Australian Classic Rock of the 60s and 70s: Part 2

It’s been a crazy past couple of months mentally: travelling, dealing with depression, graduating from university, and getting a new job. Now I’m feeling better and I am returning to the usual programming and what you likely came to this blog for.

A few months ago, I posted part one of this series about Australia. If you haven’t read it yet, please do! 😃 If you want to read about my own adventures in Australia, check out my posts on Sydney, Byron Bay, and Melbourne.

Let’s get this show on the road and read about Australian rock from The Groop to Mount Lofty Rangers. You might find out some new information or rediscover old favourites. Enjoy!

The Groop: Folk turned blues/psychedelic rock band founded in Melbourne in 1964. Don’t confuse them with an American groop of the same name from the late 60s (side note: I heard their music on Spotify, they have a Fifth Dimension/Mamas and the Papas like sound). The first lineup of the band from 1964-1966 had a more folk rock sound, as heard in songs like “I’m Satisfied” and “Ol’ Hound Dog”. The band had some success in this era with “Ol’ Hound Dog” reaching the top 20, “I’m Satisfied” peaking at #21, and “Best in Africa” making it to #10. “Best in Africa” has more of a pop sound.

At the end of 1966, the band decided to change their sound and lineup to a more blues rock one. In the summer and autumn of 1967, they released a few successful singles: “Sorry” and “Woman You’re Breaking Me” (their only national top 10 song). This change helped the band become more successful and they won Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in July 1967. I recommend their cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”.

That year, the band went to England as their prize and their song “When I Was Six Years Old” was covered by Paul Jones, former lead singer of Manfred Mann. The band secured a record deal in England and toured Europe. The band were not very successful in Europe, unfortunately and they ended up returning to Australia in 1968. They released one last top 20 single in 1969, “Such a Lovely Way”. The band broke up in 1969, with two of the band members joining the country rock band, Axiom.

The Groove: An R&B/pop band formed in Melbourne in 1967, some consider them Australia’s first supergroup. They were best known for the songs “Simon Says” (an Isley Brothers cover) and “Soothe Me” (by Sam Cooke). Both songs were successful in the charts, making it to the top 20. A cover of “What is Soul” (by Ben E. King) was their last top 40 before their move overseas.

They were the winners of the 1968 Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds contest and therefore, won a trip to England. When they relocated to England, they changed their name to Eureka Stockade, the name of a rebellion instigated by gold miners in Ballarat against the British. Under that moniker, they released one single, “Sing No Love Songs”. This song sounds more psychedelic pop than R&B, but it’s still worth listening to. Like a lot of other Australian bands, they were less successful in the UK and the band eventually broke up.

Headband: Progressive/psychedelic band founded in Adelaide in 1971. They opened for Elton John and The Rolling Stones when they played in Sydney. Their debut single, “Scratch My Back” was released in 1971. They released one album, A Song For Tooley. The album is eclectic with a mix of pop, hard rock, jazz, blues, and psychedelic sounds, making it an enjoyable listen with something for many different tastes.

Helen Reddy: One of Australia’s best known pop singers from the 70s. She was born in Melbourne to a family involved in show biz. She released her first single in 1968, “One Way Ticket”. While this song didn’t get too high in the charts overseas, it made it to #83 in her birth country of Australia. A few years later, she released two albums, I Don’t Know How to Love Him and Helen Reddy, but those did not do well in the charts.

Third time is the charm, and her 1972 album I Am Woman peaked at #14 on the American albums charts and #7 on the Canadian albums charts. The title track topped the charts in the US and Canada, and made it to #2 in her native Australia. “Peaceful” was another hit from the same album, reaching the top 20 in the US and Canada and the top 40 in Australia.

Throughout the rest of the 70s, she released songs that were successful in the adult contemporary charts like “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)”, “Delta Dawn”, “Angie Baby”, and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”.

Jimmy Little: Australian Aboriginal country musician from the Yorta Yorta people. He was raised on the Cummeragunja Mission in New South Wales, near the border with Victoria. He was the oldest of seven children. His father was involved in vaudeville and he was his inspiration to go into music. As a teenager, he got a guitar after some practice, he played at local venues. At the age of 18, he left home for Sydney.

He was a trailblazer and had many firsts. His song, “Give the Coloured Boy a Chance” was the first song released in Australia that discussed indigenous issues and the first to be written and recorded by indigenous musicians. Despite that song garnering some firsts, it was not a chart success. His first charting single was his version of the traditional song “Danny Boy”. The following year, he covered Marty Robbins’ ballad “El Paso”.

A few years later, “Royal Telephone” went to #1 in Sydney and #3 in Melbourne, his biggest hit ever. Jimmy Little even recorded a Barry Gibb song, “One Road” in 1964 and was one of the first to do that. That same year, Everybody’s named him Australian Pop Star of the Year.

As well as singing, he did acting, appearing in films like Shadow of the Boomerang and Until the End of the World.

John Paul Young: Scottish born singer best known for the song “Love is in the Air”. His family moved to Australia when he was 11. As a teenager, he started a band called Elm Tree with some friends and he became more confident in his singing. His band were short-lived and released one single, a cover of “Rainbow” by Scottish pop band Marmalade. Elm Tree entered Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds, but did not make it to the national finals.

Around this time, John Paul Young was in a production of The Jesus Christ Revolution. While the production only lasted six weeks, he was noticed and he was invited to audition for a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. While he was in Jesus Christ Superstar from 1972-1974, he recorded singles like “Pasadena” (written by Vanda & Young and actor David Hemmings), “You Drive Me Crazy”, and “Show and Tell”. “Pasadena” was the only hit of the three, making it to #16 on the Australian charts.

Simon Napier-Bell (famous UK music producer/manager known for his work with The Yardbirds and T. Rex) discovered Young when he was playing in a pub and encouraged him to sign to Albert Productions, the famous record label that Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and The Easybeats were signed to (Vanda & Young also worked for Albert Productions as producers in the 70s).

John Paul Young kept releasing singles throughout the rest of the decade, and this resulted in success with international top 10 hits like “Yesterday’s Hero”, “The Love Game”, “I Hate the Music”, and “Love is in the Air”. He was particularly popular in South Africa, where five of his songs were in the top 10, with two of them topping the charts there.

Johnny O’Keefe: First Australian rock musician to break into the US market.  He was born in Sydney and grew up listening to the radio. Like a lot of other young aspiring musicians, his life changed when he heard the Bill Haley song “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955. The following year, he formed a rock band called The Dee Jays, considered Australia’s first rock band.

In 1957, he and his band were a supporting act for a big rock and roll tour featuring Little Richard, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran. The following year, they were an opening act for Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Paul Anka. Around this time, Johnny O’Keefe got a few charting hits like “Over the Mountain” and “So Tough”. From the late 50s to the early 60s, he scored hits, including some chart toppers like “Swanee River”, “Shout”, “She’s My Baby”, “I’m Counting on You”, and “Move Baby Move”.

Little River Band: Soft rock band formed in Melbourne in 1975. Many Americans would know this band because they were commercially successful in the US with 10 of their songs reaching the top 20 in the Billboard charts. They were a supergroup of sorts with the founding members being alumni of popular local bands like Zoot, Mississippi, and The Twilights.

The band used to use the name, Mississippi and they used that name while they were in the States. They returned to Australia in 1975 and the story of the band name we know comes from when they were driving from Melbourne to Geelong for a concert and they saw a sign that indicated a turnoff for the town of Little River, located 31 km away from Geelong. One of the band members suggested that they change their name to the Little River Band and they played that show in Geelong as their first show as the Little River Band.

Later in 1975, they released a self-titled debut and a few hit singles: “Curiosity (Killed the Cat)” (#15), “Emma” (#20), and “It’s a Long Way There” (#35). The last one was also a hit in the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US. Some other good songs on the album include “Meanwhile”, “I’ll Always Call Your Name”, and “Statue of Liberty”.

In 1977, Little River Band top the charts in their country for their first time with the song “Help is on its Way”. The song was also a success in New Zealand (#8) and the US (#14). On that same album, Diamantina Cocktail, “Home on Monday” was in the top 20 in New Zealand and “Happy Anniversary” was in the top 20 in the US. Diamantina Cocktail was the band’s first album to be certified Gold in the US.

The album’s name comes from a drink invented in southwestern Queensland, near the Diamantina River. It’s made of Bundaberg Rum, condensed milk, and an emu egg. Not vegan friendly, but certainly very Australian.

The band’s next two albums, Sleeper Catcher and First Under the Wire, were certified platinum in the US, a nice way to end the 70s.

The Loved Ones: Garage rock band made up of former The Red Onion Jazz Band members formed in Melbourne in 1965 best known for the song “The Loved One”. Their signature song reached #2 in the Australian charts in 1966 and 15 years later it was covered by INXS. Their sound is reminiscent of The Rolling Stones and The Animals. If you like them and you want to listen to more bands like them, give The Loved Ones a try. The band released one album, Magic Box, and that is full of blues rock and garage rock songs like “The Magic Box”, “Sad Dark Eyes”, “Ever Lovin’ Man”, “More Than Love”, and a cover of the Fats Domino classic “Blueberry Hill”. It is also one of the first Australian albums to be released in stereo and considered one of the best Australian albums of all time.

Lucky Starr: Everyone knows the song “I’ve Been Everywhere”, but not everyone knows that it is originally an Australian song. Yup! The Australian version is the real deal. The song was written by Australian country musician Geoff Mack.

Starr also recorded versions for New Zealand, the UK/Ireland (the English accent impersonation is hilarious), and the US/Canada (the American accent is funny too). American readers might know the Johnny Cash version from 1996, but what makes Lucky Starr’s one better, in my opinion, is that the original is more of a tongue twister and sung faster. It leaves me wondering how many takes they needed to record it.

Here’s a nice little bonus, someone recorded an Indian version, sounds as challenging as the Australian one:

Lynne Randell: She was born in Liverpool, but her family immigrated to the Melbourne area when she was 5. As a teenager, she was discovered at her day job at a hair salon frequented by celebrities. She did a photoshoot styling hair for a local mod band called The Flies and the band invited her to sing along. One of the band members was so impressed by her voice that he hired her to sing at a night club.

By the time she was 16, she was signed to EMI Records and her first single, a cover of Lulu’s “I’ll Come Running Over”, reached #11 in Melbourne. From there, she made it to stardom and made TV appearances in Australia. In November 1966, her version of “Going Out of My Head” made it to #16 on the Go-Set charts.

1967 was a big year for her with “Ciao Baby” being her highest charting song, making it to the top 10 in Australia. She toured the UK and the US. For a short period of time, she dated Davy Jones and toured with The Monkees and Ike & Tina Turner in the US.

In the 60s she recorded a song called “Stranger in My Arms”. At the time it didn’t get much attention, but if you fast forward to the 70s, you might have heard this in a Northern Soul club.

She released her last single, “I Love My Dog” in 1969 and faded into obscurity. For decades, she suffered from a methamphetamine addiction. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 57.

Marcia Hines: Another great immigrant story in Australia’s music history. This American born singer was discovered by Australian entrepreneur Harry M. Miller and director Jim Sharman when they travelled the US to find black actors for a new season of the Sydney production of the musical, Hair. At the time, she was 16 and needed a legal guardian, so Miller was made her legal guardian and on to Australia she went.

In 1970, she made history as the youngest person to play a featured role in any production of Hair. That same year, Marcia Hines gave birth to her daughter, Deni, and only nine days after giving birth, she continued he role. From there, she was in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring big names like Doug Parkinson, Stevie Wright, and John Paul Young.

In 1975, she released her debut album, Marcia Shines. Two singles from that album were in the top 20 in Australia, a cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and “From the Inside”. In the years that followed, she got a few top 10 hits with “What I Did For Love”, “You”, and “Something’s Missing (In My Life)”.

Marcie and the Cookies: Mod girl group from Brisbane. Lead singer Marcie Jones started singing in Melbourne as a teenager with a band called The Thunderbirds. In the mid 60s, she performed with Normie Rowe’s band The Playboys and released some solo singles, like “Quiet” and “That’s The Way it is”. Normie Rowe suggested she work with Brisbane’s the Cook Sisters, also known as The Cookies. Their sound was inspired by black girl groups from the US.

Manager Garry Spry discovered Marcie and the Cookies in 1968 and they became household names. From there, they appeared on The Go Show and opened for The Monkees when they toured Australia in December 1968. They won Go-Set Magazine’s Best Female Act of 1968. “I Would If I Could” was their biggest hit, making it to #2 in Brisbane and #28 in Melbourne.

The following year, they toured Southeast Asia, performing for American soldiers in Vietnam. The 70s began with them touring around Europe and the UK, opening for Cliff Richard.

In 1973, Marcie decided to return to Australia and release a few singles, some of which were minor hits like “Armed and Extremely Dangerous”, “Gonna Get Married”, and “I Only Have Eyes For You”.

Marcus Hook Roll Band: Band formed by the famous duo Vanda & Young. Before George Young’s little brothers, Malcolm and Angus, achieved fame with AC/DC, they were in this band. They only released one album, Tales of Old Grand Daddy, in 1973. At the time, that album was only released in Australia, but a few years later, around the time of Flash and the Pan, there was an American release.

Tales of Old Grand Daddy is an enjoyable listen, like a lot of Vanda & Young material, and AC/DC fans might like to hear what the band members did before. Personally, I liked the songs “People and the Power”, “Red Revolution”, “Ape Man”, “Natural Man”, and “Louisiana Lady”.

The Masters Apprentices: Rock band formed in Adelaide in 1965. The band were active for seven years, but they have reunited in the late 80s, mid 90s, late 90s, and early 2000s. Scottish-born Jim Keays was the frontman of this band and he first got into rock music when he heard the songs “Rip It Up” by Little Richard and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. He also loved Chuck Berry and his band would cover “Johnny B. Goode”.

Before his band were called The Masters Apprentices, they were called The Mustangs and they played instrumental surf rock, reminiscent of The Shadows and The Ventures. The new band name was guitarist and songwriter Mick Bower’s idea because they were “apprentices to the masters of the blues – Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson.”

The Masters Apprentices released their first single in 1966, “Undecided”. This song was a success

The band moved to Melbourne in February 1967 and released their self-titled debut album in June of that year. They had a few charting hits like: “Buried and Dead”, “Living in a Child’s Dream”, “Elevator Driver”, and “Brigette”.  The following year, they won second place in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds.

In 1969, they went to the UK and tried their hand at success. The ferry journey from Australia to the UK was a long six weeks and they were not able to take much equipment with them and they didn’t have much money to buy new equipment, despite years of saving up.

They didn’t release their second album, Masterpiece, until 1970. This was their first album they released signed to a major record label, EMI. This album was made up of stockpiled songs they recorded since signing to EMI. They got one top 20 hit with “5:10 Man”. The album opened with a live audience screaming and a man introducing the title track, the instrumental “Masterpiece”. They experimented with the concept album approach, linking songs with this classical music inspired instrumental bit. There are a few bubblegum pop songs mixed in and there are some songs worth listening to like “Barefoot When I Saw Her” (a nice mix of pop and rock), “5:10 Man”, “Captivating Force”, and “Titanic”.

They recorded their next album, Choice Cuts, in one month in 1970 at the famous Abbey Road Studios. These songs had a more complex, psychedelic sound to them and their inspirations were more psychedelic, heavy, and folk like Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Donovan, and Van Morrison. Some great tracks on the album are “Rio De Camero”, “Michael”, “Our Friend Owsley Stanley III”, “Death of a King”, and “Song for a Lost Gypsy”.

This album had better reviews than their sophomore album. The album cover was designed by the famous design group Hipgnosis, well known for their album artwork for The Dark Side of the Moon, Who’s Next, Electric Warrior, and Houses of the Holy. This album demonstrates The Masters Apprentices’ growth over a few years and shows that they’re a band to be taken seriously.

The band released a live album, Nickelodeon, before breaking up in 1972.

Midnight Oil: Rock band founded in Sydney in the mid 70s. The band were originally called Farm but they changed their name to Midnight Oil by chance by picking out the Jimi Hendrix inspired (from the song “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”) band name from a hat. They started off playing Cream and Led Zeppelin covers. A new sound came with the new band name and they evolved to a hard rock sound to fit in more with the popular pub rock scene. This band were at their peak in the 80s, but since this blog post is about the 60s and 70s, we will focus on the band’s beginnings.

Midnight Oil released their self-titled debut album in 1978. Fans call this album “The Blue Album” due to its simple cover design. Overall, it’s a good hard rock album with some punk sounds to it and it’s short and sweet, true to the punk approach. I enjoyed the songs “Powderworks”, “Head Over Heels”, “Used and Abused”, “Surfing With A Spoon” (has prog elements to it), The album helped the band achieve some success and build a following outside of Sydney. However, critics felt that it didn’t do the band justice because they were excellent live.

The following year they released their sophomore album and first album to get a gold certification, Head Injuries. The album went platinum in 2014. Some songs I like on that album are “Naked Flame”, “Back on the Borderline”, “Koala Sprint”, “Stand in Line”, and “Is It Now?”. The album had much better reception from critics, with many favourable reviews.

The band had an activist side to them and they were associated with eco-friendly causes and anti-war beliefs. Lead singer Peter Garrett especially is politically active, being involved in the Australian Conservation Foundation and Greenpeace. From 2004-2013 he was an MP for Kingsford Smith. However, in his political career he changed his position on the US-Australia alliance, receiving criticism for it and being called a turncoat.

Missing Links: Garage/proto punk band from Sydney. The band were short lived, lasting from 1964-1966, but their sound was ahead of its time. If you like bands like Them, The Troggs, and The Velvet Underground, you might like them. They released only one album in 1965. You can find most of the album, bar a few songs, online. My favourite songs on the album are “Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut” (great Bo Diddley cover and I like the instrumental jam in it), “Some Kinda Fun”, “You’re Drivin’ Me Insane”, and “Nervous Breakdown”. Before bands like The Beatles, NEU!, and The Stone Roses reversed their songs and put them on albums, The Missing Links did that with “H’toum Tuhs”, reversing “Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut”.

Mississippi: Soft rock band which was the precursor to Little River Band. They were founded in Adelaide in 1970 by members of Allison Gros, but they weren’t called Mississippi until 1972. As Allison Gros, they recorded a few singles.

Mississippi’s self-titled debut album was released in 1972 and it reached #21 on the albums chart. “Kings of the World” and “Mr Moondog” were released as singles and the former peaked at #7 on the charts.

Mount Lofty Rangers: Short-lived band Bon Scott was in before he achieved international fame. Below is the song “Round and Round and Round”, recorded weeks before Bon Scott joined AC/DC.


Part 3 can be found here.

That concludes this blog post. Did I miss any bands? Discover a new song you plan to put on regular rotation in your playlist? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. 😃

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