Orchestrating the Waterfront Dispute

Music and Discourse in Bastard Boys


  • Rebecca Dawn Coyle Southern Cross University




Television music, Australian television, industrial relations music, song versioning, Jan Preston


Bastard Boys is a historically-inspired mini-series broadcast on ABC TV in May 2007. It dramatizes a set of events that are commonly described as the Waterfront dispute, an industrial showdown between unions, the then-conservative Coalition government and corporate owners that occurred on the Australian docks in April 1998. The screenplay for Bastard Boys by Sue Smith and direction by Ray Quint interpret the dispute through a thematic framework of war. This approach is musically supported by Jan Preston’s score and the featured use of a rendition – by ex-Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens – of Edwin Starr’s 1970 hit song War. This song was originally written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as an anti-Vietnam War protest song and, used in the opening sequence of Bastard Boys, establishes the events in terms of confrontation. This paper analyses the mini-series through the lens of its music and argues that the sound of a drama can signal authorial intent and direct audience emotions in the interpretation of events.

Author Biography

  • Rebecca Dawn Coyle, Southern Cross University

    Senior Lecturer, Media Program.


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How to Cite

Coyle, R. (2009). Orchestrating the Waterfront Dispute: Music and Discourse in Bastard Boys. Perfect Beat, 10(1), 103-117. https://doi.org/10.1558/prbt.v10i1.103