As the hit Aboriginal band, No Fixed Address were recently inducted into the SA Music 'Hall of Fame', we reflect on some of the achievements this game-changing band accomplished during their career.
They rocked the status quo with rock and reggae
The band were raised on Koonibba Mission, Ceduna and came together as teenagers in the late 1970s while studying music at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in North Adelaide. They were mentored by a white musician, Graeme Isaac who encouraged them to move beyond country music, a popular genre of music adopted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to explore rock and reggae. In a sense, the boys created a whole new music genre, ‘Australian reggae’ by using traditional reggae sounds fused with the Indigenous storytelling and punk, anarchist lyrics.
They were the first Aboriginal band to receive mainstream exposure
No Fixed Address were active for nearly 10 years and signed to a plethora of big-name music labels, including PolyGram and Mushroom. Their career saw them performing for Prince Charles at the Royal Variety Performance, and winning a number of awards in both music and film. Before No Fixed Address, there were no Aboriginal bands in the national music charts, on commercial radio or on national television.
The boys first got media support from local community radio stations, particularly 5MMM. However, after a series of recording contract knockbacks, No Fixed Address teamed with fellow Indigenous band, Us Mob and made a film exposing the discrimination and harassment of Indigenous Australians. Their poignant biographical story Wrong Side of The Road gained interest from the mainstream media, which quickly raised No Fixed Address’ profile to wider Australia and non-Indigenous audiences.
No Fixed Address paved the way for the iconic Aboriginal rock which began to emerge in the 1980s, including Yothu Yindi and the Warumpi Band.
Their music was a source of advocacy and activism
No Fixed Address were not just talented musicians with a cool sound. Their lyrics dramatically changed the Australian music landscape, where strong songs about human rights, Indigenous welfare, racism, oppression and Australia’s shameful history were broadcast on mainstream channels. This was just shy of a time when non-Indigenous Australians were unaware of the Stolen Generations or forced labor of Aboriginal children, and public schools were teaching students that Indigenous Australians will soon become extinct. No Fixed Address lyrics of tracks such as, 'Pigs', 'We Have Survived' and 'Stupid System' opened conversations in the wider community about the struggles of Indigenous peoples and country-wide resistance.
They were the first Aboriginal band to tour internationally
After the success of touring across Australia in 1982 with international reggae legend, Jamaican musician, Peter Tosh, the band played toured 9 cities in the UK at an influential time for People of Colour, during the Brixton Riots.
Their album was launched by the Prime Minister
After the band were contracted to Rough Diamond Records, they released their debut album, From My Eyes was launched at the Hilton Hotel by none other than the Australian Prime Minister at the time, Bob Hawke.
They exposed the treatment of modern Aboriginal people
No Fixed Address’ award winning film, Wrong Side of the Road depicted police brutality and regular discrimination that each band member had experienced first-hand. Wrong Side of the Road demonstrated the racism that prevails in contemporary Australia.
The film was also a creative response to the band being denied a major recording contract on account of them being ‘too radical’. This, along with consistent police interference at their music gigs and being denied hotel accommodation while on tour, showed the public how difficult it is for Aboriginal Australians to excel in mainstream creative industries and the ways that their opportunities have been limited. Making their Hall of Fame induction this week an even more significant win for Aboriginal music, and Indigenous excellence. They truly have survived.