Thursday, April 03, 2008

Aussie/Kiwi Classic Rock

As a follow-up to my post on British Classic Rock, I felt it fitting to delve into some of the better music to come from our friends from the South Pacific.

AC/DC: Many will argue that Led Zeppelin were the fathers or creators of heavy metal-- a label that not even Robert Plant himself agrees with. With that in mind, it can just as easily be argued that AC/DC were the fathers of metal. There's a certain energy and attitude about the. Even if some really have trouble calling what Bon Scott or later Brian Johnson were doing "singing," one thing that certainly can't be argued is Angus Young's talents on the guitar.

Bee Gees/Andy Gibb: While these guys were born in England, they were raised in Australia and it was there that they first made a name for themselves. Whether it's their early days as a tight R&B/Blue Eyed Soul trio with tight vocal harmonies or when they were at the pinnacle of their success as Disco Kings in the late seventies thanks to a little film called Saturday Night Fever. While younger brother, Andy opted not to turn the trio into a quartet his music was cut from the cloth as that of his older brothers. Unfortunately, due to his teen pin-up status he's never really been taken seriously despite having an exceptional voice and a respectable catalog in his own right.

Cold Chisel: The definitive Aussie pub rock band of the late seventies and early eighties. While they attempted to make a splash with the US music scene, they went largely ignored by the American public-- which inspired their Aussie hit, You Got Nothin' I Want. Songs like Khe Sanh, Flame Trees, When the War is Over and Breakfast at Sweethearts remain fan favorites today. Cold Chisel also spawned vocalist Jimmy Barnes whose solo career eventually eclipsed the success of the very band that spawned him. However, arguably one of his best vocal performances remains All I Wanna Do from Cold Chisel's 2003 Ringside tour.

Crowded House: After the Finn brothers pulled the plug on their initial musical endeavour, Split Enz (see below), Neil Finn embarked on a new musical endeavor, Crowded House. A huge concert draw in New Zealand and Australia the band split up in 1997, and re-formed in 2007 after a 10 year hiatus and the death of their original drummer, Paul Hester, to release their first new studio album in over ten years, Time On Earth. Crowded House is best known for their mega-hit Don't Dream It's Over.

The Cruel Sea: Other than a minor US hit, The Honeymoon Is Over, in the early 90s these guys aren't generally known outside their native Australia. Initially these guys started out as an instrumental unit inspired by the surf music of the 60s. They later added Beasts of Bourbon vocalist, Tex Perkins, to give their music a bit of extra dimension. Perkins' deep vocals helped propel the band to much greater success than they'd ever had as instrumentalists.

Hunters & Collectors
: Named after a song by Can, Hunters & Collectors made a name for themselves in the Aussie pub rock scene of the eighties and nineties. With a tight rhythm section that served as not just a backbone but also a focal point of many of their songs, a horn section that gave their songs an extra chutzpah, and the vocals of Mark Seymour. Touring with Midnight Oil in the early 90s, saw the one and only US album release, Fate. Unfortunately, the suits in the States had no idea how to market them. And much like Cold Chisel before them, they went largely unnoticed. In 1998, they entered the studio for what would be their final album, Juggernaut. Their hit, Throw Your Arms Around Me remains a karaoke staple in Aussie bars to this day.

: Next to AC/DC, INXS is likely the most well known Aussie musical export. Vocalist Michael Hutchence had a stage presence reminiscent of the late Jim Morrison that was truly a sight to be seen. Unfortunately, the band lost a lot of credibility when they replaced Hutchence with Canadian, J.D. Fortune, on a reality tv show-- despite releasing one solid album with Fortune on the mic (Switch).

Little River Band: Essentially these guys were the Aussie version of the Eagles. While arguably not as strong instrumentalists as their American counterparts, they more than made up for it with the rock solid super tight vocal harmonies of Glenn Shorrock, Graham Goble, and Beeb Birtles. Despite an ever shifting line-up that even saw the departure and return of lead vocalist Glenn Shorrock at one point, the core of Birtles, Goble, and Shorrock created some of the tightest vocal harmonies in pop/rock history. Even the three albums released with vocalist John Farnham in the early 80s had some exceptionally strong material. While Farnham's voice may have been better/stronger than Shorrock's it lacked the chemistry Shorrock's voice gave the band.

Men At Work: These days these guys are more fodder for eighties trivia games but in their day they put out some rather catchy and solid songs including Who Can It Be Now, Down Under, Be Good Johnny, and my personal favorite Overkill. Even many of the deeper album cuts by these guys were quite catchy.

Midnight Oil: With lyrics that were often largely political in nature, it's likely no surprise that lead vocalist Peter Garrett left the band to pursue a career in politics. But any band that can score an international hit from a song about Aboriginal land rights deserves some serious kudos.

Split Enz: Across "the ditch" from Australia in nearby New Zealand the brothers Finn (Tim & Neil) put together a string of New Wave hits (some of which caught on in the US and some which did not) including Six Months in a Leaky Boat, History Never Repeats, Bold as Brass, I Hope I Never, and perhaps their biggest hit I Got You.

Jimmy Barnes: After Cold Chisel split up Jimmy Barnes embarked on a largely successful solo career which spawned a string of solo hits including Working Class Man, Driving Wheels, and Ride the Night Away. Barnes is not just a vocalist but an Aussie icon!

John Farnham: Farnham made a respectable career and name for himself in Australia but remained merely a star until after his short stint as Little River Band's lead vocalist. In 1986 his Whispering Jack album became an Aussie staple and propelled Farnham to superstardom largely on the success of its hit single, You're the Voice but also scored hits with covers of Cold Chisel's When the War Is Over (originally covered when he was still in Little River Band) and The Beatles Help, not to mention his collaborations with Jimmy Barnes and Aussie boy band Human Nature.

Wendy Matthews: Born in Canada, Wendy Mathews saw little success in her native North America. Then as fate would have it the then recently ousted LRB lead vocalist, Glenn Shorrock, invited her to sing back-up on his 1983 Australian tour. In Australia she found the success that had eluded her half a world away. Starting out as an in-demand session vocalist in 1990 Matthews recorded her solo debut, Emigre. Wendy is best known for The Day You Went Away.


Charlie said...

I can't believe somebody actually knows Wendy Matthews. I have her CD, Lily, the one "The Day You Went Away" came from and I have always liked it even though I haven't played it in a long time. Unfortunately for me I never knew one fact about her. The CD was too well done for her to be a one-hit wonder (which I actually thought she was) so I'm glad she has a full and lengthy musical history.

Barbara - Layla said...

Excellent post. I will be linking here. You know how much I love(d) Michael. So many great musicians and artists come from Oz. I will have to check out Wendy Mattews!


FORGIVE ME!! I went to my bloglines to find your blog and it was not there!

musicobsessive said...

So glad to see Split Enz in there. Much as I love Neil Finn and Crowded house, I prefer Split Enz without him. They were gloriously left field and really didn't need the structure he brought to them. The original album, 'Second Thoughts' ('Mental Notes' in the UK) is one of my all time fav records and is a huge testament to the flair of Phil Judd and Tim Finn (who must be cursing younger brothers!)

Anonymous said...

Don Coleman, Canada's Premiere AC/DC Vocalist, has recorded a song to celebrate the life and spirit of Bon Scott former frontman for AC/DC. The song "Women, Whiskey & Rock'n'Roll" has been airing daily in Australia on the Rebel FM Network (40 stations is Queensland / NSW ) plus two stations near Fremantle, Western Australia - where there was a concert to unveil a statue of Bon Scott - PERTH 107.3 FM and 89.7 FM on weekly shows. Each day there are more Australian, Canadian and American FM Stations coming onboard to air the song.

The song launched on WRUW FM 91.1 in Cleveland, Ohio ( home of the R&R Hall of Fame) complete with an on air interview with Don Coleman, on a show dedicated to the memory of Bon Scott. Also on the show where Susan Masino, published author of "Let There Be Rock" a book on Bon and AC/DC, and President of the Bon Scott Fan Club, Doug Thorncroft, who both love the song. MP3 audio clips are available from the show on request. The song aired on the Newcap FM Network on K-Rock 105.5 in Charlottetown, PEI, along with an interview with Don, as well as FM Stations in St. John 98.9 FM (morning and afternoon 'drive time' programs), NB and Moncton 106.1 FM, NB, Canada. Don will be doing more media interviews this week with various Music Magazines.

Other notable reviews came from Vince Lovegrove ( former bandmate of Bon's in the "Valentines"), Aussie Legend - Kevin Borich, "Angels" drummer Buzz Bidstrup who performed at the Fremantle concert to unveil the statue, in their re-formed band the "Party Boys". They all think the song is a 'ripper' (Aussie slang for fantastic). I received a request for the song from longtime friend of Bon and longtime bassist for Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Daisley who thinks Don did a great job on the song.

Don has been receiving many offers from : England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA, to front many bands and to tour. One such offer came from the original frontman for AC/DC, Dave Evans who also performed in Fremantle.

You can listen to the song by visiting the dedicated site at .

Anonymous said...

I think that Flash and the Pan deserve a mention as well. The band made up of Harry Vanda and Angus' big brother George Young, had some hits like "Hey St Peter" and "Walking In The Rain", and a very unique sound.

The RIpple Effect said...

Love the list and good job. But, I gotta take serious umbrage with your omission of without a doubt the best pub/punk rock band to come from the Aussie shores, The Angels. They are legendary in their hometown, could beat AC/DC at riffing and had a singer who's grip on reality was so tenuous, you never knew where the music would go next. Classic.

Love the site, check us out at the Ripple Effect (you can find some Angels reviews and videos there). We're spreading the word on new, unheralded and lost classic bands.

We'd love to exchange links with you. Let me know.

Todd (Racer)
The Ripple Effect

paul said...

hey great post, i'm a little late catching it, as an aussie i have to say you have done brilliantly, even hunters and collectors; I saw them at least ten times back in the 80's, very powerful live

Their is one major ommission however, a really important one; Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, the father of aussie blues, the hero of our Woodstock, Sunbury..... pretty incredible

when aussies held sunbury Queen attended, they were so patriotoc abot aussie music that they boed them off stage to the sound of 'get off the stage you pommy poofters' !

also melbourne band The Whitlams are astounding, Nick Cave of course,

2 other blues-rock 60's bands Spectrum and Chain kick arse, Max Merrit also god from this era, lots of great surf guitar music.... thanks for thinking of us down here

paul said...

I should have said I did a post a couple of months ago 'Time Capsule: Remembering Sunbury Pop Festival, Victoria 1972-1975' on Rock Revival if your interested

find it under labels

i'll also be linking to oyur site