Inside the Roadrunner office 1981

Inside the Roadrunner office, rear of 103 King William St, Kent Town, April 1981. Photo by Eric Algra.

Roadrunner was the rock and roll magazine I published in Adelaide in the golden age of Australian post-punk and pub rock (1978-83).

It took its name from the Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers song that was an unlikely UK chart hit in 1977. The song includes the lines:

I say roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock ‘n’ roll
And I’ll be out all night
Roadrunner, that’s right

—and therefore Roadrunner twice seemed a perfect choice for the name of my blog.

In May 2017, the University of Wollongong in New South Wales made all 48 issues of Roadrunner available in a digital archive (at http://ro.uow.edu.au/roadrunner/). To coincide with this, I wrote a brief history of the magazine—the story of how an Adelaide punk fanzine blossomed into a well-loved national music magazine that chronicled the glory days of Australian post-punk and ‘pub rock’ music in the period 1978-83. That history forms the basis of The Big Beat, an anthology of articles from the magazine published in book form in October 2019.

The do-it-yourself ethos espoused by the UK punk movement in the mid-1970s was strongly felt in Australia and inspired bands to form, play live and record and release their own records. The concurrent expansion of live music venues across the country (mainly pubs) meant more bands could live, work and play. Roadrunner was also very much a product of this do-it-yourself ethos.

From the bunch of evangelical music fans and writers who initially came together, some left and others joined and as those involved became more technically proficient the magazine developed and grew. With no financial backing (until the final despairing issue), Roadrunner survived for five years due to the combination of a posse of enthusiastic (and usually unpaid) contributors, a creative and understanding production crew, a sympathetic printer, the support of key music industry personalities and—perhaps most important of all—a small but dedicated readership.

The content of this blog is a selection of previous published articles and new stuff as it comes to me. Hope you enjoy it. There’s more about Roadrunner and how I got into writing in this interview by David Nichols.

Donald Robertson