Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

The Ups & Downs of living in Pig City

My psychological makeup is such that I rarely find myself looking forward to something. However, I do feel some glimmers of anticipation about the Pig City concert which is being held in Brisbane next Saturday (14th July). I wrote about it before in this post. Most of the pre-publicity has been focused on the reunion of the original lineup of The Saints who recorded the seminal song “(I’m) Stranded” in 1976. (it will actually only be 3 of the 4 original members, but the two key ones – Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper – will be performing together under that name for the first time in Brisbane since the 1980s.)

But the band I’m particularly interested in seeing will be Ups & Downs. They were a 1980s Brisbane group who grew from being a jangly-guitar-with-paisley-shirts band into something much better. They definitely fit into the category of ‘should’ve been commercially successful’, and they probably would’ve been if they hadn’t had to face the hurdles Brisbane bands did in those days, most of which are no longer there. You can hear a few of their tunes by visiting their MySpace site here.

I’ll still be interested to see The Saints, but I saw Ed Kuepper perform live as part of The Saints some years after he originally left the band, so the base novelty value of that is fairly minor for me. However, they have some good songs amongst their first three albums, and it’s always a good thing to see/hear a band perform their good songs. However, I reckon the band Kuepper went on to set up after leaving The Saints in 1979 – the Laughing Clowns – were more ground breaking musically. If I could see The Laughing Clowns play again, that would really be something – not that I expect it to happen. I suppose they also wouldn’t have the crude parochial angle of being able to be called a Brisbane band, despite Kuepper and its other key member, drummer Jeffrey Wegener, being from Brisbane originally. (yes, drummers can be key members of a band).

The Pig City concert will also have the nostalgia of (I assume) seeing a lot of people who I haven’t seen much in recent years, as well as that of attending a concert at the University of Queensland, which was the site of many significant concerts back in the 1980s. In those days, the University also hosted the studios of alternative music station 4ZZZ-FM. I’m a bit biased I suppose, but I think there should be a greater recognition of the crucial role that this radio station played in supporting and creating the musical environment that the Pig City concert is celebrating. Indeed, the song Pig City was recorded in the 4ZZZ studios at the University. This was in the days before bands could put their music and images on the internet, and also before JJJ radio was broadcast nationally, so having a local radio station that provided an outlet for local, independent bands was crucial. I should emphasise that ZZZ still does play this role from its studios in Fortitude Valley – just 5 minutes walk from my office, (for all those people who love conspiracy theories, in a building once owned by the Communist Party).

Community radio is often viewed dismissively, but while there are different opportunities for local bands these days, the value in getting radio airplay, doing interviews and the like should not be dismissed. Brisbane musicians have been recognised on a world level in recent times, and the role of grassroots support like ZZZ can’t be over-estimated. (and if you agree with helping an organisation that supports local music and creativity, feel free to give them some financial support by clicking here.)


22 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. niceLY put maTe!

  2. Lana

    Oh Andrew! What bliss! Your post brings back such memories. I loved the Ups & Downs.

    My boyfriend’s band played with them once at a party and I was in heaven. (We were very poor so the girlfriends would come to parties to eat – we’d hover around the buffet while everyone else danced and stuff some food in our handbags for later). I bought the Ups & Downs EP ‘Sleepless’ ($8.50) and played it to death. Even my dad loved their version of ‘Solitary Man’.

    And 4ZZZ – it was so important to me. It was a window on the world that seemed so far away from me in the pre-internet years. London? It might as well have been Mars. 4ZZZ meant I could not just read about bands in NME – I could also hear them! And, if I liked what I heard, save up my pennies and head to that mecca of all things alternative, Rocking Horse Records. I felt connected – even from suburban Brisbane.

    I heard The Smiths’ ‘This Charming Man’ on 4ZZZ one night sat in my room with my books, black eyeliner and no clue, and it changed my life. Thanks 4ZZZ.

  3. Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your post. I remember the Ups & Downs. There was some very interesting bands in Brisbane in the 80s.

    We had a band in the mid 80’s called “Thanks for the Fish”. We played a number of benefits for 4ZZZ and many benefits for social justice causes. We eventually moved to Melbourne. It was a great time.

  4. cam

    heh, have listened to living kind five times in a row.

  5. Lana

    Me too! Maybe more. It’s a brilliant song. I can’t play my old vinyl EP anymore so it’s great to be able to hear it again.

    As Andrew said – why were the Ups & Downs never internationally famous?

    I remember ‘ Thanks For The Fish’. You guys were great.

    Your post is bringing back a lot of hazy UQ gigs for me – I recall stumbling drunkenly past the legendary Johnny Thunders one night while looking for the loo. Ah…memories.


    Ah yes Morrissey and the “Smiths”, music to get depressed by, right up there with Billy Bragg on the index of joyfullness.

    Personally i think the Cure, the Beloved, the Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, Two Nice Girls,
    Pet Shop Boys,Squirrel Nut Zippers,The Pogues,Mr Floppy, New Order, Violent Femmes, and even the “Budgie” are more socially responsible bands to play.
    They certainly arn”t likely to increase the suicide rate amongst listners.

  7. muzzmonster

    I’ll also be there and am looking forward to it. I was still in high school when my older brother brought home Semper Floreat from UQ where he was studying. Two bands had names I still remember; Once I Hit (or Killed?) a Gopher with a Stick and Pineapples from the Dawn of Time.

    I was too young to go to gigs those days so I’m looking forward to seeing the Pineapples for the first time – along with some other great bands.

  8. The band’s name was “Once I Killed a Gopher with a Stick” I believe. I believe a member of that band is actually the ALP candidate for the seat of Moreton at this year’s election – another rock star to possibly sit alongside Peter Garrett.

    (I’m sure he’ll correct me (or sue me) if I’m wrong).

  9. You mean graham perrett? Well i never knew that! I know (used to work with) his wife :)

  10. Lana

    Graham Perrett? I never realised. He’s a great guy and does a lot of good work in the community eg, Kyabra. And, now I find out he’s also cool? That’s too much wonderfulness for one man, surely.

  11. Chris

    Great to see a politician giving their musical views , anyway, Sleepless was one of my top 10 80’s records,and i saw them play at the Villa Noosa in the Mid 80’s, what an awesome sound they had. Alarming Situations, Where is the Sun, Living Kind and Lit by the Fuse some of my fave songs of all time.

  12. Dean

    Ups & Downs are my fave band of all time. Would have paid $200- to see them by themselves. Travelling is an awesome song as is The Living Kind (In my opinion the most perfect pop tune of all time) Looking forward to the Riptides again (is it another resurface??) and also Pineapples From the Dawn of Time. Pig city brings back a lot of memories for me as well and am looking forward to seeing a number of other grey haired persons bopping away.

  13. danny

    “If I could see The Laughing Clowns play again, that would really be something – not that I expect it to happen”….

    All Shows for Laughing Clowns
    01/10/2008 08:00 PM – Best Western Ipswich Heritage Motor Inn

    Now, no crashing the party folks, OK?

  14. Matt K

    What a day. What a band. It was just perfect.

    Hope you had a great day


  15. Pig City – what a blast. It is hard to go past the Ups and Downs’ performance – especially since guitarist Peter Shaw is on the Moreton campaign team. Riptides fantastic and Screamfeeder have sent me looking for their stuff. Kev Carmody his usual brilliant self and Custard were great fun. Didn’t mind the Apartments also but all were blown away by The Saints. What a night! What a vibe. Sorry I didn’t say g’day to you Andrew but you always had heaps of people around you. Hopefully I’ll see you around the hustings!

  16. muzzmonster

    I went to get a Riptides CD at Rocking Horse Records this arvo, but they were sold out. Seems a few people other than me enjoyed the gig.

  17. Mark D

    I fully agree, Ups & Downs were the pick of the Pig City gig for me, and we were spoilt for their fine memories on 4ZZZ. I agree with the blogs at the end of this web page, Ups & Downs still do deserve greater commercial success. Perhaps Living Kind and Perfect Crime were a little ahead of their time and may get a better run if re-released with national airplay now? It’s never too late.

    Mark D.

  18. Hello Andrew

    Pig City was like walk down memory lane. Amazing bands and the bringing together of many people who were there at the time. However, the gig ignited a lot of younger people to look back at 4ZzZ’s and Brisbane music history. I believe it taught some youth about *some* of the marvellous bands that perhaps didn’t all make it overseas or nationally (chart or sales wise) but are definately legends!

    I’ve dragged out some old vinyl plus listened to the Behind the Banana Curtain 4ZzZ compilation many times recently.

    Oh I loved seeing so MANY 4ZzZ’s t shirts/ jackets. The collection included old, new and borrowed. I took heaps of photos- but couldn’t find you! I tried!

    I even saw a home made Parameter’s Pig City t shirt!!

    4ZzZ’s annual radiothon is being held Oct 12 to 21 this year. Stay tuned to 4ZzZ 102.1FM!


  19. Sorry you missed me Tracey. I even had my oldest ZZZ t-shirt on for the occasion – the threads are still holding together, but I don’t think it will withstand too many more wearings (plus it’s a bit of a tighter squeeze to get into these days).

    And it was rather a shame The Apartments were on so early – it was annoying to miss them altogether, but I had work to do. I guess I should be pleased I got to see the bulk of the day.

  1. Larvatus Prodeo - Jul 11th, 2007

Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. (more…)

  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

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    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.