Best known for its beaches, sunshine and the mighty Lions, Brisbane also plays host to quite a diverse and quietly influential music scene. It's given birth to some of the most important Australian songwriters of the past 40 years, many of whom who have repaid their dues by penning their own songs for the sunny city. Today, we're turning our gaze up to the Queensland capital to discover the ten best tracks written about Brisbane.
‘Brisbane to Beechworth’ - Matt Taylor
The song is an amazing forgotten gem from the past. This 1973 track was about Chain frontman Matt Taylor’s musical journey from when he was born in Brisbane in 1948, to when he quit music ‘for good’ and moved into a commune in Beechworth in 1970. He has a very interesting story, which can be further delved into here. ‘Brisbane to Beechworth’ is heavily influenced by the classic bluesy rock movement of that time, it could have easily sat next to the music Neil Young. Check out ‘Brisbane To Beechworth’ below.
‘Streets Of Your Town’ - The Go-Betweens
Written by co-founder of the group, Grant McLennan, ‘Streets Of Your Town’, is as the name suggests, about the streets of Brisbane. Especially the hot weather experienced in the city. According to McLennan, this beautiful track was only written in ten minutes, and is the only track the band ever had that was close to being a commercial hit. The Go-Betweens are now considered as the best jangle pop groups Australia has ever produced, and their reputation is proudly upheld by Brisbane's music community. Check out the 1988 song below.
‘Meet Me In The Mall In Brisbane’ - Judith Durham
The Queen of Australian folk has a soft spot for her country - even after achieving worldwide popularity, she still calls Australia home. This track was written about holidaying to Brisbane, and enjoying the beach, shopping, and weather. It isn’t known what mall she was singing about, but with a plethora of outdoor spots, she’s probably talking about all of them. Remind yourself of open borders by meeting Judith at the mall in Brisbane below.
‘Brisbane City’ - Joel Turner
Remember Joel Turner? He was the ground-breaking beatbox star of Australian Idol in 2003, the same year Guy Sebastian won. Joel grew up in a lower class area of Brisbane, this track talks about his upbringing in that area, and what life was like as a whole in ‘Brisbane City’. As you’d expect, the track is full of beatboxing, it’ll make you reminisce about the early days of watching Andrew G and Dicko. Touchdown!
'Brisvegas' - John Kennedy’s ‘68 Comeback Special
This 2007 track will give you a massive nostalgia hit. 'Brisvegas' sounds like a track from many years ago, hence the name of the group. It’s a track about a tattered relationship with the Sunshine state, with frontman John Kennedy singing from his point of view about how the city isn’t how he remembers it. It namedrops a heap of different things about Brisbane. According to radio presenter Andrew Bartlett, this track was written about a concert John did, where no one showed up - grim.
‘Dreamworld’ - Midnight Oil
This 1987 track was featured on the band's sixth album, the classic Diesel and Dust. In classic Midnight Oil fashion, this song is all about Australian land. ‘Dreamworld’ is all about the decline in heritage of Brisbane and within the city’s state. It namechecks a few different popular spots in Brisbane and Queensland that have been demolished to make way for big developments. The music video partly takes place in the park it’s named after, and shows the demolition of the spots they talk about.
‘Inferno (Brisbane in the Summer)’ - Robert Forster
The former Go-Betweens frontman penned this track in 2019, and was featured on the album of the same name. The track is about the insane heat in Brisbane, and how to deal with it, many Brisbane nationals find the hot Brisvegas weather a good source for musical inspiration. The music video involves Robert in different rooms of his house, doing different things. The video perfectly expresses Robert’s quirky nature, check it out below.
‘Moreton Bay’ - John Denver
Yes, that John Denver. The ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ hitmaker held Australia in a special place in his heart, he married Australian actress Cassandra Delaney, in 1988, who was from Brisbane. Therefore he often travelled to the city, and enjoyed it’s surrounds, and his travels inspired ‘Moreton Bay’, a track that first featured on his album recorded in Australia, Live At The Sydney Opera House.
‘Brisbane (Security City)’ - The Saints
As the name suggests, ‘Brisbane (Security City)’ is about how the city is becoming a police state. It mentions that people aren’t allowed to get up to things they used to, due to the heightened police presence, and how all the population of Brisbane need to stay inside. Crazy to think how relevant this song is, 40 years later. It also mentions the mango trade of the city. It was featured on their album, Prehistoric Sounds.
‘Departures (Blue Toowong Skies)’ - Bernard Fanning
The former Powderfinger frontman wrote this track during a hard period in his life, in an interview about the song he said “my dad died, and it coincided with the biggest floods Brisbane has ever seen.” Bernard grew up in the Brisbane suburb of Toowong, this track was about the memories of his dad, and his upbringing in the suburb. It was featured on his 2013 album of the same name. Check out ‘Departures (Blue Toowong Skies)’ below.
Revisit some of our favourite tracks written about Adelaide.