The mural will be the first step in a next-generation Brisbane music trail, where visitors can stop, listen and hear about some of the city’s most influential musicians and places.
This music trail won’t be statues on street corners. It will include bridges (Go Between Bridge), parks (Ed Kuepper Park) and now-buried George Street rock venues (Brisbane’s Curry Shop) just as starters.
Over a decade, it will have venues, practice rooms, apartments, homes, galleries and, of course, musicians.
At each site will be place markers, which open digital documentaries to those places and people.
It plans to go backwards from the Saints, to Railroad Gin and Carol Lloyd, back to Tony Worsley, the Purple Hearts, Billy Thorpe and then forward to the Go-Betweens, to Powderfinger, Regurgitator and Savage Garden.
It could have stories from Cloudland, which was flattened for developers. It will tell stories about Festival Hall, flattened for developers. About Spring Hill. The Judith Wright Centre in Fortitude Valley, 4ZZZ’s home in the old Communist Party building on St Paul’s Terrace. The changing face of George Street.
“It’s an archaeology in a way,” Brisbane musician and local cultural history expert John Willsteed said.
Dr Willsteed is the man behind Brisbane’s new music trail.
Years ago, he was John E, an artist and musician in some of Brisbane’s most inventive bands; Zero, then Xero, then the Go-Betweens and now, Halfway.
Today, Dr Willsteed is the senior lecturer in the Creative Industries faculty at the Queensland University of Technology.
But it is his four decades as a musician, film score writer and graphic artist of hundreds of leaflets, handbills and posters that makes him key to this new modern, digital interpretation of a Brisbane music trail.
“So this is not about building a statue to someone like Johnny O’Keefe,” Dr Willsteed said.
“It’s about looking at the sites, because those sites are about the city.”
Dr Willsteed wants more Brisbane people to know about the venue known as the Curry Shop, where the Saints, among hundreds of other bands, played.
“The one that is important to me is a venue that is now covered by the courts buildings in George Street,” he says.
“So I think it is very important to say that underneath the ground here, this stuff happened and that is very important for these reasons.”
The Curry Shop was an influential Brisbane venue, already known by international touring acts, including Blondie and Talking Heads, but unknown to most of Brisbane.
“That is part of the strangeness of this country. As soon as you step away from the very obvious, like Michael Hutchence, or people who have had significant chart successes, people are broadly unaware of the cultural history that sits underneath their seats,” Dr Willsteed said.
Dr Willsteed’s concept is to build an online digital history of bands, artists and places, which are activated by the place markers.
But first things first.
Ms Palaszczuk announced at last week’s BigSound conference that the Queensland government would fund a mural to pay tribute to the Saints’ music and uncompromising, do-it-yourself attitude.
Ed Kuepper co-founded the Saints with singer Chris Bailey, drummer Ivor Hay and bass player Kym Bradshaw in 1974.
They rehearsed in a tiny share house just up from Lang Park, on the corner of Petrie Terrace and Milton Road. They called it Club 76.
Along with Bailey, Kuepper, now in his 60s, was one of the Saints’ two main songwriters.
He told Fairfax Media he liked the idea of a Saints mural in Upper Roma Street.
“I think it’s great. I’ve long been in favour of plaques and things that recognise artistic endeavour and I’m not just saying this because this time it’s my stuff, but it’s because I think it makes a city more interesting,” he said.
When he wrote for the Saints, the sound in his head was a mix of the Stooges, the Pretty Things, the Kinks, Chicago blues, the instrumental Ramrods, jazz, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, the Doors and MC5, mixed in with the brass from Ike and Tina Turner soul records and some of the best rock and roll on the radio in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
“I wanted the guitar to be a combination of many things. I started writing songs before I put the band together and so for a long time the guitar had to be everything,” Kuepper said.
“The guitar had to be the band, the guitar had to be the orchestra in a way.
“I just wanted something that was harmonically rich enough to do that and to have the sort of power that a band that had bass and drums should have.”
The Saints first three albums; (I’m) Stranded (1976), Eternally Yours (1978) and Prehistoric Sounds (1978) leapfrogged musical fashion and showed what was possible with brass, balls and imagination.
And then the band was gone.
Dr Willsteed has been quietly been planning his Brisbane music trail for two years.
His 2015 doctorate performance at the Brisbane Powerhouse, It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity, tells how Brisbane’s buildings and layout influenced its popular culture.
That show is the type of thing visitors would download as they came to a site on the new Brisbane music trail.
“I’m looking at a Brisbane music trail where we can activate our recent cultural history to make it visible in the city,” Dr Willsteed says.
“Because I really don’t think we are aware of what we really do have.”
Performance: Ed Kuepper plays songs from the original three Saints album as The Aints on September 27 at The Tivoli as part of the Brisbane Festival.