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Warwick Vere: 40 Years of Rocking Horse Records

Warwick Vere is a music record veteran with decades of experience in the industry behind him. After 40 years as the owner of Rocking Horse Records, he sat down with My City Life to talk about the history of the music scene in the River City…

In the world of early 70’s music, the punk genre was shaking under the surface. While Sydney paved the way for punk and import records from as early as 1970, the rest of Australia was yet to catch up. In 1975, a young Warwick Vere moved from Sydney to Brisbane to work as a legal assistant. When he arrived, he discovered the city transformed into a ghost town once the weekend rolled around and that there wasn’t a market for import record stores… yet.

Reluctant to loose faith in Brisbane, Warwick took the gamble and opened his very own record shop. Forty years later, through police raids, the punk explosion of 1977 and even threats of foreclosure, Rocking Horse Records is now celebrating a very solid birthday.

But Warwick explained that it hasn’t been easy. “We’ve had a lot of run-ins with record companies,” he said.  “If a David Bowie album was released in America, Australia wouldn’t get it for many months. Without iTunes or Spotify back then, a music-lover would have to twiddle their thumbs or walk down to Rocking Horse Records. We had a lot of fights with them over the years,” he said.

By 1989 Warwick ditched his legal career to invest in the opening of his second store. However, despite his lawful background, he was soon fighting the government’s attempt to sue Rocking Horse Records for obscene lyrics on some albums.  

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“On February 14, 1989 they marched in with a warrant and said they’re going to seize records and it was pretty hairy for a while,” Warwick said. “In the end, the case fell through and Rocking Horse won. Detectives confiscated over $500 worth of records, including ‘Do the Shag’ by The Champs. The joke was on them when they realised ‘Do the Shag’ is an instrumental piece.”

But this wasn’t the darkest hour for Rocking Horse Records.

In 2011 the fate of the business was hindered as the global financial crisis hit and the Internet started to seriously erode their take. But with the aid of the Brisbane community rallying for them and one very generous landlord, Rocking Horse Records was saved. Warwick said there was a big sentiment for the business to keep going after that.

After recently celebrating its 40th birthday at Newstead venue, The Triffid, there’s clearly a rosy future on the cards for Rocking Horse Records and its beloved family in Brisbane.

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