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.
INXS: 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.