, and includes a brief historiographical discussion of both general approaches to studying pop music and about the development of cultural studies in Australia. The argument developed here is that questions about "the text" and "effects" of pop music cannot be properly addressed without first attempting to understand the particular circumstances under which pop music is produced, both socially ani econanically. Chapter two is also introductory - but in a more chronological sense - focussing on the emergence of rock' n' roll in Australia in the period from 1955 to 1963. The three chapters that follow dicuss the both the economic and social conditions within the pop music scene of the mid-1960s developed. They begin with an analysis of the context of involvement in the pop music scene by members of the post-war generation, not just as performers but also in a broad spectrum of areas within the nascent music industry. This is followed in the fifth and sixth chapters by a discussion of the circumstances within which pop musicians careers developed. It is argued that beneath the surface of an apparent pop boom in which many perfonrers found it possible to earn a living outside of the conventional career paths that their parents may have hoped they would follow, success was frequently a precarious and transitory phenomenon. Explaining this involves discussinq the impact of tourirq overseas acts on local acts, the often inflexible attitudes of record ccanpanies and the musicians' union, as well as attacks on the pop scene made from police and "respectable" society, which were mostly directed at dance venues. Many of difficulties faced by pop performers intensified in the late 1960s, when, amidst the rhetoric of counterculture and the emergence of the idea of perfonner as "artist", the pop music industry more discernibly consolidated, and the conflicting interests of ''musician" and "industry" became nore apparent. The final chapter examines the endeavours of Australian pop performers overseas, and aims to locate the expectations and strategies of local pop performers within a broader trajectory encompassirq the aspirations of a Australian artists and performers from a wide range of pursuits. Included here is a discussion about the Battle of the Sounds ccompetition, a contest whose major prize was a trip overseas for the victorious pop group. Connexions are suggested between the failure of Battle of the Sounds winners, and many other Australan acts, to succeed overseas, and the conditions in which their careers developed in Australia


Principal supervisor

John Rickard

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Faculty of Arts


Doctor of Philosophy

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