Thread: Aussie Rock!
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Old April 25 2013, 08:19 AM   #1
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Aussie Rock!

The threads on the passing of Chrisse Amphlett had me thinking about Aussie Rock, and how it may not be so familiar to many on here. Sure, you'll have heard "Down Under" (written by a Scot, true story) and Little River Band, and maybe even bands like Jet and The Presets, but you may not know a lot of the songs that kicked it off that never really were heard in the UK and US.

Aussie rock, I feel, is a powerful and distinctive version of what's available in the US and UK scenes, but there's a wiry toughness underneath that sets it apart, coupled to a wry sense of humour and straight out joie de vie that comes from dreaming of weekends when you can go out with your mates on a Saturday night and just listen to great music. Very much a soundtrack to the country. And if we do a cover version... it's a great cover version!

I haven't put in the actual vids, otherwise it would roll on forever, like some kind of epic (indeed, it already does). If I haven't put in a link, that's because it's easy to find on YouTube.

The Top 30 Aussie Songs as rated by Australian Performing Rights Assoc (APRA)

1 "Friday on My Mind" The Easybeats 1966
Became an international hit and put Aussie music on the map. Oddly enough, written by a Scot (Angus Young's brother) and a Dutchman, and sung by an Englishman, but only in Australia could they get together as a band.

2 "Eagle Rock" Daddy Cool 1971

Daddy Cool were a cheeky, idiosyncratic band that enjoyed a great reputation, with former members like Ross Wilson going on to do other great things. This song was an inspiration for Elton John to write 'Crocodile Rock'.

3 "Beds are Burning" Midnight Oil 1987
The Oils were a very political band, and had some great songs and albums. Another song that shaped Australia's relationship with its indigenous people.

4 "Down Under" Men at Work 1981
Of course. Also written by a Scot (Colin Hay), but is filled with a real Aussie spirit.

5 "A Pub with No Beer" Slim Dusty 1957
This is an oldie, but pretty well known.

6 "The Loved One" The Loved Ones 1966
One of the independent bands of the 60s.

7 "Don't Dream It's Over" Crowded House 1986
Another band that needs no introduction, though for some reason I never cottoned to them.

8 "Khe Sanh" Cold Chisel 1978

One of the leaders in the pub rock scene, known to cause the odd riot or two, very independent in their stance, now finding a new audience in the UK. Controversial at the time because of the lyrics.

9 "It's A Long Way To The Top" AC/DC 1976

The brilliant AC/DC, with a clip shot on the back of a truck travelling through Melbourne. And Bon Scott really could play the bagpipes.

10 "Quasimodo's Dream" The Reels 1981
Probably completely unknown outside Australia, the Reels were a clever, inventive band, whose career was cut short by illness and family tragedy.

The remaining Top 30 songs listed in chronological order:

1922 "Along the Road to Gundagai" Jack O'Hagan & various
At the time, it was evocative of an Australia starting to fade into the past post WW1, but it's a fun jaunty tune that sold well in its day.

1969 "The Real Thing" Russell Morris

With its over-the-top production, this was a real "wow" moment when it came out, catchy and irresistible. Meant to be a commentary on the Coke advertising campaign of the time 'Coke: The Real Thing'. There's a film clip of Part 1 on YT, but the real juice is "The Real Thing Parts 1 & 2' with the wild end production, by music guru 'Molly' Meldrum, hugely psychedelic.
A personal favourite, as was the follow up, called "Part 3 Into Paper Walls", which started as this one ended, and ended as the first one started, with an acoustic guitar. Great stuff.

1971 "I'll Be Gone" Spectrum
a great example of 70s Australian rock, with its harmonica and laid back feel.

1972 "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" The Bushwackers (1976)
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Australians began to come to grips more with their history, what war could really mean. Done in a very traditional folk style, it still delivers a strong message.

1976 "I'm Stranded" The Saints
Now for something completely different... punk arrives in Australia! Various members went on to do some pretty good other stuff.

1979 "Cool Change" Little River Band
Always a bit too smooth for my tastes (can you tell?), LRB were pretty versatile and experienced musicians who came up with a great sound.

1982 "Science Fiction" Divinyls.
As added in the other threads. Pioneers, legends.

1982 "Power and the Passion" Midnight Oil
Another Oils song, with inventive production and angry lyrics. Hard to believe the frontman is now a Federal Govt. minister.

1983 "Reckless" Australian Crawl
A moody slice of atmospheric pop. Another song that catches Australia in the light, "as the Many ferry/ Cuts its way to Circular Quay".

1983 "Cattle and Cane" The Go-Betweens
Never a fan (preferred their song 'Lee Remick'), but they did further raise awareness of Aussie music, especially in the UK. Like a lot of songs here, captures that feel of Australia, heat, dust, distance, this time in an indie rock context.

1983 "I Was Only Nineteen" Redgum
An anti-war song by a leftie folk band, but captured the trauma felt by a lot of Aussie soldiers after Vietnam. The fear of conscription and being sent to fight a foreign war that had no meaning. Who knew a protest song could be so Aussie?

1984 "Throw Your Arms Around Me" Hunters & Collectors
While I have a preference for their earlier song, "Talking To A Stranger", this struck a chord with a lot of people, moving and romantic.

1986 "Wide Open Road" The Triffids
Big in the UK, this is another anthemic 80s song.

1987 "To Her Door" Paul Kelly.
Like H&C's "Throw Your Arms", a romantic song with a story.

1988 "My Island Home" Warumpi Band (1988), Christine Anu (1995),
Both versions are on YT. This was the time when an indigenous voice began to be heard, in a song that every Aussie, no matter where they're from, can relate to.

1990 "The Ship Song" Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Not a Nick Cave fan, but this is a good song, and underlines how important the band and the man are.

1991 "Treaty" Yothu Yindi
Following up on Warumpi's "My Island Home", this was driving home that Aboriginals needed more involvement and more recognition in their own country. Treaty yeah, reaty now.

1997 "Even When I'm Sleeping" Leonardo's Bride
1997 "Truly Madly Deeply" Savage Garden
1998 "The Day You Come" Powderfinger
All big hits at the time. I don't have a lot to say about them, I'm too old, but good songs.

All of the above are easy enough to find on YouTube, I've included some links for the best versions.

Some glaring omissions:

"Great Southern Land" Icehouse. This song is so about Australia, I can't believe it's not on the list. One of Terry Pratchett's favourites, seems to have been one of the inspirations for 'The Last Continent'.

"Take A Long Line" The Angels. The Angels were a great band in the day, dynamic and dangerous live, with a frontman who never stood still, one of the prime forces behind the 'pub scene' of the 70s and 80s.

"Living In The Seventies" Skyhooks. This song was in the vanguard of the 70s scene, inspiring many bands to form and the explosion of Aussie music.

"Women In Uniform" Skyhooks. Personal favourite, just a great rock song. And singer 'Shirley' Strachan had a GREAT voice! (listen to the fadeout).

"Stares and Whispers" Renee Geyer. When she sanfg blues and jazz, she described herself as "a white Hungarian Jew from Australia sounding like a 65-year-old black man from Alabama". This is one of her better known pop songs.

"I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" Marcia Hines. Born in Boston, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell is her cousin. Came to Australia to perform in 'Hair' and 'Superstar' as Mary Magdalene. Kicked on with a solo career that lasted from the 70s to the 90s. Now a judge on Australian Idol.

"Howzat" Sherbet. The great Aussie pop band that all the girls swooned over, this is their best known song.
I personally preferred their song "Blueswalkin'", from the same album.
And I can't not include this, a great slice of seasonal pop, "Summer Love".

"To Love Somebody" Bee Gees. While they started in the UK, their career really blossomed in Australia. This was one of their early hits.

"Shout" Johnny O'Keefe The Aussie Elvis, kicking off rock music back in the very early 60s.

"I'll Never Find Another You" The Seekers. Superlative pop/gospel band with a unique sound.

"April Sun In Cuba" Dragon. Started in New Zealand, but took off in Australia. One of their best. Had a great frontman in Marc Hunter, now sadly gone (fuck cancer again!)

"Say Goodbye" Hunters & Collectors. Another one from H&C, famous for having a brass section. Listen to that bass! And hearing a pub full of drunk guys singing "You don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore" is a fairly... unique experience.

"Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy)" Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs. One of the great rock pioneers in Australia. This song is hugely popular, I think a lot of people can relate to it (I know I do). There are plenty of live versions on YT, check them out, but here's the original. Two great guitar solos, ending on a soaring note.

"Don't Change" INXS. You know who these guys are. This is a personal favourite (though I was never a huge fan, Michael Hutchence copped too much off Jagger and Morrison).

"No Lies" Noiseworks. A band who came and went a bit too quickly. Their singer performed with INXS for a year. But this knocked my socks off when it came out.

"Alone With You" The Sunnyboys. One of the anthemic 80s Aussie songs, so evocative of a Sydney summer.

"Black Betty" Spiderbait. A cover of the Ram Jam song given a whole new spin, typical of a Aussie rock sound.

"Short Note" Matt Finish. Another anthemic 80s band, did some good stuff.

"Eleanor Rigby" Zoot. Another classic given an Aussie spin. Note the guitarist is a young Rick Springfield.

"Solid Rock" Goanna. One of the songs that focused awareness on the relationship with indigenous people, and was very big for a year, and led to other things like, ultimately, Kevin Rudd's apology to the Aboriginals, a hugely significant moment. It has that muscular Aussie sound I really like.

"You're The Voice" John Farnham. Farnham was a pop idol in the 60s, and faded into cabaret in the 70s, before being inducted into the Little River Band. Fractures in LRB helped him decide on restarting his solo career, and this was the first single off the album 'Whispering Jack', and the album was HUGE for a year.

"Crying In The Chapel" Peter Blakely. Just a very cool soul song.

"Bombora" The Atlantics. Surf music was really popular in the 60s and 70s, culminating in Midnight Oil, but starting with these guys. Despite the name, this is a Sydney band and they went worldwide with this. Very cool, full of energy.

"Sounds of Then" GANGgajang. Another song that captures a little of the Australian experience. "Out on the patio, we sit/ And the humidity we breathe/ We watch the lightning crack over canefields/ And laugh and think/ This is Australia". Check it out.
Bonus track: "Hundreds of Languages" GANGgajang. Just found this today - in Australia, before the white man arrived, the Aboriginals had hundreds of languages. The clip features prominent newsreaders and journalists of the time. Bloody cool song.

This, of course is highly personal, as most music preferences are, and a tiny, tiny sampling of what's out there (I haven't even mentioned Mental As Anything or Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons or...) but I've tried to keep it broad enough to spark interest. To find out what music in Australia is about, across the board (including jazz and classical), see:

And if you really want more, I can't recommend highly enough the ABC(Aust) TV documentary series, 'Long Way To The Top', if you can find a copy of the series (NOT the concert series), it's well worth it.

I hope you've found this brief journey through Aussie rock informative and entertaining.

-- Australis
(former music journalist)

Last edited by Australis; April 25 2013 at 08:43 AM.
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