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The 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock History

The 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock History
June 19, 2007 | Author: Australian Musician

vanda-and-youngBack in 2007, for the 50th issue of national quarterly Australian Musician, we got together a panel of respected music writers to decide upon the 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock. Holed up in a pub and armed with nothing but a blackboard and chalk, the panel included:  Ian McFarlane (Writer, author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop), Jeff Jenkins (Writer, author, TV music critic), Craig Kamber (Writer, film maker, former record company A&R), Ed Nimmervoll (Writer, author, music historian, founder of Juke magazine), Christie Eliezer (Writer, author, former editor Juke, Australian correspondent for Billboard magazine), Rob Walker (President of the Australian Music Association and Australian Musician co-founder), Ian Harvey  (CEO of the Australian Music Association at the time), and me, Greg Phillips (Editor Australian Musician magazine). The results were published in the 50th issue which was distributed in June 2007.

 The issue created a lot of talk and major news items appeared in Australian newspapers nationally. The Age promoted it on their front cover banner. The Herald Sun did a major piece and radio and TV picked it up. (Interestingly, Kathy McCabe of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph pointed out the lack of female presence in the poll and also that no females were on the panel. In response, we decided to dedicate the entire Summer issue of that year to female musicians. Clare Bowditch guest edited and all stories were on female artists,  all written by females, including all of the gear reviews. But that’s another story.) Many significant moments have occurred since 2007 which may have warranted inclusion in the list such as the Sound Relief gigs and Gotye’s Grammy success but here in its original glory, the results of the 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock poll.

THE 50 MOST SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS IN AUSTRALIAN POP/ROCK

Since the early sixties, Australia has produced some of the finest contemporary music in the world, and is often touted as being a testing ground for global music tastes and trends. But how did we get here? What were the events that shaped the Australian music industry as we know it today? We got together eight fairly music literate beings, placed them in a pub one night and wouldn’t let them out until they decided upon the 50 MOST significant moments in Australian pop/rock history. Here are the results …

Profiles/Interviews by Christie Eliezer, ED Nimmervoll (EN), Ian McFarlane (IMcF), Greg Phillips (GP)  and Joe Matera

50
THE ARIA CHART
Until 1992 over the years there had been several national best-selling record surveys of varying import, most notably the Kent Report. But in 1992 the Australian Recording Industry Association, the record companies themselves, decided to create an “official” chart, based on detailed information supplied by retailers around the country. This weekly chart has become the centrepiece of the Australian recording industry, the measure of all success, the ‘bible’ to the local industry and the music industry world-wide. The chart has also spawned several high profile events, the ARIA awards, also the awards given to artists achieving No.1 status, and the ARIA Hall Of Fame inductions. EN

49
DELTA GOODREM BREAKS JACK’S BACK
Some may find Delta Goodrem’s inclusion in the 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock a surprise, but her chart success cannot be denied. Delta’s 2003 release ‘Innocent Eyes’ was the first million selling album locally for an Australian female artist, and in the process broke John Farnham’s ‘Whispering Jack’ record for weeks at the top of the charts. Although released  during different chart conditions, on a comparative chart basis, Delta racked up 29 weeks at number #1, as opposed to Farnham’s 28.  ‘Innocent Eyes’  also reached number two in the UK and has to date sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. GP

48
ROGER SAVAGE
When The Rolling Stones recorded their first single in January 1963 at London’s Olympic studios the engineer was Roger Savage. He had bumped into the group’s soon-to-be-manager the night Roger and Andrew Loog-Oldham both went to check out the exciting new group. The Stones and Loog-Oldham would go on to create world music history together. Roger Savage in the meantime had fallen in love with an Australian girl and followed her back “down under”. His experience and talents in the recording studio were quickly utilised. His first two Australian recordings were Bobby and Laurie’s ‘I Belong With You’ and the Easybeats’ “She’s So Fine’. From that moment on Australian recordings were unquestionably as good as anything else the rest of world had to offer. EN

47
THE WHITLAMS meet Gough Whitlam
In 1997, The Whitlams were just another jobbing Sydney band with a couple of mediocre independent albums under their collective belt. The band had almost come to an untimely end when original guitarist Stevie Plunder died in January 1996. Singer/pianist Tim Freedman decided to keep the band going but he had yet to prove himself as a songwriter of enduring worth and ability. That was about to change. The band’s fourth single, the melancholic ‘No Aphrodisiac’ made such an impact that listeners of national youth radio station Triple J voted the song into #1 spot on the 1997 Hottest 100 list. Spiderbait had achieved the same feat the year before (the first Australian release to attain such a position), but there were more accolades to come for The Whitlams.

‘No Aphrodisiac’ had been lifted from the album Eternal Nightcap which peaked at #12 on the national chart in February 1998. By March Eternal Nightcap had sold close to 100,000 units. The Whitlams ended a successful 1998 with the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards for Best Group, Best Independent Release (Eternal Nightcap) and Record of the Year (‘No Aphrodisiac’). At the awards ceremony, former Prime Minister (and the band’s namesake) Gough Whitlam stepped up to the podium microphone and announced the band’s award for Record of the Year with the off-the-cuff quip “It’s my family!”. The band members responded appropriately with the down-on-the-knees “we’re not worthy!” routine.

Such a staged presentation could have come unstuck but Gough carried it off with so much aplomb and dignity that it seemed the perfect combination. And the band members revelled in the spotlight, rising to the occasion with a great deal of wit and tenacity. Politics and music rarely mix without a great deal of chest-beating and fanfare, and while this moment had a political context it was achieved without being overtly politicised, if that’s possible. The Whitlams went on to produce more great albums like Love This City (1999) and Little Cloud (2006) but it’s unlikely they will ever return to the heights of that moment of glory on stage with Gough Whitlam. I.McF

46
THE SEEKERS
First oz band to top UK chart
The fact that folk-flavoured pop quartet The Seekers were the first Australian band to have a UK number one with their single ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ was quite an achievement. What made it even more significant was when it occurred. It was 1964, the ‘swinging sixties’  and London was the cultural epicentre of the earth. Beatlemania had hit and a new pop revolution had begun. The Seekers not only succeeded in that heady atmosphere, but with catchy pop tunes such as “A World of Our Own’, “The Carnival Is Over” and “Georgie Girl”, helped define a generation. ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ sold over 1.75 million copies worldwide and was a top five hit in Australia, Britain and the USA. GP

 45
DADDY COOL
First local #1 album
Following the massive success of their double sided single ‘Eagle Rock’/ ‘Bom, Bom’, in 1971 Melbourne’s Daddy Cool became the first Australian band to have a number one album with ‘Daddy Who? … Daddy Cool.’ It was also the first Australian album to sell more than 100,000 copies. The 50s influenced rock band hit a nerve locally with their quirky stage persona, songwriting strength and obvious musical ability. Merely two years later, the group had dissolved but the legacy had already been well and truly established. GP

44
HELEN REDDY
First Oz Grammy Award
In the seventies Helen Reddy’s career grew parallel with that of Olivia Newton John’s. Both had achieved fame in Australia through appearances on local TV shows like Bandstand, and both achieved incredible success in the USA with number one charting hits. In 1973 with her anthemic hit song “I Am Women’,  Reddy became the first Australian to ever win a Grammy Award. The award was made more famous for Helen’s acceptance speech in which she thanked god ‘because SHE makes everything possible”. GP

43
HOADLEY’S BATTLE OF THE SOUNDS
The Battle Of The Sounds was originally conceived in 1965 by Everybody’s magazine as a talent search to unearth unsigned bands nationally. The first winners were a group time has forgotten called the Crickets. Everything changed in 1965 when confectioner Hoadley’s stepped into the picture as national sponsor, when the prize on offer was a wish come true for any group on the Australian music scene, a paid trip to England. From now on the biggest and best bands in the country pitted themselves against each other in front of the judges for the honour as winners. Adelaide’s Twilights won the 1965 contest. For a several years the Hoadley’s battle was THE event on the Australia pop calendar. EN

42
ABBA in Australia
Thirty years ago last February (2007), aided by their popularity on the Countdown TV show, Swedish quartet ABBA landed in Australia to scenes of hysteria reminiscent of the Beatles tour in ’64.  The excitement of a nation was captured in the film “ABBA-The Movie”, and Australia’s love affair with ABBA continued into the nineties with the release of two films, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’  which featured ABBA songs to great effect. Both soundtracks were among the biggest selling albums of the year. The 1977 tour of Australia is recognised by the band as being  very significant in the context of their amazing career. GP

41
THE BEE GEES
After achieving only minor celebrity status in Australia, in 1996 the three young Gibb brothers (or more correctly, their parents) decided to return to the UK, land of Beatlemania, to pursue their dreams. It was during the Gibb family trip back to England that they received word of their song “Spicks and Specks’ topping the Australian charts. On arrival the band was signed to the prestigious Robert Stigwood organisation. So began the career of one of the most successful bands in recording history. GP

40
STAN ROFE
Arguably no radio personality has had more influence on Australian music than Melbourne’s Stan Rofe. At the broadly based 3KZ he took it on himself to introduce the listening public to latest and best rock’n’roll. He played it all first and an entire generation of music fans and future musicians where glued to his afternoon timeslot.  At one stage he boasted 60% of the potential listening audience. Rofe used his influence to promote local talent, “discovering” the likes of Johnny Chester and Normie Rowe and giving them the wisdom of his knowledge and taste with suggestions for songs to record. Despite his ratings 3KZ were unhappy with the uncontrollable maverick and in 1965 Rofe switched to the all-music Top 40 station 3UZ, bringing his audience with him. EN

39
THE RECORD BAN
Ushers golden era of oz music
The Great Radio Ban of 1970 helped usher in a golden era of Australian music. The ban came about when the major record companies of the day (EMI, Festival, PolyGram, RCA, CBS and the Warner group) started arguing with the commercial radio networks about the use of records for airplay. As writer Toby Creswell pointed out, the big labels were demanding a fee in return for the use of their copyrighted music and the stations refused to comply. The stalemate resulted in all British and Australian records controlled by the majors being dropped from commercial airplay.
The ban lasted from 16 May until 18 October when the two parties realised they needed each other. What occurred in the interim is the most significant aspect of the whole affair: a bunch of independent labels stepped in to fill the radio breach, replacing the banned records with cover versions by local artists. Melbourne’s Fable scored big with covers of ‘In The Summertime’ by The Mixtures (#1) who are pictured below, ‘Knock Knock, Who’s There’ by Liv Maessen (#2), ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ by Frankie Davidson (#7) and ‘Yellow River’ by Jigsaw (#1). Sydney’s Du Monde label scored with Flake’s version of ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ (#4) and Chart likewise hit with Autumn’s version of ‘Yellow River’ (joint #1 with Jigsaw). In October, as well as being at #1 and #2, nine of the songs in Go-Set’s national Top 40 chart were by Fable acts; quite an achievement.
Although the radio situation settled down, the flurry of recording activity at the time meant that there was an increased awareness of Australian artists. The way was now open for new bands like Daddy Cool, Spectrum, Chain, the revived Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, Blackfeather, Country Radio and Sherbet to take original songs into the local charts and Australian music on to the next level. I.McF

38
SAVAGE GARDEN
Most played song in USA 2000
Brisbane’s Savage Garden are one of the most successful duo’s in International pop history. They have sold a staggering 23 million albums and more than 15 million singles. They also achieved two number one singles on the USA charts. However one stat that no other Australian artist can lay claim to is that in the year 2000, Savage Garden’s song ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’, was the most played song for the year on American radio. GP

37
Seven oz albums in top ten
Despite many golden eras of classic Australian albums, the record for most Aussie albums in the top 10 of the national chart was set quite recently. On November 20, 2006 the following  albums by Australian artists took up 7 of the top 10 spots.  Dancing in the Street-Human Nature, #5 Black Fingernails, Red Wine-Eskimo Joe, #6 Wolfmother-Wolfmother, #7 The Swing Sessions-David Campbell, #8 Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing -Keith Urban, #9 Kylie-Showgirl, #10 Closer to The Sun-Guy Sebastian. Significant times indeed! The highest number of local albums in the top 10 previously was 6 in February 1988. Thanks to ARIA chart manager Ian Wallace for his time in checking through the local chart history. GP

36
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
Having left Australia in February 1980 for the bright lights of London, by 1982 The Birthday Party was one of the most highly feted bands on the enormously competitive UK independent rock scene. The most significant moment in the band’s history came in August that year when they shifted base to Berlin in order to escape the constant exposure and expectations of them in the UK. With their senses heightened by the experience, the intense and tightly focused group recorded two extraordinary EPs, The Bad Seed and the posthumously released Mutiny! With tracks like ‘Sonny’s Burning’ (featuring singer Nick Cave’s demonic bellow of “Hands up who wants to die!” and ‘Deep in the Woods’, The Bad Seed remains the band’s most fully realised and enduring record. I.McF

35
Little River Band
In a career boasting many international accolades (the first Australian band to locally record an album, Sleeper Catcher, which sold one million copies in the US, being one), the most significant moment for Little River Band must surely be the commendation for Four Million US Airplay for ‘Reminiscing’. Written by the band’s guitarist Graham Goble, and originally an Australian #31 and US #3 hit for LRB in 1978, ‘Reminiscing’ is the ultimate easy listening/FM lite rock track, a hopelessly romantic yearning for the quiet and enjoyable things in life. Nevertheless, the Four Million US Airplay commendation makes Goble one of the most lauded Australian songwriters of the rock era. Perhaps topping that, however, is the apocryphal story that ‘Reminiscing’ was John Lennon’s favourite song to which he and Yoko regularly made love while ensconced in their Dakota Building apartment. I.McF

34
UP THERE CAZALY
It may not be music to everyone’s ears, but ‘Up There Cazaly’, a song first commissioned by the Seven TV network in 1979 to promote their Aussie Rules telecasts, turned out to be a monster hit. In 1979, the 250,000 sales figures established the song as the highest selling single of the time. Up There Cazaly was written and performed by Mike Brady (although credited as The Two Man band), who had been a pop star in the 60’s with the band MPD Ltd. Along with cricket’s ‘Come On Aussie, Come On’, ‘Cazaly’ was the first time that music and sport had merged in such a successful way, paving the way for future corporate music ventures. GP

33
OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN
Today the line between mainstream country music and pop is well and truly blurred. Olivia Newton John was there at the beginning, particularly in America  with crossover hits in the seventies like ‘Banks of the Ohio’ and ‘Let Me Be There’. However the moment that really turned her into a huge international star was the premiere of the motion picture musical Grease in 1978. Cast as Sandy, the female lead role, Olivia had three massive hits off the soundtrack including “You’re The One That I Want”, “Summer Nights’ and “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. Much like Kylie’s transformation from budgie to beauty, Grease turned Olivia into a sex symbol overnight, an image she carried over into future recordings and videos such as ‘Totally Hot’ and ‘Physical’. GP

32
WAVE AID
Wave Aid mirrored the mood of a nation that had already donated more money to the cause than any other on earth. In aid of the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, on January 29, 2005 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the local music community had put aside it’s ego and presented one of the most memorable gigs ever  staged in Australia. It wasn’t the first time that Australians had dug deep and supported a benefit gig, but it was the speed in which it was pulled together, the amount of money raised (more than $2 million in one day), and the passion of the performers on the day such as Midnight Oil, Powderfinger, Silverchair and John Butler Trio, that made it so significant. GP

31
RATCAT
First alternative band to go mainstream
As the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, Ratcat became the first band from the Sydney alternative guitar scene to reach a wider, mainstream teenypop audience. Ratcat’s effusive combination of catchy fuzz-pop and comic book aesthetics was always brighter and more entertaining than their contemporaries and the results speak for themselves. The band’s subsequent success with #1 singles and albums irrevocably changed the way music was marketed in Australia. This was the start of the ‘alternative is the new mainstream’ equation, a time when the major record companies suddenly understood there was a wealth of talent to be found on the underground scene. In a way Ratcat became our Nirvana, rocking the mainstream as grunge was emerging and satisfying audiences on every level.

Originally signed to the independent Waterfront label (alongside the Hard-Ons, Massappeal and Tumbleweed), Ratcat played lots of gigs but initially only found a modicum of success on the charts. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Simon Day knew what he wanted however, and as soon as his band was anointed with cross-over potential by the major labels there was no stopping the rollercoaster ride. Ratcat signed to the new rooArt label (under the auspices of Phonogram Records and marketed in Australia by the huge PolyGram organisation), a move which rocked the closely knit Sydney independent scene.

Headed by the tenacious manager of INXS Chris Murphy, and experienced record company executives Sebastian Chase and Justin Van Stom, rooArt had already found some success with The Hummingbirds but with Ratcat, the floodgates simply opened wide. This was home grown success writ large. The first ace up Day’s sleeve was the frisky and impossibly catchy ‘That Ain’t Bad’, a song he’d written, as Craig Mathieson wrote in The Sell-In (Allen & Unwin, 2000), “in a simple attempt to mix noisy guitars and the words ‘I love you’ together in a song without one contradicting the other”.

The rooArt marketing strategy was to promote the song as the lead cut on Ratcat’s new six-track EP Tingles (November 1990). Tingles sold for just $4.95, the price of a 7-inch single and the whole package was pushed as an introduction to Ratcat. Triple J placed ‘That Ain’t Bad’ on high rotation play. The powerful weekend morning video shows, Video Smash Hits and Video Hits picked up the film clip and then, finally, with commercial radio airplay providing the last boost the EP leapt to #1 on the mainstream singles chart.

By April 1991, Tingles was well on the way to selling an astonishing 100,000 copies. The next single, ‘Don’t Go Now’, repeated the #1 feat with the result that by the time their album Blind Love came out in July, Ratcat was hot property indeed. Produced by Nick Mainsbridge, Blind Love rose effortlessly to #1 on the national chart, having shipped 35,000 copies (gold) on the first day of release. The band opened for Australian rock-funk veterans INXS on that band’s massive X national tour, as well as headlining their own concerts. The Tingles EP ended 1991 as the second biggest selling single on the Australian chart.

As Mathieson wrote in The Sell-In, “Ratcat had proved beyond a doubt that independent music could satisfy every commercial demand. Simon Day saw the signal go out to the corporations. ‘We let the majors know that they could make money out of young Australian bands’.” The local rock music scene would never be the same again. I.McF

30
YOTHU YINDI
First charting indigenous band
Yothu Yindi has the distinction of being the first Koori band to achieve a Top 40 hit when the epochal ‘Treaty’ (Filthy Lucre Mix) peaked at #11 nationally in September 1991. Lead singer Mundawuy Yunupingu collaborated with Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett in writing ‘Treaty’. The song’s video won the Australian Video Award at the International MTV Awards in Los Angeles. ‘Treaty’ had been lifted from the band’s second album, Tribal Voice, which hit #3 in June 1992 and went on to sell over 140,000 copies (double platinum). The accolades didn’t stop there: Tribal Voice won Best Indigenous Record at the 1991 ARIA Awards, the group also taking out ARIAs for Song of the Year and Best Single (‘Treaty’). The band performed at the United Nations in New York to help launch the International Year for the World’s Indigenous People and to top off an incredibly successful 1992, Mundawuy was named Australian of the Year. I.McF

29
NORMIE ROWE
Joins the army
In the mid-sixties Australian male 20 year olds faced an annual conscription ballot. If your birthday was drawn out of the barrel you were required to submit yourself to a two-year stint in the Australian army, perhaps to go and fight in Vietnam. Australian music was experiencing a pop music boom, with Normie Rowe in particular scoring hit and hit record and creating riots wherever he appeared or performed. Normie made national headlines when, ala Elvis Presley, he was called up to serve his country. The singer dutifully embraced his fate and served in Vietnam, where he found out that he didn’t share his birthday with any other conscript. His call-up may have been an Australian government publicity ploy. EN

28
SICK PUPPIES
Hug themselves a record deal
Formed in 1997 in Sydney three piece Sick Puppies first came to attention in 2001 when their track ‘Nothing Really Matters’ won Triple J’s Unearthed in 2001. In it’s wake the band release their debut album. ‘Welcome To The Real World’. But it wasn’t until late last year when the band released the now famous “Free Hugs” video to accompany their “All The Same” which became an instant You Tube staple. They were one of the first band’s ever to achieve mainstream success via the new ‘You Tube’ phenomenon. Notching up over 14 million views, the band soon found themselves on prestigious US shows such as Jay Leno and Oprah. Midway through the band’s recent U.S tour Joe Matera caught up with vocalist/guitarist Shimon Moore to chat about their rise to fame and their new album “Dressed Up A Life’.

27
FAIRLIGHT CMI
The beginning of sampling
The Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument), invented by Sydney based duo Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie in 1978,  was the first commercially available digital sampling instrument. In other words, it was the moment when sampling as we know it today, began. Rather than creating sounds from wave data as synthesisers had previously been doing, the sounds for the Fairlight CMI were produced from an external audio source. You could now record any sound you like, then reproduce that sound in any key on the keyboard. In 1979 Stevie Wonder was the  first celebrity to buy and use one. It was used extensively in the early eighties by electronic music pioneers such as Todd Rundgren, Peter Gabriel and Jean Michel Jarre. GP

26
INXS
Sometimes you Kick!
Kick’, the milestone album released by INXS in 1987, featuring four top ten US singles, was initially rejected by the US record company for being too ‘black’. INXS were delivering funked up grooves and attracting mixed race audiences in America well before the Chili Peppers cottoned on to the formula. Two years after the album’s release, it had sold over 10 million copies in America alone and INXS had become one of, if not THE biggest band in the world. For evidence of this, you only need to view the DVD of their famous Wembley Stadium gig in the UK in front of 80,000 rapturous fans. GP

25
KYLIE DATES MICHAEL
When Kylie Minogue started dating INXS front man Michael Hutchence in late 1989, she was already an international superstar with a string of Australian and UK #1 hits to her credit. The fact that she was loathed by the rock cognoscenti who saw her as nothing more than a pop puppet for the hit-making team of Stock Aitken Waterman didn’t seem to bother rock god Hutchence. He was later quoted as saying that his favourite pastime was ‘corrupting Kylie’. Indeed the effect on Kylie was significant, her world opened up. This was the launch of a grown-up, sultry new Kylie; ‘SexKylie’ if you will. She cropped and dyed her fluffy blonde locks and started wearing increasingly revealing and outrageous stage costumes offset by seductive moves. Media acceptance followed and by 1992 UK dance bible Mixmag had voted her ‘Sexiest Person on the Planet’, while members of Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers and Teenage Fanclub professed their adoration for the singer. And let’s not forget her inspired if unexpected duet with Nick Cave ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’, a national #2 hit in October 1995. I.McF

24
COLD CHISEL
Khe Sahn. A band creates an anthem.
Voted Australia’s favourite drinking song in Australian Musician’s 2005 Annual Readers Poll, ‘Khe Sahn,’ was Cold Chisel’s first, and most enduring single.  Lifted from the band’s debut self titled album, it was the song that set the band up for a long career playing to adoring fans (mainly working class males) in crowded beer barns and stadiums Australia wide. The combination of Jimmy Barnes’ raspy voice and dynamic stage presence, Ian Moss’s guitar fluidity, and the songwriting strength and diversity of Don Walker made Cold Chisel one of Australia’s most formidable live acts. GP

23
JOHNNY O’KEEFE
Our first national rock star
With the release of Johnny O’Keefe’s first single ‘Wild One’, Australia had discovered its first National rock star. O’Keefe, or JOK as he was more fondly known, was also the first Australian rock star to tour America. On home turf he supported and mingled with genuine rock n’ roll icons such as Bill Haley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. O’Keefe had numerous hits including “She’s My Baby’, “Shout’, “Move, Baby Move” and “Sing, Sing, SIng”, and to this day remains Australia’s most successful chart performer. GP

22
John FARNHAM
Whispering Jack
Backed by a band of hot-shot session musicians, John Farnham re-invented his career in 1986 with  the release of the meg- selling album Whispering Jack. Featuring the record breaking single “You’re the Voice”, not only did the albumresurrect Farnham’s career and go on to sell over 1.7 million copies, it was the also the first Australian album released on Compact Disc format in 1996. GP

21
JET
Are You Gonna Be My Girl
The riff may have been a blatant rip off of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’, but the Jet single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” launched the sale of millions of ipod’s for the Apple computer company. It wasn’t the first song used to promote the new music listening technology but was certainly one of the most effective, both for Apple and the band. Released in 2003 as a single off the ‘Get Born’ album, the song was re-released in the UK in 2004 due to the buzz created by by the iPod TV commercials. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” reached number 16 on the British charts and #29 position in America on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, establishing Jet as a successful international recording act. GP

20
AUSTRALIAN IDOL
Love it or loath it, you can’t deny the success of the television talent show, which some say was responsible for keeping the local record industry afloat during troubled times. Based on the UK TV show Pop Idol, the controversial Australian Idol first aired on July 27, 2003 and launched the careers of Guy Sebastian and Shannon Noll. To date every Australian idol winner has achieved the number one spot with their first single, and a total of over a million albums have been sold by artists appearing on the show. GP

19
SLIM DUSTY
100 albums
Born David Gordon Kirkpatrick in Kempsey in 1927, he gave himself the nickname ‘Slim Dusty’ and went on to create music history. Slim Dusty’s amazing career in country music spanned five decades and included more gold and platinum record awards than any other Australian artist. He wrote his first song “The Way the Cowboy Dies” at the age of ten, but surely one of the most significant moments in Australian music history was the release of his 100th album in 2000, “Looking Forward, Looking Back”. With the release of this album, Slim became the only recording artist in music history (not just Australia) to have recorded 100 albums with the same record label. GP

 

18
JOHN BUTLER
First to chart on his own label
Defining the DIY age of music more than any other Australian artist is the fiercely independent John Butler. The debut of the John Butler Trio’s album ‘Sunrise Over Sea’ at number one in the ARIA charts on March 15, 2004 created local music history. It was the first time a release by a completely independent Australian artist on their own independent label had reached the top of the national charts. ‘Sunrise Over Sea’ would go on to achieve five times platinum status (350,000 copies) in Australian record sales alone and remained in The Association of Independent Record Labels (AIR) charts for a staggering 84 weeks. Another recent milestone for Butler was the simultaneous  (within the space of a week) worldwide release of the trio’s new album ‘Grand National’ a huge accomplishment for an independent artist (although technically the album was released internationally through Atlantic in US and UK, and through Warner everywhere else in the world). GP

17
SUNBURY
Our first rock festival
Sunbury ’72 may have been the first of the legendary rock festivals, but 73′ is widely regarded as the best. Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs were at  their peak, the gig was simulcast on TV and it’s the one immortalised on the classic triple album, which was  Mushroom Records’ ambitious first release. More than 35,000 people trekked to a farm owned by Mr George Duncan at Glencoe, just outside the township of Sunbury over the Australia Day long weekend to witness performances by The Aztecs, Chain, Friends, Glenn Cardier and many others.

Aztecs’ drummer, Gil Matthews’ recollection of Sunbury ’73 was that it was a huge coming together of Aztecs followers. The 72′ Sunbury performance had already set the tone. Fans had been listening all year to the Aztecs Live at Sunbury ’72 album, and had now come to this fly-ridden patch of turf in country Victoria to unite as one in a massive chorus of ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo”. These days Matthews runs a record company which specialises in re-releasing classic Australian music from the past. Not surprisingly it’s called Aztecs Records. Gil was doing promo for another classic Aztecs album ‘Live at The Town Hall’ when Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up for a chat about Sunbury ’73.

What was so special about the Aztecs’ Sunbury performances? Why are they so legendary?
The Aztecs legend began before Sunbury. The fan base had already started. The fan base was there because the band was this rebellious, didn’t give a rat’s arse type of band. We were incredibly loud and just got louder and louder. So a lot of the people at Sunbury were already fans, it just that you had 35,000 of them in one spot. But also it was the volume. We were certainly the loudest Australian band anyway. The Aztecs were just this loud party band that played rock and roll. There was no fancy stuff going on, just wore jeans and t-shirts and I think people just loved that. Sunbury was quite special because it was three days and we played twice. Once during the day, the Saturday then at night on Sunday. I guess by the Saturday we realised the band was fairly important. We didn’t really think about it though, we were just playing in a  rock band having a good time. But it’s hard to remember now. Even when we got together and talked about it, you’d get different stories.

Do you think the Sunbury festival had a tangible effect on the local music industry?
I do. I think Sunbury was that point in time where everyone went along, not really knowing what to expect but they had a great time. There was just something about it. It was such a new experience for most people. There had been the Ourimbah festival prior, but that was small time compared to Sunbury. Thirty five thousand people for 3 days during Australia Day weekend. There was lots of heat, dust. There were kids and dogs and tents.

Did the band stay at the festival site?
No we stayed at travel lodge. They had caravans at the back of the site as dressing rooms. We’d stay a few hours in them and go and watch a few bands but we drove down from the hotel.

Was there a sense of camaraderie with the other bands at Sunbury?
There was but … The Aztecs … were not so much a hard working band but we worked a lot. We played 4 or 5 gigs every week. I guess we didn’t have a lot of time with the other bands. Re-releasing a lot of this material I am hearing some of these bands for the first time.

What was Billy’s philosophy on volume? Why was it so important to him?
I think because he was so new at playing guitar and playing guitar with lots of volume allows you to sort of fluff it without anyone knowing! You can play things and make a few bum notes but you can cover it up with the feedback and noise.  That’s where it came from anyway. It was our little niche, no one else was doing it. And people loved it, By the time the big PAs came in, the big W bins, we’d have guys sticking their heads in there. One guy at Sunbury curled up in one. How do you do that? One of the things about the Aztecs was that we had a complete rebellious attitude about things and didn’t care about anything. Even Billy would be arrested on stage every second night. They’d take him off and he’d just come back on and swear again just to give the cops grief. The crowd would go berserk. Before the Aztecs there wasn’t really a pub scene and most of the gigs in the 60s didn’t even have alcohol. Bands were dressed nicely in shirts and ties and the record companies would tell you what to wear etc. Then in the early seventies everyone said, we’ve had enough of this. We are going to wear what we like, play what we want, no record company is going to tell us what to do.

A little known fact is that on the same weekend as the Sunbury ’72 Festival, a festival called The Meadows Technicolour Fair also occurred south of Adelaide. It featured international artists such as Mary Hopkin, Tom Paxton and Edison Lighthouse and drew almost 30,000 people, yet has received little publicity.

16
GO SET
Beginning in the late sixties and continuing through the early seventies, Go-Set was Australia’s first real rock magazine. The weekly magazine was not only responsible for keeping the nation up to date with the latest rock music news, but also featured our first national record chart. Go-Set is also notable for giving a start to rock guru Molly Meldrum, who worked as reporter for the magazine. When Go-Set ended it was the catalyst for other important national rock publications such as Juke and RAM  to emerge. Juke was the longest running of the acclaimed rock mags running from 1975 until 1993. GP

15
AC/DC
It’s a long way to the top
It’s now become one of the most iconic Aussie rock film clips and a defining moment for AC/DC, but at the time it seemed to be no big deal. In fact, the idea was so simple that anyone could have done it. Put the band members and their equipment on a flatbed truck, drive the truck down Swanston Street in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD and just film the guys performing their current single ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)’. The single had already peaked at #5 on the national chart when filming took place on 26 February 1976 but the clip was perfect viewing for the Countdown audience who had embraced AC/DC wholeheartedly. It really did capture the essence of the band’s working class style, boogie-rock sound and earthy sense of humour. And if you want unequivocal proof of the song’s continued significance in the history of Australian rock music you only have to recall the name adopted for the hugely successful 2002 arena rock spectacular: Long Way to the Top. I.McF

14
CROWDED HOUSE
Farewell concert
The Seekers may lay claim to over 200, 000 people attending their legendary Melbourne Music Bowl concert in  1967, but that was held during Melbourne’s Moomba weekend and it could be argued that a large crowd would have attended whoever happened to be performing. Whereas there was no doubt who 120,000 people had specifically come to see and pay respects to at Sydney’s Opera House on November 24, 1996. Crowded House’s farewell concert, beamed around the world via satellite was one of the most emotional gigs ever staged in Australia. In fact the emotion obviously ran so deep, that the band has reformed and is back with a new album. Sadly this time without their dear departed drummer Paul Hester. GP

13
BON SCOTT DEATH
On February 19th, 1980 AC/DC’s hard living lead singer Ronald ‘Bon’ Scott dies of alcohol related liver failure after a huge night at a club called the Music Machine in Camden, England.  At the time of Bon Scott’s death the band was on the cusp of international stardom, with “Highway to Hell” having just achieved gold record status in America. Rather than throw in the towel, the band decided to play on with former ‘Geordie’ vocalist Brian Johnson as Bon’s replacement. With the seeds of success already sown, and armed with a bunch of killer new songs, their first release post-Bon’s death “Back in Black”  went on to sell 16 million copies in America alone, and AC/DC became one the world’s most popular bands. However  Bon Scott’s legacy will never be forgotten. GP

12
TRIPLE J GOES NATIONAL
From the moment they broadcast their first track, the then banned Skyhooks’ song “You Just Like Me Cos You’re Good In Bed”, national youth radio network  Triple J made their intentions clear. This was to be no copycat commercial yawn fest for mum and dads. Beginning life as Sydney AM radio station 2JJ,  in 1989 on the FM band as Triple J, the radio station brought cutting edge music, not only to every capital city in Australia but also to the long suffering youth in rural areas raised on a diet of classic rock and country and western. Triple J quickly established itself as an important and influential cog in the the local music industry machinery. GP

11
THE BEATLES TOUR AUSTRALIA
On July 3, 1963 Australian promoter Ken Brodziak made a deal with a London booking agent to secure an up and coming band called the Beatles for a national Australian concert tour for a fee of a thousand pounds per week. Within the next 6 months the band exploded and Beatlemania was rife. American promoters were now offering 50 thousand pounds per show, but the deal had already been done and in June 1964 the Beatles were in Australia. Thousands of teenagers defied their parents and greeted the band at the airports, lined the streets along the route to their hotels, and then amassed outside the band’s hotels waiting for a glimpse of their idols (20,000 outside their Melbourne hotel). At the concerts, the band was barely audible above the hysterical cries from the audience. After the band had gone, there was an immediate  change  in the local music scene from rock and surf music to Beatles flavoured R&B pop. Every band wanted to be the Beatles, and every teen wanted to be in a band. GP

10
BIG DAY OUT GOES NATIONAL
It was quite a moment itself when Ken West then manager of The Laughing Clowns, met with Hunters and Collectors’ manager Vivian Lees when the two bands played on the same bill in Sydney in the eighties, but truly their moment in the sun came together as promoters of the Big Day Out festival, and more specifically the second Big Day Out. Starting out as a Sydney only festival in 1992 with Nirvana headlining, in 1993 with Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop and Mudhoney included in the line-up, the Big Day Out became a travelling festival with shows in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth (Gold Coast was added in 1994). Featuring the biggest alternative bands of the day, Big Day Out has established itself as one of the world’s major rock festivals. GP

9
SILVERCHAIR
All albums go #1
It’s a stat that probably slipped under the radar of most people, but in April this year when SIlverchair new album ‘Young Modern’ went to number one, it was the fifth time in a row the band had achieved this milestone. Every album released by  Newcastle’s favourite sons has reached the number one position, a deed never attained by any other Australian band.

Joe Matera caught up with the ‘Chair’s bassist Chris Joannou to talk about the new album and to look back on some of the most significant moments of the band’s career.

Chris, the band has a listing in the top ten of the most significant moments of Australian pop/rock, but tell me about when Silverchair first charted in the U.S. You were all still in your teens and at school. How did you cope with all the success?
It was a time when we were naive and a little oblivious to a lot of those things. We were having a lot of fun and still doing school. It’s only now when you reflect back on it that you start thinking of those things. But back then, it was exciting. I think we were more entertained by having video games and stuff than the fame. I remember when we toured with Red Hot Chilli Peppers for a couple tours. At one of the last shows, they organised some strippers to come up onstage which was pretty funny.

You have stated in the past that one of your biggest career highlights was playing to 250,000 at Rock In Rio in 2001?
That was amazing. We hadn’t played much around that time and I remember our manager telling us there was an offer to do this one off show in Rio, so we flew over just for that and it was a mind boggling experience in front of so many people. It is kind of hard to fathom.

How do you look back on the time when Daniel got sick around the release of Diorama, because that was quite a significant moment for the band?
It was a pretty full on time. We were still trying to do as much promo as we could and we were doing it all from Dan’s house so he didn’t have to go any where. It was taking him 20 minutes just to get up and walk from the lounge room to go to the toilet. He was in a lot of pain and a horrible state. Thank God he’s better now. I think taking that time off was a pretty good thing as all three of us went off and did some different things. It gave us a chance to just to step outside of Silverchair for a little awhile. And coming back to do this record, felt like we were all bringing something different back from our different experiences.

Is it true that the new album “Young Modern’  was originally intended to be Daniel Johns’ solo album but events transpired that turned it into a proper Silverchair album?
Yeah, Dan was tossing up the idea of doing a solo record during our extended break. We never had the album in the pipe line until, kind of, when we got together to do Wave Aid. We were on such a buzz afterwards that it was silly for us not to do another record as Silverchair. We had come so far as a band that it would have been a shame to just put it on the backburner. So we got inspired and got busy.

There’s a remarkable leap in maturity in the songwriting?
Dan did a lot of song writing during our time off, so in the process his writing got better and better and especially with this album where it does a lot of genre hop-ing. Dan really made a pretty conscious effort in the whole structure and the way the album was going to flow.

What was the process like this time round when it came to making the album?
We spent close to two years working on the material for the album. Dan did a lot of demos with Paul Mac first then we got together as a band to start playing them and went to the Hunter Valley and hired a house there for awhile. It was really cool, we set up in the house and jammed on the music all day long and worked on the new songs. All round it was of the best experiences in making a record for me. Then we went to a studio in LA called Seedy Underbelly Studios and spent a fair bit of time there doing all the tracking. Then it went over to Prague where Van Dyke Parks did all the string arrangements on it. Then it came back to Sydney for a few finishing touches before David Bottrill mixed it in Toronto in Canada. This record’s kind of been right around the world so to speak.

Has working with Paul Mac influence a lot of Daniel’s approach to music these days?
I think Dan has said that Paul kind of showed him some good things about pop music structure. So he has a new found respect for it.

When it came to gear, what did you use?
I pretty much used the same setup that I’ve used for all the records. Which is generally an old Ampeg flip top B15 with an 8” X 10” and an old SVT on top. For me, when it comes to recording in the studio, you just can’t go past an old flip top. I ended up buying two of them, both reissues for live use. I’ve started buying a lot of old P-basses too. There is a guy in Sydney who made a couple custom P-basses for me. It’s modelled off a P-bass that a guy he knew owns and it’s probably one of the best guitars I’ve got. Effects wise, I’m using a Lowpass Filter, a Phaser, some different Distortion boxes and a Bass Micro Synth.

How is everything wired up live?
Basically there is an 8” X 10” with two flip tops sitting on top, a SVT-2 Pro that powers the 8” X 10” as the flip tops are self powered. Then there is a little rack unit that houses all the effects. I’ve had that same SVT-2 pre-amp since 1997.

8
MUSHROOM RECORDS
It wasn’t Australia’s first record label, many others had preceded Mushroom including Fable, Sparmac, and Festival (which eventually partnered with Mushroom). But the label created in 1972 by the ebullient Michael Gudinski was the one that defined an era, and after a shaky start, struck gold with Skyhooks’ ‘Living in The 70s’ and ‘Ego is Not A Dirty Word’ albums. It was Gudinski’s intention right from the start to create local records on an equal par with the internationals in regard to first class artwork and marketing. The first release by Mushroom was an ambitious one, the triple gate-folded disc ‘The Great Australian Rock Festival-Sunbury ’73’, but with consequent album releases by obscure bands such as MacKenzie’s Theory and Sid Rumpo, the label was struggling. It wasn’t until the success of the two Skyhooks albums, followed by Split Enz’ True Colours that the label was able to show some muscle and launch the careers of local legends such as Joe Camilleri, Kylie Minogue, The Models, Jimmy Barnes solo and Paul Kelly to name a few. In 1993, half of the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and started up an international operation. In 1998, the remainder of  Mushroom was sold to News Corp and then merged with Festival Records. In 2005 Mushroom was sold to Warner Music which currently distributes their product GP

7
LEE GORDON
Canadian-born salesman Lee Gordon turned pioneer entrepreneur had made and lost several fortunes already promoting tours by the likes of Nat King Cole and Johnnie Ray , and was back on in the black when rock’n’roll arrived. Thanks to Lee Gordon Australia saw America’s rock’n’roll revolution before the rest of the world. Bill Haley and the Comets played here on their way to their historic European concerts. Buddy Holly and The Crickets came before inspiring a generation of British Pop, (The Beatles, Hollies etc). Australia saw it first and our rock music from that moment on was the most ‘authentic’ outside of America itself. EN

6
SKYHOOKS
Release Living in the seventies and 6 songs are banned.
Question: How do you create a buzz around an album release and make music fans want to rush out and buy it? Answer: Ban the majority of songs from radio play! From the moment the Federation of Australian Broadcasters banned six of the 10 tracks off Skyhooks debut album ‘Living in the 70s’ in August 1974, it was destined for immortality. By October the album had hit number one and stayed in the charts for 40 weeks, selling more than a quarter of a million copies. Pre-dating Men at Work’s tale of ‘Downunder’, Skyhooks gained a massive following with their colloquial songs about the suburbs such as ‘Balwyn Calling’ and ‘Lygon Street Limbo’. Skyhooks shocked conservative Australia with their loud costumes and irreverent on-stage antics, and Living in the 70s became the  first big selling album for Michael Gudinski’s fledgling record label Mushroom. Incidentally, one song off the album, ‘You Just Like Me Cos I’m Good In Bed’, was the first song played by the ABC’s Sydney alternative radio station, 2JJ, the first incarnation of the national radio network Triple J. GP

5
MIDNIGHT OIL
Olympic Sorry
The Oils had always been a politically active band, not only with their songs like ‘Blue Sky Mine’ and ‘Beds Are Burning’, but also in their actions supporting groups like Greenpeace and Save the Whale with benefit shows. Then there’s the legendary performance in New York City outside the head office of oil giant Exxon, while sporting a sign that read Midnight Oil makes you dance – Exxon Oil makes you sick”, in protest at the horrific oil spill by the tanker Exxon Valdez. However it was the band’s performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics wearing the words ‘Sorry’  on their clothes, that embodied their entire political ethos, and in doing so  focussed the attention of the world’s media on the issue of the stolen generations of Aboriginal children. The Oil’s protest pre dated the government’s official apology by 8 years. At the 2006 ARIA awards, Midnight Oil’s drummer Rob Hirst lamented the fact that there weren’t enough mainstream acts using their platform to say something with their music. GP

4
THE SAINTS
I’m Stranded
The significance of the release of The Saints’ howling, milestone debut single ‘(I’m) Stranded’ can never be underestimated. The fact that it appeared when the Ramones debut album was still fairly new and before the Damned, the Sex Pistols or the Clash had even made it onto record guarantees its historical importance for all time. Appearing in September  1976 on the band’s own Fatal Records imprint, it was all but ignored by the local industry at the time. When Sounds magazine in the UK declared it to be “Single of this and every week”, EMI (Britain) ordered EMI (Australia) to sign the band, and pronto! Fuelled by Ed Kuepper’s relentless power chords and Chris Bailey’s cheap’n’nasty vocal  sneer, ‘(I’m) Stranded’ was a glorious rush of kinetic energy. Alongside Radio Birdman’s Burn My Eye EP, ‘(I’m) Stranded’ kicked off the Australian late 1970s new wave movement with a shower of teenage sweat and pure adrenaline.

As Ed Kuepper explained to Ian McFarlane in Prehistoric Sounds magazine (1994), the release of ‘(I’m) Stranded’ was a real sense of vindication.
IMcF: How did you come to put out ‘(I’m) Stranded’ on your own record label, Fatal? That was a pretty bold move in those days.

EK: “That wasn’t brave at all. It was just me not knowing anything about putting out a record. It was funny because I’d been thinking about it for a year and I couldn’t work out how to do it. I’d been working in the warehouse at Astor Records and even having been that close there was still this immense gap, this black hole between being a band, writing songs and having a record in the shops. I said ‘if I give you a tape will you actually press a record?’ and they said, ‘yes, we do it all the time’. In some ways it was this incredibly groundbreaking thing, having an independent record but country singers had been doing this for some time, like some bloke in Maryborough would order 300 copies of a record for himself. It turned out to be incredibly easy.”

IMcF: Were your surprised at the review Sounds in England gave to the single?

EK: “It was a sequence of events. I posted out copies of the single to all these magazines overseas. We didn’t hear about the Sounds review until a friend came around and said that he’d been listening to the ABC news and it had been broadcast that this totally unknown Australian band had been getting these phenomenal reviews in London. All these other bands, like the Masters Apprentices or whoever, had spent oodles of money and time trying to break England and suddenly this band from Brisbane who had played about four shows in their life and had been banned from playing because people were offended by our act, gets this coverage. It did surprise me but it was a feeling of real vindication. The situation was so desperate; we had this band, we had a sound that was totally our own and we were despised by everybody apart from 30 or 40 people who followed us everywhere.”

IMcF: How did you feel when EMI UK instructed the Australian office to sign you up?

EK: (Laughs) “Well that was good too. We’d been into the EMI office in Brisbane and there was this kind, middle aged bloke, he wasn’t rude or anything, just a typical record company exec, he just said ‘we’re not really interested in this sort of music boys, it’s Little River Band, soft rock, this other style of music that you’re playing, I don’t know’.”

3
MEN AT WORK
#1 in USA and UK at same time
In 1982 Melbourne based band Men At Work achieved a goal which even today remains unsurpassed by any other Australian act. With both their single “Downunder’, a song about Australia, recorded in Australia, and the album ‘Business As Usual’  they managed to top the charts simultaneously in both America and the UK. In fact Men At Work are one of only 4 other acts who have achieved this chart goal in the history of contemporary music. The other four are The Beatles (who achieved the goal a record seven times), Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart and more recently Beyonce. From humble beginnings playing gigs at the tiny Cricketers Arms Hotel in suburban Richmond, Men At Work enjoyed a massive international career and won a Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1983. GP

2
COUNTDOWN
There had been Australian music television shows prior to Countdown (such as Bandstand, Six O’Clock Rock, Go!!, Uptight, Kommotion, Happening ’70, and GTK), but none came close to the impact made by this pioneering program. The show first aired on November 8, 1974 in black and white, however the moment when the legend really began was the night it went colour. Countdown was used bythe ABC to launch their first ever colour television transmission at midnight on March 1st, 1975 (Yes folks, believe it or not,  prior to 1975 TV programs only came in two colours … black and white). Lead by the less  than eloquent, but musically passionate Molly Meldrum, Countdown became so influential that an appearance on the national show could make or break an act. It not only launched hundreds of local acts, but also had a huge hand in kick starting the careers of international acts such as Madonna and ABBA. The first colour program was hosted by John Farnham and the first act to play was Skyhooks. The show then became an institution when it settled into it’s 6pm Sunday night time slot. GP

1
VANDA AND YOUNG- When Harry met George!
Had Harry Vanda and George Young not met in the Villawood migrant hostel in Sydney 1963, there would not have been an Easybeats as we know them, possibly no Stevie Wright  solo career, certainly not the Albert productions that made AC/DC a huge success, and none of those classic Countdown songs by artists such as John Paul Young, William Shakespeare, Cheetah etc, as well as their own hits under the Flash and the Pan name.

In 1964, a bunch of mid-teened migrant kids were living at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney. Johannes Vandenberg (Harry Vanda) and Dingernam Vandersluys (Dick Diamond) were from Holland, Steven Wright from England, and Gordon “Snowy” Fleet from Liverpool. They hung around the washrooms trying to get a band together.

“The word came around that this guy from Glasgow, who came around to see his girlfriend at the hostel, was a pretty hot guitarist,” Harry Vanda recollects at the offices of his Flashpoint Studios in Sydney where he’s been working with bands like British India and The Presents, John Paul Young, Bosnia-hailed art pop singer Katrina and songwriter Louis Anton. “So we could checked him out and sure enough he was. Could sing in tune too. At the time he was a panel beater and not liking it too much.”

Initially, it was Wright and Young who wrote the Easybeats’ hits like “Sorry” and “She’s So Fine” because Vanda was still learning to speak English. But once the Easies hit England, they had to lift their game and Wright was getting erratic. So the Vanda-Young team took over. One of their first efforts was “Friday On My Mind”.

When the Easybeats limped to an end in 1969, they were in debt of $85,000 (an equivalent of $1 million today) the two returned to England to do sessions and work off these off. In 1973, their publisher Ted Albert asked them to return to Australia to run his new label/ production house Albert Productions. They were a huge success, with acts like AC/DC, John Paul Young, Stevie Wright, Rose Tattoo and The Angels. “We tripped into a goldmine, there was so much talent here.”

Christie Eliezer: Did you and George know when you wrote something special?

Harry Vanda: “No, because we were in awe of the international stars we were competing with. They were telling us how good our songs were, but we were not confident. The only time I felt that was when we came up with ‘Love Is in The Air’.”

So was Bowie doing “Friday On My Mind” on his “Pinups” collection of great 60s songs, a vindication for you?
“Bowie’s the professor of pop, very few are as astute about pop as he. So when people like him do it, or Rod Stewart doing ‘Hard Road’ or Jimmy Barnes and Good Times’, you think, well, maybe we are good at this after all!”

What’s your advice to young bands on how songwriting royalties should be shared?
“Make a deal that you share the money while you’re together as a unit. But make it clear who has the song’s credits and copyright.”

What do you regard as the best Vanda-Young song?
“I wish I could answer that. We tried so many styles. The only thing we didn’t attempt to write was a classical symphony. The cleverest was ‘Friday On My Mind’. But it’s not my favourite. Towards the very end, our last album was cheaply put together in London but it really rocked. ‘St. Louis’ was a hint of that. On ‘Woman You’re On My Mind’ we got into this great rave in the middle, and George’s brother Alex played sax solo at the end. It always gets to me.”

What do you think has been Australia’s greatest music moment?
“The day Malcolm and Angus asked Bon to be their singer.”

Did you think AC/DC would end up selling 120 million records?
“Of course not. Anyone who’d make that prediction about a band coming out of the working class suburbs of Sydney would have a screw loose. The question is, is that success deserved? The answer is Yes, because they’ve worked so hard for it.”

Why couldn’t the Easybeats have become as big as AC/DC?
“We should have turned it up, boy, instead of all that plinky-plonky stuff! We were shaped by the pop attitude of catering only for females. The penny never dropped we had a huge male market. But that never crossed AC/DC’s mind, to make music for girls.”

What was the funniest Countdown moment for you?
“Angry Anderson and Mick Cox having a kiss on air (laughs) I knew there’d be hell to pay as a result, and I was right.”

In 1965, you started playing a Gibson 345 — and still play it.
“I became aware of feedback. I wanted to get a sound like that which I could control and make it melodic. It made sense a semi-acoustic would give you that. I was experimenting around the time of ‘Sorry’ by turning the thing up — but that was as loud as the rest of the fellers would let me play! Everyone else was in the plinky-plonky mode. When we got to England, bands like the Yardbirds were using fuzzboxes. Then I saw Eric Clapton with the Bluesbreakers and he had all the sounds I’d always wanted, with a Gibson Les Paul. They were hard to get hold of, but I managed it. All the time I had the guitar capable of getting those sounds right there and I didn’t know it.”

 

JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT … the next ten choices were:

51. Festival Records 50th year

52. Armstrong Studios opens

53. Broadford Music Festival

54. Maton Guitars begins

55. Liquor Laws impact on industry,

56. Brian Cadd’s Bootleg label begins

57. Tommy Emmanuel records album with Chet Atkins

57. Rage begins on ABC

59. ‘Hey, Hey It’s Saturday’ moves to nights giving bands incredible exposure,

60. Sister Janet Mead international  hit with ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

 

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