Inspiration can come from the most varied places, heck, the title of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was unknowingly borrowed from a brand of deodorant, of all things. But then of course, there are the musicians who have used our fine country as an inspiration for their music.
Plenty of Aussie acts have recorded mind-blowing albums on our shores, but what about those international musicians who recorded albums here, shot videos here, or even decided form a band while visiting this great southern land? Keeping this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the famous pieces of music history that came about thanks to our musical visitors.
Sleater-Kinney record their self-titled debut in Melbourne
Sleater-Kinney are renowned as one of the finest groups to have ever emerged from the punk rock or riot grrrl genres. Coming together as a side-project while still part of the groups Excuse 17 and Heavens To Betsy, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein decided to form the group Sleater-Kinney, and in 1994, took a trip to Australia.
While in Australia, they met up with Laura MacFarlane, a member of the Melbourne group Sea Haggs, who served as guide of sorts for the group while they were in the country. On their last day in the country, while visiting Melbourne, the duo teamed up with MacFarlane and recorded ten songs in one night that would go on to be their debut record. MacFarlane stuck around to play on their second record Call The Doctor, but left soon after. So if you ever wondered how much international punk credibility Australia had, Sleater-Kinney’s debut is just one small notch on our belt.
Rage Against The Machine film their ‘Bulls On Parade’ video in Sydney
Rage Against The Machine were undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the ’90s. Their self-titled debut has gone on to become one of the most influential records in the genre of alternative metal, and their influence on politics in music is almost unmatched to this day. When the group visited Australia in early 1996 as part of the Big Day Out tour to promote their upcoming album Evil Empire, Aussie fans were ecstatic at the chance to catch their musical heroes on our shores.
Even better was the fact that the group documented the Sydney leg of their tour in the video to their newest track ‘Bulls On Parade’. Between shots of protesters and images of propaganda posters, there’s footage of the groups performance at the Sydney Big Day Out on January 25th, and their headlining show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion two nights later. The track and its video have gone on to become some of the group’s most popular, and fans are able to get a small glimpse of Australia every time they watch it.
The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ originates in Melbourne
In the early ’00s, The White Stripes were well on their way to stardom. When the duo toured Australia in support of their White Blood Cells album, Aussie fans were treated to a onslaught of blues-rock, including some of their best tracks at the time, including ‘Hotel Yorba’, ‘Hello Operator’, and their highly popular cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’. However, fans at one of the group’s Melbourne shows managed to witness the duo perform shortly after frontman Jack White had composed one rock music’s most famous riffs.
During the soundcheck before their performance at Richmond’s Corner Hotel, Jack White was noodling on his guitar when he happened upon the famous riff. As White recalled, “There’s an employee here at Third Man [Records] named Ben Swank, and he was with us on tour in Australia when I wrote that song at soundcheck,” he said.
“I was playing it for Meg and he was walking by and I said, ‘Swank, check this riff out.’ And he said, ‘It’s OK.’” So it just goes to show, if you write phenomenal riff, not every one will think it’s a future classic right away.
Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart form Eurythmics in Wagga Wagga
Eurythmics were easily one of synthpop’s biggest acts. With Dave Stewart tackling most instrumentation, and Annie Lennox taking on vocals and other instruments, the duo achieved phenomenal success starting with the release of their single ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, from the album of the same name. However, as is usually unbeknownst to most fans, the group’s origins actually lie in the most unlikely Australian town.
Lennox and Stewart’s previous band, The Tourists, had seen some success in 1979 thanks to their cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want To Be With You’, but were otherwise relatively forgettable. During a tour of Australia in 1980, The Tourists found their way to Wagga Wagga, and while playing a gig at a hotel in the city, Lennox and Stewart, who were romantically involved at the time, decided to split from the group and form their own duo. The following year, they released their debut album, but it wasn’t until Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released in 1983 that the group saw major success.
Cat Power records Moon Pix record in Australia
Cat Power, or Chan Marshall as her family calls her, is an American musician whose output is almost completely critically acclaimed. When Marshall released her first record, Dear Sir, in 1995, she instantly became a champion of the indie scene, winning fans all over the world. Following the release of her third album, What Would The Community Think, Marshall was considering retiring from the music industry. However, after relocating to the America’s pacific northwest with boyfriend Bill Callahan, she suffered from a hallucinatory nightmare, which inspired the composition of her fourth record Moon Pix.
When it was time to record the album, Marshall found her way down to Melbourne, where she was joined by members of the instrumental group Dirty Three. Working with producer Matt Voigt, Marshall began recording on New Year’s Day of 1998, being joined by Mick Turner and Jim White of the Dirty Three on the second day. After a relatively tumultuous recording session, Moon Pix was released in September to huge acclaim. While the album had no singles released, the track ‘Cross Bones Style’ has gone on to become an indie classic.
David Bowie films his ‘Let’s Dance’ video in New South Wales
David Bowie’s Let’s Dance is as stereotypically ’80s as you could get from the late legend. Still hungover from the death of disco, Let’s Dance sees Bowie try to create a funky, post-disco record, which resulted in the title track being one of his most popular tunes. To capitalise on the success of the track, a promotional music video was shot, and it just so happened to have been filmed about 6 hours west of Sydney.
Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ video saw him perform the track within the confines of the Carinda Hotel, alongside the locals who were filmed ‘mocking’ the protagonist characters of the film clip. The clips also included scenes filmed within the Warrumbungle National Park, serving as a way to show off the charming natural landscape of the region. The film clip managed to make numerous references to Indigenous rights and the Stolen Generations, topics which Bowie held very close to his heart.
L7 accidentally copy their mates Cosmic Psychos for ‘Fuel My Fire’
If you’ve ever seen the brilliant Cosmis Psychos documentary Blokes You Can Trust, you’d already be well aware of how close the Psychos and US rockers L7 are. After making acquantices with each other in the early ’90s, the groups became close friends, touring together, showing off each group’s respective homeland to the other, and just generally being good mates. In fact, this friendship was what led to Cosmic Psychos supporting L7 once again during a Melbourne show in 2016.
Back in 1989, Cosmic Psychos released their record Go The Hack, which featured the track ‘Lost Cause’. Somewhere along the line, L7 frontwoman Donita Sparks must have let the track seep into her consciousness, because when they recorded their track ‘Fuel My Fire’ in 1994, they realised it sounded an awful lot like ‘Lost Cause’. Of course, they were friends, so Cosmic Psychos frontman Ross Knight didn’t care, but L7 still did the honourable thing and gave them writing credits. Three years later, The Prodigy covered the track for their landmark album The Fat Of The Land, and gave proper credit to the song’s writers, Cosmic Psychos included.