Out of the Cabinet 1979

Table of Contents


We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.       

Another Brick in the Wall Part II was the single from Pink Floyd’s blockbuster double album, The Wall. The album was an outlet for bassist Roger Waters’ feelings of alienation after he’d spat on an irritating audience member at the end of a long North American tour two years earlier. The incident made him realise how there was now an enormous barrier between them and their audience.

This theme of alienation became the basis for The Wall. And just to add to the feeling of isolation, they spent a good part of 1979 in studios across the world, recording it. The Wall was the concept album taken to extremes, more like a play, with characters and storyline- very theatrical.

This track from the album, Another Brick in the Wall Part II, was originally 90 seconds long. The record’s producer who saw the song as a potential single, extended it and added a children’s chorus. The head music teacher at Islington Green School provided the kids, who were asked to sing in an edgy almost shouted fashion, and with a cockney accent. Waters loved the result, and the single became an unlikely Christmas number 1 in the UK. (Hardly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!)

The album went on to sell 12.5 million copies, which led to some questioning about why the Islington kids were paid only with a free copy each of the album, plus a £1,000 donation to the school.

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
(If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t get yer pudding )
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
(You behind the bike sheds, stand still Laddy)

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.


And all this in the UNESCO International Year of the Child.

Care for Kids, it’s important to care for kids
It’s important to be there for kids
It’s important to care for kids.

The Care For Kids jingle, written by Australian composer Peter Best, came to attention via an advertising agency in which broadcaster Philip Adams was involved. The jingle actually made it into the Australian charts getting as high as number 13.

1979 was also the year when an Aussie girl wearing nothing but a bikini made front page news when she kissed Prince Charles on a Perth beach. And a Ukrainian girl wearing nothing but a bikini made front page news when she jumped from a Russian ship and swam her way to defection.

It was a time when we were driving smaller cars, eating less meat and more vegies, drinking more wine and less beer.

Science discovered we should be concerned about the hole in the ozone layer, CO2 in the atmosphere, and the resulting threat to forests and water.

At a time of strikes, inflation and tax increases, the cost of a night at the movies for two was $10, the cost of a double room in a motel for two $22, the cost of a meal at a BYO restaurant for two $24, and the weekly poverty line for two $121.44.

A visit to the dentist went up to $14.20 for a filling, and a standard consultation at the doctor went up to $10.20.

According to the Sun Herald, the prize for best dressed politician went to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the sartorially elegant Mr Andrew Peacock. The prize for the worst dressed politician went to Country Party Leader Doug Anthony, described as:

Dressing like a pig farmer visiting the big city for the first time, with enough room in his ill-fitting suits to carry emergency bags of feed.


Technology, whilst not at the level of today’s usage, was creeping into our lives. We had pocket calculators, microwave ovens, electronic ticket dispensers, pioneer digital recordings, and according to Aussie/New Zealand group, Mi-Sex…

Computer games.

 Computer Games went to number 1 in Australia in 1979.

I fidget with the digit dots and cry an anxious tear
As the XU-1 connects the spot
But the matrix grid don’t care
Get a message to my mother
What number would she be
There’s a million angry citizens
Looking down their tubes at me

Computer games
Computer games.

The synthesiser was a key part of the Mi-Sex sound, and it also featured strongly in a British hit song with a machine theme.

I heard you on the wireless back in ‘52
Lying awake intent at tuning in on you
If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through
Oh-a oh, I met your children
Oh-a oh, What did you tell them?

Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star.

Video Killed the Radio Star, recorded by The Buggles, was one of those infectious songs that plays in your head incessantly, what we would now call an ‘earworm’.

In my mind and in my car
We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far
Pictures came and broke your heart
Put the blame on VCR

Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star.


While in the USA there was a ‘death to disco’ movement, here in Sydney alone 100 discos opened in 1979. Mostly these were converted from former restaurants and theatres, and attracted a cover charge of $2.

Roller discos, too, were the latest thing, and colourful Labor politician Al Grassby was invited to the opening of one such venue because apparently Al loved roller skating. St John’s Ambulance was on hand and I’m not sure if that was because of Mr Grassby’s presence, or a regular thing.

One song that was played perpetually in discos at the time began as a B-side, but eventually eclipsed its A-side to become a worldwide hit, coming in at number 3 on the Australian charts.

Go on now go
Walk out the door
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Did ya think I’d crumble
Did ya think I’d lay down and die

Oh no not I, I will survive
As long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive
I will survive.

Sung by Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive struck a chord with the gay community, not just as a superb dance track, but as a statement of determination in a world of discrimination and unequal rights.


Malcolm Fraser was right in the middle of his term as Prime Minister in 1979, and was at the ABC in Melbourne, appearing on a show called Talk of the Nation. Countdown was being recorded in the next studio so the producer coerced him into coming onto the set of the influential music program to announce the show.

To help the ABC survive, 1979 was the first year that the ABC was allowed to keep the profits from sales of records, books, concerts and programs instead of it going into general coffers, setting the scene for ABC merchandise and ABC shops.

Meanwhile on commercial TV, two high rating Australian shows had hit songs that went with them.

If I were a minstrel I’d sing you six love songs
To tell the whole world of the love that we share
If I were a merchant I’d bring you six diamonds
With six blood red roses for my love to wear

But I am a simple man, a poor honest farmer
So take my 6 ribbons to tie back your hair.

Against the Wind was a 1978 mini-series produced by Crawford Productions, set in convict Australia. It starred Jon English who, with one time band member Mario Millo, composed and recorded the soundtrack of the series. The album became the best-selling middle-of-the-road album of 1979, and the single, Six Ribbons, the best-selling single by a male artist that year.

Tooralie, tooralie
All I could share
Is only six ribbons
To tie back your hair.

It was the year when the long-running international hit Prisoner was first aired. The story lines were controversial, the lighting dimmer than usual, and it was an instant hit. So too was its theme song, On the Inside.

He used to give me roses
I wish he could again
But that was on the outside
And things were different then

On the inside the sun still shines
And the rain keeps falling down
But sun and rain are prisoners too
When morning comes around.

Prisoner attracted a million viewers a week, but its popularity was not shared by Mr Fred Nile.

This despicable new show emphasizes terror and violence, it has objectionable language, and depicts illicit sex acts. I prefer more wholesome entertainment like The Brady Bunch, the Waltons, and Australians at War.

One of the big international movies of the year upset believers all over the world, and delighted non-believers. It was Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which featured a song, sung by Eric Idle whilst being crucified, just to prove that there is a positive side to crucifixion.

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best.

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath
And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life.

In the world of Australian theatre, David Williamson had been writing successful plays at the rate of one every year or so, and his 1979 offering told the story of an aged couple moving from Melbourne to Queensland. The play contains this line:.

Moya Simpson’s just had another one, and it’s made me clucky

Moya Simpson, please explain.

I can only assume that Mr Williamson visited the Sydney Theatre Company with whom the dance company I worked for shared a space in Alexandria. We all had to sign in at the front of the building, so is that where he pinched my name? I’m still waiting for the royalty cheque.


Good evening here is the world news for 1979.

The Shah was driven into exile, and Ayatollah Kohmeini victoriously returned from exile to seize power. Later in the year fanatic followers of the Ayatollah stormed the US Embassy in Teheran and took nearly 100 hostages.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship.

The Ugandan National Liberation Front deposed Idi Amin.

Cousin of the Queen, Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb while heading out on a fishing trip.

A crack Soviet unit took Kabul airport, paving the way for a Soviet invasion, the Kremlin claiming that its forces were:

requested to render urgent political, moral, military, and economic assistance.

After Vietnamese troops occupied the capital, Pnomh Penh, the Red Cross launched an immediate food and medicine operation, in an attempt to save 2 million lives.

The country’s first black Prime Minister, Abel Muzowera, was elected, but with whites still exerting much control. Exiled leaders Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo denounced the election and threatened to overthrow the new regime.

United Kingdom
Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, came into office after a general election, promising an overhaul of the British economic and industrial climate. Thatcher presented herself as a leader of radical change, declaring to Labour voters that they wanted the same things as she did.

Thatcher visited Canberra in 1979, and during her talks with Malcolm Fraser proposed a mediation role for Australia in the Zimbabwe controversy.


Malcolm Fraser, hero of the left in later life, was once not very popular with that faction at all, as illustrated in this song by Eric Bogle.

My friend big Malcolm
Has a jaw like Desperate Dan
A schnozzle like Durante
And the heart of Genghis Khan
He’s got eyes like twin icebergs
And he very rarely smiles
And the general disposition of a rhinoceros with piles
He’s our buddy, he’s our mate
And he is our pal Mal
Ain’t we all so lucky to have Mal.

In 1979, a poll asked the question- who is your preferred Prime Minister?

In third place was Opposition leader Bill Hayden, second was Malcolm Fraser, and in first place was Robert J. Hawke, a man who wasn’t even a political candidate. Although that was soon to change.

I went to school and I got full marks
So I toddled off to Oxford with the ruling class
I wore clean flannels and a lecherous leer
I studied economics and I drank bulk beer
He studied economics and he drank bulk beer
I drank so much I could hardly stand
One day I will be leader of this big, broad land
He drank so much he could hardly stand
One day he will be leader of this big, broad land.

In 1979, Bob Hawke won pre-selection for the safe seat of Wills, not long after Hayden had said there was no way he was stepping aside for Hawke.

And everyone said ‘Poor bugger me
He’ll become the leader of the whole country’
And everyone said ‘Poor bugger me
He’ll become the leader of the whole country.’


Looking like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee
Looking like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee.

Three years earlier a single boat carrying five Vietnamese asylum seekers had arrived at Darwin Harbour without much fanfare, and the five were processed quickly and allowed to stay. From this small beginning the era of the boat people began, and within 18 months there were daily arrivals.

In opposition, Fraser had argued that Australia had a moral obligation to take refugees from Vietnam, so, against strong recommendations to create a ‘reception centre’ or turn back the boats, his government adopted a humanitarian approach. Where possible, Department of Immigration officials were sent to refugee camps to process applicants, but boat arrivals were willingly accepted. In contrast, ALP policy was to provide temporary stay for boat people till arrangements were made to settle them overseas, and to treat asylum seekers as queue jumpers.

By 1979, 29% of our immigrants came from Asia, and most of these as refugees or as part of the family reunion program. Polls showed an increase in support for Australia to take in boat people, though one poll indicated that Coalition and Democrat voters were more accommodating of the policy than ALP voters.

Fraser’s attitude was to not give in to any hardline stance, but to stick to his beliefs and take the electorate with him. In so doing he changed Australia’s ethnic mix forever, and made a massive contribution to multiculturalism.

And she’s crying like a refugee.

The song Choir Girl was a hit for Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel in 1979, making it to number 14 on the charts. It is written from the point of view of a woman facing an abortion, but the reference to this was obscure enough for Catholic stations like 2SM to keep it on their play list.

One nurse to hold her
One nurse to wheel her down
The corridors of healing
And I’ve been trying
But she’s crying like a refugee

Suffer little children
Send that little child to me
All day the doctor
Handles his responsibility
Loves me like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee.


Born in ’79 were singer Ravi Shankar’s little girl Norah Jones, singer Pink, and all 3 members of silverchair. It marked the beginnings of Men at Work and Australian Crawl.

When it came to marriages, Alana Hamilton, one of the numerous tall leggy blonde models in Rod  Stewart’s life, married Rod that year, obviously answering ‘yes’ to the question posed in the title of his 1979 hit album.

Do ya think I’m sexy?
Do ya like my body?
Come on sugar let me know.

And it was goodbye to punk rocker, Sid Vicious, who died aged 24.

I’ll probably die by the time I reach 25. But I’ll have lived the way I wanted to.

It was farewell also to one of my all-time favourite songwriters, Richard Rodgers, who died aged 77. In writing political satire I often find that I call on Rodgers’ songs to parody, and the more I get into them, the more I respect his writing.

And 1979 was the year that we lost legendary English star of stage and screen, Gracie Fields.

On her funeral day she was many miles away
Drinkin’ doubles at the Rose and Crown
Undertakers had to wait ‘cos she’d quite forgot the date
She’s dead but she won’t lie down.


These days the most streamed music genre on the spotify playlist is hip-hop. It has its origins in the early ‘70s, but 1979 is a seminal year in its development because it marks the point where it made the leap from the ghettos of New York to the ears of the wider American community, and from that to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

The song that made the difference was Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, the first rap single to make the Top 40 in the USA. 

I said a hip hop,
The hippie to the hippie
The hip hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it
To the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie,
To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

Hip-hop has deep cultural roots, coming as it does from African-American and Puerto-Rican youth culture in the Bronx. It is a subculture with its own distinctive music, dance, art and jargon. From it, we have vocal rhythmic rhymes and wordplay (rapping or MCing), the manipulation of two turntables to play segments of vinyl records that combine to create a rhythm track (DJing), the use of excerpts from other people’s records (sampling), vocal percussion in which rhythms are created orally (beatbox), and energetic gymnastic street dancing (breakdancing).

Being an authentic voice of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, hip-hop has a political edge to it, expressed not only through its lyrics and music but also through the use of graffiti art.

Hip-hop has always been controversial, its lyrics being seen as promoting misogyny and violence, and its music being guilty of plagiarising already existing records. For instance, Rapper’s Delight included samples of a Blondie song, which led to a copyright dispute which was settled by adding Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Blondie to the songwriting credits.

Now hip-hop is a worldwide phenomenon which has gone way beyond its New York neighbourhood roots, and adapted itself to the cultures of other countries. It took another decade or so before Australian hip-hop had its first commercial outing, but the style has since developed its own regional flavour and lyric references.

And as far as the mainstream goes, it all began with Rapper’s Delight in 1979. 


In 1979, Joh Bjelke-Petersen kept up the standard of outrageous political shenanigans, like launching a vote of no-confidence against the opposition. Guess who won!

It was year in which he authorised the demolition of the 93 year-old Belle Vue Hotel in Brisbane at 1 o’clock in the morning.

It was the year in which there was talk of mining oil on the Great Barrier Reef? But he did have a good explanation.

It’s not all reef, you know, there’s a tremendous lot of water.

And people were still being arrested for demonstrating on the streets of Brisbane.

We don’t want to disrupt the comings and goings and goings and comings of ordinary decent people.

Joh and his Queensland police state provided continual inspiration for great Aussie bands like Skyhooks…

Well I spent too long in the deep south
The land of the big peanuts
It ain’t that good in the police state
They burn down the hippy’s huts
They turn back the clock a decade
They bust you for no reason
The sun shines the whole year round
The shotgun’s still in the season

I’m goin’ over the border
Over the border
Over the border
Down in NSW.

Joh had this to say about Skyhooks’ song.

A cheap little gimmick aimed at attracting free publicity.

Redgum had released their first album the year before, which featured Letter to BJ.

Hear me Bjelke Petersen
In your leather- padded chair
There’s a tide outside your door
That’s steadily rising
And it’s a simple case of freedom
And a lot of us who care
So if demonstrations aren’t enough
Make sure you’ve said your prayers

Joh Bjelke Petersen
Joh Bjelke Petersen
He’s the flying peanut
Uncle Joh.

And Joh’s reaction to the songs?

Any song mentioning my name is bound to be a hit.


And finally, 1979 was a golden year for Australian music. AC/DC and Air Supply had breakthrough albums in the USA and there were more hits for the group that led this wave of international success- The Little River Band.

If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear waters
There’s lots of those friendly people
Showin’ me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so pre-arranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change.

Cool Change hit number 10 in the US, and even though it didn’t make it into the Australian charts at all, it was voted as one of the top 30 songs of all time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association.

I know that it’s time for a cool change
He is the man who’s read every page
So we know that it’s time for a cool, cool change.

A cool change from us to the archival scholar, Dr Jim Stokes. Click here to read a transcript of his 1979 talk.

 Jim Stokes 1979 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Another Brick in the Wall Part II written by Roger Waters
Care For Kids written by Peter Best
Computer Games written by Murray Burns and Kevin Stanton
Video Killed the Radio Star written by Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn and Bruce Woolley
I Will Survive written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Six Ribbons written by Jon English and Mario Millo
On the Inside written by Allan Caswell
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life written by Eric Idle
Our Pal Mal written by Eric Bogle
The Drover’s Dog written by John Schumann
Choir Girl written by Don Walker
He Is Dead But He Won’t Lie Down written by Michael Carr, William Haines and Jimmy Harper
Rapper’s Delight written by The Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards
Over the Border written by Greg Macainsh
Letter to BJ written by John Schumann
Cool Change written by Glenn Shorrock.

Malcolm Fraser- The Political Memoirs by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

Show performed 2010
Essay written March 2017