POP GOES THE NA­TION

The Fab mo­ment 50 years ago opened a win­dow and Aussie mu­sic never looked back. By

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature -

IT could only be­gin with the Bea­tles. Just a month be­fore The Aus­tralian rolled off the presses for the first time, the big­gest band in pop his­tory ar­rived on our shores for its only visit, caus­ing scenes of fan frenzy that have never been re­peated in Aus­tralia. The huge crowds that turned out to wel­come the Bea­tles (300,000 in Ade­laide) sig­nalled a new dawn for our pop cul­ture. In the 1950s and early 60s Aus­tralia had em­braced Amer­i­can rock ’n’ roll and de­vel­oped a ver­sion of it through surf mu­sic and rock­ers such as Col Joye and Johnny O’Keefe. Post-Bea­tles, Aus­tralian rock and pop took a turn, look­ing in­ward to the Aus­tralian way of life but also view­ing the world at large. Suc­cess as a per­former didn’t have to be re­stricted to Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian mu­sic has had a huge im­pact on the world since 1964. To­day its reach is greater than at any point in his­tory. This year alone pop acts such as Five Sec­onds of Sum­mer, Sia and Iggy Aza­lea have en­joyed great in­ter­na­tional chart suc­cess. It’s a world of new tech­nol­ogy and at­ti­tudes, where mu­sic can be heard any­where in an in­stant and so­cial me­dia can pub­li­cise a hit song or a sur­prise gig just as quickly.

The Bea­tles dom­i­nated the charts in 1964 but there was room also for lo­cal names such as Billy Thorpe and Ray Columbus and the In­vaders. Johnny Farn­ham, Normie Rowe and Lit­tle Pat­tie were also fre­quent chart en­trants. The Loved Ones, the Mas­ter’s Ap­pren­tices and the Twi­lights, among oth­ers, re­leased in­flu­en­tial al­bums in the sec­ond half of the decade. Few bands from that time sur­vived the 60s, how­ever. Syd­ney’s Easy­beats were a glow­ing ex­am­ple. The band had a string of lo­cal hits in­clud­ing She’s So Fine, I’ll Make You Happy and Sorry be­fore mov­ing to Eng­land and re­leas­ing the world­wide hit Fri­day on My Mind in late 1966, but by the end of 1969 the group had dis­solved.

The 70s was when Aussie rock and pop found an iden­tity. In 1972 Mel­bourne en­trepreneurs Michael Gudin­ski and Ray Evans formed the Mush­room Records la­bel to pro­mote the rapidly grow­ing ros­ter of Aussie talent carv­ing a name on the live cir­cuit. The la­bel’s first re­lease rep­re­sented a piv­otal mo­ment in Aus­tralia’s rock ’n’ roll evo­lu­tion, the 1973 Sun­bury Pop Fes­ti­val in Vic­to­ria. Mush­room re­leased a triple al­bum of the fes­ti­val, which hosted the cream of Aussie and New Zealand rock acts, in­clud­ing Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Spec­trum and Max Mer­ritt and the Me­te­ors.

Sky­hooks’ land­mark de­but al­bum Livin’ in the 70s, re­leased by Mush­room in 1974, be­came the high­est sell­ing Aus­tralian al­bum in his­tory to that point and took Oz rock in a more glam­rock di­rec­tion. The lo­cal scene was boosted fur­ther in the mid-70s by the launch of tele­vi­sion mu­sic show Count­down. Soul/pop diva Renee Geyer de­parted for the US in 1976 leav­ing a trail of Aus­tralian hits be­hind her, and re­turned four years later to con­tinue a record­ing ca­reer that is on­go­ing.

It was also the decade that gave birth to Aussie pub rock, where the An­gels, Cold Chisel, Richard Clap­ton and Ted Mulry Gang, among oth­ers, cre­ated a new hy­brid of blues-ori­ented rock mu­sic in the na­tion’s pubs and clubs. It was no less fre­netic in pop, with Sher­bet, Men­tal as Any­thing, Lit­tle River Band and Split Enz mak­ing an im­pact here and later over­seas.

As punk mu­sic emerged in the mid-70s, Aussie acts the Saints and Ra­dio Bird­man flew the flag of a more re­bel­lious, do-it-yourself rock aes­thetic. Young War­rackn­abeal singer Nick Cave was also show­ing some prom­ise in early out­fits Boys Next Door and the Birth­day Party. Cave stands to­day, along­side Paul Kelly, as one of our most con­sis­tent and en­gag­ing song­writ­ers and per­form­ers.

One act above all set out a tem­plate in the 70s that would serve it well and make it one of the most revered, en­dur­ing and com­mer­cially re­warded bands in his­tory. It’s more than 40 years since AC/DC be­gan play­ing around the pubs of Syd­ney. Since then the band has sold mil­lions of each al­bum (220 mil­lion-plus in to­tal) and its Black Ice World Tour in 2008-10 was one of the big­gest gross­ing tours in his­tory.

If the 70s had been a pi­o­neer­ing era for Oz rock, the 80s was when it flour­ished, par­tic­u­larly on the tour­ing cir­cuit. The Mod­els, Hunters and Col­lec­tors, the Trif­fids, Aus­tralian Crawl, Divinyls, the Church and Hoodoo Gu­rus, to name only a hand­ful, led the way. Oth­ers in­clud­ing Crowded House, INXS and Men at Work were able to turn that lo­cal start into in­ter­na­tional ac­claim. In the pop world, John Farn­ham’s ca­reer ex­ploded on the back of the al­bum Whis­per­ing Jack and its in­ter­na­tional hit You’re the Voice, while Neigh­bours star Kylie Minogue suc­cess­fully trans­ferred into the mu­sic in­dus­try with The Lo­co­mo­tion. Minogue re­mains our most suc­cess­ful fe­male pop ex­port, sus­tain­ing a ca­reer for more than 25 years.

INXS’s rise is the most re­mark­able of that era. It wasn’t un­til the band’s fourth al­bum, The Swing, and the sin­gle Orig­i­nal Sin that the world be­gan to take no­tice of INXS and its charis­matic

ON­LINE: front­man Michael Hutchence. A string of hits through the 80s and into the 90s right­fully made it one of the big­gest bands in the world. Hutchence’s death in 1997 was a tragedy Aus­tralia will never for­get, but his in­flu­ence as a per­former re­mains and his band’s mu­si­cal legacy stands as a glow­ing ex­am­ple of how Aus­tralian rock and pop can be world-class.

A wave of per­form­ers ar­rived in the 90s who once again changed Aus­tralia’s mu­si­cal land­scape and also looked to­wards Aus­tralian cul­ture for in­spi­ra­tion. In 1991, Treaty, Yothu Yindi’s song of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, be­came the first track recorded by pre­dom­i­nantly Abo­rig­i­nal per­form­ers to make the charts. Kelly, one of the co-writ­ers of Treaty, con­tin­ued his as­cent to Aus­tralian rock royalty. Singer Deb­o­rah Con­way launched her long­stand­ing solo ca­reer, while in rock Pow­derfin­ger, Sil­ver­chair, You Am I and the Cruel Sea an­nounced them­selves as long-term prospects.

The past 14 years have seen the big­gest changes in Aus­tralian mu­sic, not just in the broad­en­ing styles and their pop­u­lar­ity but in the way mu­sic is recorded, lis­tened to and dis­trib­uted. We’ve had in­ter­na­tional ac­claim for acts across many gen­res, in­clud­ing the Vines, Jet, Birds of Tokyo, Flume, the Pre­sets, Cut Copy and Go­tye, to name a few. Aus­tralian hiphop found its voice through Hill­top Hoods, The Herd, Bliss n Eso and more re­cently Urth­boy, 360 and, most sig­nif­i­cantly, Aza­lea.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to list ev­ery Aus­tralian who has made an im­pres­sion with their mu­sic over the past 50 years. What one can say with cer­tainty is that the breadth of mu­sic and the qual­ity of it has never been greater, and op­por­tu­ni­ties to take that talent to the world are also at their peak. Aus­tralian mu­sic has a bright fu­ture, but we can look back with pride on its achieve­ments of the past half-century.

ON­LINE theaus­tralian.com.au/re­view VIDEO: Sarah Blasko dis­cusses the piv­otal in­flu­ences of the past 50 years in mu­sic PLUS: The day Michael Hutchence died: how

treated the INXS singer’s death

June 7-8, 2014

Clock­wise from top left, 60s stars the Easy­beats, en­dur­ing rock­ers AC/DC, cur­rent sen­sa­tion Iggy Aza­lea, and long­stand­ing leg­end Paul Kelly

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