When you’re hitting the road, no matter how spectacular the scenery you’re confronted with, it’s always going to look better with a good soundtrack. Here’s our guide to the best Australian songs for driving, songs about the road, the land and all points between.
I’ve Been Everywhere – Lucky Starr
Country isn’t a genre traditionally associated with Australia, but I’ve Been Everywhere is a uniquely Aussie take on the style, from its opening line, “Well, I was humoin’ my bluey on the dusty Oodnadatta Road.” The song goes on to list 94 places in Oz the hitcher has been, in a song so catchy it would be adapted to Britain by Rolf Harris, and the States, where even Johnny Cash would sing it, as well as your drunk dad on Australia Day.
Highway To Hell – AC/DC
This had to be there, didn’t it? Oz’s premier hard rockers’ tribute to…an Australian road. The highway in question is the Canning Highway that connects Perth to Fremantle. While it may be quite a scenic stretch of road these days, back in the day before random breath testing it was a bit Mad Max, as hard drinkers from the Fremantle pubs would drive back to Perth – drunk. While I would never recommend driving while under the influence, I would recommend listening to this song about the subject.
Icehouse – Great Southern Land,
Written as an angry response to Men At Work’s jokey, blokey Down Under, Iva Davies was inspired to write it by a trip to Uluru, where he was stunned by the natural beauty of our country. His tribute would be groundbreaking both for its use of synthesisers, and recognition of the rights of indigenous people. Fortunately, this matched the sentiments of many Australians, who wished to recognise the past to move into the future; for some this is THE unofficial Australian National Anthem.
Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane
This haunting classic is based on singer Grant McLellan’s childhood, growing up on a farm with his mother hundreds of miles away from Brisbane. Allegedly, the song was written on a guitar borrowed from Nick Cave. Grant told him “Every instrument has one good song inside and that was it.” This was recently voted one of the ten greatest Australian songs ever written – I really can’t think of a better one.
The Triffids – Wide Open Road
The archetypal Australian driving song by the greatest Oz band never to make it big, Wide Open Road is the perfect expression of the longing caused by being at long distance from your loved ones and natural terrain. The Laureates of West Australia had left Perth for London when they recorded this, by which time they were bigger in the UK than they ever were in their homeland. Here they would find their biggest fame when their song Bury Me Deep in Love was used for Harold Bishop and Madge Mitchell’s wedding in Neighbours. Lack of commercial success didn’t stop McCombs from leading a rock n’roll lifestyle. He died aged 37, as his heroin-addicted body rejected his second transplanted heart after a car crash.
Courtney Barnett – Depreston
The song perfectly articulates a longing to escape from the suburbs, and its hazy melancholy would perfectly soundtrack a car ride. Courtney Barnett’s the hottest to come out of the Australian scene lately. From the first verse, where she brilliantly skewers Melbourne’s celebrated coffee culture -Preston is a suburb in Melbourne – to her description of the suburban house, everything in this song screams escape.
So there you are – a half dozen solid Oz classics to go, and you can build up your own ideal playlist.