I thought that for this Australia Day (which is celebrated every January 26 down under), I’d link up with our recent Geeks of Doom theme of celebrating the 25th anniversary of some of the music and albums released during 1986. That year was a big one for Australian artists, with some key releases stamping their mark on the history of the Aussie music industry and the rock scene down under.
From Metal to Pop, from Traditional Alternative to Post-Punk, join me in a look back at some of the biggest and more memorable music releases from Australia 25 years ago in 1986.
First on the list for me is the grand and brutal debut release from Aussie metal heads, Mortal Sin. These guys were pretty much the first Aussie Thrash Band, an important achievement in and of itself, and they would go on to influence a whole slew of new generation Aussie metal heads. The cover feels like Dio or Kreator invaded an Aussie tourist magazine – but it’s awesome. The music is raw and brutal – a nice debut from our Aussie thrashers.
Post pop punk band The Saints had their commercial breakthrough album released in 1986. Entitled All Falls Day it would include the track “Just like Fire Would,” which would be the first opportunity the band to have music video airplay on MTV (this was in the day when Music Television was actually all music). Achieving success in America is almost like the Holy Grail for Aussie bands.
1986 would be the final year for Aussie rock icons Australian Crawl. The Final Wave is quite literally their farewell album, recorded live at their very last concert on the day after Australia Day in 1986. Fronted by James Reyne, the band became known for songs such as “Boys Light Up,” “Downhearted,” and “Reckless.”
Known as Angel City or The Angels From Angel City in the United States, The Angels were an aggressive hard rock band hailing from South Australia whose recordings had a dry edge to them. 1986 saw the release of their album Howling, which was highly successful in Australia. The release is mostly remembered for the band’s cover of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” which smashed the inferior pop dance crap out of the charts, and peaked into the top 10.
Nick Cave had a busy year in 1986, because this album was actually his second release for the year. The previous 1986 release, Kicking Against The Pricks was a covers album and (as in the case of his second ’86 album) was highly reviewed and praised by critics and followers of the REAL alternative music of the era. Cave was dealing with an aggressive and overpowering drug addiction at the time — and his turmoil with the needle reflects on this album.
This album became an instant classic upon release, and many of the songs on the album have since become synonymous and identifiable with Australian Culture. With frontman Peter Garrett, the Oils composed an album that was a wake-up call for many Aussies, with songs such as “Beds Are Burning” detailing the turmoil and struggles of the Aboriginal Australians. By the time the calendar clocked over into 1987, Midnight Oil‘s ’86 release reached number one on the national charts – and did very well internationally as well.
Another historic release, the debut of Crowded House would consolidate Neil Finn as a strong musical contributor to both the New Zealand and Aussie music scenes. Essentially, Crowded House could be considered an ‘ANZAC’ band: made up of members formerly of Split Enz from New Zealand and Australia, based in Australia, and heading overseas to record. Their first release had several hit singles, but is mostly remembered for the song “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
While Nick Seymour was enjoying his new-found success with Crowded House, brother Mark Seymour continued his journey with the determined band Hunters & Collectors. 1986 saw the release of their iconic Human Frailty album, which saw the debut of their most popular song “Throw Your Arms Around Me.” The song is referred to as a ballad, but has since become a song that thousands of Australians identify with, and is as culturally iconic as Cold Chisel’s “Khe Sanh” or Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning.”
The album that defined Aussie music in 1986 was this one. With pop/rock sensibilities, John Farnham needed an album to re-energize his solo career. His tenure as lead singer for Little River Band hadn’t been very well received (with the exception of the “Playing to Win” single), and he needed something special and significant to move on with. Featuring the iconic and memorable song “You’re The Voice,” the album propelled to the top of the charts and has become one of the most successful Australian albums of all time. You’re The Voice took on some of the popular We Are The World types of optimistic sentiments, and resonated very strongly with a young crowd of people hungry for new music as they were living in the closing down years of the Cold War. Hope and optimism were very high during this era, and this album not only reflects it, it embodies it.
This mandatory inclusion had to be here; otherwise Eve would have beaten me with a cricket bat [Perhaps with a baseball bat, as I wouldn’t know where to get a cricket bat. – Eve.] While it is essentially a compilation album, Who Made Who served two purposes: as a soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive and a chance for AC/DC to put out a couple of new songs. Along with the two new instrumentals, and the title track, were some of the band’s memorable hard rock tunes spanning their career. This was a closing chapter for AC/DC, as they were preparing to unleash their Blow Up Your Video and The Razor’s Edge albums in following years — albums which would be held in high esteem among their die-hard fans.
And so that’s it! A quick walk through some of the greatest Aussie releases from 1986. To my fellow Australian geeks out there, I hope you had a ripper Australia Day!