Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 2nd 2020
I was born and raised in Adelaide, capital city of South Australia. It is a city of over a million people, stuck between a number of frankly incredible wine regions. It is also the butt of many jokes made by people from interstate. It seems to be known for two things lots of strange deaths and disappearances, and being the 'City of Churches'. Apart from a brief period when Don Dunstan was premier, the place is as conservative as they come, boring, staid and really dull.
So, it is quite incredible that the city has produced so many really good artists writers, painters, jewellery makers (no, seriously) and so many others. And, yes, that does include music.
I spent a lot of my later teenage years, early twenties going to pubs and listening to local music. While it lessened as I got older, I still managed to get out sometimes. And then there are some bigger name Australian acts that were formed in Adelaide. The music scene of the town goes all the way back to the 1960s. Now, some of the bands I really did like never released albums or if they did, no videos, and so that does limit this list somewhat. But it does not diminish the amazing music here.
Quite a few of the earlier bands were formed in Adelaide by immigrants to the country in the post-war years. But where the band members were born does not matter it is the fact the band was formed or the artist made their first break-out in Adelaide's pub and club scene. To start with, however, here are some great bands that I could find no videos for: Funky Leroy, The Garden Path, The Iron Shieks (one of the greatest shows I ever went to was The Iron Shieks, Exploding White Mice and at least one other band at The Tivoli in 1987 or thereabouts!), Clowns Of Decadence (saw them when I was at university), Shamrock And Thistle, The Black Diamonds, The Trafalgars, and The Parkways (later Five From The Rebel).
The list! 25 of them. These bands are in alphabetical order. I have not included solo artists who left bands to have hits on their own, or bands with solo artists mentioned here. But isn't this enough?
Bad//Dreems One of the more recent bands on this list, when they started to release music, they stood out as a new rock band amongst a sea of mediocre pop and hip hop. They did a cover version I really liked and they are just a welcome band in the age of the crap that too many new artists think is 'music'.
Chris Finnen One of the best guitarists I have seen live, and I've seen him live a couple of times now. I only own one of his albums From The Kitchen Table and that is something I should really rectify one of these days. But there is no denying that you would be hard-pressed to find a better blues guitarist in Australia today. Especially live. Last time I saw him was at a pub in Norwood. So incredible.
'Hey Joe' (yes, that song)
Cold Chisel Well, duh! One of the greatest things Adelaide gave the world. I've talked about a classic album of theirs, as well as their most recent. Their songs keep popping up on lists all over the place. They are that good. And yet, outside of Australia, I might as well be talking about The Penguin Collective (bizarre band from Mt Gambier I think). This band is probably one of the best Australia has produced, and that's it.
'Flame Trees' (it's my favourite Chisel track)
His biggest hit was 'Winter In America' but he was so much more than that, a stalwart of the 1970s Australian music scene. He tried to have a go of it overseas a few times, but for reasons which completely escape me, he just didn't breakthrough. Don't get it. He is so damn talented.
'And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' (yes, a cover, but he does it magnificently)
Exploding White Mice This was a band I saw live in pubs at the fine age of 16/17 (I looked older) quite a few times. They were one of my favourite live acts. In fact, their album A Nest Of Vipers was one of the first I got on CD, replacing the cassette version I'd owned for years; their version of 'Pipeline' is so good. They also released a version of 'He's Gonna Step On You Again' at a time when three other versions came out. EWM did the best job, but charted the worst. The music world is not fair these guys were so very good.
'He's Gonna Step On You Again'
Hilltop Hoods Possibly a strange one for me who thinks of hip hop as same-y sounding and generally dull. It takes a lot for a hip-hop/rap act to stand out from the crowd when I could not tell 99% of the artists/songs apart. But the Hilltop Hoods, from Blackwood, do that by injecting a note of fun and decent tunefulness into their works. And they're still doing it. Their latest song is about being locked down and it is great.
'I'm Good?' (yes, the latest one NSFW)
Hindley Street Country Club
Another very new act. I've only seen them through YouTube, recommended by a friend, and I have been watching them quite a bit lately. They are a singularly awesome covers band, and they are so good to listen to, to just chill out. I am waiting to catch them live when I can. The lead male singer was the singer for Clearway, a band I was told about so often but never got around to seeing my loss.
James Taylor Move
This band was one of those 60s bands that formed in the wake of the British Invasion and pushed their way into psychedelia when that came to the fore. I am too young to have seen them, but I have inherited a 45 featuring them and it is just one of those songs that is very ear-wormish. It took me some hunting, but I found that track on YouTube.
Where Cold Chisel and The Angels are the two best musical things to come out of Adelaide, the Masters are not far behind. My aunt was one of the first members of their fan club back in the 60s, and she was the one who introduced me to their music. So many songs of theirs have become Australian classics, but like too many Australian bands, are known too little in the rest of the world. I struggled to find just one track to put here, so I let randomiser choose for me.
A friend of mine went to see a concert many years ago (I think it might have been Roger Waters). I didn't make it, but when he came back he said the opening act was this young female guitarist who was incredible. This is a fan of Eric Clapton, so I knew he was impressed. He found some of her stuff, and I listened to it and, yeah great. Fast forward and one of the first things I reviewed here at WeekendNotes was an album by Orianthi and her partner Richie Sambora! There is skill and talent here that it took a former member of Bon Jovi to prove to the world.
'Highly Strung' (with Steve Vai and she holds her own. Honestly.)
Hard to believe that one of Australia's greatest singer-songwriters is an Adelaide boy (man). For people of my age and older (and even younger), he has been putting the life we see in Australia into songs that we can digest easily. He is almost Australian folk-slash-pub rock. Uniquely Australian, yet telling the Australian story in song. One of the nation's greats.
'To Her Door' (Paul Kelly And The Coloured Girls)
A band from Adelaide that saw its lead singer stand for parliament and almost defeat the Australian foreign minister! Redgum were a political band, in the vein of Midnight Oil, but as tracks like 'I've Been To Bali Too' show, they also had a sense of humour. But, really, there is only one song that could be here.
'I Was Only 19'
Yes, Sia. I don't mind some of her stuff her Christmas album is surprisingly good even if I find her music videos not for my tastes. But I was reminded some time ago that I'd seen her live years ago in the late 90s, before she made it big across the world. Apparently, I liked her older stuff. There you go. Still, for a modern listener, she is what they know Adelaide for.
Brother of Jimmy Barnes, lead singer of Fraternity after Bon Scott left, sometime member of early Cold Chisel John Swan was a stalwart of the Adelaide music scene for years. And then, finally, he managed to hit it as a solo artist. In the 80s, he had songs that I really got into. And then he joined Australian supergroup The Party Boys and I bought a few of their singles with him as well. He has that raw voice that suits pub rock so well. Yet another of the unheralded rock artists from Adelaide.
When I first saw this band live (at the Gov!), they were a 6-piece with two drummers and a wall of sound live that was just all-encompassing. It was not something they managed to replicate on their album Rest In Pieces. But they are now a tighter four-piece. The sound is a little different, but there is no denying that guitar sound. My favourite track of theirs is called 'Human Pinball', but I could not find that one. Sorry.
'Dr Rhythm And His Deaf Cat'
Along with Cold Chisel, one of the greatest musical exports Adelaide gave the world. Also, one of the best live bands I ever saw. I saw them three times over the course of my adult life and they were phenomenal each time. In Doc Neeson, they had one of Australia's greatest rock singers. They have so many great songs that it was hard to choose one for this, so I let randomise do it again.
'Dogs Are Talking'
Celtic folk music with Alex's wonderful voice at the forefront. I have three of their CDs and have seen them live more than any other band on this list. Ah, those nights at the Brecknock Hotel. So many good times. I was actually at their first gig. Boy, did the band go through changes after that!
'Will You Love Me When I'm Fat, Bald And Ugly?'
The Lizard Train
Another band I saw live back in my teenaged years, but not as often as other bands. Still, I do own their album Couch, which has been listened to very often. There's not much else to say about them pub rock, played loud and hard and heavy. My sort of music.
'Keep On Loving You' (great cover song!)
The Mad Turks From Istanbul
A band I saw often in pubs in the late 80s, a heavier pub act. I am getting a distinct impression my musical tastes were very one-dimensional as I came to the end of my high school years! Still, live, very few at the time could beat these guys in that pub atmosphere.
'Not Here, That's Where I Want To Be'
The Mark Of Cain
Everything I write about the Mad Turks could be put here, but replace 80s with 90s and you've got it. Adelaide knew how to rock! I reckon these guys played at uni in 89/90, and that was my first exposure to them. Yeah. Good music.
The Penny Rockets
I never saw these guys, but I knew all about them. The Penny Rockets were apparently my mum's favourite live act in the 60s. They play at most of the dances she went to and they knew how to get everybody dancing and moving. But they were not just a cover band, they also played originals. A lot of instrumentals and mum remembers them having singers (or maybe guest singers) at shows. I do feel like I knew them, though.
I reckon I saw this band live at the Bridgeway Hotel the first time, and I own the album Rock Music. I even have a Sarah McLeod solo CD single somewhere. They were a band that, again, knew how to rock, and were rocking hard in the underground world of Australian rock that Triple J used to promote before they became a boring hip-hop station.
A band that led to so many other bands, like The Little River Band and Axiom, and also gave the world Terry Britten, one of the nicest big-time men I have met. This band had the definite sound of the British Invasion so prevalent at the time, but that is not meant as a negative. So much started here.
'What's Wrong With The Way I Live'
Another very new act, but showing that Adelaide aesthetic of hard-rocking music has not died. Not at all. I have not seen them live yet, but will as soon as I can. I might be the oldest one there by a few decades, but I think it will be an awesome show.
'Stuck On You'
And let's end with the band that gave the world Rick Springfield and Darryl Cotton, and also contributed to the founding of LRB. They were at the heavier end of the 60s music landscape, and I reckon a direct line can be drawn from them to the pub rock that followed not long after.
'Eleanor Rigby' (a Beatles cover)
25 songs and bands! Wow! Sorry about the length, but the music here is just so incredible. Adelaide might have things wrong with it (and I've lived there long enough to know) but one thing you can say is that its arts scene is alive and nowhere is that more evident than in the music the town has produced and continues to produce.