50coverTen years ago, during the winter of 2007 we celebrated the 50th printed issue of the national quarterly Australian Musician magazine with a very special feature; the 50 Most Significant Moments in Australian Pop/Rock history. Holed up in a pub and armed with nothing but a blackboard and two boxes of chalk, we had gathered a group of respected music scribes and representatives of the Australian Music Association (publisher of Australian Musician) to decide what the 50 most significant moments should be.

The panel included:  Ian McFarlane (Writer, author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop), Jeff Jenkins (Writer, author, TV music critic), Craig Kamber (Writer, film maker, former record company A&R), the late, great Ed Nimmervoll (Writer, author, music historian, founder of Juke magazine), Christie Eliezer (Writer, author, former editor Juke, Australian correspondent for Billboard magazine), Rob Walker (President of the Australian Music Association and Australian Musician co-founder), Ian Harvey  (CEO of the Australian Music Association at the time), and myself, Greg Phillips (Editor of Australian Musician magazine). The results were published in the 50th issue which was distributed in June 2007 and created quite a stir.

The panel had decided that the MOST significant moment in Australian pop/rock history was the day in 1963 that teenagers George Young and Harry Vanda had met each other in the Villawood (NSW) migrant hostel. Had that meeting not occurred, The Easybeats, AC/DC, Albert Productions and many other notable Australian acts may not have existed.  While many of the top ten moments we presented could have been number one, the fact that Vanda and Young were so influential in creating an international profile for Australian music made us want to place that moment at the top.


The 2007 panel: (LtoR) Rob Walker, Ian Harvey, Greg Phillips, Ian McFarlane, Jeff Jenkins, Craig Kamber, Ed Nimmervoll, Christie Eliezer.

The Age promoted the issue on their front cover banner. The Herald Sun did a major piece and radio and TV ran with it too. As with any list, everybody had an opinion. Some questioned the make up of the voting panel. Why wasn’t this music journalist or that music personality involved? What about this band? Have you forgotten the contribution of these people? Of course many failed to comprehend the brief. We were deciding upon ‘moments’, not career-long achievements. These were specific points in time which were significant to our music history.

This was all back in 2007 and many significant moments have occurred since which may or may not have warranted inclusion in such a list. The Sound Relief gigs, Gotye’s international success and the SLAM rally come to mind immediately. Ten years on from the issue, we went back to some of the people involved in the 50th issue to see if they still stood by the results and asked if in their mind, anything significant has recently happened which deserves acknowledgement.

vandayoungstudioFor the record, the top ten was voted as:
1. When Harry Vanda Met George Young
2. Arrival of Countdown TV show
3. Men At Work – #1 in USA and UK at same time
4. The release of The Saints, I’m Stranded single
5. Midnight Oil’s Olympic Sorry
6. Skyhooks release Living in the 70s and 6 songs are banned
7. Lee Gordon. Toured Australia with US rock legends
8. Creation of Mushroom records
9. Silverchair. Every album goes to number #1
10. Big Day Out goes National

For the full 50 significant moments, explanations and connected interviews etc click here

Respected author and music scribe Jeff Jenkins has thought long and hard about the list and rather than comment on specifics of the original Australian Musician list, has supplied us with his own up to the minute 60 significant moments. Not surprisingly, Jenkins, who officially ghost wrote Molly Meldrum’s biography, has placed the start of the Countdown television show as the number one most significant moment in Australian pop/rock history. The panel had the arrival of Countdown at #2. “It created stars and made young kids all over Australia want to be stars,” said Jeff. In fact so significant does Jeff believe the show to have been that he also placed the closing of the show at number 10 on his list. (Jeff’s own list of the 60 most significant moments in Australian pop/rock can be seen at the end of this article.)

Inxs-Kick-FrontalChristie Eliezer, former editor of long running rock weekly Juke and now an acclaimed freelance music scribe has mulled over the original list too and believes there are a couple of entrants that perhaps weren’t as worthy as first thought. For instance, the short personal relationship of INXS frontman and singer Kylie Minogue was listed at number 25 on the basis that Michael had a career-changing affect on Kylie’s image and sound. On reflection, he questions if that was such a significant moment in the context of Australian music history. Australian Music Association CEO at the time and fellow panel member Ian Harvey agrees that we may have misrepresented Kylie. “She made the list only in relation to Michael Hutchence,” said Ian. “I think now a decade on that she deserves a solo nomination in which the relationship with Hutchence is just a chapter.”

jukeEliezer also suggests that rather than the American chart success of INXS’ Kick album being their most noteworthy moment, even more significant was the triumph of the single What You Need, as it marked the first time in the USA that a white rock band began to attract such large numbers of Afro-Americans to their shows. Christie also wanted to acknowledge the contribution of both RAM and Juke magazines, periodical rock publications, pre-internet  which brought music news to the nation. Go-Set, the precursor to Juke and Ram was listed but not the popular Melbourne and Sydney produced national periodicals.The closing of those could easily be hailed as significant. Juke ran for 18 years and most of us on the panel were involved in it. Christie was a long-time editor of Juke, which became a career launching pad for many significant Australian music writers. As for moments post-2007, he puts forward the achievements of The Avalanches, the influence of TV talent shows like The Voice and online sensations such as Troye Sivan as possible topics of consideration.

Soon after the release of the issue, Kathy McCabe of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was quick to point out the lack of female presence in the results and also the fact that no females were invited to sit on the panel. In response, we decided to dedicate the entire Summer issue of Australian Musician that year to female musicians. (Clare Bowditch guest edited and all stories were focused on female artists, all written by females, including all of the gear reviews and we called it the Ms Musician Edition. But that’s another story in itself). I do recall that the panel discussed many female artists on the night for possible inclusion in the list but it was nailing down a ‘moment’ as opposed to general acknowledgement of career success which proved to be a hurdle.

Author of The Encylopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (which has recently been updated) Ian McFarlane is quite at peace with the list of moments which were arrived at on the night.
“Given the initial brief, I think it was a decent representation of what we set out to document,” he said on reflection. “The list does indeed include 50 significant moments in Australian pop and rock history but let’s not forget that it was a list of its time and place. Any list of this type is never set in stone, it should remain flexible, people should question its basis, intent, scope and content. If we took on the same challenge now, with a revised viewpoint and criteria, it would provide a completely different result. To have given a more balanced representation of female artists on the list would have been beneficial. The criticism was pertinent and had there been female representation on the voting panel the result could have been better, certainly it would have been more balanced.”


In regard to momentous occasions in music since 2007, McFarlane believes that there are many. Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ topping the charts in more than 20 countries is his main declaration but also requiring a nod is the accompanying film clip by Natasha Pincus, which has racked up over 900 million (and rising) views on YouTube. “Then there’s Tina Arena becoming the first Australian to be awarded the National Order of Merit (Ordre National du Mérite) for her contribution to French culture (2008). Sia co-writing the international #1 hit ‘Diamonds’ for Rihanna (2012). Empire of the Sun’s ‘Walking on a Dream’ being selected for use in the 2016 TV commercial for Honda Civic in the US. Dami Im placing second, singing ‘Sound of Silence’, in the final of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. The staging of the simultaneous Sound Relief benefit concerts (one in Melbourne, one in Sydney) on 14 March 2009, for the victims of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires. The Melbourne segment was co-headlined by the reformed Midnight Oil, Hunters & Collectors and Split Enz while the Sydney event was headed by Barry Gibb and Olivia Newton-John and Icehouse.”

Both Christie Eliezer and Jeff Jenkins believe that the beginning of the Australian owned Maton Guitar company also deserved a higher position than the #54 it ended up with in 2007. “Bill May made a guitar in his Thornbury garage and now it’s played all around the world,” said Jeff Jenkins. On reflection, Christie believes that Little River Band and Air Supply also deserved higher rankings for their international success.

Rob Walker, who is the current Australian Music Association (publisher of Australian Musician) executive officer and was one of the panelists on the night, is undecided as to whether anything particularly important was missed on the list or not but did have this to say.
“Whether or not we left anything out of the list or not, you would be forgiven I think by those who may have missed out. I know that those who were included were thrilled, as we were by the public and media reaction to it, ” said Rob. “It was also great to see a music related story on the front pages of our newspapers. The recognition of the 50 most significant moments seems to have carried as much importance as the moments themselves.”

Whatever your opinion on the 50 moments Australian Musician presented back in 2007, it’s important to place the decisions made in context. As some of our panelists mentioned, it was a list of its time, particularly in relation to the male artist domination.
“We need to acknowledge that the music industry has been for most of its existence a male dominated one,” said then AMA CEO Ian Harvey. “So if our historic list leans toward the masculine, then it simply reflects that fact.  A number of our items on the original list were gender neutral – the Aria chart, Hoadleys Battle of the Bands, the record ban are three of 13 gender neutral nominations.  So they don’t count.  Of the remaining 37 nominations the split is 31:6 in favour of male acts or individuals, so clearly a male bias.”

Would similar results prevail if the same task was undertaken in 2017 with a panel made up of equal number of males, females and different age and cultural representation? Maybe someone else would like to give that a try?

Greg Phillips, editor Australian Musician


For the full 50 significant moments and connected interviews etc click here

I’d also like to acknowledge the contribution of pioneering music journalist Ed Nimmervoll who passed away in 2014.

Here’s Jeff Jenkins own 60 significant moments, which he kindly supplied and takes into consideration events post-2007
1. Start of Countdown (1974). The start of the modern industry. It created stars and made young kids all over Australia want to be stars.
2. Release of Skyhooks’ Living In The 70s (1974). Suddenly a pursuit that had been a glorified hobby became big business with a multi-platinum monster.
3. Johnny O’Keefe releases Wild One (1958). Our first rock anthem.
4. The start of Mushroom Records (1972). Record labels come and go, but this label survived, promoting Australian talent, from Skyhooks to Kylie.
5. triple j goes national (1990s). Suddenly kids in the country got to hear alternative music.
6. Men At Work hit number one in the US (1982). They had two number one singles plus a debut album that spent 15 weeks at number one in the US.
7. The start of Go-Set (1966). The paper that introduced Molly, and was the forerunner of Juke, RAM and today’s street press.
8. Gotye releases Somebody That I Used To Know (2011). The little song that conquered the world. The first Aussie chart-topper in the US in 12 years, it won a Grammy for Record of the Year and was 2012’s biggest-selling single in the US and UK.
9. Sunbury (1972). Our Woodstock.
10. The end of Countdown (1987). The end of an era.
11. The Easybeats release Friday On My Mind (1966). Our first international rock anthem, loved by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Gene Simmons and David Bowie.
12. 2UE starts Top 40 radio (1958). Melbourne’s Stan Rofe was “The Man”, but Top 40 radio started in Sydney in March 1958.
13. The first national chart (1966). Ed Nimmervoll, the doyen of Australian music journalists, pioneered the first national chart in Go-Set in October 1966.
14. Col Joye discovers the Bee Gees (1961). Col took them to Sydney, got them on Bandstand, and convinced Festival Records to sign them. And then they conquered the world.
15. The death of Bon Scott (1980). On the verge of AC/DC’s greatest success, we lost a rock god.
16. Normie Rowe goes to Vietnam (1969). Pop meets politics. Our first pop king is conscripted.
17. The Big Day Out (1992). The Sunbury for Generations X and Y.
18. Archie Roach releases Took The Children Away (1990). Eighteen years before Kevin Rudd said sorry on behalf of the nation, Archie’s song gave a voice to the Stolen Generations.
19. The Seekers go to number one in the UK (1965). The first Australian-based act to top the UK charts.
20. The SLAM Rally (2010). Thousands of Melbourne music fans took to the streets to show how much they wanted to save live Australian music.
21. The Innocent Criminals/Silverchair win SBS’ nomad competition (1994). Teen sensations who inspired teens everywhere to start a band.
22. The start of Australian Idol (2003). Love it or loathe it, it created stars and led to The Voice and The X Factor.
23. Johnny Farnham releases Sadie (1967). The novelty song that launched a phenomenon.
24. John Farnham releases Whispering Jack (1986). The greatest Australian comeback ever.
25. Kylie releases Locomotion (1987). The birth of an international icon.
26. The first ARIA Awards (1987). Serious, legitimate awards recognising purely local talent.
27. The Saints release (I’m) Stranded (1976). In the same month that Sherbet’s Howzat entered the UK charts, and the Bee Gees’ You Should Be Dancing went to number one in the US, this Brisbane band pioneered punk.
28. Helen Reddy releases I Am Woman (1972). The world’s feminist anthem was written by a woman who became the first Australian to win a Grammy (where she thanked God, “because She makes everything possible”).
29. Skyhooks versus Sherbet (1975). Our version of the Stones versus The Beatles.
30. The death of Michael Hutchence (1997). Our first international rock god.
31. Daddy Cool release Eagle Rock (1971). “Now listen!” A timeless song.
32. Little River Band release Diamantina Cocktail (1977). The first Aussie band to go gold in the US. As drummer Derek Pellicci said, LRB created “a four-lane highway right across to America for other acts to follow”.
33. Cold Chisel trash the Countdown set (1981) It ranks alongside Iggy Pop’s appearance and Molly’s Prince Charles interview as Countdown’s greatest live moment.
34. INXS release Kick (1987). The album that featured four US Top 10 singles.
35. Russell Morris releases The Real Thing (1969). Molly’s landmark production still sounds great.
36. Olivia Newton-John stars in Grease (1978). At the end of the ’70s, every young girl wanted to be Olivia Newton-John.
37. Savage Garden go to number one in America (1998). Only two Australian-based acts (Men At Work and Savage Garden) have had two number one singles in the US.
38. Joe Dolce releases Shaddap You Face (1980). The greatest  Australian One Hit Wonder of all time.
39. Yothu Yindi hit the Top 10 with Treaty (1991). Like Michael Long in the AFL, Yothu Yindi’s success meant more than just chart statistics.
40. Lillian Roxon releases her rock encyclopedia (1969). The world’s first rock encyclopedia was written by an Australian woman.
41. Hilltop Hoods release The Hard Road (2006). The first homegrown hip hop album to top the charts.
42. Sister Janet Mead releases The Lord’s Prayer (1974). Our first million-seller in the US.
43. Ratcat hit number one (1991). It was our Nirvana story. The alternative had become the mainstream.
44. Midnight Oil’s “Sorry” suits at the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony (2000). Has there been a more powerful statement on a big stage?
45. Australian Made tour (1986/87). It wasn’t a huge success, but it showed that an all-Australian festival could work.
46. Johnny O’Keefe’s first US tour (1959). It didn’t work, but J O’K was a trailblazer who believed that Australian rock was good enough to conquer the world.
47. The start of Bandstand (1958). Sure, it was a little “square”, but it helped break acts such as Col Joye and the Bee Gees.
48. Delta Goodrem releases the Innocent Eyes album (2003). The first album by a local woman to sell one million copies in Australia.
49. Cold Chisel release Khe Sanh (1978). It didn’t crack the Top 40 until 33 years later, but it was instantly an unofficial national anthem.
50. The start of triple j’s Hottest 100 (1989). Sure, they stole the idea from Brisbane’s 4ZZZ, but triple j turned it into a phenomenon and an Australia Day tradition.
51. Courtney Barnett releases Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015). The most influential Aussie album of the 2000s so far.
52. Powderfinger’s radio breakthrough with Pick You Up (1996). The ’finger’s first album bombed. They desperately needed a hit and they got it.
53. Malcolm Young leaves AC/DC (2014). It always seemed to be Malcolm’s band and when he left, we knew it would never be the same again.
54. Peter Garrett runs for Parliament (1984). The Oils showed that pop and politics could mix. And 20 years before he entered parliament, Peter Garrett was almost elected to the Senate, representing the Nuclear Disarmament Party.
55. Hey Hey It’s Saturday moves to Saturday nights (1984). It was a comedy show, but it also sold lots of records.
56. The Angels release Face To Face (1978). Producer Mark Opitz discovers the “sophisto-punk” nick-nicks sound and The Angels deliver a rock classic that goes five times platinum.
57. The start of Maton guitars (1946). Bill May made a guitar in his Thornbury garage. And now it’s played all around the world.
58. Lynne Randell goes on the road with The Monkees and Jimi Hendrix (1967). It was the biggest tour in the US in the summer of ’67, and the support act was a 17-year-old from Melbourne.
59. The “changing of the guard” at the 1994 ARIA Awards, with The Cruel Sea and You Am I. “Alternative” music had arrived.
60. ARIA starts the Hall of Fame (1988). If we don’t respect the past, we won’t have a future.


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