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Top Ten – Australian Music Videos

Top Ten Australian Music Videos

The countdown continues…

I know you’re gonna ask, and the answer is “souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’equipage” which means “often, to amuse themselves, the men of the crew”, as stolen from Charles Baudelaire’s poem “The Albatross”. If this doesn’t convince you the Hunters played the pretentious art school card in the early days, I don’t know what will. Tribal sounding and obtuse, their influences ran against the grain of the post-punk/new wave crowd. “Talking to a Stranger” is the key track of that period and this long form clip is as enduring as it is mysterious. Filmed by Australian director Richard Lowenstein, it has that dusty, post-apocalyptic Mad Max feel about it, and that’s what Hunters and Collectors sounded like back then, before they became the archetypal pub rock band fondly remembered for the saccharine ballad “Throw Your Arms Around Me”.

You can just picture the treatment – ‘You wake up and go about your day and we film you’. Simple but effective. The song is no great shakes, but it’s an potent antidote to the “look at me! look at me!” music video, and suggests that on any given day a musician is most likely to be found arseing about at home watching television rather than actually doing anything useful. I love the fact that the first thing that vocalist/guitarist Adalita Srsen does when she gets out of bed is pull on a pair of jeans. Not track pants, rugby shorts, or worn out pyjama bottoms but dirty jeans straight off the floor from the night before. Now there goes someone who speaks my language.

Mental as Anything always reminded me of an Australian version of Madness due to the general oddball nature of their video clips and Greedy Smith’s passing resemblance to Madness’ Suggs. The Mentals had the better songs though and I will brook no further argument. This clip still makes me smile. Worthy of inclusion for the hilarious footage of guitarist Reg Mombassa solo-ing on a rock ledge. It’s a clichéd music video set-up, but in the Mentals’ hands it becomes more Benny Hill than Bon Jovi. There’s so much to love about this clip, Martin Plaza’s lyrics, the fake lovers tiff, Plaza’s Elvis warble on “it’s enough to make me cry” and the band playing on a beach promenade (the beach again, I told you!) to a bunch of irritating kids.

Not one of Cold Chisel’s more memorable tunes, but the video clip is priceless for its snapshot of inner city nightlife in the 80’s. Filmed around Kings Cross and Darlinghurst in Sydney, “Saturday Night” documents an average night in the Cross, when walking down the main drag was akin to taking your life in your hands, but somehow half-way through vocalist Jimmy Barnes takes a wrong turn and walks straight into the middle of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras… whoops! Once the favoured home of crime syndicates, junkies, bikers, prostitutes and the homeless, Kings Cross has long since been sanitised and remodelled but the allure still remains. Cold Chisel unknowingly reminds us of how it once used to be.

10. SPY VS SPY – ONE OF A KIND (1984)
My favourite ‘what the fuck is going on here?’ clip. The twitching guys in tie-dyed jumpsuits wearing gas masks weirded me out a little, but the rolling guitar/bass riff and dub reggae drift was reminiscent of a starker version of The Police without the grating voice of Sting. One of the great socio-political bands of the time (songs ranged from condemning credit cards to the murder of police informant Sallie-Anne Huckstepp) the Spies never really got the same recognition as say, Midnight Oil, who were pushing the same envelope, but where the Oils were railing against uranium mining and land rights, the Spies covered everything else. It’s a broad generalisation I know, but I’m tired and I’ve had enough….

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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