I went to Australia for my honeymoon and I absolutely loved it! I hope one day to come back. In the meantime, I’ll just be listening to some great Australian musicians! I’ve been talking about classic rock
Australia has a long rock history starting in the 50s with American rock music arriving there. Australia may be far away, but it isn’t isolated from American culture. The two countries are good friends. By the end of the 50s, pubs were staying open late, rock bands would play, and people would tune into the radio and TV to hear the latest music.
Australian rock music is largely an immigrant history, with many of the most famous Australian rock stars being European-born (mostly UK-born with a few Dutch-born). No doubt, the influences come from the musician’s birth countries, as well as America, where rock and roll began. Many rock bands from around the world made stops in Australia because there’s a significant following there.
Looking at the present, some of the best rock music of today comes from Australia: Tame Impala (Perth), Pond (Perth), King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (Melbourne), The Babe Rainbow (Byron Bay), and The Murlocs (Melbourne). According to one of my friends who lives in Australia, you can hear classic rock everywhere and it’s a great place to go for those who love the 60s and 70s.
Australia is a great surfing destination and surf rock was very popular here, but one subgenre is very much Australian and got its start here, pub rock. Psychedelic rock and progressive rock also have a following.
Enjoy this A-Z of Australian rock! In the first part, we’ll go from A-F, AC/DC to Fraternity.
AC/DC: One of Australia’s best known rock bands and one of the best known and loved hard rock bands ever.
Band Members: The band were mostly made up of immigrants from the UK. Original vocalist, Dave Evans was born in Wales and moved to Australia with his family in 1958. Bon Scott and his family moved from Scotland to Fremantle, Western Australia in 1956. While living there, he played drums in the Fremantle Scots Pipe Band. Scottish-born brothers George, Malcolm, and Angus Young moved to Sydney with their family in 1963. The band had multiple bass players, but their best known one was English-born Cliff Williams, who replaced Australian-born Mark Evans. Drummers for AC/DC include Australian-born Colin Burgess and Phil Rudd.
Discography: For the purposes of this post, we’ll be covering their music from the 70s.
AC/DC released their first single in 1974, “Can I Sit Next to You Girl”. That song went to #50 in their home country.
The band’s first two albums, High Voltage and TNT, were only released domestically in 1975. Both albums charted high at #14 and #2, respectively. TNT also charted in New Zealand, making it to #35 on the albums charts. The highest charting singles of the 70s for the band were “High Voltage” (#10) and “It’s a Long Way to the Top” (#9). Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was a big hit, reaching #5 in Australia and #3 in the US. Highway to Hell was in the top 20 in the albums charts in Australia, France, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.
AC/DC generally fared better on the albums charts than on the singles charts. This is because of disco getting more attention on the mainstream charts than rock and roll (I am stating this in a factual, neutral way. I do not hate disco music, in fact I like it).
In 1976, the band first toured Europe to promote the international release of High Voltage. The following year they toured America.
Besides the obvious chart hits, I recommend the songs: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer”, “Live Wire”, “Can I Sit Next to You Girl”, “Rocker”, and “Problem Child”.
The Affair: Short-lived pop band from Sydney. In 1968, they released their first single, “Shoeshine Boy” b/w “What Became of Mary”. They won Hoadley’s Battle of the Bands vocal group contest in 1969. The prize was a trip to London. They released one other single “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” b/w “Sing a Simple Song” (I believe these are covers). Shortly after the band went to London, they broke up. Band member Mike Howlett was in Gong and later became a record producer.
Air Supply: Soft rock band started in Melbourne. They mostly were famous in Australia and New Zealand in the 70s. It was until the 80s that they got charting hits overseas. They released their self-titled debut album in 1976. Top 10 hit “Love and Other Bruises” was on that album. “Empty Pages” was a minor hit from the same album. In 1979, they reached the top 20 with “Lost in Love”.
The Aliens: New Wave band started in 1978 in Melbourne. They signed to Mushroom Records and during the summer of 1979 they recorded their first single, “Confrontation”. It reached the top 40 in the winter of that year.
The Angels: Pub rock band that formed in 1974 in Adelaide as the Keystone Angels. Founding members John and Rick Brewster started a blues rock band with Irish-born Doc Neeson. The band were called Moonshine Jug & String Band. Their sound changed to a more hard rock sound as The (Keystone) Angels.
The band got signed in 1976 and were recommended by prominent early fans Bon Scott and Malcolm Young. In fact, before they were signed, they opened for AC/DC. John Brewster said this about AC/DC and Malcolm Young: “By the time that first day was over, we were friends. Being a rhythm guitar player, Malcolm Young would be probably my greatest influence; just fantastic. It was young days for us and we were learning to be a rock band.”
They released their first single in 1976, “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again”, which was a minor hit. Their sophomore album, Face to Face, reached the top 20 in the albums charts in Australia and charted at #152 in the US. Not only that, but it was certified 4x Platinum in Australia. Single “Take a Long Line” was in the top 30 in their home country. I also like the song “After the Rain”. No Exit, released in 1979, fared better on the albums charts at #8 in Australia.
Not to be confused with other acts called The Angels in America, they released albums under the name (The Angels from) Angel City. They’re quite different from the 60s girl group that sang “My Boyfriend’s Back” so I can understand why they had to change their name for the American market.
The Atlantics: Australian surf rock band formed in Sydney in 1961. In 1962, they appeared in a talent show and from that point, they became full time professional musicians. The Atlantics released their first single “Moon Man” in 1963. While that song was not a success, the single “Bombora” (released the same year) reached #1 in their home country and did well internationally.
Bee Gees: In my opinion they are one of the best pop bands because they wrote pretty much all their own music and they sounded great in every era from the 60s to their disco phase in the late 70s.
Note: While I consider them a British band primarily, they spent some of their childhood in Australia and that’s where they first achieved stardom. We’ll only talk about their music they recorded in Australia.
Band members: The Gibb Brothers moved to Australia with their family in 1958. Barry was almost 12, Robin and Maurice were 8. Their little brother, Andy was only a few months old.
History/Discography: They made their TV debut in 1960. Barry was 14 and Robin & Maurice were 11. The three of them performed one of Barry’s original songs “Time is Passing By”. Three years later, they released their first single, “The Battle of the Blue and the Grey”. A couple more singles were released before they released their debut album The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs in 1965. “Could it Be” is one of my favourite tracks on the album and reminds me a bit of The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
None of the songs on the album were hits and they were about to be dropped from their record label, Leedon. Their first big hit came in 1966, “Spicks and Specks”. It reached #5 in Australia and #1 in New Zealand. The song was recorded in Sydney. Barry, Robin, and Maurice left for England at the end of 1966, but en route they found out that “Spicks and Specks” won Go-Set’s single of the year. The Bee Gees finally got their well-deserved success in England and the rest is history.
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs: The band were founded in Sydney in 1963. They were one of the most popular beat groups to come out of Australia. The lead singer, Billy Thorpe, was born in Manchester and moved to Australia with his family when he was 9. He was one of the most respected Australian singers. Before Billy Thorpe became the lead singer, The Aztecs released one guitar-led surf instrumental “Smoke and Stack”.
In 1964, they got famous with their version of “Poison Ivy”, a late 50s rock and roll song first recorded by R&B group The Coasters. The band had other hits like “Mashed Potato” (#9 AUS), “Sick and Tired” (#11 AUS), and “Over the Rainbow” (#2 AUS).
By the mid 60s the band broke up. A new incarnation of Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs formed in the 70s, but this time with a pub rock sound. Their biggest hit from this era is “Most People I Know”, which reached #2 in Australia. Billy Thorpe considered this song an important part of Australian rock history because he performed it at the Sunbury Music Festival in 1972, which had an all Australian lineup.
Blackfeather: Progressive/hard rock band formed in 1970 in Sydney. They released their first album, At The Mountains of Madness, in 1971. This album reminds me a bit of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, early Deep Purple (but heavier), and Leaf Hound. If you like that, you’ll like this album. Some highlights from that album are “On This Day That I Die”, “Seasons of Change Part 1”, and “Long Legged Lovely”. The other tracks are also great to listen to. In 1972, they released their follow-up album Boppin’ The Blues. Unfortunately, I can’t find the whole album online, but from what I’ve heard the sound is softer, with less distortion, and more blues rock, very different from their first album.
Buffalo: Hard rock/pub rock band formed in 1971 in Sydney. They were made up of former members of the blues rock band Head, but they changed their name because the original name had sexual/drug connotations. Even with the name change, they didn’t get much radio play. Their first album, Dead Forever… still sold thousands of copies. Their sophomore album Volcano Rock is a great listen and is very heavy, especially considering it was released in 1973. You could call this album proto-metal. At one point, they opened for Black Sabbath when they came to Australia.
Carson: Blues rock and boogie band from Melbourne. They released one studio album, Blown.
Cold Chisel: Pub rock band from the late 70s and 80s formed in Adelaide. They were known for their relatable Australian working-class songs. They released their self-titled debut in 1978. “Khe Sanh”, a song about a Vietnam veteran going back to Australia to live his normal, civilian life, was a minor hit, reaching #40 in the Australian charts. The following year, they released Breakfast at Sweethearts, which did well on the albums charts at #4. Some songs on that album I like are “Merry-Go-Round”, “Shipping Steel”, and “I’m Gonna Roll Ya”.
Coloured Balls: Psychedelic rock band founded by Lobby Loyde (formerly of The Aztecs) and Andrew Fordham, Janis Miglans, and Trevor Young. Their first single, “Liberate Rock” was released in 1972. The band had a sharp/skinhead image and a sound that combines blues rock and a small bit of glam rock. In 1974, they got a hit with the song “Love You Babe”. The band broke up later that year.
The Creatures: Garage rock band from the mid-late 60s from Mildura, Victoria. If you like bands on the Nuggets compilation like The Shadows of Knight, Chocolate Watch Band, and The Seeds, you’ll like them. Their look was ahead of its time with not only growing out their hair, but also dying it pastel colours (a good decade before Manic Panic was started). They only released a few singles, unfortunately. I would have loved to hear more from them.
Crossfire: 70s Jazz fusion/prog band from Sydney. They released their self-titled debut album in 1975. I love the opening track, “Remember the Trees”.
Daddy Cool: Band formed in Melbourne in 1970. Their debut album Daddy Who? Daddy Cool topped the Australian albums charts for a few weeks. Their sound has some retro late 50s doo wop and rockabilly and blues rock influences and you can hear it on the songs “Daddy Cool” and “School Days”. Other good songs from that album are “Come Back Again” (a bit of a country sound) and “Good Rockin’ Daddy”. “Eagle Rock” was a chart topper. Their second album, Sex, Dope, Rock ‘n’ Roll: Teenage Heaven charted at #15 and had an American release.
The Dingoes: 70s Country rock band from Melbourne. Guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst was in one of Australia’s first authentic blues bands, Adderley Smith Blues Band, in the 60s. He and his bandmate, Broderick Smith, were conscripted into the army in the late 60s. Tolhurst founded Sundown with Keith Glass and Smith joined. The Dingoes released their first album in 1974. Some great songs on the album are “Come On Down”, “The Last Place I Wanna Be”, “Goin’ Down Again”, and “Sydney Ladies”. If you like CCR and The Band, you might like The Dingoes.
Doug Parkinson in Focus: This band won second place in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in 1967, behind The Groop. Their best known songs are a cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and “Without You”, both of them charting in the top 10 in multiple major cities. Doug Parkinson himself was many other bands like Fanny Adams, The Questions, and The A Sound.
Easybeats: Malcom and Angus Young’s older brother, George Young, was in this band. They were one of the best known Australian acts of the 60s.
Band Members: The Easybeats formed at the former Villawood Migrant Hostel. The band were made up of recent Dutch and British immigrants who were living at the migrant hostel. In the 60s, the migrant hostel housed immigrants from Europe. The band were made up of Scottish-born George Young (older brother of AC/DC’s Malcolm and Angus Young), Dutch-born Harry Vanda – George Young’s songwriting partner, Dutch-born Dick Diamonde, English-born Stevie Wright, and English-born Gordon “Snowy” Fleet.
Discography: The Easybeats released their first album, Easy in 1965. Every song on that album is an original song. Four singles were released that year, “For My Woman” (#33), “She’s So Fine” (#3), “Wedding Ring” (#7), and “Sad and Lonely and Blue” (#21). Their music is very British Invasion in sound. If you like The Kinks and The Yardbirds, you’ll like them.
The Easybeats released two follow up albums, It’s 2 Easy and Volume 3. The band leave for the UK that summer. In the UK, they recorded their biggest hit, “Friday On My Mind”. Can’t think of any song that describes “That Friday Feeling” better! The song was popular internationally. The band continued to record music until the end of the decade, when they broke up and went their separate ways.
Finch: Pub rock band from Sydney originally known as Stillwater. Mark Evans of AC/DC was the bass player in this band. In the late 70s they changed their name to Contraband. Finch recorded a few songs for the soundtrack for the surf film Drouyn and released their debut album, Thunderbird, in 1976. Some of those songs are on their debut album. If you like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, you might like Finch.
Flash and the Pan: Songwriting and production powerhouse Harry Vanda and George Young formed this new wave group in 1976. As you can imagine, they sound quite different from their Easybeats days. They released their debut single “Hey St Peter” in the spring (in Australia) of 1976. The inspiration for the song came from a hotel doorman George spoke to in New York. The doorman said something like “When my time comes, I am going to say to St Peter, ‘You can’t send me to hell, I have done my time in New York!’” It did well commercially, reaching #5 in the Kent Music Report charts in Australia and reaching the top 10 in Belgium and The Netherlands. They were no flash in the pan and they had other successful singles like “Down Among the Dead Men”, which peaked at #4 in Australia and was a minor hit in the UK. Their self-titled debut was released in 1978 and there are some good songs on it like “The African Shuffle”, “Man in the Middle”, “Lady Killer”, and “Hole in the Middle”. Overall, it’s an eclectic and quirky album with some cool synthesiser sounds.
The Flying Circus: This bubblegum pop/country rock band got their start in Australia before moving to Canada in the early 70s. This move doesn’t sound the most conventional because many Canadian musicians leave for the US, but the reason for this was because the band couldn’t get visas for the US, which was their first-choice country to relocate to. Their first single was an upbeat, simple, poppy song called “Hayride”. It was successful, doing well on the Go-Set charts. While the song sounds innocent enough, it was briefly banned in New Zealand because of the lyric “making love in the hay”. Their follow up single, “La La” was another bubble gum pop single that was in the top 10. The promotion of these singles made it hard for them to shake off that image and be taken seriously. The b-side of “La La”, “The Last Train” is a good example of their country rock sound. It reminds me of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. In fact, before they got famous they performed covers of songs by The Byrds and Bob Dylan. “Run Run Run”, released in 1969, was their last nationwide top 40. This song beautifully combines pop and country sounds, a good crossover. “Giselle” went to #15 in Brisbane. This song is even more country sounding than their previous songs. Some other songs I like are “The Longest Day” and “Turn Away”. The latter has a nice psychedelic organ sound.
Fraternity: Progressive/psychedelic rock band founded in 1970 in Sydney. Most famous member of the band is Bon Scott. They released the album Livestock in 1971. There are some good songs on the album, like “Livestock”, “Cool Spot”, and “Grand Canyon Suites”. What is interesting about this album is these songs are a bit short for prog rock songs. If you like bands like Genesis and Camel, you might like Fraternity. Production value could be better, but it’s a good listen, especially if you’re a fan of Bon Scott and you want to hear his pre-AC/DC music.
Their sophomore album Flaming Galah was released in 1972. “Flaming Galah” is an Australian expression for idiot. People who watch the soap opera Home and Away will know this expression as one that Alf Stewart uses when he’s upset. This album has a more bluesy, boogie sound to it than their debut. Fraternity won Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in 1971, with the prize being a free trip to London. From there, they opened for Status Quo and Geordie (frontman of Geordie, Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott after his death in 1980).
Keep your eyes peeled for parts 2 & 3 next year!
Did I miss any bands? Discover some great music through this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section! 🙂