April 15, 2012 in Dag

A musical interlude – 5 great songs about Melbourne

Today I thought I might change the mood a bit here at Dag-Lit Central. Take a bit of a break from talking about writing, and talk a bit about music instead. After all, music is a massive inspiration to me, both in my writing and in my life in general.

One of the great things about living in a city like Melbourne is that it’s been one of the main centres for music here in Australia. When big names tour, you know they’re going to come here. But, more importantly, the city has generated a musical culture of its own. There have been many fantastic musicians and bands that have made Melbourne their home. As a result, there are now lots of great songs about Melbourne too.

So we may not quite be up there with New York or New Orleans or London or Paris, but the culture of music is still going strong here. There’s a strong sense of place for the musicians here, and you can hear it in a lot of the songs they write.

Hopefully this selection will demonstrate some of the great songs that this city has inspired.

1. From St Kilda to Kings Cross – Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly is the poet laureate of Australian music. This is his signature song, the one that first brought him to attention way back in the ’80s. You’ve gotta love a song that compares the “entertainment precincts” of Melbourne and Sydney, especially when he comes to the conclusion that he would happily swap Sydney Harbour for St Kilda Esplanade.


2. Four Seasons in One Day – Crowded House

I know, the Finn brothers are really Kiwis. But the Crowdies always felt like an Australian band, and more particularly, a Melbourne band. They were based here during their most successful period in the late ’80s. And as for this song – ignore the fact that the performance in the clip was in Sydney (at their original farewell concert). Four seasons in one day – where else could they be possibly be singing about.


3. Roaring Days – Weddings, Parties, Anything

The Weddos were a true Melbourne institution. They managed to combine rock, punk, country, and traditional Australian folk balladry. But mainly, they were about a foot-stomping good time. Their Christmas shows were especially legendary. Roaring Days is a great drinking song. It starts off with the line “Trams pass me out on St Kilda Road”. I work on St Kilda Road. I get to the office on a tram. Gotta love it.


PS – Squeezebox Wally is a bit hard to see in the clip, hidden off to the right, so let me confirm that is an accordion solo after the second chorus.


4. January Rain – Hunters and Collectors

How good were the Hunnas! They started out as a kind of post-punk art-rock noise collective and evolved into an amazing kick-arse live band. When their bassist hit a groove and their brass section (the horns of contempt) started to blow, they went off to another place entirely.

This song has the band in more reflective mode, singing about their home city. Some trivia for music nerds – Hunnas vocalist Mark Seymour is the brother of Crowded House bass player Nick Seymour. And I’ve seen him a couple of times in the local supermarket.


A bit disappointed not to find a live clip for this. If you want to see the Hunnas doing what they did best, check out these performances of classics Say Goodbye and Throw Your Arms Around Me.


5. Bolte and Dunstan Talk Youth – Augie March

One of the joys of living in a city with a strong music culture is knowing about the little gems that nobody else does. You want them to make it big because they’re so good they deserve to. But you also kind of want to keep them as your own little secret. Augie March were a bit like that. At one stage, they looked like they were poised to take on the world, but then… It certainly doesn’t diminish their greatness. I love this song, about a drunk stumbling around the gardens behind the State Parliament and seeing the statues of former Premiers – it name-checks a bunch of Melbourne landmarks, particularly one of our oddest, the cottage where Captain Cook didn’t actually live (the discovers’s cottage).


Again, apologies for lack of a live clip. Clips of the Augies are a bit light on the ground. If you’d like a more personal view, check out this one of them doing their signature song, One Crowded Hour.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little musical tour of my home town. I’m sure you also have your favourite acts, who are a bit extra-special because they talk to and about the places where you are.

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