Australia’s summer is well known as the silly season. The weather is good, there are plenty of public holidays, and it’s a ripe time for barbecues, festivals and hedonistic indulgence. But temperatures can also be harsh, people get sweaty and bushfires are common. Relief comes via downing a cold beer or plunging into the surf. The soundtrack to all this is unquestionably Aussie rock: impassioned men singing about sex, and booze. Indeed, nothing defines the Australian summer quite like Aussie rock. Here are some of the anthems that pay tribute to the culture of the lucky country.
It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll), AC/DC
The film clip to this classic Aussie pub tune was shot on a beautiful summer’s day in 1976. The lads in the band, looking young and wild, are playing the song on the back of a flatbed truck as it drives up Swanston Street in Melbourne’s CBD. It’s a tune that goes to the core of the Australian work ethic while still managing to glorify the pure outlaw spirit of rock ’n’ roll. Released in 1975, back when Bon Scott was at the helm of AC/DC, this track chronicles: “Gettin’ robbed, gettin’ stoned, gettin’ beat up, broken boned / Gettin’ had, gettin’ took, I tell you folks, it’s harder than it looks.” The lyrics are about the hardships of a touring band. It has a party vibe, but it’s also a nod to the quintessential Aussie battler.
Stories of Me, Paul Kelly
This one’s a sad, booze-soaked ballad about getting so drunk you can’t remember what you did the night before, and it’s one of Paul Kelly’s many great fables. Stories of Me charts the demise of a man whose wife has left him and his resulting reputation for getting blackout drunk. “I woke up in a stranger’s bed, wondering about the things she said to me / These stories of me.” He laments the pain of addiction while offering a slice of empathy for this hopeless everyman, who you feel like you might have met at the pub once or twice.
Power and the Passion Midnight Oil
Peter Garrett had a gift for depicting iconic Australian imagery: “Sunburnt faces around, with skin so brown / Smiling zinc cream and crowds, Sundays the beach, never a cloud.” But Power and the Passion wasn’t just an ode to Australia, it was a critique of the Americanisation of our culture. The song warns against Big Macs and Uncle Sam and our own cultural apathy. Hands down the most political Aussie rock band in Australian history, Midnight Oil managed to captivate the mainstream audience while putting forth interesting and sometimes complex political and cultural ideas.
For a Girl Goons of Doom
There’s probably no band that better encompasses the vibe of Aussie summer better than the Goons of Doom. Comprised of a bunch of hard-partying, sunburnt surfers from Sydney who are usually taking the piss, they’ve got more than a decade’s worth of hilarious and irreverent lyrics to make you laugh. “I’m the only selfish cunt that never compliments your hair / But look around, my love, you’ll always find me there.” For a Girl is a tongue-in-cheek love song about destroying your liver, smoking ciggies and being a fuck-up (but a loyal one).