As I type this, it is unclear what happened, but it is known he died in his sleep, aged 68, and it is conjectured it was due to a heart attack.
Before I get into the meat of this column, the outpouring of grief has been quite incredible. Even Bruce Springsteen posted something quite personal:
Okay, the thing Michael Gudinski is best known for is the Mushroom Records label, a label which championed local acts and took them to a world stage, as well as bringing their music, honed often by years of live performances, into the homes of fans everywhere. Started in 1972, very few Australian record buyers of the 1980s and 1990s did not have a Mushroom Records recording in their collection somewhere. From Kylie Minogue to Frente!, from Jimmy Barnes to The Black Sorrows, the list of bands to appear on Mushroom was a who's who of Australian recording royalty. In 1998, the label was taken over by Festival, then Warner later on.
I heard about Michael's passing this morning, March second, and I went through my vinyl, cassette and CD collection to find all the Mushroom label records I owned, to put forward my favourites.
I own a lot. Jimmy Barnes, the Angels, Skyhooks – bands I have almost complete catalogues of, all released by Gudinski's label. Plus the many, many, many others.
So, what I have done is compile a list of my favourites. These are only from albums in my own collection. There are probably some I like that I do not own. But this is purely from my own archives. To make my life easier to list, no more than two albums per artist. 17 are here, and I've put three songs to listen to from each. The list is in chronological order.
Living In The 70's by Skyhooks (1974) Let's start with one of Australia's finest 1970s bands not aligned with the Vanda-Young production team – Skyhooks. This, their debut album, was just in your face and, at the time, it was like very little heard before, especially in Australia. The mixture of rock and pop and a bit of avant-garde made them instantly recognisable. Plus, 6 of the album's tracks were banned from radio play, setting a record.
Key tracks: 'Livin' In The 70's', 'Horror Movie', 'You Just Like Me Cos I'm Good In Bed'
Ego Is Not A Dirty Word by Skyhooks (1975) Skyhooks would follow that debut with this, probably even more impressive album. It was better produced, cleaner sounding and, really, a lot more public- and radio-friendly, and it featured tracks that would go down in Australian music history. Key tracks: ' Ego Is Not A Dirty Word', 'Saturday Night', 'All My Friends Are Getting Married'
Take It Greasy by Ol'55 (1976)
This is an album on my list of classic albums that I will resume reviewing again soon, I promise. Harkening back to the days of the late 1950s, early 1960s in sound, style and lyrical content (as well as choice of covers), it was a decent throwback, but with a really strong modern (for the time) pop-rock feel.
Key tracks: 'Get A Job', 'On The Prowl', 'Looking For An Echo'
Don't Throw Stones by The Sports (1979)
The Sports were, to me, always a singles band, with great songs, but patchy albums. This, though, is the least patchy of them (I own three). With not only great singles (which are, let's face it the best songs here), but also some nice deep cuts, this is a good rock album from Stephen Cummings and co.
Key tracks: 'Suspicious Minds', 'Don't Throw Stones, 'Who Listens To The Radio?'
Time And Tide by Split Enz (1982)
New Zealand's own Split Enz had been around for a little while, but really hit their stride in the 1980s. This album was a huge part of that, strong from beginning to end, and peaked by the epic double whammy of 'Pioneer/Six Months In A Leaky Boat'. This was a truly stunning album.
'Dirty Creature', 'Never Ceases To Amaze Me', 'Pioneer/Six Months In A Leaky Boat'
Shine by Kids In The Kitchen (1985)
I saw Kids In The Kitchen live – it was the first pop/rock concert I ever attended, in January of 1986 (I was 15). It might be that making me biased, but this album had a string of great songs, and it was hard to keep it down to three. They were a vastly under-rated band and, I feel, with songs as strong as they had, they should have kicked around successfully much longer.
Key tracks: 'Current Stand', 'Change In Mood', 'Bitter Desire'
For The Working Class Man by Jimmy Barnes (1985)
Barnes' second solo album, but featuring a huge chunk of the first album ('[I[Bodyswerve[/I]') which made those of us who bought it at the time feel a little ripped off. But that was soon nullified by the sheer power, intensity and glory that is the music and songs on this record. There is very little that can be said – the solo Barnes legend started here.
Key tracks: 'I'd Die To Be With You Tonight', 'Working Class Man', 'No Second Prize'
Cos Life Hurts by Uncanny X-Men (1985)
Another album where it was hard to cut down to three tracks. I saw this band live as well, but not until 1987, and it was one of those concerts where everyone knew the words to every song and it was such a good time. This album is another on my list of classic albums to look at because it is so good, ranging from silly party anthems ('Party') to contemplative ballads ('50 Years'). Great album.
Key tracks: 'Still Waiting', 'Work', '50 Years'
Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight by The Models (1985)
The Models had been around for a little while when this album hit, and that title track – all percussion and brass – just made everyone take notice. But the album was far from a one-track pony (see what I did there?). The whole thing is filled with great music, but the three singles really stand out as the best.
Key tracks: 'Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight', 'Cold Fever', 'Barbados'
Conflicting Emotions by Split Enz (1986_
Featuring my favourite Split Enz track ('Message To My Girl') and with Neil Finn coming to the fore in the vocals more, this was possibly the peak of Split Enz (at least, in my opinion). The songs are well-written, and the addition of a different sort of gentle synthesiser sound really helped make the tracks feel a little more personal. Lovely album.
Key tracks: 'Strait Old Line', 'Message To My Girl', 'Conflicting Emotions'
Human Frailty by Hunters & Collectors (1986)
My favourite H&C album by a long way. They released some really cool singles after this, but this was their most consistent album, in my opinion, with great tracks from the singles to the deeper cuts. And the songwriting is incredible. I mean, you need to find The Doug Anthony All Stars' version of 'Throw Your Arms Around Me' to understand how incredibly written that track truly is.
Key tracks: 'Say Goodbye', 'Throw Your Arms Around Me', 'Everything's On Fire'
Under The Sun by Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls (1987)
I got this on cassette, wore it out, and got it on cassette again. I really need to get a copy on CD, I think. It was the sort of album I could put on and let play all the way through without feeling the need to fast forward any tracks. The hit singles were great and the deep cuts were also impressive. And 'To Her Door' was the very first song I ever learnt the chords to play on guitar.
Key tracks: 'Dumb Things', 'Forty Miles To Saturday Night', 'To Her Door'
Matchbook by Ian Moss (1989)
After Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss was the next member of Cold Chisel to hit the solo recordings, and he did it with this superb piece. A friend of mine (Dom) and I got this almost as soon as it was released, and spent ages just talking about how good it was while listening to it (much to her brother's chagrin). It was that sort of album. Guitar-based rock without the bombast, just a great album.
Key tracks: 'Tucker's Daughter', 'Telephone Booth', 'Out Of The Fire'
Brave by Kate Ceberano (1989)
I was ready to not like this album. I wasn't a huge fan of I'm Talking, her first band, and then she seemed to be going into jazz, which I didn't mind, but it was not my thing in 1989. Instead, we got this pop album with one of my favourite Australian songs on it, the title track, and a fantastic cover of The Reels' 'Quasimodo's Dream'. Okay, I put my hand up – I was wrong. And this album is still great.
Key tracks: 'Quasimodo's Dream', 'Bedroom Eyes', 'Brave'
Beyond Salvation by The Angels (1989)
While The Angels had some great songs from the 1970s through, their albums were often patchy, lined with filler. That changed in the late 80s. The Howling was really good, then this one hit, and it was great from go to whoa. Here's a curious factoid – this was the first album I ever reviewed (for Jolly Times) where I got to keep it, and so I have a double album version which got played to death plus a typed and Xeroxed press release!
Key tracks: 'Let The Night Roll On', 'Dogs Are Talking', 'Love Waits'
Red Back Fever by The Angels (1991)
Ah, yes, 1991 in Australian music had to come up here, didn't it? And this album saw a couple of tracks on that list and for good reason – it is great! They were rocking better than anyone in Australia at that time, maintaining that pub rock they learnt in Adelaide. And this is another fine album all the way through.
Key tracks: 'Some Of That Love', 'Once Bitten Twice Shy', 'Natural Born Woman'
Soul Deep by Jimmy Barnes (1991)
Well, regular readers might have suspected this would be my second Jimmy Barnes album choice after the 1991 column, but it might be a shock to others. There is not a bad track on this album, the covers of American rock and soul standards done as only Barnesy could do them. Many people derided him at the time, but I think I have been proven right – this is yet another great album.
Key tracks: 'I Gotcha', 'When Something Is Wrong With My Baby' (with John Farnham), 'River Deep – Mountain High'
So, to Michael Gudinksi, thank-you for giving us the Australian music we needed and have come to love. Now, personal story – I met Michael in Adelaide many, many years ago. It was in the mid-90s and it was at some show, and I was backstage because I was working. Lifting things and moving things, essentially grunt work. So, I was loading something onto a trailer and it started to slip, and this middle-aged man helped me catch it and push it in. I had no idea who he was, even after he introduced himself as Michael. We chatted, and he asked if I wanted to be a muso. I told him no, I wanted to be a writer. He laughed, not unkindly, and said if I wrote the great Australian novel, I should send him a copy. I never did either. Not yet. But this news has rekindled my desire to get that book sold.