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

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, a Brisbane independent news-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

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

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 – “[This] 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

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

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

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 our Queensland Music Curator, Laurel Dingle, about any material you think should come to the library.

Further reading

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland