Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aussie August: Michael's Top Ten Aussie Albums of All Time

Aussie August continues with guest posts from Australian poet, Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. Check out his blog here. (And then please come back :))

My Top Ten Aussie Albums of All Time

Everyone loves a list, so I’m getting in on the act and counting down my top ten Aussie albums of all time. To American readers, forget Men At Work, no-one here Down Under really took them seriously then, and we certainly don’t now, and absolutely forget Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman’s ne’er-do-well husband. This is Aussie music as I lived it, growing up, and the music still sounds as good today as it did all those years ago...

10. “Live in a Mud Hut ... Somewhere in Europe” (1985) by The Saints.

In the mid to late 1980s, I used to hang out with a motley collection of hippies and bohemians in Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney. I can remember deep discussions about literature and life (that is, who was scoring with the opposite sex, and who wasn’t), and this raw, loud live album was the soundtrack to many of those nights that didn’t end till the chirrups of the dawn birds. The Saints were Australia’s first punk band, in the early 1970s, even before The Sex Pistols broke England, and they rocked, big-time.

9. “Living in the 70’s” (1974) by Skyhooks.

The most popular album of its time, it spent sixteen weeks at #1 on the album charts, even though six of its tracks were banned by commercial radio. In those days, Aussie youth were either Skyhooks fans or Sherbet fans. I was cool. I was a Skyhooks fan. Sherbet fans were mostly girls, or, if they were boys, had bigger pimples than I had.

8. “Great Truckin’ Songs of the Renaissance” (1988) by TISM.

TISM (which stands for This Is Serious Mum) were cool because their identities were hidden by masks, or brown paper bags over their heads, and also because they were St Kilda Football Club supporters, even to the extent of penning songs about the players. This album has such classic songs as “I’m Interested in Apathy”, and “The Ballad of John Bonham’s Coke Roadie”.

7. “Daddy Who? Daddy Cool” (1971) by Daddy Cool.

About three quarters of the bands on this list are from Melbourne, and recorded on Mushroom Records. This, Daddy Cool’s debut album, reached #1, and every self respecting high school student in 1971 knew the words to what has become an enduring Aussie anthem, “Eagle Rock”, off by heart. Daddy Cool are long defunct, but their then lead singer, Ross Wilson, still tours the clubs, living off past glories, and this was pretty glorious.

6. “Out of the Blue” (1973) by MacKenzie Theory.

I reckon about as many people bought this album as there were in the studio where it was recorded. That is, not many. Progressive, jazz influenced, instrumentals that, when heard either toking a joint, or, like me, eating a plate of mushrooms covered in a thick condensed milk sauce, sound like the best music in the galaxy, as evidenced by the incredible track “Extraterrestrial Boogie”.

5. “The Pleasure of Your Company” (1983) by Models.

Imagine Joy Division meets Duran Duran, Aussie style. A dark, brooding, yet still catchy album, with tracks like “God Bless America” and “I Hear Motion” (which includes the memorable lyric ‘When it is Christmas for everyone else / I feel like I’ve missed an appointment’) leaving you sort of bopping, sort of contemplating the nihilistic existential absurdity of it all. I saw Models touring this album at the Australian National University in Canberra in 1984, and they blew me away, I even wrote a poem about the gig. Needless to say, the lead singer James Freud later killed himself.

4. “Toward the Blues” (1971) by Chain.

This album goes toward the blues, then goes way, way beyond. All those British blues bands of the early 1960s, when Eric Clapton was still in nappies, are nothing compared to this tour de force. I’ve seen Chain several times over the years, they still tour, cranking out the old hits, and rocking old bluesmen, unlike old hippies, get better and better with age. Matt Taylor is the best harmonica player I’ve ever heard.

3. “Aztecs Live! At Sunbury” (1972) by Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs.

Sunbury was the Aussie Woodstock. Love and peace and sharing and music in a muddy field. And we Aussies knew what we liked. Queen, of “Bohemian Rhapsody” fame, were booed off the stage – the band everyone wanted to see was Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, and this, originally a double vinyl release, is Aussie pub rock like you’ve never heard it before or since. The album includes the song “Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy)”, which reached #3 on the singles charts, and remains my theme song to this day.

2. “Stillpoint” (1973) by Madder Lake.

I saw Madder Lake at the Mushroom Evolution concert at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne in 1982. By that time, the lead singer, Mick Fettes, had accumulated a paunch, but boy, could he still cut it. Among my faves on the album is an incredible anthem “12lb Toothbrush”, which always leaves me thinking what an incredible hallucinogenic trip they must have been on when they wrote it. An abridged version reached #35 on the singles charts. The album, Madder Lake’s debut effort, reached #13 on the album charts.

1. “Big Red Rock” (1974) by Ayres Rock.

Ayres Rock, another progressive, jazz-influenced outfit like MacKenzie Theory, only released two albums. “Big Red Rock” was their debut effort, and by their second release they had lost their mojo. But this album is an utter, stone dead classic, there’s not a dud track on it. Unlike Mackenzie Theory, there were some vocals, and the single, “Lady Montego”, was my favourite song at the time. Another song had a politically incorrect racist joke in a fake accent about the Greek gynaecologist, Dr Hopontopofus. The success of this album enabled them to embark on a US tour, but they never made it. They made #1 of my little list, though...


Jack Colton said...

I checked out the Lady Montego video you posted on Facebook, they are really good I was impressed. I would say AC/DC is probably my favorite Austrailian rock band. Sounds like you've seen some great shows.That's crazy about Queeen -but it happens,Hendrix was once booed off stage in Charlotte,seems the crowd wanted to see the Monkeys instead ???

Nevyn said...

Hmmm...missed a few days' entries here! Jack, I'm sooooo immensely glad you mentioned AC/DC. I hope you are referring to the orginal band though with Bon Scott, not the rather boring stadium rock band we have now, that don't even really count themselves as Aussies anymore! Ah...Bon Scott...everything a 16 yo girl in the early 70s could want in a man. Pardon me while I go dream...

Jack Colton said...

Nevyn,hi there,glad you caught it,awesome,I really liked Bon,too bad his life came to an end so tragically,he really did have a distinct rock voice and was quite a character.His personality and talent definitely helped chisel hard rock into what it is today.Signature hits like She's got the Jack, Whole lotta Rosie,it's a long way to the top(if you wanna rock n roll),Ride on and of course Highway to Hell could have been made famous by no one else and Angus has got to be in my top 5 guitarists of all time.What other bands do you like?

Nevyn said...

Hi ya Jack! Yeah...I'm going to have Highway to Hell played at my wake. It is one of the best! Bon lived the rock'n'roll lifestyle, that's for sure. My taste is pretty eclectic ranging from most of the metal genres, hard rock, grunge, blues into techno dance music (especially trance), some hiphop and classical. Not a great lover of 'pop' pap though. Top 5...Nine Inch Nails, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Tea Party (Canadian band, now defunct), System of a Down. Of course, the list changes depending on mood a bit. You??