One Direction wows the Today

Australian pop music artists

Rennie Ellis (1940-2003), Angus Young, Los Angeles, 1978.Rennie Ellis (1940-2003), Angus Young, Los Angeles, 1978, colour photograph. Image courtesy of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive and the National Library of Australia: nla.pic-vn4103400.

Australian rock music has its roots in the 1950s and '60s when the style of music was growing in popularity around the world.

In the 1970s Australian rock bands became well known for classic hard rock. By the 1980s Australian music developed its own distinctive rock sound and became popular the world over.

First appearing in the United States of America, rock music was a fusion of white country and western music with black rhythm and blues music. These days, rock music is harder to define. Over the years it has influenced and been influenced by many other styles – elements of pop, funk, folk and world music can all be heard in many songs that are classified as rock songs.

The first Australian rock 'n rollers

Jimmy Barnes onstage.In these early days, performers like Johnny O'Keefe and The Easybeats were easy to categorise as rockers, with songs such as Wild one, Shout and Friday on my mind mimicking the heavy-guitar sound and strong beat produced by rock performers in the USA and Britain.

Johnny O'Keefe went on to become the first Australian artist to appear in the Australian Top 40 (Wild one), the first to be signed and record for an international label (US Liberty) and was the first rock and roll artist to host his own radio program (Rockville Junction on ABC Radio).

Midnight Oil performing at a concert at the Orange Town Hall,November 1985.Photo by Ant Healy.The Easybeats, who met as immigrants at Sydney's Villawood Migrant Hostel in 1964, became famous worldwide. Other Australian rock bands to hit the big time during the 1960s and the 1970s included The Masters Apprentices, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Daddy Cool and Skyhooks.

Classic Australian rock

Jimmy Barnes onstage.
Image courtesy of Cold Chisel.

Cold Chisel formed in Adelaide in 1973 under the name of Orange. Their music was characterised by meaningful lyrics, catchy tune and the aggressive singing style of their lead singer, Jimmy Barnes. One of their classic songs, Khe Sanh, tells the story of a Vietnam veteran and his struggles after the war. Cold Chisel is also responsible for many other Australian rock anthems.

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