A night at Cloudland with XTC, Flowers (Icehouse) and The Numbers (1979)

"Cloudland, a symbol of the past, ballroom luxury, lurex and romance has now become known overnight as Brisbane's chief rock venue outside Festival Hall", reported Robert Cameron in the June 1979 edition of non-profit community magazine, Time Off.

From the late 1970's, until its controversial demolition in 1982, Brisbane's Cloudland Ballroom became a regular venue for rock concerts. Some of the fledgling bands who played at Cloudland during this period went on to achieve chart success and establish longstanding careers in the music industry. One example is the concert of July 28, 1979 featuring three talented up-and-coming bands: XTC, Flowers, and The Numbers. State Library of Queensland is fortunate to hold several photographs taken during this concert.

XTC (L-R - Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory) performing at Cloudland, Brisbane, 1979. From 29127 Paul O'Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

British new wave group XTC had already achieved moderate success in the UK with the release of two studio albums before conducting a tour of Down Under in 1979. The band had established a cult following in Australia after receiving regular airplay on independent radio stations such as Brisbane's 4ZZZ. XTC's first two albums White Music and Go 2 also received positive reviews in Semper, the University of Queensland student magazine.

XTC (L-R - Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory) performing at Cloudland, Brisbane, 1979. From 29127 Paul O'Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

Following the concert at Cloudland, XTC band members Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory and Terry Chambers (minus singer/songwriter Andy Partridge) were interviewed for Brisbane's non-profit community magazine, Time Off. During the interview Colin Moulding gave his opinions on songwriting, performing in front of Australian audiences and his dislike of the live music of New Zealand group Mi-Sex; a fact later disputed by Mi-Sex's lead singer. You can read the full interview online.

XTC performing at Cloudland, Brisbane in 1979. From 29127 Paul O'Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

A couple of months after XTC's visit to Australia their third album Drums and Wires was released. Music reviewer Tony Gilson for Brisbane's Time Off magazine praised the album - " is confirmation of the fact that XTC are the greatest pop band in the world today (I say this without any reservations whatsoever)".

The group would go on to release numerous critically acclaimed albums before disbanding in 2006. XTC were featured twice in Radio Triple J's Hottest 100, an Australia-wide poll of the greatest songs of all time. Their 1979 single Making Plans for Nigel reached the No.81 spot in the 1989 poll and in the 1991 poll their 1987 single Dear God was positioned at No.93. XTC also featured several times in Brisbane radio station 4ZZZ's annual Hot 100 poll - 1980 poll (Making Plans For Nigel - No.8; Are You Receiving Me? - No.27; Life Begins At The Hop - No.82); 1982 poll (Making Plans For Nigel - No.13); 1983 poll (Making Plans For Nigel - No.56) and 1993 poll (Dear God - No.99).

Also on the bill that night was Flowers, the original name for Sydney group Icehouse. Flowers/Icehouse achieved success in the Australian charts the following year with the release of their debut single Can't Help Myself, followed by their first album. From the 1980's to the mid-1990's Icehouse would go on to release a string of successful albums and singles at home and aboard.  Some of their most memorable songs included Great Southern Land, Hey Little Girl, No Promises, Crazy and Electric Blue.

Flowers (later known as Icehouse) performing at Cloudland, Brisbane 1979. (Keith Welsh on bass guitar and Iva Davies on leader guitar and vocals). 29127 Paul O'Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

The final band on the bill was the recently formed The Numbers. Although this group did not achieve the international success or longevity of XTC or Icehouse, The Numbers still produced two studio albums before disbanding in 1982.

Numbers performing at Cloudland, Brisbane in 1979. From 29127 Paul O'Brien Collection 1970-1987. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY

XTC concert poster, 1979 (State Library of Queensland collection)

Photographs from this 1979 concert are part of the Paul O’Brien collection, which contains 880 photographic negatives of bands and fans in the Brisbane punk scene from the late 1970's to early 1980's. Some of these images have been digitised and can be browsed online through our One Search catalogue.

Do you have any materials (old flyers, posters, stickers, reviews, tickets, recordings, films, videos, photos, letters and other memorabilia) from Queensland’s music scene gathering dust at home? This material would have a valuable place in our music history and cultural heritage and should be looked after and preserved for current and future generations.  Please contact us about any material you think should come to the library.

Exhibition - Cut Copy: Brisbane music posters 1977-87 (28 Sep 2020 to 9 May 2021)

If you love Brisbane's music scene, be sure to visit our latest exhibition, Cut Copy.

From The Go-Betweens to The Leftovers, Razar to The Riptides, dig deep into Brisbane’s alternative music past and the design work that took it to the streets.

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Explorer

Were you there? Explore posters promoting the gigs, bands and venues of Brisbane's underground music scene 1977-1987.

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You know, I may well have been at this concert! I did go to several rock concerts at Cloudland during this period. It was certainly one of the best concert venues ever, thanks to that sprung floor. Its demolition in 1982 was a tragic loss for live music in Brisbane.

A brilliant night! I miss Cloudland :(

Do you remember that time in Brisbane when it started to feel like a real city? It was ate in the 1970’s and Queensland had been ruled by a gerrymandered Joh Bjelke Peterson mob of crooks. There were underground casinos upstairs in broken down Fortitude Valley buildings. The gay bars were not-so-well-kept secrets...because it was illegal to be gay or lesbian or anything but a card-carrying supporter of the White Patriarchal Uneducated Country Party “Man and Wife” paradigm.

In those days, it was illegal to be in groups of more than two. The police kept a check of this. Street marches and protests were banned, without a hard-to-get licence.

And as disco music faded from the mirror balls at the New York Club, and us 15 year olds drank and partied at Wilson’s 1870s (a very, very dark bar downstairs in Queen Street), something began to happen quite naturally, but also miraculously.

Just below Wison’s 1870, in the same hotel but fronting on to Elizabeth Street, a trashy bar simply known as White Chairs, became one of thenthe haunts of the growing punk movement.

Brisbane and Queensland were ripe for the mood of growing dissidence. And the local music and arts scene embraced the abrasive, outspoken vibe of punk. The Saints are probably the best known Brisbane punk band from these times. The emotional catchcry...”I'm stranded on my own
Stranded far from home”...everybody knew it and sang it at the top of their lungs and from the bottom of a 2 litre bottle of goon.

Because we all felt so trapped.

I can remember being still at high school, when my group of friends lifted our shoulders out from under the weight of a bag of heavy text books to walk strong in illegal street marches which were always disbanded by the police.

Likewise, I can remember being at the University of Queensland the night that a huge group of illegal protesters (many of them striking SEQEB Workers) stormed Mayne Hall, where a ceremony was taking place to award the archaic premier of Queensland an honorary doctorate. He never did a day’s study in any university, letnit he know for fortuity! He declined to attend when he heard there might be trouble.

The government was totally corrupt. In turn, the police force became systemically corrupt too. The government used the police force to keep all Queenslanders in the dark. And quite literally,the rolling SEQEB strikes kept us all lighting candles whilst we played cards on the blanket on top of the kitchen table.

We felt the heavy humidity of invisible, but visceral, chains. But, being young, we all knew we wanted change.

And so, growing up in that vacuum, became a land of ideas, dreams of what could be. And even though it felt like we’d all have to move mountains and part the brown River Brisbane, our voices could not be hushed.

The protests continued, so did the arrests. Why thrived was an incredibly rich cultural groundswell. It was a time of amazing live music and venues were always packed. I have the distinct memory of seeing both Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil performing on the same night up at the old Cloudland Dance Hall. And it was an all ages venue. And Madness, The Sports, and, yet another song-yelling experience. “Am I ever gonna see your face again?”

It was appropriately The Angels, because we all woke up one blue morning to see just a hole in the sky where once Cloudland’s pink dome has held majesty.

We were prisoners to greed and embezzlement. We were trapped, we kept losing things like heritage. And the rest of the country laughed about us, their two-headed country cousins.

Some people, like royalty for example,believe they are above the law, because the law is both enshrined in them and they in it. Joh and his cronies were exactly the same.

But the writing was beginning to be on the wall. When the Fitzgerald Enquiry findings could no longer be denied or not heard, it finally brought that shady, evil government to its knees. Well, not literally, because a Joh suddenly developed memory loss and could no longer find the words to speak. And, indeed, perhaps, it had been so long since he spoke the truth...that he did forget it.

Two state government minister (both knighted by the Queen) were tried and found guilty of corruption, including the Police Minister for Everything, Money Bags,’Russ Hinze.

Joh was eventually charged with perjury,but there was a hung jury. He was deemed too old to be tried again. He retreated to the peanut town of Kingaroy presumably to eat pumpkin scones until his dying days.

Somewhere, in all that Brisbane ran a very successful Commonwealth
Games. And after all this darkness, the light and joy of World Expo 1988 set the flags flying for a new Brisbane, a city who’d had the courage to believe there was a bright future from the very insides of that awful deep state of Joh’s Queensland.

I'm the one wearing the dark burgundy shirt at the XTC concert. That is the back of me of course. It was a great night and terrific venue.