THIRTY years ago, Aussies were making waves on the international rock scene.
It was in 1982 that Men At Work helped put Australian music on the map with Down Under.
The song reached #1 on the Billboard charts late in 1982, almost a year after the album that spawned the track - Business As Usual - was released.
But that's just one of the many Aussie success stories of 1982. Here are five great Australian albums from that year.
10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 - Midnight Oil
BY 1982, Midnight Oil had built a solid audience through constant touring and electrifying live shows. Their previous record, Place Without A Postcard, built on their reputation and reached #12 on the Aussie charts. But mainstream popularity proved elusive, particularly as the band was in "head butting mode" with an Aussie music industry the Oils saw as being "based on ripping people off", as lead singer Peter Garrett put it in a 1997 interview with Triple J. Their fourth record (known to fans as "Ten-to-One") was going to be the band's last roll of the dice - they were either going to make it big on their own terms with this album or break up. "We still had our backs to the wall, but we were confident with the songs and the writing," Garrett said. They returned to England where they had made Place Without A Postcard and teamed up with rising star Nick Launay (10, 9... was his first big production job) to make arguably their greatest album.
Part art-rock, part stadium rock, the record sounds bigger and brighter than anything they'd ever done without giving up any of their confrontational and headstrong nature. A forceful, muscular album, 10, 9... does feature some surprising moments of dark beauty and experimentation, such as slow-burning abstract opener Outside World or the way the mercurial and mystical intro to epic centrepiece Scream In Blue gives way to a Beach Boys homage. Two of the best songs weren't singles - Only The Strong, a powerhouse of Rob Hirst's sledgehammer drumming, Jim Moginie's electrifying riffs and Garrett's scream, and Short Memory, which is built around some of Moginie's quirkiest riffs and Garrett's list of human tragedy and the repeated mistakes of warmongers. The three songs that did end up as singles are equally impressive. Read About It is a punchy anti-Murdoch rocker, US Forces is a strummy rhythmic rant against American foreign policy (which would come to haunt the now-Federal minister Garrett), and the percussion-filled hit Power And The Passion, with the latter featuring the classic call-to-arms "it's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees".
Such politicising kept the American mainstream at arms length, but it was still the first Oils album to crack the Billboard 200. Meanwhile 10, 9... spent two years on the Australian charts, with Power And The Passion their first top 10 hit here. It was another step on the road towards international acclaim - something they would truly achieve with Diesel And Dust in 1987.
Remember these days, Mr Garrett?
Circus Animals - Cold Chisel
AFTER breaking through with their previous album East, Cold Chisel railed against their success with Circus Animals. Pianist/songwriter Don Walker reportedly told producer Mark Opitz "I never want to have another commercial album again", and as a result Circus Animals is Chisel at their fiercest and most stylistically diverse. It helped that four of the five members contribute in the songwriting department, and each impress.
Opener You Got Nothing I Want belongs to singer Jimmy Barnes and is one of the more powerful lead tracks you're likely to hear, as Barnesy screams in defiance against the American music industry types who had failed to adequately promote Chisel in the US the previous year (the song would later hamper his solo efforts in the US, showing that the American music industry can hold a grudge). As usual Walker's contributions take up most of the album (half the 10 tracks) but none were singles, even though his middle album run of Taipan, Houndog and the defiant rumble-and-howl of Wild Colonial Boy are among the best songs on the record.
Surprisingly - because no one expects the drummer - it's the late Steve Prestwich who proves the unsung hero of Circus Animals. Not only his drumming superbly sympathetic, creating a driving and powerful rhythm section with bassist Phil Small, but his two tracks as songwriter are among Chisel's best. Forever Now is one beat away from ska and features one of Chisel's must singalong-able choruses, but the album's landmark classic is Prestwich's majestic epic When The War Is Over - a ballad of rare power and beauty that remains lyrically hard to pin down. Is it about a draft dodger, a returning veteran or the old "war as a metaphor for relationship troubles"? Either way it's a magical song, and when Barnesy takes over the vocals and implores "how can I go home and not get blown away?", it's a spine-tingling moment. Moss' songs are not to be sneezed at either, particularly the live favourite Bow River, and his guitarwork is blistering throughout.
Depending on who you ask, Chisel's best album is either Circus Animals or East. A panel put together by Triple J voted Circus Animals the 75th best Aussie album ever, while the book 100 Best Australian Albums puts it at number four (by comparison, the Triple J panel rated East higher while the book rated it lower).
Here's Chisel - young and angry and firing on all cylinders:
Shabooh Shoobah - INXS
HAVING helped Cold Chisel create the adventurous and powerful Circus Animals, producer Mark Opitz leant his talents to this INXS album, the band's third. INXS were still six years away from topping the Billboard charts with Need You Tonight, but the run towards international glory and acclaim starts with Shabooh Shoobah. Their first top five record in Australia and first top 50 in the US, it grabbed attention but sees the band still figuring out where they sit stylistically - "Shabooh Shoobah is an example of a talented bunch of performers still finding their own identity", as Allmusic.com put it (although INXS.com calls it the band's "first fully formed masterpiece").
The six-piece merges its synths, rock guitar lines, occasional sax breaks and dancey beats into solid forms to back their charismatic frontman Michael Hutchence, notably on opener The One Thing, the riffy Soul Mistake, and classic closer Don't Change, and it makes for an intriguing record. The funkiness that would elevate them to superstar status is strangely absent, but instead there are steady rock grooves and a low-key "background music at an '80s party" vibe going on for much of the record. Old World New World hints at things to come with its bigger dynamics, and Soul Mistake's guitarwork makes it a stand-out.
While it's not in the same realm as the three albums that followed (The Swing, Listen Like Thieves and Kick), it did the job for the band, building on the strong following they'd gained through seven-nights-a-week touring and radio attention for previous singles Just Keep Walking, The Loved One and Stay Young. The One Thing confirmed their popularity, becoming their highest charting single to date in Australia, and catching the eyes and ears of MTV in the US.
But it's Don't Change that is the real treasure. Sounding bigger and fuller than the rest of the album, it's the perfect vehicle for the Jagger-like Hutchence to strut his stuff - it's also the song that builds the bridge between their early work and the largest stages in the world. Shabooh Shoobah gave INXS their third gold record in a row in Australia, spending almost two years on our charts, and gained them a major label deal in the US.
One of INXS' best songs:
Spirit Of Place - Goanna
GOANNA formed in Geelong, but with frontman Shane Howard and his sister and backing vocalist Marcia Howard hailing from Warrnambool, there was a strong south-west connection. Thanks to this, Spirit Of Place had the biggest first day sales for an album that Warrnambool's Capricorn Records has ever seen - by long-time owner Michael Fitzgerald's estimation, close to 130 copies were sold there the first day Spirit Of Place came out.
It wasn't just in Howard's hometown that the album struck a chord though - an argument could be made for it being one of the most important Australian albums of all time. By daring to deal with the European settlement of Australia from an Aboriginal perspective and using didgeridoo for the first time in the Aussie mainstream, Goanna's lead single Solid Rock spoke of the unspoken, helping smash down barriers in one rocking barrage of thumping drums, triumphant guitars and radio-friendly choruses. It reached #2 in Australia and charted in the US.
The monolith of a song does tend to overshadow the rest of Spirit Of Place, but Razor's Edge, Scenes (From An Occasional Window), and the ode-to-father Factory Man show Howard's knack for a neatly observed situation and a big chorus. Rose Bygrave's contribution On The Platform is a beautifully realised moment and a real highlight, while closer Children Of The Southern Land feels like a not-unwelcome sequel to Solid Rock. The re-release of the album in 2003 further demonstrated Howard's social consciousness and heart-on-his-sleeve, socially aware songwriting by including a live version of Let The Franklin Flow, his protest song against the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania.
Goanna would never reach the heights of Solid Rock ever again, and multiple line-up changes haunted them until their break-up in the late '80s, but it all seems worth it for having given us one of this nation's greatest songs.
A true Aussie classic:
Primitive Man - Icehouse
THIS synth-pop group began its career as Flowers and released their first album - titled Icehouse - in 1980. When the band was picked up for an overseas deal on the strength of Icehouse, they were forced to change their name because of a Scottish group called The Flowers, making second album Primitive Man their first release under the name Icehouse. To add further confusion to their history, Primitive Man was renamed Love In Motion in the UK - a name they also used for their 1996 compilation album. Confused yet?
Primitive Man broke the band outside Australia (Flowers had already gone top five here), with their second record charting in the US, UK and throughout Europe. Led by creative force Iva Davies, Icehouse rode the rising new wave movement with the synth-heavy sound of their second single from Primitive Man, Hey Little Girl, which was a radio hit worldwide, going top 20 in six countries, including the UK. Less impactful overseas was the record's first single Great Southern Land, but here in Australia it gave them their first top five song and is generally regarded as an Aussie classic. That track would return to the public consciousness in 1988 when it was used in Yahoo Serious' surprise hit film Young Einstein, then again in 1994 when it was re-arranged for a remix compilation, and once again last year when Icehouse reformed, which brought the song back into the ARIA top 100.
Primitive Man began as an Iva Davies solo album but at some point, possibly spurred by the interest from overseas labels in their first album, Davies reconvened Icehouse to tour the album, despite playing all the instruments on the record himself. Tracks like the awesome Uniform buzz and stomp as he pushes his drum machines and synths to replicate a rock band, layering electrifying and anthemic guitar lines over the top. Those slashing guitars also boost Street Café, while Davies love of the brooding epic is best seen on Trojan Blue and the undeniably cool Great Southern Land. Interestingly, the passage of time has been kind to Primitive Man. With synths and drum machines back in favour, it's only the '80s-sounding guitars and vocals that kind of sound dated. A 30th anniversary remaster is due, which will rejuvenate the sound and probably bring them even more fans.
Honourable mention:Junkyard - The Birthday Party