When Rolling Stone writer Andrew P Street thought about penning his third book, he decided he wanted to tell the story of Australia through pop music. And so, bleary eyed after the birth of his son, he wrote The Long and Winding Way to the Top: Fifty (Or So) Songs That Made Australia.
Here, he highlights five key learnings from the process:
1. Australian feminism might have created pub rock
"There's a theory that the rise of live bands in Australian pubs was at least in part a result of changes in licensing laws," starts Street, "which meant that women moved out of the 'Ladies Lounge' and into the front bar, leaving most pubs with a big empty room that was just perfect for the rising tide of teenagers to take over with their infernal beat music."
2. Shepparton is Australia's Nashville
"Sorry, Tamworth, but you're a pretender: from the original Aboriginal country music circuit to touring riverboat clubs to Briggs' entire album about getting the hell out, Shepparton (and its surrounds) has been key to the development of Australian music. It's time the place got its due, frankly."
3. The golden age of pub rock was facilitated by fire safety breaches and drink driving
"Everyone went to see bands in the Eighties in part because everyone else went to see bands in the Eighties, which meant that venues that didn't pack in two or three times their capacity missed out. Meanwhile, the suburban beer barns that were key to the circuit that created Midnight Oil, INXS, the Angels, Cold Chisel etc took a blow as soon as random breath testing became a thing. What, you're going to hike out to the 'burbs sober?"
4. Losing 'Australian Idol' is a superior career path to winning
"The only winner to become a serious star was Guy Sebastian, while the artists that didn't win but had careers which eclipsed those who beat them include Rob Mills, Matt Corby, Anthony Callea, Lisa Mitchell, Shannon Noll, Wes Carr, and Ricki-Lee Coulter. It's a weird competition where bronze beats gold, but that's the Idol difference."
5. There's a reason no-one plays Six Degrees of Paul Kelly
"Honestly, is there anyone that Kelly hasn't discovered, written with, taken on tour, or contributed to a cover version of his own song with? Short answer: nope. The man is effectively the Australian music industry, and we must develop the technology to clone him as a matter of urgency."
Top photo: INXS' Michael Hutchence in 1988. Credit: Boris Spremo.
This article features in our Malcolm Young tribute issue (#794, January 2018), available now.