Review: The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop

by |February 23, 2018

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition) by Ian McFarlaneThe Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition)
by Ian McFarlane
Review by That Metal Man

544 pages of Australian rock and pop facts, figures and history by music journalist and historian, Ian McFarlane. I have never held such an in-depth book of authority on Australian music, and nor will you.

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition) is an A to Z of Australian music. You’ll find every Australian recorded artist (plus adopted Kiwi sons and daughters), and plenty more you’re yet to discover. McFarlane lists each band’s original line-up, albums and carefully-researched milestones across every activity from break-ups to bust-ups, recordings to television appearances, to live performances and band-member movement spanning their careers.

Only die-hard Australian music fans can tell you that The Saints grew out of Brisbane garage band, Kid Galahad, or that Matt Finish, formed in 1978, actually disbanded in 1981 after their incredible debut album, before (briefly) reforming as a 3-piece in 1983. They probably garner their unbreakable knowledge from this very book. Bless ‘em.

Ian McFarlane is the author who will ensure that you never lose an argument at dinner party tables as to whether the Bee Gees were the only artist during the 1970s that had nine #1 hits in the USA (they were), or that bassist and vocalist, Greg Macainsh formed Melbourne’s brash pop phenomenon Skyhooks in 1973. At those same dinner parties, McFarlane will also empower you in driving home the fact that Perth band The Triffids did in fact leave Australia in 1984 to reside in the UK, where they enjoyed critical acclaim. A wide open road, indeed.

Let’s rewind. The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop was originally published in 1999 after McFarlane researched and wrote that first edition covering ‘96 to ‘98. According to the foreword in this second edition, that first edition was selling on eBay for “more than $500”. It’s apparently a highly-revered piece of reference.

So why is this piece of seminal Australian rock and pop history so well regarded? For starters, it’s MASSIVE. At 544 pages, this second edition is a heavy beast to hold, with Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett greeting readers as you open the front cover, sweat dripping from his brow as adoring fans outstretch hands towards their hero. No better icon to carry the headstock of a book.

There are extraordinary entries inside The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition). Just opening to random pages evokes memories of bands long forgotten (such as Bakery from the early 1970s, a hard-rocking band influenced by the likes of ‘Sabbath and ‘Zeppelin, who played alongside the late and great Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs). Who’s your long-forgotten band from yesteryear? You’ll probably find them here. I did, over and over again.

Do you remember Lubricated Goat and their unforgettable and very infamous live ABC-TV performance on Andrew Denton’s late-night variety show, Blah Blah Blah in late 1988, performed completed naked? The outcries the following day of “moral depravity” from the likes of then radio commentator Ron Casey, and the front page exposé run by the Daily Mirror. I’m proud to say I watched it live; the entire sodden event is tabled in The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition). I’m sure the segment is kicking around somewhere online.

As a then-15-year-old who fell in love with the Choirboys debut album in 1983, it was cool to see frontman Mark Gable’s vocal loss mentioned, which occurred soon after the album appeared. I still remember Mark Gable speaking with Sydney Triple M radio DJ Jonathan Coleman, discussing the vocal cord damage. I still have the cassette recording of the interview stashed away somewhere.

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition) isn’t just a nostalgia trip (although for many this will understandably be the book’s allure). You’ll find entries for Sarah Blasko and Courtney Barnett, and Boy & Bear, to name a few worthy entries gracing airwaves right now.

As I flicked pages, I rediscovered The Sports, Swingers, Ammonia, Mi-Sex, The Reels, Not Drowning, Waving; Jon English, Daddy Cool, The Chantoozies, Box the Jesuit, Sunnyboys, Black Alice, Bengal Tigers, Chris Bailey… oh geez, this could go on forever – and it does!

As an Australian music die-hard, and a passionate supporter of Australian music in all its past and present glory, I’m officially making this your call to arms – The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop (2nd Edition) has to be your next purchase. Read it to the sounds of The Triffids’ Wide Open Road, and all woes will dissolve as the setting sun shimmers heat from the highway on which your beloved Holden Torana rolls. Road trip, anyone? Learn more.

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Popby Ian McFarlane

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop

2nd Edition

by Ian McFarlane

The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop - Second Edition has been completely revised and updated, featuring 160+ new entries. It is the most comprehensive guide to the bands and artists who moulded the shape of Australian popular music from 1956 to 2016.

Arranged alphabetically for easy reference, the book will appeal to both the dedicated fan and casual reader. Containing over 1,000 entries, from AC/DC and The Avalanches, from Olivia Newton-John to Guy Sebastian and on to You Am I and Zoot, this is a...

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  • March 30, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    That’s brilliant, thanks for tipping me off about it!

  • March 30, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Great post.Really nice article.Thank you for sharing this!

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