LET’S cruise the back roads of Australian rock ’n’ roll music, way out into car country, with this playlist of Aussie car songs from the past 50-odd years. Some may be familiar to you, some may not, which is neither here nor there because chances are you’ve long forgotten them anyway. Until now!
1. LUCKY STARR
(Festival Records, 1962)
THE I’ve Been Everywhere, Man man Lucky Starr teams up with the same guy who’d gifted him the lyrics to (the Australian version of) that tune, Geoff ‘Tangle Tongue’ Mack, for this song that no car aficionado could resist. Just to get you a little revved, here’s the opening stanza: “I bought a ’34 Ford and I painted it red / I ripped off the muffler and I shaved off the head / Added dual carburettors, went for a ride / That rod was so hot, I bloomin’ near fried.” Boom! Such a fun little song; right up until the point where he crashes and burns and dies.
2. LITTLE PATTIE
Drag Race Johnny
(His Master’s Voice, 1964)
LITTLE Pattie Thompson (nee Amphlett – yep, she’s the cousin of Divinyls’ frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett) was a mid-60s teen rocker who scored the big hit He’s My Blonde-Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy (1964), written by rocker Jay Justin and producer Joe Halford. Back in those days it was a pretty short jump from surf music to hot rod music, with The Beach Boys doing Little Deuce Coupe (1963) and whatnot, so Justin and Halford penned Drag Race Johnny for Little Pattie’s follow-up single. She’s in love with a drag racer called Johnny (she sang about Johnny in a lot of her songs) who’s loved her and left her, no doubt for drag strips further afield.
3. LIONEL LONG
A Repco Brabham Car
(World Record Club, 1967)
HUNTER Valley native Lionel Long started out as a country/bush/folk singer in the late 50s and released many records throughout the 60s when his career speared sideways into acting in television dramas like Homicide and Division 4. His 1967 LP, Today, included A Repco Brabham Car, a cute, inoffensive ditty about his desire to be driving a Repco Brabham car. In one verse, he even quotes Ned Kelly as saying he’d like to be driving one too!
4. THE COLOURS
Plenty Of Room Up Top
(Astor Records, 1968)
THIS is similar to (though admittedly not nearly as good as) Nervous Norvus’s unbeatable novelty hit/road-safety warning Transfusion (1956). Melbourne troubadours The Colours sing a cautionary tale of a young hod rodder flattened and killed by a bus at 150mph. His death draws no sympathy from the community, who would prefer to callously point out that there’s plenty of room in heaven for those with lead feet and no brains. Sweet tune; harsh sentiment.
5. SHARON REDD & GROOVE MYERS
AMOCO In Your Machine
(Ad jingle, 1970)
IF YOU want further proof that things were better in the 70s, take this example. Teen girls’ magazine Dolly gave away a promotional flexi-disc single for an AMOCO petrol ad jingle with every copy of the magazine sold – get me to the DeLorean, stat! The tune – titled Where The Mind Can Breathe – turned out to be incredibly popular (probably the most popular song on this list!). The lead vocals are shared by American singer Sharon Redd and local crooner Wayne Richard, aka Groove Myers, who went on to make another jingle that turned into a single, for Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1973. It’s called Hugo (And Holly), and it’s as horrendous as you could ever imagine.
6. THE MIXTURES
(Fable Records, 1971)
THERE’S a reason you’ve probably never heard Henry Ford by The Mixtures – it’s godawful! This pack of Melburnian cheeseballs made major bank with The Pushbike Song, which went worldwide in 1970. The following year they attempted to jump from bikes to cars and failed miserably with this bubblegum country stinker about old Henry and his Model A. Seek out the appropriately cheese-laden video of the band playing this on Top Of The Pops on YouTube. Go, now!
7. GARY YOUNG WITH DADDY COOL
(Sparmac Productions, 1972)
DADDY Cool were super-cool in the 70s, and some of their members formed other rockin’ projects. The band’s drummer Gary Young was a New Yorker, so don’t get to thinking that Yank twang is altogether false in Cadillacin’, the B-side of his first solo single, Rock N Roll Lady. It’s a 50s rock ’n’ roll throwback with handclaps that only barely swish away the 70s dope haze, with lyrics about riding in old cars, backward parental attitudes and juke joints. Don’t forget the juke joints. Wait, what’s a juke joint again?
8. BRIAN CADD
White On White El Dorado
(Capitol Records, 1976)
BRIAN Cadd was having a crack at the American market when he gave the world the thoroughly pimpin’ White On White El Dorado. Having made his name here with The Groop, Axiom and solo, Brian headed Stateside, and, while that move only proved moderately successful, he still managed to get his licks in here and there. Like in the promo video for White On White El Dorado, where he’s travelling in a convertible draped in females, laughing his balls off.
Hot Rod James
THIS sprawling kooky glam calypso hoedown from Skyhooks was on the B-side to Party To End All Parties. It’s about a guy who loved his car a little too much. These lyrics, so poignant: “Life is just a V8 with extractors plated in chrome / It helps you get there faster, but it’s no help if you’re alone / Life is like a hot rod with a custom-built front end / But you’ll spin out on the corners if you don’t have a friend.” Also a little bit clever: “Life is like a camshaft, it has its ups and downs…”
10. VINNIE & THE V8S
(Cheapo Records, 1978)
HOBART radio presenters Bob Cook and Richard Moore released this novelty record starring a couple of characters they’d developed on air called Vinnie and Bruce. Yes, it’s as hokey as Herbie The Love Bug, and it’s only mildly funny at best, but who can’t relate to lyrics about doing the block on a Saturday night and then parking outside Coles? Boring people, that’s who!
11. THE CRUISERS
(Slipt Discs, 1980)
THE flipside to The Cruisers’ self-released single You Don't Know Me, Motorway is a honkin’ little number about a young man with a panel van playing in a Melbourne rock band. Recorded at Richmond Recorders with engineering assistance from recently deceased legend producer Tony Cohen, Motorway proved strong enough to land The Cruisers a spot on Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday: https://youtu.be/ovYizmy-eg4 After that it seems they simply drove off into the sunset.
12. RADIO BIRDMAN
MUSCLE car rock doesn’t get better than this. Guitarist Deniz Tek had been raised in Michigan and brought a lot of Motor City attitude with him when he came to Sydney in the mid-70s and formed cult rock band Radio Birdman. The group’s tunes were littered with references to riding the highways and “cruising down Woodward” (Avenue, Detroit), but 455 SD just went straight to the heart of every rev head with lyrics like: “I got a dream machine from the promised land / Got a ’71 Trans Am / Got a Hurst T-stick in my hand / BorgWarner four-speed says I can.” The band is firing on all cylinders, which is strange ’cos they split up right after they did this.
13. FESTER FANATICS
(Original Records, 1996)
TAKEN from their thoroughly obscure Great Aussie Demo CD, old Sydney punks Fester Fanatics nailed this thumping 90s fuzz-rock song about a classic humpy. The car is the apple of singer Aldo Rubernik’s eye, and he even takes a swipe at the Japanese for their lack of understanding when it comes to creating an ideal driving experience! Even if you do drive a Toyota or worse, once this song grabs hold you’ll soon be screaming: “There’s a T-bar in my FJ!”
14. THE MONARCHS
(Shock Records, 2001)
FOR A few years in the early 2000s, Hoodoo Gurus’ lead guitarist Brad Shepherd spent a lot of his spare time fronting high-energy rock four-piece The Monarchs. They smashed out some rollicking good songs during their brief existence, none better than ’69 Monaro from their 2001 album Make Yer Own Fun. Brad sings about having all sorts of fun in a GTS; he even laughs off its appalling fuel economy.
15. COLD CHISEL
(Warner Music, 2012)
THIS song, from Cold Chisel’s 2012 comeback album No Plans, could’ve almost been a metaphor for where the band was at – old Aussie classic given a new injection of life, still running with power and style. Written with the help of country singer Troy Cassar-Daley, the song is classic Chisel, and the Chev-powered Monaro Barnesy is warbling about, well, you just wanna own it. Even if the specs are a bit ropey: “It’s got fuelie heads, a tunnel ram, roller rockers, lumpy cam, a seated set of new L34s / Got a new 400 Hydra shift, Simmons wheels, nine-inch diff, Bridgestone Eagers, 12-inch, just because."
How are you finding our new site design? Tell us in the comments below or send us your thoughts at email@example.com.
Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
Track-inspired Holden LC GTR Torana 'XU3'
Gerrard McCrostie is doing as many laps as possible in his staunch, track-inspired LC Torana, because life's too short
Readers' rockets: Corvette C3, Torana LX, Falcon XD, HJ ute, VH Commodore
We check out some cool readers' rides from the May 2021 issue of Street Machine
Pro touring 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Packing independent suspension, huge brakes and a Mercury racing 7.0L DOHC V8 up front, this Aussie-built '69 Camaro puts the 'pro' in 'pro tourer'