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Top Ten – Australian Music Videos

Australian Music Videos

The early days of music video in Australia bore some shoddy, shoddy home-produced efforts. Essentially labours of love from minimal means designed to get the message across. The big budget video clip was not the domain of the average Australian band, so being resourceful and imaginative was the way to overcome. The 80’s were a fertile ground for the pop video and there are just so many iconic and memorable clips out there languishing in the depths of Youtube that need to see light of day once more.

This selection is largely indebted to that period of time (give or take a clip or two that managed to sneak in), chosen from those that still remain ingrained in my consciousness over the years. Each one fills their own sub-genre niche from the chaotic and twisted to the cut and scripted, with nearly everything fitting inbetween. There was a brief moment of soliciting suggestions for this, but “Bop Girl” by Pat Wilson (solely for the presence of a young Nicole Kidman) by Webcuts voice of the airwaves, Chris Berkley, quickly put an end to that. Look it up if you dare.

Note: A few of my initial selections were denied due to copyright or had been taken down. Boo.

This video has grown in legend over the years, if only for the image of Nick Cave cavorting around in a nappy with “porca dio” inscribed on his chest. It’s the result of too many drugs, art students with 16mm cameras and an invitation to all local Melbourne lunatics to partake in the festivities. The band perform in a circus tent, Nick Cave the pole swinging ringleader to the carnival of fire-breathers and sideshow freaks assembled outside. You can catch random glimpses of the band in complete bemusement at the chaos around them with Cave seemingly in his element.

INXS’ “Need You Tonight” tries the hard sell and succeeds in spades. Sharply edited with a slick mix of overlapping colour and black and white studio setups feature the band at their worldwide peak. Their stylist should be commended as everybody looks super cool in an late 80’s cropped leather jacket and ripped 501’s way. Even the geeky looking sax player makes it through this one relatively unscathed. And what a song. Michael Hutchence was no lyrical genius but he was a smooth talker who knew how to get his point across, be it “Just Keep Walking”, “Don’t Change” or “Need You Tonight”, he was persuasive to a fault. You need me tonight, Michael? I’ll be right over.

3. ESKIMO JOE – LIAR (2001)
It occasionally pains me to write about a band I have no interest in discussing, and if it weren’t for this masterful treatment for the song, Eskimo Joe could happily go and do what they do, whatever it is, as far as away from me as possible and they can take that high-pitched whine with them. The song is ok, I’ll grant Eskimo Joe that, but the clip is real Heart of Darkness stuff with a killer payoff. Sometimes a music video doesn’t require musical instruments in view to remind you what’s being sold here. If only all clips engaged the viewer from the start like this one, I’d have never left the couch.

This clip was spoken about in more detail here, but essentially it’s a simple case of art fags in army fatigues. Was this the first music video to be filmed in 3D? I think that was the hype at the time. I still dig it. This and the INXS video remind of a time when being in a band was both cool and full of adventure. It’s definitely one way to endear yourself to Americans and get your records released there when you hand them this sneering diatribe against the then-President Ronald Reagan and American politics. A small note, as we progress you’ll notice a definite trend of video clips either being filmed at the beach or the local tip. Australia – a country of scenic locations.

You want a clichéd new wave 80’s clip? You got it. Strong backlighting, swimming pools, white sports jackets and oddly positioned Greek statues? – look no further. Mondo Rock were channelling The Cars something dreadful with this tune, from the muted guitar intro right through to the keyboard driven chorus. The song itself is a gem, written by vocalist Ross Wilson (husband of “Bop Girl” Pat Wilson, no less) but for some reason I believed it to be penned by bespectacled guitarist Eric McCusker (he who levitates in water) as a jealous dig at Wilson, which would’ve definitely made for a better story.

About the Author:

Craig Smith
Continues his music photography and writing at


  1. Avatar
    Zarquon August 8, 2009 at 9:46 am
  2. Avatar
    Caleb August 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    My turn.

    1. TISM – “Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me” (2003)

    Better known for their lyrics than videos TISM nevertheless had several clips that came close to approximating the general live absurdity and tar black humour of the band including “Saturday Night Palsy”, “Defecate on My Face” and “Greg, the Stop Sign”. This track would be TISM’s swan song, and the viral success of this video, which was the chosen from a competition (a.k.a. get the fans to do the work for you), led to a surprise hit in Germany and Sweden. The most cuddly TISM got that’s for sure.

    2. UNDERGROUND LOVERS – “Losin’ It” (1994)

    The Underground Lovers were not exactly the most photogenic of bands but the clip for “Losin’ It” both disguised the UL’s weaknesses and played to their strengths. A bright yellow studio, a horde of children clutching soft toys, the prominence of keyboardist/guitarist Phillipa Nill and having lead Lover, and bear of a man, Vincent Giarusso clutching a teddy bear all gelled with the smooth bass, silky synth and danceable drums of the song.

    3. THE CHURCH – “Under the Milky Way” (1987)

    A great example of meshing an arty performance video with a concept style The Church’s moody psychedelic folk-rock is matched with projections, bold colour changes and a bizarre New York beatnik couple (why exactly is she in a picture frame?). The eyeball that pops out of the raw egg freaked me out twenty years ago and is still something of a shock.

    4. PAINTERS & DOCKERS – “Die Yuppie Die” (1987)

    Like TISM fellow Melbourne act Painters & Dockers were known better for their gigs than records but two singles released in 1987 garnered notoriety. “Nude School” was their best known song, and featured the seven lads getting down and dirty in a piggery but in the interests of good taste “Die Yuppie Die” filmed in the Melbourne CBD at the height of the decade of greed, not long before the ’87 stock market crash, should be your first port of call.

    5. SEVERED HEADS – “Dead Eyes Opened (Remix)” (1993)

    A surprise top twenty hit, a remix of “Dead Eyes Opened” by pioneering Australian electronic act Severed Heads is masterstroke of monochromatic, seizure inducing images. As chief Head Tom Ellard writes on YouTube “The clip was purposefully dirty, strobed and harsh. I wanted minimum colour. ” Pass me the panadol.

    6. YOU AM I – “Berlin Chair” (1994)

    7. THE PANICS – “Don’t Fight It” (2007)

    8. MIDNIGHT OIL – “Blue Sky Mine” (1990)

    9. HUNTERS & COLLECTORS – “Turn a Blind Eye” (1990)

    10. HOODOO GURUS – “What’s My Scene” (1987)

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