Monday, August 20, 2012

1987: Has made you wish

Australia: So near and yet so far. Nearer now perhaps, though I've never made it, but back 30 years ago it was absolutely the other ends of the earth.

What did we know about it? Rolf Harris, Skippy, the Seekers, Olivia Newton-John... those were the only known cultural exports from this far off island that were known to me.

So when Down Under reached the top spot in early '83 this really was an eye-opener, not just for me it seemed, but for most Brits. And once we'd heard this curiosity was pricked to see what other type of music was coming out of this far off, primitive land.

Icehouse were up next with their jaunty Hey Little Girl, and throughout the Eighties little bits of Australia permeated Britain like London smog through an ill-fitting window until we were fully up to speed with what was going on down there and no longer viewed the place as being 10 years behind. Well, that's what they used to say.

I remember one sunny afternoon in the garden at home, perhaps it was about 1973 and Mum and Dad were perusing a load of brochures on Australian cities. (One was called Moomba City and only recently did I realise this was but a nickname for Melbourne and for years and years I was unable to locate it on any map).

This worried me, living somewhere that was 10 years behind. Would we have a car? Would we have a washing machine? It's almost the American view of England: Do we driving around in carriage pulled by horses? Do we live by gaslight? Do we know the Beatles, etc.

But it was just a passing thought. It never happened. My interest was properly piqued when Neighbours took off, so much so, that a friend and I set our sights on going travelling around Australia when we finished university, mainly so we could find out what was going on in Neighbours, as they were about two years ahead and everyone was hungry for info.

So forget men at work. If it was anything that put Australia on the world stage other than Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee it was the glorious Bicentennial, but before that, in Britain at least, it was Neighbours. It wasn't until I saw Muriel's Wedding that Australia has a culture all its own. Look at Kath & Kim.

Anyway, this song was a jukebox favourite at the local pub where we played pool of an evening, and it got me all fired up about going to Australia. 'It's an outdoor life,' warned my mother. 'You'll have to learn to play tennis'. Of course it was never going to happen. I didn't have a bean to my name and as the time got closer getting a job was more pressing. But I did dream and continue to do so, though I'd much prefer a visit in 1967.

Over the past couple of years I've totally thrown myself into Australian music, exploring all I could find from the Sixties to the end of the Eighties. INXS and AC/DC may be their most popular exports, but we shouldn't overlook this gorgeous song by Hunters & Collectors, or bands like Goanna, Australian Crawl, Mondo Rock, Daddy Cool, Russell Morris (excellent piece of psychedelia) and Axiom. There are some proper gems from Down Under that never found there way here, sadly. I recommend the documentary series A Long Way To The Top if you want to explore this parallel musical world further.

I'm thinking about Australia today as a former colleague and friend died on Friday. She was Australian. She once saw Skyhooks in concert. I bombarded her with questions. The first song is for her.


  1. My parents talked of going to both Rodesia and Canada in the seventies - but never Australia. Although my dad's eldest brother moved out decades ago (I've never met him) and my cousin relocated to Melbourne some years back and loves it - 'best thing I ever did' he regularly claims.

    In the 70s it could seem stuck in the 60s. Certainly mens fashion - with a sort of odd-mod wardrobe: short sleeve shirts in dull colours, loose fit Sta-Press and comfy shoes. Apart from those pesky Sharpies that is.

    As always Bowie was there first, championing Australia in the early 80s ahead of Crocodile Dundee, Neighbours and Mad Max 2.

    On the subject of Aus-Rock have you checked Russell Morris

    Or Johnny Diesel? Saw him supporting Jeff Healey in the 80s, and later at the Marquee

  2. I've always liked The Church.

    And one of my favourite moments in life was witnessing a fully grown Australian experiencing snow for the first time.

  3. My impressions of Australian music are clouded by the afternoon I spent trapped in the back of a car in a massive tailback on Sydney's Pararmatta Road, in sweltering heat, while my husband's uncle regaled us with his CD of 'Australian Country Classics', played again and again on endless, hellish rotation.

    I'd rather have gone ten rounds with a boxing kangaroo.