Xmas is here and at Aussie Sounds we love a list. We therefore got together and came up with what the festive season means to Australians. The cities empty as families congregate to celebrate the big day. Travelling by plane, train and car, dominates those days in December where people go vast distances to share the love. More than any other country, those trips can be vast and at times endlessly boring, so was well as a couple of classics, we have thrown in some alternatives to freak the parents out – Merry Xmas one and all… Enjoy X
#5 Amyl and the Sniffers – Hertz
Amy Taylor and Co smashed it at the Arias this year taking out Best Rock Album and Best Rock Group. Not a traditional festive song full of memories of Santa, this is a growl to the road trip. As she said when it was released, “‘Hertz’ is a daydream of wanting to go to the country/bush and see landscapes other than the city. It sounds like a pandemic song.”
The harsh brutality may not be to mum and Dad’s liking as they hurtle down the freeway, but the imagery is undeniably some of the Sniffers best work.
#4 King Stingray – Get Me Out
Another group that blasted the Arias this year, the Yolgu rock band infuse western surf-rock energy with Indigenous sounds and lyrics and they make the list for another road trip song.
Dripping with sonorous guitars and a sense of longing, it speaks to the love of country and home. Riding back to family underneath the wide-open skies, Get Me Out features the sound of an indigenous summer and an escape from the city. Perfect for winding down the windows and watching nature flow past, the combination of traditional language and English makes this an absolute beauty for those trying to get back home.
#3 AC/DC Mistress for Christmas
The year is 1990 and AC/DC released one of its seminal albums The Razors Edge. Featuring the hits “Thunderstruck” and “Are You Ready”, which reached #5 and #16 respectively on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, and “Moneytalks”, which peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, you could be excused for missing out on this barnstorming raid on the Xmas barbie.
Apart from Christmas bells and a festive narration at the beginning, Mistress for Christmas finds the band in fine form. Its solid rhythm section, Angus’ always brilliant guitar virtuosos and Johnson’s typical screaming vocals will get the Metal fans busting out the head banging at any gathering. Again not your average Xmas Carol but who cares? This is Australia and we love nothing more than cranking up the volume and letting it rip. Santa might even be booked for speeding with this one in the sleigh.
#2 Australian Crawl – Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Aussie Crawl as they are affectionally called lit up the Australian Rock scene for a seemingly brief moment in time but their legend lives on despite the loss of many members of the band. Founded by James Reyne (lead vocals/piano/harmonica), Brad Robinson (rhythm guitar), Paul Williams (bass), Simon Binks (lead guitar) and David Reyne (drums) in Melbourne in 1978, David Reyne soon left and was replaced by Bill McDonough. They were later joined by his brother Guy McDonough on vocals and rhythm guitar.
Identified themselves with social issues and shining a light on every day struggles, the triumph of their debut album Boys Light Up was always a difficult act to follow. In the middle of their ride to the public consciousness, they released Santa Claus is Back In Town. Reimagining the old classic with their typical verve, Christmas would never be the same without this bluesy rock rendition of the big man’s journey down under. Full of Australian imagery, this is a brilliant rocking outing for those that love the Crawl.
#1 Paul Kelly – How To Make Gravy
There can be only one. For me, Paul Kelly is one of the greatest Australian lyricists ever and I put him up with the early days of Bob Dylan. A troubadour of the highest order, this song speaks to every family gathering ever. As Kelly says, “It captures perfectly the chaos of an Australian Christmas day, all that heat, tension, and drunken dancing. Plus, it features a cast of characters that have come to feel like people we all know.”
It is a saga; it is a lament and it is a celebration all at the same time. It has every single element that a great song should have, irrespective of the subject matter. When the pandemic hit, we all became the main character Joe who was banged up in the clink. We understood his pain even more and it now is firmly ensconced in the Australian psyche.
Christmas would never be the same without Paul Kelly and long may the tradition of making gravy continue.
From us all here at Aussie Sounds we wish you a Merry Xmas and no matter where you are, have the happiest of days. Be kind to one another and remember no matter what the circumstance, love always wins the day.
Jay B McCauley is a renowned award-winning music journalist, broadcaster and record producer. He has written for some of the biggest platforms in the game and runs his own label Vagrant Soundz.