Circa 1977 – 1980
It was as hot as hell in the Dan O’Connell Hotel, even in winter, but you couldn’t help being swept away by the crowd and the music. There were moments in the show when the mob would respond by singing ‘Skippy’ and doing things that were equally incomprehensible to a first-timer in the audience.
Somehow, ‘The Bushwackers’ would take you back to colonial days when a bloke was either your mate or a policeman. Somehow it was no longer a crowded pub on a bleak night in Melbourne, but a hot, dry patch of Queensland dirt in the middle of a drought — or even a hiding place during a shoot with the ‘traps’ in Victoria.
You were transported to the worlds of the larrikin, the swaggie, those on the land, the grieving wife, the boy in the trenches of Gallipolli. The band would challenge your politic too, at every turn. They forced you to take a side, preferably for the worker or the oppressed, whoever and whenever they may be.
The Bushwackers were the first major Australian band to take a stand on issues such as becoming a republic, ditching the Royal Family, adopting the Eureka flag and ending the prohibition of marijuana.
Although the band’s passionate music and strong views no doubt combined to attract huge public support, there are simple factors more powerful than either of these which caused the Bushwackers band to become a phenomenon.