BEST SONGS ABOUT US

  1. ‘Down Under’, Men at Work (1982) The narrator, a backpacker, fi nds Australia is so fashionable in Europe that a man in Brussels gave him a Vegemite sandwich. He mocks the stereotype of a land where ‘women glow’ and ‘men chunder’.
  2. ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’, Rolf Harris (1960) A dying stockman gives instructions to his friends, such as minding his platypus duck, Bill, and tanning his hide when he’s died, Clyde. Rolf Harris now says he is ashamed of the original version, because it contained this verse: ‘Let me Abos go loose, Bruce. Let me Abos go loose. They’re of no further use, Bruce. Let me Abos go loose.’
  3. ‘Waltzing Matilda’, AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1895) A wanderer (swagman) steals a sheep (jumbuck) and, in trying to escape the police (troopers), drowns in a pond (billabong), ultimately returning as a ghost to ask ‘Who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?’ A matilda is a backpack.
  4. ‘I Still Call Australia Home’, Peter Allen (1980) The narrator has been to many exciting places but misses his own country. Sometimes parodied as ‘I still call Australia collect’, it was adopted as an advertising jingle for Qantas.
  5. ‘The Sounds of Then’, Gangajang (1985) The narrator reminisces about sitting on a patio watching the lightning over the cane fields and breathing the humidity. Then he laughs and thinks, ‘This is Australia’.
  6. ‘Shaddup You Face’, Joe Dolce (1981) An immigrant recalls his mother’s irritation when he expresses nostalgia for his homeland. She tells him Australia is not so bad, in fact ‘it’s a-nice-a-place’.
  7. ‘I am (you are, we are) Australian’, Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton (1987) The narrator outlines the many different backgrounds of this country’s residents—Aboriginal, convict, farmer, immigrant—and concludes that we share a dream and sing with one voice.
  8. ‘The Pub With No Beer’, Gordon Parsons and Slim Dusty (1957) Various outback characters—stockman, boss, swagman, blacksmith—remark that there is nothing so morbid, lonesome or drear as a bar that can only offer wine and spirits.
  9. ‘Click Go the Shears’, traditional (1800s) The narrator tells how an old man beats ‘the ringer’ (the fastest shearer) in removing the wool from a ‘bare bellied ewe’, and concludes, ‘He works hard, he drinks hard, and goes to hell at last’.
  10. ‘Up There Cazaly’, Mike Brady (1979) The song honours Roy Cazaly, a 1930s Melbourne footballer with a talent for leaping. The crowd urges him to fly like an angel and get in there and fi ght.
  11. ‘Come On Aussie, Come On’, Mojo advertising agency (1979) Originally written to promote Channel 9’s coverage of cricket in 1979, the song names famous cricketers and boasts of the fitness of the Australian team.
  12. Beds are Burning’, Midnight Oil (1986) The narrator argues that it is time to give Aboriginal people their land back, or at least pay rent, because it belongs to them. Midnight Oil’s ‘The Power and the Passion’, discussing whether Australia has too much sun and too much Uncle Sam, could be added to this list as well.
  13. ‘Solid Rock’, Goanna (1982) The narrator reminds white Australians they are standing on sacred ground, controlled historically by white man, white law and white gun.
  14. ‘Neighbours’, Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch (1986) The theme to the television soap suggests that with a little understanding, suburban residents can become friends.
  15. ‘Botany Bay’, traditional (late 1700s) With a bizarre chorus of ‘tooral-li ooral-li addity’, a convicted pickpocket farewells England and anticipates seven years in Sydney. He concludes, ‘Come all you young dukies and duchesses, take warning by what I do say. Mind that all is your own as you touchesses, or you’ll join us in Botany Bay.’
  16. ‘I’ve Been Everywhere, Man’, Geoff Mack (1962) The narrator boasts of his travel experiences in a list beginning with Tullamore, Seymour, Lismore and Mooloolaba. It was later parodied by Norman Gunston, who listed only Wollongong and Dapto.
  17. ‘True Blue’, John Williamson (1982) The narrator wonders what it means to be Australian and whether traditional values, such as standing by a mate, would disappear if they sell us out like sponge cake.
  18. ‘My Island Home’, Neil Murray (1985) The narrator, stuck in the desert (or, in the Christine Anu version, the city), recalls growing up by the sea among the salt water people.
  19. ‘Australiana’, Billy Birmingham, performed by Austen Tayshus (1983) The narrator makes puns of the names of his friends at a barbecue, as in Vegie might; Nulla bores; let’s go, Anna; Marie knows; my cossie, Oscar; he’ll lead you astray, Leana; and where can Marsu pee, Al?
  20. ‘Great Southern Land’, Icehouse (1989) The narrator describes a ‘prisoner island’ which was burned black by the sun and which walks alone with the ghost of time.