Last week was Australia Day and I posted a few songs from New Zealand to commemorate the day. Today is Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s public holiday, so here are a few tunes from their Antipodean neighbours. Back in 1966, Sydney’s Easybeats were the first Australian band to earn an international hit with the still brilliant Friday on My Mind. Also from Sydney, Mental As Anything made the Top Ten in several European counties in 1985 with Live It Up from the soundtrack of Crocodile Dundee. Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue were appealing to very different audiences during the eighties, so it was a big surprise when the two collaborated on Cave’s Murder Ballads album in 1996. It was even more surprising that Where the Wild Roses Grow was so good. Darren Hanlon isn’t terribly well known outside his native country, but he has at least one big fan in my friend John and a smaller one in me. We both saw him about a decade ago when he supported Billy Bragg in Galway (I think). His own songs are lyrically witty and melodic, but I’ve chosen his cover of a song from Rumours
My own particular favourite Australian act is The Go-Betweens, who formed in Brisbane in 1977. Cattle and Cane appeared on the band’s second album, Before Hollywood, in 1983 and the single made the Independent charts in England, but not in Australia. Nevertheless, the song was chosen as one of the Top 30 Australasian Songs Ever by ARPA in 2001. Its nostalgic lyrics were penned by Grant McLennan, who also provides the vocals, and the music was written by Robert Forster. McLennan and Forster were essentially Australia’s answer to Lennon & MacCartney and both also released a number of solo albums. Lighting Fires opens McLennan’s second album Fireboy (1992), released a year after his collaboration with fellow Australian Steve Kilbey from The Church on their self-titled debut, Jack Frost. Sadly, Grant died from a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 48. Robert Forster also released a few solo albums and my favourite of his is I Had a New York Girlfriend, a collection of covers from mainly North American artists. Echo Beach was originally performed by Canada’s Martha & the Muffins, so why not return in a few months to celebrate their national holiday?