12 Australian Bands That Changed The World

Angus Young of AC/DC at a 2016 concert
Angus Young of AC/DC at a 2016 concert | © Amy Harris / REX by Shutterstock
Monique La Terra

These 12 home-grown Aussie bands have dominated local charts and found success internationally. From AC/DC’s legendary anthems to the disco dominance of the Bee Gees, the following bands, both past and present, have left their mark on the Australian and global music scene.

AC/DC

Also known as “Acca Dacca,” AC/DC is one of the most influential rock bands of all time, inspiring bands such as Guns n’ Roses, Metallica and Foo Fighters. Founded by Angus Young and his late brother Malcolm, AC/DC are renowned for their driving guitar riffs, raw power, and anthems about the perils of rock and roll. Released in 1980, Back in Black is the second best-selling album of all time and was the band’s first album with singer Brian Johnson who replaced Bon Scott, who died earlier that year. Some of the biggest hits include “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” “Thunderstruck,” “Back in Black,” and “Highway to Hell” among many, many others.

Bee Gees

Synonymous with disco and three-part harmonies, the Bee Gees have sold more than 220 million records worldwide and have a mountain of hits including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Jive Talking,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and “How Deep is Your Love.” The group, which consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, have won five Grammys, have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1997 were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band is also renowned for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack which is the seventh highest-selling album of all time.

INXS

Fronted by the alluring Michael Hutchence, before his untimely death in 1997, INXS released 10 studio albums and a following two with singer J.D. Fortune. Some of the band’s biggest hits include “What You Need,” “Need You Tonight,” “Devil Inside,” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” INXS has won seven ARIAs and was inducted into ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001.

Little River Band

Selling more than 30 million records and achieving 10 Billboard Hot 100 Top 20 hits, Little River Band is one of the most significant Australian bands of all time. Since 1975, the band has released 17 studio albums and 35 singles, including “Reminiscing,” which is the most frequently played Australian song in the history of American radio. In 2004 the band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Other noteworthy songs include “Cool Change,” “Help is on Its Way,” and “Lady.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM4MBKjg0qk

Silverchair

Australia’s answer to Nirvana, Silverchair burst onto the scene in 1994 after winning a national competition. The following year, when each member of the trio was just 15, Silverchair released its debut album Frogstomp which yielded the hits Tomorrow and Pure Massacre. The album also cracked the U.S. Billboard Top 10. Silverchair went on to record a further four albums, all of which peaked at no. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart before announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2011. The band has won a record 21 ARIA awards; its best-known songs include “Freak,” “Anthem for the Year 2000,” “The Greatest View,” “Ana’s Song,” and “Straight Lines.”

Cold Chisel

A blue-collar, pub-rock band from Adelaide, Cold Chisel has released eight studio albums and eight live albums since 1978, nine of which reached the Australian Top 10. Led by Jimmy Barnes, Cold Chisel was known for its wild antics and, over the years, has had a multitude of band members. Their most enduring songs include “Khe Sanh,” “Flame Trees,” “Forever Now,” “Choir Girl,” and “Cheap Wine.” In 1993, the band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and, as of 2017 has sold almost seven million albums.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Founded in 1983 from the ashes of Melbourne band The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is an experimental rock band that has assembled four decades of material across 16 studio albums. Deeply entrenched in narrative, the 31 singles released by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds includes “Red Right Hand,” “The Mercy Seat,” “Stagger Lee,” “The Ship Song,” and “Into My Arms.” The band’s latest album Skeleton Tree, debuted at number one on the Australian Albums Chart and ranked 20th on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2016.

Jet

Hailing from Melbourne, Jet rose to fame in 2003 with its debut studio album Get Born, which sold 3.5 million copies worldwide. The album includes the bands signature song “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” which was voted no. 1 in the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2003. Jet released two more albums before disbanding in 2012, only to re-form in 2016.

Midnight Oil

Merging an acute awareness of political, social and environmental issues with a distinct rock sound, Midnight Oil is one of the most uncompromising Australian bands of all time. Midnight Oil has released 11 studio albums, three compilation albums and three lives album since 1978. Its most successful and powerful songs include “Power and the Passion,” “The Dead Heat,” “Beds are Burning,” and “Blue Sky Mine.” The band has won 11 ARIA Awards and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006.

Crowded House

With a slew of crowd-pleasing songs in its catalogue, Crowded House has remained steadily successful since 1986. Its self-titled debut studio album peaked at number one in Australia and included the international hits “Something So Strong” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” In 2017, Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande covered “Don’t Dream It’s Over” at the One Love Manchester concert. In total, Crowded House have 16 Aria Top 50 Singles, and in 2016 they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Other popular songs include “Better Be Home Soon” and “Four Seasons in One Day.”

Divinyls

Stomping through the ’80s, the Divinyls were a new-wave rock band known for its songs “I Touch Myself,” “Pleasure and Pain,” “Science Fiction,” and “Boys in Town.” At the core of the band was vocalist Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee who, together with a mix of other members, recorded five studio albums. In 2006, the Divinyls was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. On the 21st of April, 2013, Amphlett died after a long battle with breast cancer.

Men at Work

Creating a lasting cultural impact, Men at Work’s smash hit “Down Under” epitomises Australia’s satirical sense of humour and has since become a patriotic anthem. Released in 1981, off the band’s debut album Business as Usual, “Down Under” went to no. 1 in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1983, Men at Work won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and in 1994 was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Other popular singles include “Who Can It Be Now” and “Overkill.”

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