The Future of Australia Day (and a Short History of Oz Rock)

Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls performs on the Australian Made tour on New Years Day1987. Image owned by Getty Images.

January 27th, 2017.

The Future of Australia Day (and a Short History of Oz Rock)

The Australia Day Memory.

I have one memory of Australia day from childhood, I assume it is an amalgam of several different Australia days from the early 1980s.

The day is scorching. I am at a gathering with my extended family. It is the middle of the day, people are drinking beer and meat is being cooked on a barbecue. Cricket is on the television and people are clustered around it watching Australia who are losing badly and someone comments “At least you’d think they could win on bloody Australia Day” and it is all downhill from there.

The fact that we were celebrating the beginning of the colony and therefore the beginning of the land genocide of the indigenous population never occurred to us for a moment. The reason for this was ignorance and complacency.

A Brief Aboriginal History

Sadly many Australians still live in that world of ignorance and complacency but far fewer than at that time as attested by the large demonstrations yesterday against the national holiday being on the date of the beginning of the colony.

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Scene from one of the “Invasion Day” protests on January 26th, 2017.
Scene from one of the “Invasion Day” protests on January 26th, 2017.

The date of the national holiday has little practical importance but it becomes insulting when people become indignant and upset when indigenous Australians refer to the date as “Invasion Day” missing the fact that the choice of this date makes it impossible for indigenous Australians to view it as a day for celebration.

The British, it should be remembered,  classified Australia as terra nullius (nobody’s land) pretending the indigenous people did not exist, thus saving themselves the trouble and expense of negotiating with them and enabling the wholesale theft of the continent at almost no cost.A musket here, a blanket there.

It is sadly typical act of arrogance to expect indigenous Australians to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the land genocide that began in 1788.

The intent of the entire national day project (unity and celebration) is thus defeated, and will always be defeated while the date is January 26th. In some major cities more people are protesting the date than celebrating it already.

“The crowd at Federation Square – estimated by some to be up to 50,000 people – is believed to have eclipsed the number of people who attended the earlier Australia Day march along Swanston Street.” (Source)

Invasion Day Melbourne rally draws tens of thousands of protesters

Given that the nation was born on the New Year and the nation has tried to have a more constructive and inclusive relationship with the indigenous population who were simply treated as non-entities by the British, New Years Day would be a better choice for the national day of celebration .

People Should Simply Ignore the Government and Start Celebrating Australia Day on New Years Day or another.

The Government has the ability to make January 26th a public holiday and stage their tiresome and corny ceremonies but they do not have the power to make anyone participate in or pay attention to any of it. Nor do they have the ability to prevent anyone celebrating Australia Day on a different date.

It seems like a good idea to me to begin to stage Australia Day on another date and this will provide a positive outlet to celebrate Australia that would provide a nice compliment to the entirely negative (with good reason) Invasion Day movement.

The logical choice, with the built-in advantage that it is already a public holiday and the day the nation actually came into being would be New Years Day.

Warumpi Band, Black Fella White Fella

Celebrating Australia.

Growing up most of the big Australian heroes were sports players. We were told that the batting of Don Bradman and the winning runs of Phar Lap, the champion racehorse of the day, “kept people going” during the depression of the early 1930’s. The whole line is infantile nonsense in retrospect but that has been the standard in Australia.

Recently a video was posted on the internet showing Ukrainians in Kiev staging a march celebrating the life of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. I cruelly commented “Who or what else do they have to celebrate?”Yet if we cast aside our sporting heroes, whose achievements are made in an entirely insignificant field, the same question could easily be asked of Australia.

“Who or what do we have to celebrate?”

There are many practical things of course,there is so much we take for granted having never known any different. In terms of culture it becomes more difficult.

Between the mid 1970s and late 1980s Australian music, pop music  seemed to go through a real heyday with a lot of great music being created in a short time and although several of the bands that were part of that broad wave, such as Midnight Oil, INXS, the Divinyls and Icehouse rose to international prominence, many of them were well past their best by the time it happened meaning that much of their best work remains neglected.

Here is a small sample of some personal favorites from this era and earlier with some brief explanatory notes where appropriate.

The Easybeats.

The Easybeats were one of the greatest bands of the 1960s,and are rightfully celebrated as the first great Australian band. Their greatness is undisputed however the Australian part of the story is cloudy.

The Easybeats were a British style band composed almost entirely of Brits who formed in a Sydney migrant hostel that still operates, today the site hosts a prison for people who are awaiting deportation named the Villawood Detention Centre.

They were not just British they were just off the boat. So, they were not Australian but they were a truly great band based in Australia, their brilliance must have helped other local musicians, they set a great example. Friday On My Mind is far and away their best known tune but they had numerous classics.

The Easybeats – Friday on My Mind

Friday On My Mind is a brilliant song but it is very British and very white, Good Times is a little funkier, less Beatles more Stones, this song was a massive hit decades later when covered by INXS.

The Easy Beats “Good Times”

Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool.

This song has been so overplayed that it has become easy for Australians to despise it, a fresh listen reveals Eagle Rock is a classic piece of pop blues reminiscent of a boppier Creedence Clearwater Revival, released in 1971 it was still a chart topper as late as 1990 when it hit number one in New Zealand.

Eagle Rock

AC/DC.

AC/DC were drawn from the same group of British immigrants who formed the Easybeats. The guitarists Malcolm and Angus Young were the brothers of Easybeat George, who assumed production duties with AC/DC.

All of the important members were Brits, even those who came from outside the core coterie and after Bon Scott died in 1980 they became a completely British band.

Few guitarists have matched the heavy catchy riffs of Malcolm and Angus Young. I must admit that having been a big drinking band for me, I have never loved the as much since I stopped.

This is a classic typical AC/DC track with a simply brilliant video of them driving through Melbourne on the back of a flatbed truck. When Bon Scott was alive they were one of the greatest ever hard rock acts, they were pretty mediocre after his death except for Back in Black, the first post Bon Scott album.

IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP (IF YOU WANNA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL) – AC DC

Cold Chisel.

Cold Chisel came from Adelaide, Australia’s fourth largest city and not a noted cultural centre. Cold Chisel oved from Adelaide to Melbourne and then Sydney, where they finally found success.

The band never achieved great international success and this was a loss to the rest of the world. They were a strangely literate bluesy hard rock band capable of brilliant straight pop songs such as “Forever Now” as well as pub rock classics such as “Cheap Wine”. Interpersonal relationships within the band were often troubled with drunken internal brawls a regular item on the menu and they never made the international impact they deserved, but the work stands up very well.

Cold Chisel – Cheap Wine

Cold Chisel – Saturday Night

Cold Chisel – Forever Now

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Chrissie Amphlett at the Australian Made festival in early1987. In 2013 she died of natural causes. She was only 53.

The Divinyls.

The Divinyls were a pop rock outfit in the Easybeats and (to a lesser extent) AC/DC tradition, they opened their set for many years with their brilliant version of the Easybeats “I’ll Make You Happy”, they were a brilliant band who achieved international success in the early 1990s when they were a crass imitation of their former selves with tracks like “I Touch Myself”

Chrissy Amphlett was a great singer and songwriter along with guitarist Mark McEntee, but because Chrissie Amphlett played quite a rough female character when Olivia Newton John style Kewpie dolls were the fashion they struggled for many years to make any international impact and even in Australia their greatness seemed to be under rewarded-Science Fiction is one of the greatest pop singles released anywhere anytime,yet it only reached number 13 on the Australian charts on release in 1983.(Source)

Divinyls ~ Science Fiction

Divinyls ~ Only Lonely

Icehouse.

Icehouse were a vehicle for the classically trained Iva Davies.They had many great songs,my personal favorite is probably “Can’t Help Myself” but their most important song without a doubt is “Great Southern Land” one of the few truly great songs written about Australia.

Icehouse – Can’t Help Myself

Icehouse – Great Southern Land

INXS.

INXS started in the late 1970s as a run of the mill post punk type outfit. By the third album Shabooh Shabaah in 1982 they were writing some excellent songs such as Don’t Change and the One Thing and had created a semi-original sound, a strange hybrid of synth heavy pop rock.

With their fourth album the Swing in 1984 the group improved immensely and created some of the best songs in the history of Oz Rock. Two albums later they became massive with the first three singles from 1987’s Kick making the top 3 in the US, after that they basically fell off but they made a string of classic singles right through the 1980s, this track from 1984’s the Swing is a high point.

INXS – Love Is (What I Say)

Midnight Oil are probably the greatest band Australia has produced, they were very idiosyncratic, they did not sound like any other band at all and they were the most ostentatiously Australian band of all yet still managed to achieve mass international success due to the quality of their work which speaks for itself.

Midnight Oil – Saturday Night at the Capitol part 9 – Lucky Country

One of the reasons I really love Midnight Oil is the fact they were one of the very few people in Australia who made some attempt to understand and explain what is going on.

Some of their lyrics are very interesting and thought-provoking, even to those who don’t share their political views, these passages from the 1983 classic “Power and the Passion” provide a great pocket glimpse into Australia then and now.

“People, wasting away in paradise…..

Sunburnt faces around, rhe skin so brown
Smiling zinc cream and crowds, some days the beach never a cloud
Breathing eucalypt, pushing panel vans
munch junk food, laughing at the truth

cos Gough was tough til he hit the rough
Uncle Sam and John were quite enough

Too much of sunshine too much of sky
It’s just enough to make you want to cry…….

I see buildings, clothing the sky, in paradise
Sydney, nights are warm
Daytime telly, blue rinse dawn
Dad’s so bad he lives in the pub, it’s underarms and football clubs
Flat chat, Pine Gap, in every home a Big Mac
And no one goes outback, that’s that
You take what you get and get what you please
It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”

Songwriters: James Moginie / Martin Rotsey / Peter Garrett / Peter Gifford / Robert Hirst

Midnight Oil – Power And The Passion

Midnight Oil – US Forces

Midnight Oil – Read About It

Midnight Oil – Hercules (live)

Midnight Oil – The Dead Heart

Midnight Oil – Oils on the Water

Other Winners.

Australian Crawl – Reckless

Do Re Mi – Man Overboard


Lost Indie Classics.

Cosmic Psychos rambo

Powder Monkeys – Yin Yang

Adalita – The Repairer

A Great Later Moment.

Sunsets – Powderfinger

 

Bowie.

David Bowie in the mid 1970s.
David Bowie in the mid 1970s.

January 12th, 2016.

David Bowie.

The death of David Bowie is not an important news story nor an event for great sadness, he lived a fairly long and certainly good life. But for some reason it has the feeling of a landmark event in the West.

David Bowie was a singer and an actor of sublime talent but he was merely an entertainer. Still an entertainer of rare quality who left an immense cultural mark on the West and whose death in many ways exposes just how empty are the remaining cultural icons of the Western dark elite.

Crowley "issues" in the early 1970s.
Crowley “issues” in the early 1970s.

Aleister Crowley and the David Bowie Connection

David Bowie was at least in part, an agent of the dark elite, there were Crowley issues, minor Nazi issues and allegations of sex with underage groupies* and a rape claim that cannot be substantiated.

His appeal within the openly evil fashion industry was especially unnerving but musicians are there to entertain, it is a delusion of the modern West that troubadours are supposed to be moral leaders.and his work stands up today and will continue to entertain people for many decades.

And look at what they have left, they have almost nothing. The cupboard is so bare. Jagger? Madonna? Dylan? Elton John?

If we take Madonna an artist with a similar career trajectory, Madonna has only maybe half a dozen great songs**, (and that is being generous) the work doesn’t stand up. Elton John is and has always been a tacky lightweight and a follower, Dylan and the Stones became musically irrelevant decades ago.

They have lost an agent of irreplaceable quality, a real gem and it does beg the question as to what happened to Western culture?

That is to say why does the pop culture (many honorable exceptions aside) suck by and large these days and why did the pop culture go downhill?

One striking thing is the lack of personality in the work of major pop artists today. Rihanna’s work is generally well executed and some of the songs are memorable but there is a total lack of sonic variety and personality, her records get the best factory production every time but it always sounds and feels the same. There is something missing there, she has ability and she is given good songs often but there is a complete soullessness about it somehow.

There have been and always will be great new musicians but the difference is that at certain times in the past, artists of intellect and quality like Bowie were promoted, today they are mostly the most pliant and obedient kids off the talent shows. Someone from that background will never be more than a competent clone, it is why they are chosen.

There is a big gap between David Bowie and the Bay City Rollers and since the 1970s it has been all Bay City rollers all the time on the pop charts. Good new bands have been obscure.

Someone made a conscious decision to take the culture in an aggressively lowest common denominator direction, or was it organic?

I first became aware of David Bowie in the early 1980s, around the time of Let’s Dance, my older cousin Andrew was a big fan and when I visited his house in perhaps 1982 I can remember seeing David Bowie posters on the wall.

Around the end of 1984 I became a fan after I managed to record Space Oddity off the radio, it was truly like nothing else I had ever heard and I have remained a fan ever since.

The song is still sounds striking and fresh although it is well short of Bowie’s best. Young Americans stands out as an absolute classic to me as does Golden Years. Pop music does not get any better.

The key period was between 1969 and 1983 with the absolute peak being between 71 and 77 or so and throughout this time David Bowie produced dozens of classic songs.

Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans, Golden Years, Rock n Roll Suicide, Life on Mars, Heroes, Sound and Vision, Ashes to Ashes, Lets Dance, Changes, Andy Warhol , Sorrow, Starman and many many others.

He was extremely stylish, carried off the androgyny schtick brilliantly where many of his followers were hopelessly gauche and awful- and he even appeared to have a sense of humor.

He also helped Iggy Pop produce his two Berlin albums, the semi classic the Idiot and the absolute classic Lust for Life along with producing the only Lou Reed album that was successful, Transformer featuring Walk on the Wild side among others.and also the final Stooges album Raw Power.

It is a sign of a high quality individual in whatever area that they bring out the best in others. Bowie had a great career as a producer as well as an artist and these are a couple of my favourite examples.

Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Iggy Pop – Dum Dum Boys

He was practically the only person alive who deserved to be called a rock star, who didn’t make the term seem a joke. Unlike the Rolling Stones he did not flog his legacy to death on endless overpriced nostalgia tours. Bowie was still appearing on great records well into the noughties, lending vocals to the TV on the Radio classic Province.

TV on the Radio-Province

Bowie even made some great movies, the Man Who fell to Earth is an absolute classic, a work of genius, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is also a fine movie. Many of his movies were forgettable but the acting was a bonus, secondary and the indifferent movies did not matter.

“THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH” – TALKING HEADS – “ONCE IN A LIFETIME”

David Bowie – Space Oddity

Iggy pop-Lust for life

David Bowie – Heroes

*The Lori Maddox story.
http://www.debriefdaily.com/lifestyle/lori-maddox-i-lost-my-virginity-to-david-bowie/
“While Lori’s mother worked nights, she and Sable, who was dating Iggy Pop, would sneak out to clubs on the Sunset Strip in search of musicians, she told Thrillist.com – and that’s where she met David Bowie.

“What I remember most about the E Club was Bowie. I met him when he was doing the Spiders from Mars tour. He wanted to take me to his hotel room. I was still a virgin and terrified.
“He had hair the color of carrots, no eyebrows, and the whitest skin imaginable. I grabbed on to [DJ and club co-owner] Rodney Bingenheimer and said I was with him. So we all just hung out and talked. I had probably kissed boys by that point, but I wasn’t ready for David Bowie.”
Five months later, Lori changed her tune. Next time Bowie was in town, they went for dinner and while they were seated at their corner table in a private room, John Lennon and Yoko Ono stopped to say hello. It was another world.”
““We got to the Beverly Hilton and all went up to Bowie’s enormous suite. I found myself more and more fascinated by him.

“He was beautiful and clever and poised. I was incredibly turned on. Bowie excused himself and left us [Lori and Sable] in this big living room with white shag carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows. Stuey brought out champagne and hash. We were getting stoned when, all of a sudden, the bedroom door opens and there is Bowie in this fucking beautiful red and orange and yellow kimono,” Lori told Thrillist.com.
“Looking back, Lori said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“That time of my life was so much fun. It was a period in which everything seemed possible,” Lori said. “There was no AIDS and the potential consequences seemed to be light. Nobody was afraid of winding up on YouTube or TMZ.”
“Now people are terrified. You can’t even walk out your door without being photographed. It has become a different world.”

“He focused his famously two-colored eyes on me and said, “Lori, darling, can you come with me?” Sable looked like she wanted to murder me. He walked me through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where he dropped his kimono. He got into the tub, already filled with water, and asked me to wash him. Of course I did.
“Then he escorted me into the bedroom, gently took off my clothes, and de-virginized me.”
“Two hours later, Lori went to check on Sable who was high as a kite, and repeatedly saying, “I want to f*ck David.” To which Bowie said, “Well darling, bring her in.”
“That night I lost my virginity and had my first threesome. He was totally bisexual. I saw David many times after that, for the next 10 years, and it was always great,” Lori told Thrillist.com.

**Into the Groove, Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Live to Tell, Burning Up, Frozen, Ray of Light.