40 Years of Australian Classic Rock

TURN UP YOUR RADIO, the Master’s Apprentices 1970 declaration that they were now a rock band rather than a teeny bopper sensation, opened our Australia Day show, featuring 40 years of Australian Classic Rock. They quite rightly remind us that rock n roll started a good 15 years before this but there was no way that we were going to fit 55 years of rock into a two hour show, so 1970 seemed a fitting start. Check out this video when Glenn Wheatley was still working the bass guitar:

Daddy Cool’s EAGLE ROCK was recorded in 1971 and went onto become the best selling Australian single of the year. According to songwriter and singer, Ross Wilson, he was inspired by the popular 1920s black dance performed with the arms outstretched and the body rocking from side to side which was called the Eagle Rock. ‘Doing the eagle rock’ is also a metaphor for sexual intercourse.The accompanying promotional video  was put together quickly for $300 and shows the band in some old Melbourne haunts including the Dolphin Café in Clarendon St., South Melbourne and St. Kilda’s Aussie Burger Bar opposite Luna Park as well as live shots from the  1971 Myponga Festival held in South Australia.

In early 1972 Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs released what became their biggest hit, and Thorpe’s signature tune – MOST PEOPLE I KNOW (THINK THAT I’M CRAZY), a song now widely regarded as one of the classics of Australian rock. It was a huge hit for the Aztecs, propelled to the top of charts by the band’s triumphant appearance at the 1972 Sunbury Music Festival. Thorpe himself claimed this as a pivotal moment in the development of Australian music, thanks to the promoters’ decision to feature an all-Australian lineup, rather than relying on imported stars.

And here’s an interview with the late great Billy Thorpe at Sunbury:


After the demise of the Easybeats in 1969, Stevie Wright embarked on a successful solo career. In 1974 he released the epic EVIE, an 11-minute 3-part classic, which to this day remains the longest song ever to reach #1 on any chart in the world.

In 1975 AC/DC released the album T.N.T. with the iconic track IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP (IF YOU WANNA ROCK N ROLL). Written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott, its notable for combining bagpipes with hard rock, electric guitars, drums and bass. In the mid-part of the song there is a duet between the bagpipes and the electric guitar.

Two very influential Australian bands that were at their best in the mid 70′s were The Angels  and The Saints. The Saints, in particular, are considered to be one of the first and most influential punk rock  groups. By 1975,  The Saints were employing the fast tempos, raucous vocals and “buzzsaw” guitar that characterised early punk rock. With their first single, I’M STRANDED, in late 1976, they became the first punk band outside the United States to release a record, ahead of better-known punk acts like the Sex Pistols and The Clash.  According to Bob Geldof, “Rock music in the seventies was changed by three bands – the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Saints”.

Meanwhile Cold Chisel were about to record the song that quite frequently tops those ‘best of’ lists, so it couldn’t be left out of this playlist: KHE SANH. I’ll dedicate this one to Chisel drummer Steve Prestwich who passed away last week at the very young age of 56.

Midnight Oil and Men at Work released songs like THE POWER AND THE PASSION and DOWN UNDER, that have become Aussie anthems.  And then in 1983 The Choirboys came into their own with their first single NEVER GONNA DIE .

By 1984 INXS were breaking out internationally with songs like ORIGINAL SIN and Chrissie Amphlett and The Divinyls proved that a female lead singer could rock it out as well as the boys on songs like PLEASURE & PAIN:

In the mid 80′s Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls released the Gossip album and proved that there was a place for consummate storytelling in Australian rock music. The hit single from the album was BEFORE TOO LONG:


Hunters & Collectors came together in the early 80′s and were a blend of pub rock and art-funk.  While they attracted a growing fan base both here and overseas, their first real recording success was with the 1989 album Ghost Nation which featured the hit single WHEN THE RIVER RUNS DRY.

The most successful Australian rock band ever, though, continued to be AC/DC. Unfortunately Bon Scott passed away in 1980 but the band bounced back and found a worthy replacement for Scott in Brian Johnson. They kept performing and releasing albums throughout the 80′s and in 1990 they released what was considered their major comeback album The Razors Edge. Here they are performing my favourite track from that album, THUNDERSTRUCK. Go Angus!

Also in the 90′s bands like The Screaming Jets and the Baby Animals were making an impact on the local scene.

Killing Heidi’s first single WEIR was released in August 1999 and reached #6 on the Aria charts (and Platinum sales) by the end of 1999. The band’s debut album Reflector was released in early 2000 and debuted at #1, quickly becoming the fastest-selling album in Australian music history. Here are Ella and Jesse Hooper performing live on TV show The Panel around that time:

Also around that time Powderfinger were emerging as a force to be reckoned with. As was Spiderbait who had a #1 hit with their terrific version of BLACK BETTY in 2004.

But the standout band of the new millenium has to be Silverchair who have received the industry’s flagship gongs, the  Aria Awards, a record 21 times as well as six APRA Awards. They’ve sold over 6 million albums. Here’s STRAIGHT LINES from the 2007 album Young Modern:


We finished the show with some hard rock:  Wolfmother performed here in Byron this week and were amazing. Their song NEW MOON RISING was released in 2009 and its still one of my faves. And the perfect finale followed:  AC/DC with HIGHWAY TO HELL. Here’s Wolfmother performing live on Jools Holland Later in October 2009.

Next week’s show has been suggested by the lovely Ros, and I can’t resist because its a goodie: SONGS ABOUT OTHER MUSICIANS. If you have any suggestions for tracks to include, leave me a message here. Meanwhile here’s the complete playlist from this week:

Turn Up Your Radio (1970) – Masters Apprentices

Eagle Rock (1971) – Daddy Cool

Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy (1972) – Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs

Evie – Let Your Hair Hang Down, Pt. 1 (1974) - Stevie Wright

It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll) (1975) – AC/DC

(I’m) Stranded (1976) – The Saints

Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again (1977) – The Angels

Khe Sanh (1978) – Cold Chisel

Down Under (1981) – Men At Work

Power And The Passion (1982) – Midnight Oil 2

Never Gonna Die (1983) –  Choirboys

Original Sin (1984) – INXS

Pleasure & Pain (1985) - The Divinyls

Before Too Long - Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls

When The River Runs Dry (1989) – Hunters and Collectors

Thunderstruck (1990) – AC/DC

Better (1991) - Screaming Jets

One Word (1992) - Baby Animals

My Happiness (2001) – Powderfinger

Weir (2000) - Killing Heidi

Black Betty (2004) - Spiderbait

Straight Lines (2007) - Silverchair

New Moon Rising (2009) - Wolfmother

Highway To Hell (1979) - AC/DC

Next week:  SONGS ABOUT OTHER MUSICIANS

Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time
Also streaming via BayFM
Tragically also on Facebook and Twitter
Email me at: lyn.themeparkradio@gmail.com


About Lyn McCarthy

Lyn presents a weekly radio show at BayFM 99.9 in beautiful Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia

Posted on January 26, 2011, in Australian Classic Rock, Broadcasting and media, community radio, music, music - nostalgia, Radio Program, rock, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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