2023 update – Now with Australia Day 2023 – 25 Bangers Spotify Playlist!
Australia Day is celebrated every 26th of January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet (Britain) to Australia. In terms of celebrations – its our national holiday much in the way Independence Day is for Americans. There is growing momentum to change the date of Australia Day to a date that does not mark the start of colonisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. #ChangeTheDate
Welcome, American friends
My stats tell me that most of my blog visitors are from the United States so I hope this post is a bit of a cultural learning experience for you. I also think you might be familiar with some of them.
The National Anthem
First let’s talk about our national anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair’, what does that even mean?! Even the title is confusing. Then there are words like ‘toil’, ‘girt’, ‘gallant’ – rarely used in everyday conversation are they? There are actually 5 verses, but we only ever sing the 1st and 3rd ones. The 2nd, 4th and 5th ones are hardcore Britannia themed. It’s always funny watching athletes on podiums awkwardly mouth to the 3rd verse (that’s really the second verse) because they’ve forgotten the words. ‘God Save the Queen’ was our original national anthem until a referendum in 1977 voted in ‘Advance Australia Fair’. The more universally known ‘Waltzing Matilda’ only grabbed 28% of the vote. Maybe I’m just jealous that our anthem doesn’t feature the bad ass phrases ‘rockets red glare’ and ‘bomb’s bursting in air’.
In 2016 CoachBombayMusic created this very catchy substitute National Anthem of STRAYA! (To the music of Hey Ya! by Outkast)
25 Classic Aussie Songs
Ok to the classic Aussie songs, I’ve tried to pick a mix of genres. Ask any Australian, if they hear one of these songs when they are travelling it will make them feel instantly proud and homesick.
Meat Pie Rating System
I’ve introduced a Meat Pie Rating scale (out of 5) to indicate the extent of their Australian-ess from the song lyrics. Yes, the 80s was a ripper decade for Australian music.
5 meat pies = song gives the feeling of kangaroos, VBs, vegemite and the beach.
1) Down Under – Men at Work (1981)
This is probably the song most associated with Australia by foreigners. Vegemite sandwiches, flowing beer, thunder and a good chunder. Controversy occurred with what is claimed as the unintentional plagiarism of the flute riff from the old children’s song ‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’.
2) Sounds of Then (This is Australia) – GANGgajang (1985)
Patios, humidity, lightning and canefields! Channel Nine used this as part of an advertising campaign in 1996 and brought the song to a whole new generation.
3) I Still Call Australia Home – Peter Allen (1980)
A permanent favourite that continually brings ex-pats to their knees. Qantas did a brilliant advertising campaign originally in 1998 using this song and some altered lyrics to match their flight destinations. *Grabs tissues*
4) Great Southern Land – Icehouse (1982)
The keyboard intro is epic and makes this song instantly recognisable. This song talks about endless oceans, summer and getting burnt. I was fortunate enough to see Icehouse last year and its lead singer Iva Davies sounds exactly the same live. Who could forget its inclusion in the bizzaro movie ‘Young Einstein’ starring Yahoo Serious (yes really). Gee I loved that movie as a child to the point I wore out the VHS tape.
5) Treaty – Yothu Yindu (1991)
This song talks about the struggles the Aboriginal people have had since the arrival of the British. It speaks about the need to recognise the land rights of the Indigenous Australians through a treaty with the government. This song was a huge hit and I remember dancing to it at school.
6) True Blue – John Williams (1981)
This one hit everyone right in the feels when John Williams sung it live at Steve Irwin’s Memorial.
7) Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel (1978)
A song about an Aussie Vietnam War vet coming back home and trying to adapt to society again. Classic pub rock.
8) Island Home – Christine Anu (1995)
Anu’s cover of this song was altered slightly to reflect her origins as a Torres Strait Islander. The original song was written about Elcho Island off the coast of Northern Territory. Mentions of salt water people, living by the sea and turtle spears.
9) Solid Rock – Goanna (1982)
With a band name like Goanna, you can’t really get more Aussie than that? This song mentions the Dreamtime, the arrival of Europeans and the impact it had on the Aboriginal people.
10) Holy Grail – Hunters and Collectors (1992)
This song has been adopted by just about every football code in Australia (we have a lot of them) as a metaphor the quest for winning the championship. I once got flack with my first interaction with a new work colleague for calling this song the Bogan National Anthem. It all ended well – shout out to you Mon!
11) You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (1980)
Let’s face it. This whole list could be comprised of AC/DC songs because they are so well known. It was impossible to pick a single song so I picked this one as it holds specific significance. A while back while on a cruise a delightfully bogan woman who had to be at least in her 70’s, mutton dressed as lamb took to the dance floor solo while the ship’s Filipino cover band belted out this song. She was on fire, she did leg kicks, spins – the lot. If I had a camera with me I could have retired and lived off the Youtube ad royalties. Alas, all I have are the memories.
12) King of the Mountain – Midnight Oil (1990)
Yellow belly black snakes, cane cockies (Cockatoos), Blacksmiths and cane cutters.
13) Dumb Things – Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls (1989)
Paul Kelly is about Australian as it gets. This song also features in the movie Young Einstein!
14) Working Class Man – Jimmy Barnes (1985)
Jimmy Barnes had a hugely successful solo career and this is one of his most famous words.
15) Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield (1980)
This song hit number 1 in the US and also garnered Springfield a Grammy win.
16) You’re the Voice – John Farnham (1986)
This guy has had that many comeback and final ‘THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE LAST TIME (NO REALLY THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL)’ concert series I’ve stopped counting. Last year he was back again with a truly WTF pairing with Lionel Richie. This song – bagpipe solo is almost as epic as the one in AC/DC’s ‘Long Way to the Top’.
17) Way Out West – James Blundell & James Reyne (1992 )
Originally released by the band ‘The Dingoes’ back in the 70’s. This remake duet looks at a bloke who left the big smoke to work for a company drilling for oil.
18) Spinning Around – Kylie Minogue (2000)
Sometimes unfairly referred to as ‘the singing budgie’, Kylie is Australia’s biggest female vocal export. Well into her 4th decade of performing, the hits are numerous but this song is famous for those gold hotpants. Apparently bought at a garage sale for a couple of dollars.
19) Howzat! – Sherbet (1976)
Australian’s love cricket and summer wouldn’t be complete without slothing for at least one full day on the lounge watching test match cricket.
20) Original Sin – INXS (1984)
INXS were huge on a global scale in the mid to late 80’s. The band has had many replacement frontmen after Michael Hutchence’s death in 1997.
21) Live It Up – Mental as Anything (1985)
Featured in the movie Crocodile Dundee. It wouldn’t be a playlist without a bit of Mental. RIP Greedy Smith.
22) Chains – Tina Arena (1994)
From the album ‘Don’t Ask’ which was such a ripper album it also produced these total banger singles – ‘Heaven Help My Heart’, ‘Sorrento Moon (I Remember)’, ‘Wasn’t It Good’, ‘That’s the way a Woman Feels’. When I think of another album with that many successful singles my mind goes immediately to Thriller by Michael Jackson. Probably the biggest Aussie album of that decade. Saw Tina late last year – powerhouse voice. Still won’t forgive the older lady next to me who got up to go to the loo right as this song was hitting its crescendo! Ruiner!!
23) Fancy – Iggy Azalea feat Charli XCX (2014)
Sydney born Iggy put Australian rap on the map with this 2014 song. The film clip perfectly parodied the film Clueless and brought back bad memories for HSC Advanced English students of the early 2000s! Azalea shares an amazing connection to The Beatles. They are both the only artists to have their first two submissions rank as No. 1 and No.2 simultaneously on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. Azalea’s other song was ‘Problem’ featuring Ariana Grande. Huge honour.
24) Daryl Braithwaite – The Horses (1990)
Everyone blames the millennials for ruining everything – but they know a good thing when they hear it! For some reason they became obsessed with this 1990 song 27 years after its original release.
25) Dance Monkey – Tones And I (2019)
It would be remiss of me not to include this recent smash hit in this updated list. With over half a billion view and counting – this catchy song appeals with Tones’ distinctive sound. This song has broken just about every record there is, but the most impressive is most number of weeks at the top of the ARIA charts in Australia (at time of writing this was 23 weeks! ‘Dance Monkey’ has beaten previous record holder ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran which held #1 for 15 weeks back in 2017.
Meat Pie image courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos sourced from here.
This post was originally published in January 2016.