It's Only Rock 'n' Roll But I Like It : A history of the early days of rock 'n' roll in Brisbane... as told by some of the people who were there

Walden, Geoffrey Alan (2003) It's Only Rock 'n' Roll But I Like It : A history of the early days of rock 'n' roll in Brisbane... as told by some of the people who were there. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The music history that is generally presented to students in Queensland secondary schools as the history of music is underpinned by traditions associated with the social and cultural elite of colonialist Europe. On the other hand, contemporary popular music is the style with which most in this community identify and its mass consumption by teenagers in Brisbane was heralded with the arrival of rock 'n' roll in the mid-1950s.

This project proposes that the involvement of the music education system in, and the application of digital technology to, the collection and storage of musical memories and memorabilia with historical potential is an important first step on the journey to a music history that is built on the democratic principles of twenty-first century, culturally and socially diverse Australia rather than on the autocratic principles of colonialist Europe. In taking a first step, this project focused on collecting memories and memorabilia from people who were involved in an aspect of the coming of rock 'n' roll to Brisbane. Memories were collected in the form of recorded conversations and these recordings, along with other audio and visual material were transferred to digital format for distribution.

As an oral history focusing its attention on those who were involved with the coming of rock 'n' roll to Brisbane in the mid to late 1950s and the early 1960s, this project is intended as a starting point for that journey. Even as a starting point however, some interesting findings emerged. For example:

  • Early Brisbane rock 'n' roll was a suburban affair.

  • Dancers were just as important in bringing rock 'n' roll to Brisbane as were the musicians.

  • Musicians not only had to learn new music on new instruments, they had to, in many cases, make their own instruments.

  • The rock 'n' roll story as promoted by the newspapers of the day was very different to how it is remembered by the participants.

  • Community institutions such as family, school and church played a vital support role in the lives of young rock 'n' roll musicians.

  • Brisbane's rock 'n' roll musicians generally reflected the conservative nature of their community.

  • Brisbane's very early rock 'n' roll musicians were strongly influenced by country and western music.

  • Once the commercial viability of rock 'n' roll became evident, it became more accepted as an entertainment format.

Of the many thousands of people who lived in Brisbane during the 1950s and who had an interest in or were affected by the coming of rock 'n' roll, only a very small percentage were involved in this project. This would indicate that there is a significant body of untold memories and stories waiting to respond to the interest of Queensland music students.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 15791
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Tait, Gordon, Carpenter, Belinda, & Wells, Ian
Keywords: Brisbane, music, history, rock 'n' roll, oral history
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Department: Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Geoffrey Alan Walden
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:49
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:38

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