Songs from the Great South
We’ve all heard songs written about Australia: honestly, we’ve probably heard too many songs about Australia. Sure, ‘Down Under’ and ‘Great Southern Land’ are classics, but when you dig deeper, there’s a whole bank of songs about Australian towns and cities that serve much more to a local audience than they do abroad.
Today, we’re kicking things off by taking a look at some of the best songs written about Melbourne to paint a picture of the rich culture and diversity that fuels the Victorian capital city.
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We’re taking a little break here at Mixdown and so should you. We’re reposting some old favourites of yours and ours!
Crowded House – ‘Four Seasons In One Day’
This 1989 track is about a phenomenon Melburnians know all too well. Neil and Tim Finn wrote this in reference to Melbourne’s crazy weather, “Melbourne can from a blazing hot, sunny day to raining and then it’d be hailing that night”. the frontman said in a 2011 interview about the iconic single.
However, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ also had another meaning beneath the surface, with the the brothers likening the turbulent Melbourne weather to their own emotional ordeals at that time. The track was featured on the seminal group’s third album, Woodface.
Courtney Barnett – ‘Depreston’
Not a stranger to writing about her hometown, this 2015 track was one of the first that introduced the world to Barnett’s striking songwriting and witty humour. ‘Depreston’ was written about the struggles the younger generation face when it comes to buying property, an issue Barnett knows all too well. “I would never be in a position where I can buy a house…” she said at the time this track was released.
This song has found fans around the world, especially in Preston, UK, where they face the same issues. Make sure you’ve paid your rent, then reacquaint yourself with the song below.
Skyhooks – ‘Toorak Cowboy’
Skyhooks loved writing songs about their hometown: some of their other famous tracks include ‘Carlton’ and their masterpiece ‘Balwyn Calling’. ‘Toorak Cowboy’ was penned about those who roamed the lavish upper-class suburb of Toorak, with Skyhooks making note of their double lives and the contrast between those ‘cowboys’ and the rest of Melbourne.
The song namechecks a few different Melbourne suburbs, including the neighbouring South Yarra, and makes mention of a popular hairdresser back in the day, Terence Marini’s. This song deals with some other pretty crazy topics, half of which you couldn’t get away with today, but that’s Skyhooks for you.
The Living End – ‘All Torn Down’
‘All Torn Down’ is another primary example of just how good The Living End are at sticking it to the man. The 1998 song was written about Melbourne’s Citylink and Docklands development in the late ’90s, and how they allegedly built on parks and historic sites. “I’d see a bunch of beautiful old buildings disappearing in the city, and when they’re done they’re gone… why can’t things just stay the way they are”, frontman Chris Cheney said about the inspiration behind the song.
Also recorded in Melbourne, ‘All Torn Down’ was featured on the band’s debut self-titled album – keep your eyes peeled on the music video for some classic shots of the band trekking through the City Loop and playing around in Melbourne Central Station for an extra dose of Victoriana.
Paul Kelly – ‘From St. Kilda To Kings Cross’
The Godfather of Australian acoustic rock penned this on the piano of Cold Chisel keys wizards Don Walker. The title of this song is in reference to the popular beachside suburb of St. Kilda, as well as the scuzz-pit of Kings Cross in Sydney. Paul Kelly wrote this during a tough time in his life, when he moved from Melbourne to Sydney after his marriage breakup, driving from St. Kilda to Kings Cross, where he’d linger and launch his music career.
It’s often been referred to as an anthem about St Kilda, which is now primarily populated by British backpackers and other questionable characters. The track was featured on his first album, 1985’s Post.
Camp Cope – ‘Footscray Station’
You can’t get a more Melbourne song than ‘Footscray Station’. Penned by frontwoman Georgia Maq, ‘Footscray Station’ helped put Camp Cope on the map and introduced us to their unique sound, with the rawness of the production and lyrics making for a poignant and striking emotional piece.
As you’d expect, ‘Footscray Station’ is all about life in Footscray and the surrounding Western suburbs, with Maq shouting out everything from St. Vincent’s Hospital, fellow Melbourne band The Smith Street Band, infamous Footscray furniture shop Franco Cozzo and a heap more. See if you can hear them all!
Frente! – ‘Accidently Kelly Street’
This 1992 feel good pop track was written in 1992 by the band’s bass player, Tim O’Connor, who penned the single about a new house he moved into on Kenny St in Richmond, which he mistakenly thought was Kelly St. The resulting song made a light hearted joke of the whole thing. Lead singer Angie Hart gets more in depth about the song here.
‘Accidently Kelly Street’ shot Frente! into the mainstream, and the single peaked at #4 on the ARIA chart – not a bad knock for a tune about a sharehouse. Listen below… we can guarantee it’ll make you crack a smile.
The Beatles – ‘Rain’
Bet you didn’t know this one! ‘Rain’ was written after The Beatles’ 1964 tour of Australia, with John Lennon writing the track after arriving in Melbourne and being faced with poor weather and non-stop rain. According to the legendary frontman, he wrote ‘Rain’ about “people moaning about the weather all the time”.
This track never appeared on an album, only as a B-side to their hit ‘Paperback Writer’, and features one of Paul McCartney’s best basslines of the moptop era. Listen to it below.
The Whitlams – ‘Melbourne’
Even though they’re a Sydney band, The Whitlams wrote this track about their state’s neighbour to the south in the year of 1997. The band wrote this dreamy track about being in love with a girl from Melbourne, and how the way she lives her life is much different to how he lives his.
It also mentions how Melbourne streets are full of artwork, and features yet another mention of the dreaded Melbourne rain. Seems like there’s a trend going on here…
Gretta Ray – ‘When We’re In Fitzroy’
Gretta Ray is another artist who loves to mention her hometown in her music. This track off of her 2018 album Here and Now is about being in love and living amongst the artsy hub of Fitzroy, with Ray comparing the inner North suburb to living in a state of paradise where everything is good in your life.
In classic Gretta Ray fashion, this track tells a beautifully well worded story coupled with a tranquil acoustic guitar – she’s definitely one of our most underrated artists.
Revisit some of the best Australian deep cuts from the 1970s.