Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Essential Australian

Australian Flag guitar case from Guitars Plus @

This is my 151st post, so I thought I’d provide all of my voyeurs with a list and listening of the Australian bands/songs which I consider to be essential.

This has been a time consuming labour of love and I hope that you all find something old or something new here that you like and that you then go out and support these artists - making music is their job. Don't forget to check out the links to find out more about these bands, many of them have additional tunes posted.

This selection reflects my own personal taste, it is not based on sales, chart positions or the financial support and advertising funds provided by record execs. It is also listed in alphabetical order, because beyond this list (which was difficult enough to shrink down to a suitable size for posting) I am unable to prioritise my favourites. As such I can easily create a volume two of Essential Australian, but that really depends on the response to this post.

If you like these tunes, support the artist and buy some of their music. I have started to post links to Amazon to make this task easier, and to help support my blogging habit.

So here goes, a mix tape I call “Something Old, Something New’s Essential Australian”:-

AC/DC - High Voltage

No essential Australian mix can exclude AC/DC, arguably Australia’s most successful musical export, they are still rocking strong today, nearly 35 years later. For my money it’s the Bon Scott years which not only defined the AC/DC sound but which will always be the purest version of the band. I still remember sitting at my friend Scott’s house in the mid 1970’s, playing those first two albums over and over.

The Beasts Of Bourbon - Drop Out

The Beasts of Bourbon were the first alternative (as this music used to be called, back in the day) supergroup. They are also still playing today, having recently reformed with yet another different lineup to record a new album and do yet more touring.

The band members for their debut album “The Axeman’s Jazz” (recorded in 1984 in one afternoon for only $100) came from The Hoodoo Gurus, The Johnnys and The Scientists and were lead by frenzied front man Tex Perkins (who along with guitarist Spencer Jones has been the only constant member since the band’s inception).

The Beast’s sound has mutated over the years from the swamp rock, gothic blues of their first album(s) through to the punk-infused blues-based pub rock (consider the Rolling Stones with balls) they play today.

The Birthday Party - Release The Bats

The Birthday Party were the renamed Boys Next Door when that band headed to England in 1980, escaping the suffocation of the Australian music scene at that time.

Although they had limited commercial success, and only existed for 4 years under their new moniker, the Birthday Party would influence many bands with both their music and performance style and band members Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Rowland S Howard all went on to have successful careers. Their menacing and manic sound and brutal performances led to the band being referred to as 'The Most Violent Band In Britain'

Boys Next Door - Shivers

The Boys Next Door formed at the exclusive Caulfield Grammer School in 1973 when a group of arty students started playing school dances and parties. Initially playing 1960’s pop and 1970’s glam rock, their sound would develop fully with the addition of Rowland S Howard on guitar, who brought the posted track “Shivers” with him.

The band were influenced by the burgeoning Australian punk scene with bands such as The Saints and Radio Birdman and by 1978 The Boys Next Door were considered one of the best post-punk bands in Melbourne. Despite their influences, the band would soon develop their own sound, travel to Europe and change their name to become one of Australia’s most important alternative bands, The Birthday Party.

The Church - The Unguarded Moment

Another classic Australian band who are still recording and performing today with the same core members, The Church grew out of Canberra in 1980 and quickly developed an atmospheric, 1960’s influenced neo-psychedelic sound based heavily around Marty Wilson-Piper’s jangly 12 string Rickenbacker guitar and vocalist Steve Kilbey’s poetic lyrics.

Although they had greater chart success with their 1980’s recordings (in 2006 the Melbourne newspaper The Age voted Under The Milky Way as the best Australian song of the last 21 years in their EG Music Awards) The Church’s sound has continued to develop and mature and they still have a strong following around the world.

The Easybeats - Friday On My Mind

The Easybeats are considered to be one of the greatest Australian pop bands of the 1960s and they were the first Australian rock and roll band to score an international hit with this classic 1966 single "Friday on My Mind".

All of the founding band members had migrated to Australia, forming in Sydney’s Villawood Migrant Hostel, and the band released a string of hit singles in Australia before relocating to England where they had some early success but too soon developed internal friction and the band dissolved in financial debt.

Harry Vanda and George Young would eventually return to Australia as an active creative unit and would go on to work with the Albert Productions record label writing, recording, producing and basically helping to create much of the Australian music scene of the mid 1970’s including Stevie Wright, The Angels, John Paul Young and most famously George's younger brothers Angus and Malcolm Young’s band AC/DC.

Fun Things - Savage

The Fun Things formed in Brisbane in 1978 and were heavily influenced by punk and the Detroit sound as well as Australian legends Radio Birdman. In 1980, they recorded four tracks for what would be their one and only release and the band split in 1980.

Like The Victims, the Fun Things were as important for going on to help form the Hoodoo Gurus and The Screaming Tribesmen, as for the songs they recorded.

The Go-Betweens - Cattle And Cane

The Go-Betweens had a turbulent history, forming in Brisbane in 1977 they were seemingly always a cult band with limited commercial success despite the chart friendliness of their sound. They moved to Europe in 1979 and spent much of the 1980’s touring the world.

This touring schedule along with internal frictions, including inter-band romances, and constant label problems and interference eventually led to their demise in 1989. After this time both Grant McLennan and Robert Forster managed mildly successful solo careers, and the cult of the Go-Betweens continued to grow.

The boys reunited as the Go-Betweens 10 years later and recorded more two more acclaimed albums which added to their legacy until the untimely death of McLennan in 2006.

Hoodoo Gurus - (Let's All) Turn On

I always enjoyed listening to and seeing the Hoodoo Gurus during their early years, and with Dave Faulkner and James Baker being local boys the band toured Perth regularly. The classic 1983 Hoodoo Gurus line up formed from the ashes of punk bands The Victims and The Scientists from Perth and the Fun Things from Brisbane.

I watched the band go from alternative paisley-clad, winkle-picker wearing swamp rockers playing their power-pop/psychedelia/grungy garage rock at small venues to chart, ARIA and larger venue botherers within a few short years, but they were certainly fun years. Stoneage Romeos has my vote as one of the best Australian albums of the 1980s.

On this posted track from their debut, the Hoodoos set out their manifesto – check it out!!

Hunters & Collectors - Betty's Worry or The Slab

The Hunnas had a huge sound unlike anything else on the aussie pub circuit in the early 1980s. They made their live debut in 1981 as an eleven man ensemble who would often encourage punters up to the stage and provide them with percussive instruments to add to the mayhem and cacophony.

As the number of releases increased the number of band members decreased and by the time they recorded their archetypical “Jaws Of Life” album in 1984 vocalist Mark Seymour’s lyrics had developed a decidedly blokey Australian flavor. But the lure of chart success, which they achieved with moderate success, would dilute the impact of their sound and for me this mid-1980’s period was their zenith.

Laughing Clowns - New Bully in Town

When Ed Keupper returned to Australia, after The Saints imploded in London in 1979, he quickly gathered together like minded musicians and created the avante jazz-punk of the Laughing Clowns. With songs often constructed around complicated structures with difficult time signatures the Laughing Clowns were another unique Australian band, creating their own musical vision.

Ed Keupper is surely one of Australia’s surly musical maestros and before he would go on to create his solo legacy he managed to show another musical direction for a few disillusioned ex-punks.

The Lime Spiders - Slave Girl

This 1984 release from The Lime Spiders is undoubtedly one of the all-time classic Australian singles, a bona fide fuzzed up guitar, garage rock stomp from a band who never managed to repeat the same level of success, perhaps in part due to the constant instability in their lineup.

The Lime Spiders still managed to release an impressive collection of garage-punk laced singles and if you are lucky you may catch them playing in your back yard as they are still getting together to play the occasional gig.

The Loved Ones - The Loved One

The Loved Ones formed in 1965, with an early history of jazz clubs and listening to the blues, so when the Rolling Stones came along with a similar history and The Beatles started creating their own music, these Melbourne musicians understood not just the excitement value of the music, but how it was done and they did it for themselves. But the band split in 1967 after just one album, Magic Box.

The Missing Links - Wild About You

The Missing Links are considered by many to be the wildest group Australia has ever produced, certainly from the pre-punk period.

They were the first Australian band known to use feedback and the first Australian band which can rightfully be labelled "punk". The Missing Links were wild on record and wild on stage, with front man Andy James known to climb the walls and hang from the rafters, or to put his head through the drums, doing things no-one had seen done on stage before. Sadly The Missing Links were another band who had line-up issues, they only existed between 1963 and 1966 and only released 1 album before dying out.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Tupelo

There can be little doubt that Nick Cave is one of Australia’s greatest (alternative or not) creative artists. With an eclectic and illustrious career as a singer, award winning songwriter, actor, cutting-edge composer, novelist, poet, artist, screenwriter … .

The Bad Seeds has a (n ir)regularly changing lineup which always contains a(n un)healthy smattering of Australian musicians as well as others with sympathetic musical leanings, helping to create the musical soundscape for Caves often gothic tales.

Nick Cave has been the front man for and creative driving force behind the creation of a number of acclaimed bands (The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, Grinderman) each with their own unique style and substance but always leaning towards the dark side. With Tupelo is he singing about Elvis, Jesus or his own mythic creation? The king is dead, long live the king!

Paul Kelly - From St. Kilda To King's Cross

Paul Kelly has had a long career, from his days playing pub rock in Melbourne in the late 1970s through leading his own bands (The Dots, The Coloured Girls and The Messengers) in the 1980s when he started regularly bothering the Australian charts and finally his solo guise which has helped garner critical acclaim and record sales.

During this time he has also written film scores and worked as a producer and is member of the ARIA Hall of Fame. Paul Kelly sings of Australian experiences and history perhaps more candidly than any other artist and is still very active, having just released his eleventh collection of new songs.

Radio Birdman - Aloha Steve and Danno

Radio Birdman were there at the beginning of the Australian punk movement, forming in Sydney in 1974. Influenced by The Stooges, MC5, 1960's garage punk and surf instrumental groups but creating their own sound and look. They were another great do-it-yourself story before the punk movement in the UK and USA had widely spread this message. They initially financed their own low budget recordings, created their own label, self distributed their records at a low price and even ran the management of the Oxford Funhouse, a venue which went on to help nurture the nascent Sydney punk scene.

Radio Birdman only survived for 4 years, recording two albums and undertaking one overseas tour before disbanding and scattering musicians across Australia to augment the country's already thriving music underground. But the band reformed for the Big Day Out 1996 tour and since that time they have recorded another album (Zeno Beach) and continued to tour sporadically.

The Saints - (I'm) Stranded

The Saints are the stuff of Australian music legend. Forming in 1974, they were punk before the genre had been defined. Famously releasing their “(I’m) Stranded” single in September 1976 before the Damned’s “New Rose” (October 1976) and the Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy In The UK” (November 1976).

The Saints were another band that lived the do-it-yourself ethic, independently recording and distributing their debut single, creating their own label and their own "club", the 76 Club in their suburban Petrie Terrace house as a reaction to not being able to play anywhere else. The Saints only recorded 3 albums before musical and personal differences saw the band deteriorate and Ed Keupper return home to Australia to create The Laughing Clowns. Chris Bailey would soon after reform his version of The Saints in London, to some commercial success.

On July 14, 2007, Chris Bailey, Ed Kuepper and Ivor Hay re-united The Saints for a one-off gig as part of the Queensland Music Festival’s “Pig City” festival. Sadly I was overseas at this time and missed this historic occasion.

The Scientists - Swampland

The Scientists were born in May 1978 from the ashes of Perth’s first punk bands, The Cheap Nasties, who had also been formed by frontman Kim Salmon and The Geeks. The Perth era Scientists played more in the punk-pop vein and after releasing one album split in January 1981.

By September 1981 Kim Salmon had moved to inner city Sydney and created a reformed Scientists with a swampier, darker sound. Salmon also helped form the Beasts of Bourbon in 1984 before taking the Scientists to Europe where they were soon touring Europe (with The Gun Club). By 1987 the band had returned to Australia for one last tour. Salmon and the Scientists and would go on to influence bands such as Mudhoney and would be considered one of the early driving musical forces in the genre that would be known as grunge.

Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened

Severed Heads were one of Australia’s first post-punk electronic bands, forming in 1979, with a heavy use of tape loops and synthesizers and they were early pioneers in multimedia performance.

In 1984 they release “Dead Eyes Opened” which provided the opportunity for a world tour. Since 1985 Tom Ellard has been the main human component of Severed Heads. Label problems saw them adrift for some time before creating the internet based which became one of the first band-run sites on the Internet and now runs hundreds of artists.

A remixed version of Dead Eyes Opened enteeds the Australian top 20 in 1994 and that year they were the first electronic band to play the Big Day Out. The following year they headlined that festival’s electronic “The Boiler Room”. In 2004, Severed Heads created the soundtrack for The Illustrated Family Doctor.

The Stems - Tears Me In Two

The Stems were considered by many to be one of the most seminal rock bands of the 1980`s to emerge from Australia. They were formed in Perth in 1983 with a musical (and sartorial) style initially influenced by sixties garage punk and later by power pop. They completed several Australian tours and were perhaps one of the first bands to gain national success while remaining in Perth, and despite never having toured internationally (until their reunion) they are held in high esteem in Europe and the US amongst fans of classic 1960's inspired rock 'n' roll.

Although only releasing 5 singles, an E.P. and one full length album, The Stems set an impressive record with each release reaching No 1 on the Australian alternative charts. Their album "At First Sight … Violets Are Blue" released in 1987 received national and international critical acclaim and would be one of the best selling Australian albums of that year. The Stems reunited for a tour in early 2003 and they are still gigging today.

The Sunnyboys - Happy Man

The Sunnyboys formed in Sydney in 1980 under the direction of singer/songwriter Jeremy Oxley. With their 1960’s influenced melodic power pop tunes they went from playing inner-city venues to scoring hit singles all within a year of formation.

Their first four singles and first two albums all hit the Australian mainstream charts and in 1984 the band played two sold out shows at the Marquee Club in London and the band recorded their third album in the UK. But after returning home to an Australian tour, and with minimal chart success of their new release, internal friction caused the band to dissolve.

In 1987 Jeremy Oxley attempted to revive The Sunnyboys with a new line-up and released an album, but limited acceptance caused the band to break up again in 1990.

The Triffids - Red Pony

Regular readers of Something Old, Something New will know of the fondness I hold for The Triffids.

Forming in 1976 with an ever changing lineup of friends and musicians, the band released several well received (in the alternative scene) singles and privately recorded and released tapes. They drove across Australia on numerous occasions before the line up stabilized in 1983 and The Triffids released their debut minor masterpiece album Treeless Plain and my favourite track, Red Pony.

The Triffids self-financed a three month trip to Europe in late 1984 and ended up on the cover NME’s first edition of 1985, which predicted it would be “The Year Of The Triffids”. But they still couldn’t secure any label interest in Europe and again returned home and self-financed their sophomore album Born Sandy Devotional, which reached # 27 on the UK charts. The track “Wide Open Road” received widespread (albeit minor) success and would go on to become the band’s signature tune.

Their popularity in Europe grew, although at home they were still considered a cult band. After signing to a major label in the UK, their recordings would suffer from too much production and despite some success the band split in 1989 and singer/songwriter David McComb died in 1999.

The Triffids back catalog is slowly being re-mastered and re-released with bonus tracks. The remainder of the band performed with guest vocalists in Belgium and Amsterdam in 2006 and they are scheduled to play at 2008’s Sydney Festival.

The Victims - Television Addict

The Victims emerged from the Perth punk scene in 1977 from the ashes of The Geeks. Like all good punk bands of the era, they self-released their debut single Television Addict and created their own scene “Hernando's Hideaway” on Wednesday nights in an inner city jazz venue.

The band only survived for two years and, apparently after a poor review in the NME, they split in 1979. But not before recording the five tracks that would become their “No Thanks To The Human Turd” E.P..

Members of The Victims would go on to help shape the independent Australian music scene of the 1980’s playing in bands including The Hoodoo Gurus, The Scientists and The Beasts of Bourbon.

You Am I - Berlin Chair

You Am I were formed by Tim Rogers in December 1989 and were especially renowned for their early blistering live performances and the occasionally erratic on-stage behavior of Rogers.

The band had released some E.P.’s and singles before catching the attention of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo at 1993’s Big Day Out festival. Ranaldo would go on to produce the band’s fourth E.P. and debut album “Sound As Ever”. Their second (Hi Fi Way) and third (Hourly, Daily) albums moved ever farther away from the harder sound of their earlier recordings, although both received ARIA awards and sold well. I consider this period up to the mid 1990’s to be the band’s high water mark.

Since 1999 the ever hard-working Rogers has been releasing solo and other collaborative albums as well as irregular You Am I releases and he maintains a grueling touring schedule.

Do you like these tunes? Not sure which bands or albums to buy. Here are some links to some great compilations of Australian bands:-


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post...appreciate the effort.
I do have a soft spot for australian music and it was great to see the Go-Betweens and Triffids in Glasgow in the 80's.
If u ever do a second list then maybe some early Midnight Oil, McLennan / Forster solo stuff / Jack Frost and that Aussie indie supergroup The Blackeyed Susans would be worth a mention ? All good stuff
RIP Scott, McComb, McLennan...LEGENDS

Fri Aug 31, 08:11:00 pm  
Blogger Overhere said...

Great stuff - couldn't really argue with any of your choices - not that I'm looking for an argument - hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head I'd say

Great post

Sat Sep 01, 08:21:00 am  
Blogger Overhere said...

Hi MAB just to let you know that you can pick up the JFK Jackie O single over at my blog

see ya

Sun Sep 02, 08:26:00 am  
Blogger Michael said...

hey overhere and anonymous

thanks very much for your positive comments

if this blog's voyeurs don't already know overhere's excellent blog "They Called it Good at the Time" ... a blog dedicated to all the Aussie sounds of the late seventies and beyond - from pub to post-punk and back again then go and check it out now, it's right here

it's also good to see that this post is so popular, with almost half of the songs (as well as the zipped compilation) in double figures already. I'm a bit surprised at the most popular track downloaded so far.

there haven't been too many comments, apart from the ones above, but I know you all just like to watch.

still, if you are interested in knowing which is the most popular song posted here, or want to see/hear an Aus Essential volume two, you need to let me know.

In the meantime, as an old friend used to say "Rock and Roll in regimental style"

Sun Sep 02, 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger FireInTheSun said...

Great choices. Perhaps the Coloured Balls would be worth a mention as well? Or the Wild Cherries, or anything from Lobby Lloyd for that matter. He was definitely on the best to ever come from the Oz land. Great mix though...

Fri Dec 14, 07:53:00 am  

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