We’ve all got our favourite songs – but have you actually ever tried to make a list of your favourites? Now think of just Aussie songs, tough call! We turned to our resident Millennial to take a first cut and see what an Aussie top 20 might look like:
We are all forever bound to disagree about which songs go where in any ‘top’ list, but with that in mind, here’s MY 20 top aussie songs. Before I get started, let me say that every song is in its place for a different reason, and I can almost guarantee that anyone reading this will have a different view, and that’s fine! It’s honestly the best part about music. So without further ado, it’s time to honour some of Australia’s finest pieces of music, music that we simply can’t live without.
#1 How to Make Gravy – Paul Kelly
Coming in at number one, Paul Kelly’s terrific story of a prison inmate longing for the sight of his family as the holiday season rolls around. The way this song is written, coupled with the classic Australian Christmas themes that Joe speaks of in his letter to Dan make this a timeless song that any Australian music fan will sing until the cows come home, and my personal favourite Aussie song (and Christmas carol).
#2 Friday On My Mind – The Easybeats
Our very own Beatles with one of the greatest rock n roll hits of the 20th century. I’ve been hearing this song since I was a wee lad, and I honestly can’t remember not knowing the lyrics. Friday on my Mind represents everything that a working class Aussie bloke wants throughout their week, Friday. For how great the song is, along with The Easybeats’ monumental contribution to Australian music, this song comes in at #2.
#3 My Happiness – Powderfinger
An incredible anthem from an incredible group. This despairing track illustrates the life of a person in constant need of something that only ever seems to be around for a brief period, and by the time the person has realised what they have, its gone. I relate to this song on a lot of levels, mostly when I think about the friends that I leave behind in my hometown when I leave for University. An absolute ripper of a tune that will forever be in my playlists.
#4 Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel
One of two Vietnam War inspired songs on this list, and probably the most arm-in-arm Australian song there is. Everyone knows the lyrics. Everyone sings loud and proud when its played. A distinct piano riff with big Jimbo Barnes banging out the vocals, it doesn’t get much better if you’re at a party and wanting a good Aussie song that everyone can get around.
#5 Don’t Dream its Over – Crowded House
Well speaking of classic tracks that everyone can belt out, I’d wager that over 90% of Aussies would at least know the chorus of this 80s gem. The first time I heard this song was at a wedding, and it’s been dominating my car trips ever since. Some might say that Crowded House are in fact a Kiwi band, but when they come up with songs like this as if we wouldn’t claim them as our own!
#6 Back in Black – AC/DC
One of the greatest rock songs ever to grace people’s ears. After the death of their legendary frontman Bon Scott in 1980, AC/DC honoured him in the best way possible, by creating perhaps the best album in Australian music history. The title track makes so high on this list mostly for its iconic riff that you simply cannot help but bang your head to, and my personal love of the song’s chorus.
#7 Mystify – INXS
‘Kick’ was INXS’ most successful album for a reason, and Mystify is a testament to its greatness. Now I know what you’re thinking.. Where’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’? I can see this pick coming off as slightly controversial, but Mystify is in my opinion, INXS’ best work. The lyrics are nothing short of masterful, and always leave me wanting the song to continue. For this reason, and the personal similarities I draw with the character’s love life, this song comes in at #7.
#8 Throw Your Arms Around Me – Hunters and Collectors
An erotic song with a catchy chorus. This song tells the tale of two lovers who are incredibly attracted to each other, but unlikely to continue a relationship after their night of love making. Throw Your Arms Around Me is a song that really grew on me since I first listened to it, and I’ve since realised just how much I really love the tune, and how much of an iconic Aussie song it is.
#9 April Sun in Cuba – Dragon
A spectacular late 70s rock hit that I relate to immensely. Everytime I hear this song I think of travelling back home because I’m getting “tired of the city life”, wishing for the April Sun in Nambucca Heads. A great rock song song with another chorus that will leave all of the fellas singing at the tops of their voices.
#10 Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil
Fair is Fair. An excellent Midnight Oil hit which shines a spotlight on Aboriginal Land rights, and how land should be fairly returned to the native people of our great country. Combining a message with a great piece of music isn’t always easy to do, but Peter Garrett and the Midnight Oil boys hit the nail on the head with this tune, and it accordingly comes in at #10 on this list.
#11 These Days – Powderfinger
Another nod to Powderfinger who topped the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1999 with this beauty. Whilst this song is a clear cut anthem that everyone loves, it also represents everything that I don’t want my life to be like. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 50 and realise that my life slipped through my hands, and this song constantly reminds me to keep enjoying everything about being alive.
#12 Thunderstruck – AC/DC
THUNDER. A song that needs no introduction. Probably one of the most recognisable rock riffs ever. AC/DC’s Thunderstruck comes in at #12 due to its sheer greatestness and popularity. No matter how many years pass by, this electrifying tune remains the figurehead of Aussie rock, and further cements AC/DC’s status as one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
#13 1955 – The Hilltop Hoods
And here comes the new stuff! The Hoods’ 2016 track about living in a small town that nobody has ever heard of is pretty much the story of my life. I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember, but never have I related to a song like I do this piece of Aussie hip hop. Growing up in a small coastal town without traffic lights, you often do feel like you’re trapped in time with the world moving around you. “I don’t tell ’em where I’m from, I tell ’em where I’m close to” is my life on a daily basis when I’m meeting new people around Sydney. Here the Hoods have created an anthem for country kids everywhere, and deserve the number 13 rank on this list.
#14 To Her Door – Paul Kelly
Who doesn’t love a story about redemption? Paul treats us to another classic Aussie hit that illustrates the struggle of many Australian households. Sacked from work, drinking, fighting. The lyrics to this tune are a sad depiction of a family that’s slowly being torn apart. But do not despair, for the man eventually finds a way through his habits, back home and “To her Door”. This is an absolute favourite of my family, and consequently it finds itself at number 14.
#15 New Sensation – INXS
Live Baby Live! Coming in a number 14 is an INXS classic that will be sure to get your blood pumping. This was the first INXS song that my Dad showed me as a youngen, and boy have I been hooked ever since. For the sentimental value, along with its uplifting vibe it finds it way to 15 on this list. Another hit INXS song that is an absolute shoe in for a car trip playlist.
#16 Eagle Rock – Daddy Cool
Now Listen, if you’re in a country pub on a Friday night, this song will be played at least once, and chances are you’ll find a few blokes with their pants down dancing around. Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock survives as one of our country’s greatest anthems and was the best selling single of 1971. Another great example of great Aussie music.
#17 Reckless – Australian Crawl
Aussie Crawl coming in at #17 with Reckless. One of the most iconic basslines that this country’s music has to offer, and one that will stay in your head for hours. My Mother is a big Australian Crawl fan, and as such had me hooked on this song from a young age. James Reyne’s distinct voice is a pleasure to listen to, a masterwork that deserves its place at #17.
#18 I Was Only 19 – Redgum
Redgum’s fantastic ode to the diggers of Vietnam finds itself at number 18 on the list. The lyrical value of this song is unparalleled, and gives any listener an insight into the horrors of warfare through the eyes of a 19 year old soldier on his first tour of Vietnam. “Nightime’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16” is one of my favourite song lyrics of all time, and war songs simply don’t come much better than this. The story also particularly hits home for me, because I’m now the same age as the digger in this song.
#19 Rum Rage – Sticky Fingers
Another newish song that makes my top 20! Sticky Fingers are at #19 on this list with Rum Rage, a terrific easy-listening song that you could honestly just play on repeat. The simple but catchy guitar riff in this tune is one of the most audibly satisfying pieces of music I’ve ever encountered, whilst the lyrics tell the story of someone longing for a paradise where “the credits cards don’t decline”, something that I’m sure everyone has wanted at some stage.
One of my personal favourites, and definitely worth a shout at #19.
#20 A Pub With No Beer – Slim Dusty
Rounding off the list at #20 is a classic Slim Dusty bush ballad that paints a picture of how desolate a pub can be without the grace of that beautiful golden liquid that we call beer. Gordon Parsons, the man who wrote this tune came up with the guts of the song in a pub called ‘The Cosmopolitan Hotel’ located in Taylor’s Arm, NSW, around a 25 minute drive from where I grew up. The pub has since been renamed ‘The Pub with No Beer’ after the song’s major success on the airwaves both domestically and internationally in 1957. A terrific song that’s Aussie to the bone and always worth a listen if you want a good laugh.
A few honourable mentions to the songs that came so close!
- The Horses – Daryl Braithwaite
- Under the Milky Way – The Church
- Down Under – Men at Work
- Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again – The Angels
- Girls on the Avenue – Richard Clapton
- Cool Change – Little River Band
- Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
- You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
Hope you enjoyed a look at some of my favourite songs that this country has ever produced. A great history of music that you can’t help but tip your hat to. Here’s hoping it continues.
Editor: This could be Lawson’s last post here at EFTM – I mean, come on, not a single Farnham song? What a joke!