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Australian 80s Music That Rocked The World

Updated on June 23, 2013

Growing up in Australia in the 80s before iPods and digital music, when radio was king and music was played on your Sony Walkman that your uncle got for you Duty Free while on a business trip to Japan.

This was a time when great bands played and emerged from our pubs and you tuned in on your telly for your weekly fix of Molly and Countdown .

I was privileged to see some of the greatest acts and songs come out of Australia during this time, watching these bands go from the pubs and clubs to the world stage with music and lyrics that still resonates with me today I am pleased to share with you all those bands and the great songs that I grew up with.

The decade that brought us the new wave artist I hope you all enjoy this list I have put together of my favorite songs, in no particular order.

10. INXS - Original Sin

One of the first the New Wave song that put the music on the map, Original Sin was released in 1984 by INXS on their 4th album The Swing .

It reached number 58 on the U.S. Charts and in Australia it reached number 1, it also became an international hit during that year also in many countries.

Original Sin would have to be my favourite INXS song, the starting beat is awesome!!!

9. Cold Chisel - Forever Now

The Aussie rock classic was a 1982 single from Cold Chisel. Its was the second single from the album Circus Animals, it was the first single from the group written by Steve Prestwich, who also wrote " When The War Is Over" another of my favorite songs by Cold Chisel.

The song reached number 2 in the New Zealand charts, and number 4 in Australia, the band highest chart placement. It stayed in the charts for 18 weeks.

The single was released in many more countries than any other song by preformed by Cold Chisel. In America it was titled "Forever Now (All My Love), this is a classic song and i hope you enjoy it.

8. Men At Work - Down Under

The hit 80s track Down Under is a New Wave song with hints of a reggae beat, it was written by Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. It featured on their debut album Business as Usual. The song went to number 1 on American as well as international charts around the world, including their native Australia and the United Kingdom.

It was reissued in 82 and is the first and only Men at Work song to get to number 1 on the UK Charts.

It also become the theme song when Australia won the America's Cup in 1983 of the New York Yatch Club for the first time in 132 years.

7. The Church - Under The Milky Way

Another one of my favoutirte hits from the 80s Under the Milky Way was released by The Church in February of 1988 from their album Starfish. It charted well on the Top 30 on the Australian Charts, and on the U.S. Charts it reached number 24 and won the group an ARIA Awardfor 'Single of the Year' in 1989

Another New Wave classic!

6. Icehouse - Electric Blue

The song Electric Blue was the 1987 hit single by the synthpop rock group Icehouse, the song was co-written by Iva Davies of Icehouse and John Oats of the all time classic U.S. band Hall & Oats.

The song reached number 1 on the Australian singles charts, number 7 on the American singles chart in 88. It reached number 10 on the Canadian Singles Chart and just missing out on the top 50 on the UK singles charts at number 53.

Some of my other favorite songs from Icehouse include, Great Southern Land, Crazy, My Obsession and We Can Get Together.

Love the 80s hair in this clip!

5. INXS - Need You Tonight

Another New Wave classic Need You Tonight was from the 1987 album Kick, which i believe is their finest ever work. It was also first single from the album released worldwide. It is the only INXS single to reach number 1 on the US Billboard Charts. It also achieved their highest charting position in the United Kingdom. Need You Tonight reached number 2 on the UK Singles Charts.

4. Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

Then we come to Don't Dream It's Over, it was written by Neil Finn the New Zealand born and lead singer of Australian rock band Crowded House it was released in 1986 from their self titled album. (Crowded House) and became the band's biggest international hit reaching number 2 on the US Charts.

3. Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning

Beds Are Burning was a 1987 & 1988 worldwide hit song by aussie rockers Midnight Oil. It is from their album Diesel & Dust and is one of the groups best-known songs outside Australia.

This is one of the great songs that helped shape the Australian rock scene.

2. Streets Of Your Town - The Go-Betweens

Streets Of Your Town although not a huge hit was a song from The Go-Betweens 1988 album 16 Lovers Lane. It was released in the same year in the United Kingdom where it peaked at number 80 on the charts and back home in Australia it only reached number 70.

Across the ditch In New Zealand, the song was a top 40 hit, peaking at number 30, the band's highest ever placing on any national chart both in Australia and internationally.

The song was written by Grant McLennan lead vocal of the group while listening to Under The Milky Way by The Church."

Lines from Streets Of Your Town song were also included by Irish rock group U2 when they played there hit tracks "Elevation" and "With or Without You, on the opening leg of their Vertigo Worldwide Tour of Australia in in dedication to McLennan, who died on the 6th of May 2006, The song was also played at the Brisbane Concert after the band's second encore as a tribute to McLennan.

1. Throw Your Arms Around Me - Hunters & Collectors

Hunters & Collectors all time classic soft rock song Throw Your Arms Around Me has remained one of the most popular songs in the Australia music scene for many years. It has also been named as one of the Top 30 Australian Songs of All Time.

This song is an Australian classic and will be for many years to come.

I hope my small list of great Aussie tracks from the 80s, have brought back memories for some and i hope i have introduced whole new group some to some of the greatest tracks you might have not heard before.

These bands and music are timeless.

Other very notable Australian 80s bands that just missed the cut include, AC/DC, Noiseworks, Choir Boys, Hoodoo Gurus, Mental As Anything, The Angels, Gang Gajang, Spy Vs Spy, Dragon, The Little River Band and Mondo Rock.

The Swing - INXS

Crowded House - Crowded House

Business As Usual - Men At Work

Circus Animals - Cold Chisel

White Heat - Icehouse

Diesel & Dust - Midnight Oil

Human Fraility - Hunters & Collectors

Starfish - The Church

16 Lovers Lane - The Go-Betweens

80s Rock Poll

What's Your Favourite Track

See results


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    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      I've been to Perth, Australia twice, and I love the Aussies. I am very fond of Midnight Oil, although the lead singer looks a little like Freddy Kruger. Keep hubbing down under!

    • bezy b bezy profile imageAUTHOR

      bezy b bezy 

      6 years ago

      Thanks stessily, what great reply Almost a hub in it's self.

      Thank you

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      bezy b bezy, A great, great, great, great tribute to Australia's great --- timelessly great, great, great --- new wave. All of those new wavers supercharged the music waves surging around the planet, and that music is still in the air.

      When I wrote on Men At Work's "Down Under", I selected that song because it symbolizes that astoundingly unique new wave for music lovers all over the world, through the generations ever since and most likely forever.

      I was in a college town recently and was absolutely enchanted to walk around a corner and be confronted with a huge throng of fresh-faced college kids, spilling out of the most popular bar, everyone, on the streets and inside the bar, all enthusiastically singing "Down Under"!


      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • bezy b bezy profile imageAUTHOR

      bezy b bezy 

      6 years ago

      Thanks denisemai, they don't make music like they used to any more, if you liked the lead singer of INXS, check out the group Noiseworks on You Tube, another great aussie band from the 80s, and my sister was in love with the lead singer.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      Oh my gosh. You just yanked me back to my high school and college years. I loved Men at Work and their vegamite sandwiches. I wanted to marry the beautiful lead singer for INXS and I loved jamming to Midnight Oil's Beds are Burning-I dug the way he sung and his look. Thanks for brightening my day!

    • bezy b bezy profile imageAUTHOR

      bezy b bezy 

      6 years ago

      Thanks spartucusjones, Cold Chisel and Icehouse are two of my all time favourite bands, they both have many more classic rock tunes you will love!

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 

      6 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Great selections of songs! To be honest I wasn't familiar with Cold Chisel or Icehouse, so thanks for introducing me to those artists.


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