Out of the Cabinet 1977


Loving you
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I ever change things
That I feel

If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way.

Mick Fleetwood- drums
John McVie – bass
Christine McVie (nee Perfect)-, keyboard and vocals
Lindsey Buckingham- guitar and vocals
Stevie Nicks- vocals.

Of the many incarnations of Fleetwood Mac, that’s the famous line-up responsible for Rumours, the 1977 album that dramatically raised their status from moderately to wildly successful.

Fleetwood Mac had been around since they were a British blues band in the late ‘60s, but in the ‘70s, changes in personnel expanded their songwriting and vocal harmonies. Furthermore, Stevie and Lindsey were Californians, so when the band relocated across the Atlantic, they became exponents of the soft rock West Coast sound, no more blues jams.

Like Abba, Fleetwood Mac was made up of 2 couples- Christine married John but that didn’t last, the Californians were a pair but that didn’t last, and Mick was married but that didn’t last. However, they all stayed together for the sake of the music, and tensions simmered. To use Christine’s wonderful maiden name, this was perfect grist for the songwriting mill.

Stevie wasn’t thrilled about these lyrics written about her by Lindsey, but still sang her backing vocals regardless.

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do
If I could
Baby I’d give you my world
Open up
Everything’s waiting for you.

Rumours was a year in the making, but must have felt much longer given the friction within the group. At the end of each tense recording session, the girls and boys parted company to spend nights in segregated accommodation.

They had to go their own way
Go their own way.

The confessional nature of Rumours struck a chord with the record-buying public, and it has gone on to sell more than 40 million copies. Go Your Own Way was the first of four singles from the album.


1977 was the year of CB radio, cordless TV remotes, VCRs at the bargain price of $2000, and microwaves at $429.

It was also the year of strikes, strikes and more strikes. Air traffic controllers, postal workers, power workers, and Telecom employees all had their turn. The oil, building and iron ore industries were affected, as was the export of uranium and coal.

Australia still had a whaling industry. Refugees were pouring in from Vietnam, and we heard the term ‘boat people’ for the first time.

A 39 year old neurophysiologist, Colleen McCullough, sold the paperback rights of Thorn Birds for $1.7 million in the US.

English adventurer, Robyn Davidson, travelled for four months with camels and a dog from Alice Springs to Wiluna on the west coast.

Anti-drug crusader, Donald MacKay, went missing in Griffith NSW, after his car was found in a hotel parking lot with spent cartridges and pool of blood nearby.

83 people died when a commuter train travelling to Sydney from the Blue Mountains hit a road bridge near Granville railway station. A 300 tonne section of the bridge came down on the train, killing 83 and injuring more than 200.

After 70 years of planning, the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches combined to form the Uniting Church.

Jimmy Carter became President of the US, Brezhnev took over as President of the USSR, and our Prime Minister was Malcolm Fraser.


Since Federation had been declared in 1901, Australia had shared an anthem with Great Britain. There had been on-going interest in replacing God Save the Queen (or King) with a song that reflected our own distinctive national character. The path to an Australian anthem is quite a saga.

In 1971, the Australian National Anthem and Flag Quests Committee launched an anthem contest, one of the entrants being John Shortis, my father, an amateur composer, conductor and arranger. His entry was Australia, Dear Land of Mine.

Australia dear land of mine
Let all voices now acclaim
As southern stars and waratahs
Enshrine thy lasting fame.

The ten top entries were published in a book, and there alongside songs by Jack O’Hagan (the writer of many hits like Along the Road to Gundagai), and Frank Coghlan (bandleader at Sydney’s one-time leading dance hall, the Trocadero), was my dad’s song.

These entries were given to the Australia Council for judging, but they mustn’t have been too impressed, because in 1973, during Gough Whitlam’s time, a new competition was held and every entry rejected. Till his dying day my father never forgave Gough.

But the issue burbled away, and in ’74 the Australian Bureau of Statistics held a public opinion poll to judge support for three existing songs- Song of AustraliaWaltzing Matilda and Advance Australia Fair. The latter received over half the vote, so Gough declared it the new anthem.

Gough was ousted, in came Malcolm Fraser, and in 1976 God Save the Queen was reinstated.

But not all were happy with the idea of athletes at the Montreal Olympics that year standing on the podium without a distinctive Aussie song, so the choice was given to the people at a non-compulsory plebiscite in 1977. Advance Australia Fair won convincingly, although it wasn’t officially adopted for another seven years.

One poll in ’77 had support for an Australian republic at only 29%, and during Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee Tour of Australia that year, a protester was removed for waving a Eureka flag and crying out ‘Independence for Australia’.

1977 was the year that punk group the Sex Pistols brought out a rather different God Save the Queen.

God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb.

The single, which was sold with a cover that showed the Queen sporting a punk safety pin, was promptly banned by radio stations throughout Britain, but still got to number 2.

God save the queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
In England’s dreaming.

The UK, in the hands of an impotent Labour government led by James Callaghan, was experiencing runaway inflation and unresolved industrial action, and there was increasing pessimism and cynicism among youth who saw no future beyond the dole queue.

This discontent found expression via a new musical and social phenomenon, punk, a movement that equated existing rock music with the establishment. Punk was everything the pop industry wasn’t.

The first UK punk band to record was The Clash who sang of a hope for change. Then came the nihilistic Sex Pistols who were instantly met with revulsion by the mainstream, who saw punk as sinister pop cult, based on sex, sadism and violence.

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future, no future,
No future for you.

Punk was not just a new approach to music, but also had its own fashion, created by designer Vivienne Westwood, who happened to be the girlfriend of the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren. The punk look consisted of brightly coloured Mohican hairdos, army-style boots, and body-piercing in unusual places.

Punk had actually begun in New York in 1975, led by groups like The Ramones, but the first punk band outside the US was from Brisbane. They were The Saints, and their song (I’m) Stranded is seen by many to be seminal in the development of punk.

I’m riding on a midnight train
And everybody looks just the same
A subway light it’s dirty reflection
I’m lost babe I got no direction
And I’m stranded on my own
Stranded far from home, all right

Stranded – yeah I’m on my own
Stranded – I’m so far from home
Stranded – you gotta leave me alone
‘Cause I’m stranded on my own,
Stranded far from home.

The single was released in the UK in 1976, one review declaring it:

 The single of this and every week.

The single had a cult following, and didn’t make it on to the Australian charts at all. However, (I’m) Stranded has been listed in the Top 30 Songs of All Time by the Australasian Performing Right Association, inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, and has been stored on the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry.

Sir Bob Geldof once said that there were three bands that altered the face of ‘70s rock music: The Ramones, the Sex Pistols and The Saints.


The new musical order was the antithesis of pop music as it had been. In fact the bass player of the Sex Pistols, Glenn Matlock, was fired in 1977 because of musical differences. He did, after all, admire the bass playing of Paul McCartney.

Speaking of which, poor old Paul who had signed his songs away for peanuts in the naive early days of Beatlemania, bought the copyright of Buddy Holly’s catalogue of songs in 1977 for the bargain basement price of $100 000, a very smart move.

At the same time, another investment, a farm in Kintyre in the remote highlands of western Scotland, was to give him the inspiration for a nice little earner, a song he co-wrote with Wings’ guitarist, Denny Laine, inspired by a rugged headland not far away.

Far have I travelled and much have I seen,
Dark distant mountains with valleys of green.
Vast painted deserts with sunsets of fire,
As they carry me back to the Mull of Kintyre.

Mull of Kintyre,
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here,
On Mull of Kintyre.

The local pipe band in full traditional dress played on the recording and the nostalgic lilting song was released into a music scene now feeling the effect of punk, just a fortnight after The Sex Pistols’ album Never Mind the Bollocks was released.

Mull of Kintyre sold two million on release, and one story goes that when Paul was once caught in a traffic jam he noticed a group of punks in the car next to him. Trying to become invisible as he thought they’d think him a joke, Paul was pleasantly surprised when one of the punks wound down his window to declare:

You know that Mull of Kintyre- it’s fucking great.


1977 saw the first Aussie Rules final to be broadcast live on TV, and Kerry Packer’s first season of the very controversial World Series Cricket.

ABC TV serial Bellbird ended after 1693 episodes over 10 years.

Channel Seven committed to a TV adaptation of The Naked Vicar Show, which had begun as an ABC radio program two years earlier. The show gave us Ross Higgins’ immortal character, Ted Bulpit, around which the popular sitcom Kingswood Country would later be based.

That year, Harry M Miller, who was chair of the Queen’s Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, set up what would become a landmark moment in Australian television industry. Molly Meldrum was to interview Prince Charles for Countdown, to promote a specially compiled album to raise money for charity. Molly learned the carefully worded script off by heart, but when the time for the interview came, he kept stuffing up the intro. To break the ice, the prince noted that Molly had just returned from a trip to London, to which the Countdown host replied…

As a matter of fact I saw your mum driving along in an open carriage in London the other day.

To which Prince Charles replied:

You mean Her Majesty the Queen?

After putting his arm around the prince’s shoulder and calling him ‘Lovey’, it was decided that the intro would be re-recorded after the future king left the studio.

Television played a big part in the federal election that was called for the end of the year, with Coalition ads using the slogan ‘fistful of dollars’ to promote its offer of tax cuts (which of course never saw the light of day). The ads worked. Despite one poll showing that Fraser was as unpopular as Whitlam, his government was resoundingly returned with a loss of only five lower house seats, and a small but meaningful majority in the Senate.


Don Chipp had served as a Liberal MP since 1960 and had been responsible for several portfolios, but when Fraser became PM in ’75, Chipp was not in the ministry, and it was clear that there was no love lost between the two men.

So it was no surprise when, in 1977, Chipp resigned from the Liberal Party with a speech that shows that disenchantment with political parties was alive and well even back then.

I have become disenchanted with party politics as they are practised in this country… The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it.

Chipp was to lead a new centrist party, provisionally called the Centre-Line Party. Other names flagged were Dinkum Democrats, Practical Idealists of Australia and People for Sanity, until it was decided to call the party The Australian Democrats. Policy voted on by the members included environmental sustainability, health and welfare, animal rights, rejection of nuclear technology, and opposition to economic rationalism. Above all, to use Chipp’s immortal words, uttered some years later, the party’s main role was:

Keeping the bastards honest.

Chipp and a NSW colleague were elected to the Senate at the ’77 election as  Australian Democrats, beginning a long upper house presence that was to last for over 30 years.


Two Elvises were in the news in 1977, one who was coming and one who was going.

First, the one who was coming.

Back in 1970, there was a dispute between certain record labels and Australian commercial radio stations which meant that some records were banned from airplay. So, for about five months, we got cover versions of some singles, including the Beatles’ Long and Winding Road, which us Aussies heard sung by an unknown English singer called Day Costello. Costello’s take on the song was in our charts for 21 weeks and went to number 3.

Costello’s real name was Ross MacManus, who took the pseudonym from his grandmother’s maiden name.

It’s no wonder that, when his son, Declan, followed in his father’s footsteps to carve a career in the music industry, he adopted the same surname, with a first name taken from a music legend. He was Elvis Costello.

It was alternative record company, Stiff Records, that took on Declan MacManus in 1977, and who insisted on a change of name. His first album, My Aim Is True, attracted good reviews and reached the Top 20 in the UK, but it wasn’t till he released Watching the Detectives, which wasn’t from the album, that he had any success.

Nice girls not one with a defect,
Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct.
Red dogs under illegal legs.
She looks so good that he gets down and begs.

She is watching the detectives
Ooh, he’s so cute!
She is watching the detectives
When they shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.
They beat him up until the teardrops start,
But he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.

The detectives come to check if you belong to the parents
Who are ready to hear the worst about their daughter’s disappearance

Though it nearly took a miracle to get you to stay,
It only took my little fingers to blow you away.
Just like watching the detectives.

And so to the Elvis who was going.

In August 1977, the world stopped still when Elvis Presley died, and it’s one of those occasions where we know exactly what we’re doing and where we were when we heard the news.

Without Elvis, music and social history would have unfolded very differently, because it was thanks to him that white country and pop music met black blues and gospel, giving us rock ‘n’ roll. And with it came the incredible changes in youth culture that turned the western world on its head.

His first recording was an outrageously original and spontaneous version of That’s All Right Mama, but it was his Heartbreak Hotel in 1956 that put a bomb under the complacent and fairly insipid music industry of the time. Many musicians of a certain age name this record as their epiphany.

When John Lennon was asked to comment on Elvis’s death he said that Elvis died when enlisted in the army, a fairly accurate comment. Originally gutsy and groundbreaking he became, under the management of Colonel Tom Parker, a showbiz property whose name on a movie or record regardless of the quality, meant dollars.

After the army stint, the movies and their soundtracks deteriorated in quality, although he still gave us many highly memorable recording moments. But with the advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion he was seen as old-hat, and had stopped live performances. So, in 1968, he reinvented himself with a TV special, and a new and high quality album, From Elvis in Memphis.

It was then a new stage of his career took off as he was offered his first Las Vegas season, and the era of overblown outfits and performances began. His fans flocked and his ability to wrap them around his finger, not to mention his sizable talents as a performer and singer, meant lucrative results, and an ongoing contract.

As the years went by though, his behaviour and his spending became increasingly erratic, and when those around him tried to talk to him about it he stormed off, and took himself to Washington where his fame allowed him to have an awkward meeting with President Nixon. He told the President of his concern with the drug culture, which is ironic given his heavy use of prescription drugs.

Elvis’s life degenerated into a series of tours, variable performances live and on record, a bloated appearance, lacklustre reviews, and a growing list of health problems with drug dependence at the top of the list.

Footage of him performing Unchained Melody in Rapid City Ohio was too raw for broadcast at the time. The passion is there but the voice and the physical strength had all but left him.

Then the imminent release of a book that spilled the beans on what was happening to him behind the scenes sent him switching between depression and defiance.

When he finally succumbed to the effect of Seconal, Placidyl, Valmid, Tuinal, Demerol and a mix of other depressants and placebos, the initial cause of death was given as ‘cardiac arrhythmia due to undetermined heartbeat’. After the lab results, it was admitted that the primary cause of death was polypharmacy, better known as heavy drug use.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as Elvis’ body was transported in a white hearse from Graceland to the cemetery.

I am a big Presley fan, and this is an excerpt from my tribute song.

In a room lined with peg board
A cross marks the spot
Where he once tapped his Lansky store shoes
Where Tupelo met Memphis
Where hillbilly white
Met the black heart of rhythm ‘n’ blues
Where chains were unlocked
Where a culture was shocked
Like nothing we’d witnessed before
Now the room’s filled with tourists
And reel to reel sessions
Those four walls will see him no more

‘Cause Elvis has left the building
He’s found a safe place to dwell
And it’s out in the ether
Where he talks to St Peter
‘Bout the tariff at Heartbreak Hotel
Heartbreak Hotel

In an office in Graceland
Fresh out of the army
That’s where he once talked to the world
of the love that he’d found
In a West German town
Though he said there was no special girl
A vulnerable, coy

All-American boy
With charisma no-one could ignore
Now the room’s filled with tourists
That girl’s in their headphones
Those four walls will see him no more

‘Cause Elvis has left the building
He’s found a safe place to dwell
And it’s out in the ether
Where he talks to St Peter
‘Bout the tariff at Heartbreak Hotel
Heartbreak Hotel.

Interestingly, the day after Elvis left us, three Aussie bands began- INXS, Midnight Oil and Mental as Anything. The baton was being passed on.


Back to Molly Meldrum, and to 1975 when a film clip arrived on his desk from Sweden containing songs by an unknown band called ABBA. The song that stood out was Mamma Mia, but their record label refused to release it as a single until it was played regularly on Countdown. It received so much response that the record company gave in to public demand, and as a result the single took off around the world and ABBA’s international career was launched.

When Abba came to Australia for a sell-out concert tour in ’77, it was like a thank you for giving them their first success. In the audience, fresh from announcing that the Coalition would proceed with full-scale uranium mining was….

Malcolm Fraser
There you go again
You’re no Gough
It’s easy to resist you
Malcolm Fraser
Don’t you know that when
You sell it off
I’ll never ever miss you.

Another act that hit it big in Australia, before the rest of the world, thanks to Molly, was New York band, Blondie.

Darlin’ darlin’ darlin’
I can’t wait to see you
Your picture ain’t enough
I can’t wait to touch you in the flesh

Darlin’ darlin’ darlin’
I can’t wait to hear you
Remembering your love
Is nothing without you in the flesh.

 Lead singer Debbie Harry was discovered when she was part of a female vocal trio called The Stilettos. She was given the job of lead singer in a new band named after the colour of her dyed hair. In 1977 Molly was on one of his international jaunts, and noticed Blondie when they were playing support for Iggy Pop in the US. He was impressed enough to ask them for a video, and In the Flesh got the Countdown treatment. In the words of Debbie Harry:

By the end of 1977 In the Flesh had hit number two in Australia, It was Blondie’s first hit anywhere in the world. Thanks Molly.

Now we cross to Peter Manning with his take on the Cabinet Records of 1977.

Manning, Manning, Manning,
I can’t wait to see you
Your picture ain’t enough
I can’t wait to hear you in the flesh.

You can’t hear him but you can read him. Click the link below. (Reprinted by permission of the National Archives of Australia)

Peter Manning talk 1977


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
All parodies written by by John Shortis
Go Your Own Way written by Lindsey Buckingham
Australia Dear Land of Mine written by John Shortis (senior)
God Save the Queen written by Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Paul Cook, Stephen Jones
Stranded by The Saints, written by Ed Kuepper and Chris Bailey
Molly Meldrum on Countdown
Mull of Kintyre written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine
Watching the Detectives written by Elvis Costello
Elvis Has Left the Building written by John Shortis
Mamma Mia  written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson
In the Flesh written by Deborah Harry and Chris Stein

Paul McCartney- the Biography by Philip Norman
The Never Um Ever Ending Story by Molly Meldrum
Unfaithful Music by Elvis Costello
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
Careless Love by Peter Guralnick

National Archives fact sheet 251 for information about national anthem competitions
Don Chipp’s last speech as a Liberal– audio

Performed 2008
Essay written February 2017

Out of the Cabinet 1990/1991


It’s been seven hours and fifteen days
Since you took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since you took your love away

Since you’ve been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing, I said nothing can take away these blues
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u

In 1985, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince created a side-project, a band called The Family. It was a way to release some more of his music without adding to the overkill of the Prince brand. The Family released one eponymous album, which contained a little known song called Nothing Compares 2 U.

At the same time, Sinead O’Connor, a student at a Quaker boarding school in the town of Waterford in SE Ireland, was spending evenings in her room playing guitar, singing and writing songs. She’d had a tumultuous childhood and found that through singing she could express her pain. Successive schools had tried to steer her away from a life of shoplifting after she was caught nicking a pair of shoes from a shop near her Dublin home. It wasn’t crime that filled her mind now, but instead her sights were clearly set on a career in music.

O’Connor formed a band, dropped out of school, moved to Dublin then to London where she was invited to record as a solo artist. Endowed with thick black hair, she simply rocked up one day at the studio with it all shaved off, a fairly revolutionary move at the time. Maybe it helped that she had the face of an angel with the devil in her heart.

New Musical Express described her as:

The female Johnny Rotten of the 1980s- an angst ridden young woman who shocked established society with her look and views.

Her first album had some success, but it was her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, released in 1990, that caught the world’s attention. Ironically, whilst her songwriting was extremely well-received, it was the album’s one cover, the Prince song that had been around for four years, that took off.

I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said, ‘Girl, you better try to have fun no matter what you do’
But he’s a fool
`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares 2 u.

One contributing factor to the success of the record was the memorable video clip. Shot around Paris, with an all-female crew, it was originally intended to look very Parisian, but the filmmaker was so impressed with Sinead’s look that he decided to concentrate on close-ups of her face as she lip-synched her way through the song’s emotional journey.

Sinead’s image was satirised by Gina Riley on one very popular TV comedy show of the time, Fast Forward.

Nothing is there, I have no hair, I’ll sue.

In 2004, Nothing Compares 2U came in at number 162 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


1990/’91 technology was still fairly primitive compared to what we now have, but it was a landmark era for changes that would hail the modern era.

The digital camera was on the market in the US for the first time, and the world’s first website was launched. Neither had quite taken off yet, with the camera too expensive and rudimentary, and the website nothing more than an information resource about the European Particles Physics Laboratory in Geneva, where the Worldwide Web had been invented.

Only 1% of Australians had taken up the new mobile phone technology, and a new phone provider, Optus, was allowed to operate in competition with previous monopoly holder Telecom. Back then you could ring your phone companies on a 1-3 number for the first time, the call centres were actually in Australia, and the operators were really called Geoffrey and Kylie.

1990/’91 was a time when Australians felt that life was better than it used to be 5 years ago, women more so than men. No wonder because female lawn bowlers were now allowed to wear mini-skirts on the green.

You could grab yourself a bottle of Australian champagne that wasn’t actually champagne for $4.99, and a six-pack of Toohey’s Draught for $5.99.

You could do your supermarket shopping at Coles or Woolies, or Safeway, or Jewel or Bi-Lo. or Franklin’s (which was celebrating its fiftieth birthday.) And thanks to the power of the supermarkets the milkman was becoming a thing of the past with only 19% of households getting milk delivered, compared to 38% 2 years ago.

It was the time of the first Gulf War, which meant that in a matter of months petrol rose from 63.9 to 75.9 cents a litre.

But if you didn’t want to drive, you could fly with either Ansett, or Australian, East-West, or Compass. Sydney to Melbourne with Compass cost $120 return as long as you bought your ticket 9 months in advance, which isn’t as generous as it sounds because that’s about how long the airline lasted.

But if you were feeling guilty about the effect of air travel on the environment you could feel a bit better when you got home, because this was a time when many Councils had introduced recycling bins.


Speaking of recycling, one of the big hits of the time was a song that had been a hit 40 years earlier, now recycled by the magic of recording, sung as a duet by the very dead Nat King Cole, and his then very much alive daughter, Natalie Cole.

Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay
That’s why darling it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too.

The song, from an album made up completely of songs made famous by Natalie’s daddy, helped resurrect Natalie’s career, and made her number 1 in many countries including Australia.

One man who was hoping to be number one in the political hit parade in Australia at the same time was Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Both Hawke and his Liberal opponent Andrew Peacock were saying that the 1990 election was the most important election since the war.

Unfortunately the electorate didn’t agree, as they’d fallen out of love with the two main parties, and were getting more excited about green parties and the Australian Democrats. As I write this in 2016 this sounds all very familiar.

But it didn’t stop the good old ALP coming up with yet another dreadful campaign jingle, this time sung by a bunch of kids, presumably the ones no longer living in poverty by 1990.

Give us an Australia proud and strong
Give us a future we can really build on
‘Cause the future is in our eyes
See the children look into the future.

As expected, the Democrats did well, scoring nearly 12% of the vote, though they lost their leader, Janine Haines who had unsuccessfully tried to win a lower house seat.

Hawke just made it over the line, Peacock resigned, giving way to John Hewson as the new Liberal leader.

So, bird lovers, it’s incredible
That a Hawke can be forgettable
And a Peacock, so forgettable too.

As I worked my way through the Sydney Morning Heralds of these two years I came across a letter to the editor penned by Yours Truly. It simply read:

1975- double dissolution. 1990- double disillusion.


In Europe the Cold War was beginning to thaw, and in a wall-free Berlin, 200,000 people attended an outdoor concert which featured Sinead O’Connor, and Pink Floyd who, appropriately, performed The Wall.

Within months of the wall coming down, the golden arches of MacDonald’s stood proudly in Moscow’s Pushkin Square. Better than Blini or Borscht, bigger than Butterbrot and Boris, classier than caviar, thousands of people queued up for the honour of paying a few days’ wages to get a taste of the West.

Gastronomically, the Bol’shoi Mac was making inroads, but politically it was a time that marked the end of the Soviet parliament and the beginning of the Russian parliament, led by Boris Yeltsin.

Vodkas back I whack
Soviets I sack
I kick them out
Then I put myself in
Country’s in big stink
So grab glass and drink
To me, President Boris Yeltsin

Meanwhile in Britain, Maggie Thatcher‘s Poll Tax was met with riots, and even her own party called her a ‘destructive force’. She resigned and John Major was the new Prime Minister. In Ireland, the country voted in its first female president, Mary Robinson.

But it was in South Africa where the most dramatic and significant changes took place, under the new presidency of the white National Party’s F W de Klerk. As Education Minister de Klerk had favoured such discriminatory practices as keeping blacks out of white universities, but now as President he could see the inevitability of and end to apartheid.

In his inaugural address to parliament in early 1990, he was applauded by the international community when he promised the lifting of bans of the ANC and other illegal parties, reinstatement of freedom of the press, an end to capital punishment, and the release of political prisoners.

Among those to be released was freedom fighter Nelson Mandela who had never stopped fighting for democracy in his 27 years of imprisonment. Soon after his release, as part of a world tour he was the guest of honour at a mega-concert staged at London’s Wembley Stadium, and televised in 61 countries. On the bill, along with acts like Natalie Cole, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, and Simple Minds, was Johnny Clegg, a white musician who had formed mixed-race bands in South Africa. His song Asimbonanga was among the many songs written to support Mandela during his imprisonment.

A sea gull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ u Mandela sina (We have not seen Mandela)
La phe kh-na (In the place where he is)
La phe seli khona (In the place where he is kept).

At the end of 1990, Oliver Tambo, who had led the ANC through its darkest years, returned to South Africa after years of exile in Stockholm. Mandela became the President of the ANC, facing the challenge of making the transition from clandestine organisation to mainstream player. By the end of 1991, at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, the stage was set for the formation of a multiracial transitional government, a new constitution, and a commitment to an undivided South Africa.


And so to Australian state politics, where in Queensland, the outcomes of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption were providing much interest.

Police Commissioner Terry Lewis was sentenced to 14 years for corruption and forgery , and Joh Bjelke-Petersen was on trial for perjury.

The perjury charge was related to whether Joh had lied when answering questions about a cash donation of $100,000 by Singapore businessman Robert Sng. Just months after the donation, Sng’s company got the go-ahead to create a new hotel precinct in Brisbane’s Edward Street. Joh pleaded not guilty, and after a trial lasting four weeks, as the jury considered its verdict, Joh had this to say:

I am innocent and these people in here couldn’t prove otherwise. They can try going on as long as they like, they’ll never get any further than they got tonight- up a road, up a dry gully.

After five days when the jury foreman, Luke Shaw, announced that no verdict was reached, the jurors went public, saying that the foreman had dismissed their points of view. There was an uproar when it was discovered that Shaw was an active member of The Friends of Joh group. The case was thrown out of court, and Joh got off, scot free.

Labor’s Wayne Goss was now Premier of Queensland, and was taking the state in a more progressive direction, by bringing in laws that decriminalised homosexuality. Even though Victoria and NSW had made this change a decade earlier, Queensland right-wingers and fundamentalist churches were opposed. According to Elaine Nile of the Call to Australia Party:

It seems that Labor governments are a bit morally bent in that direction.

Unbelievably it wasn’t till 1990 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. And it was still an offence in Tasmania, ‘against the law of nature’, punishable with 21 years gaol, after a bill to decriminalise it failed to make it through the Upper House.


I love myself, I want you to love me
When I feel down, I want you above me
I search myself, I want you to find me
I forget myself, I want you to remind me

I don’t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
Oh, I don’t want anybody else, oh, no
Oh, no, oh, no.

I Touch Myself, recorded by Australian group The Divynyls in LA in 1991, is a rare thing, a hit song about female masturbation, although Madonna had taken us there the year before when she simulated the act while singing Like a Virgin on her Blonde Ambition tour.

The song was actually co-written by Mark McEntee and Chrissie Amphlett of The Divynyls, with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who were the writers of Like a Virgin.

Amphlett had come a long way from the day when she was first noticed by McEntee while singing in a massed choir at the Sydney Opera House in front of an audience of priests and nuns.

You’re the one who makes me coming running
You’re the sun who makes me shine
When you’re around I’m always laughin’
I want to make you mine

I close my eyes and see you before me
Think I would die if you were to ignore me
A fool could see just how much I adore you
I’d get down on my knees, I’d do anything for you.

The record was accompanied by a sensual video clip, which was banned from daytime TV in Australia.

Amazingly they reacted quite differently in the US. As Amphlett said:

I mean it is on television six times a day. There is no problem with it whatsoever either on radio or TV. I thought that Australia would be more liberal but it seems to be a lot more straight-laced.

Amphlett died of breast cancer 2013, and the song was re-recorded by leading female artists to raise awareness and funds for research.

I don’t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
Oh, I don’t want anybody else, oh, no
Oh, no, oh, no.


Opera was a newsworthy topic in ‘90/’91 for a number of reasons. Australia’s first opera super star Grammy Award-winner, La Stupenda, Dame Joan Sutherland, retired after a career of 40 years, and The Three Tenors (Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras) made their debut appearance in Rome, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Final. The recording of this debut became the best-selling classical album of all time.

Opera also figured in the drama of Australian politics, as Keating gave a famous speech about leadership in which he never mentioned Hawke, but referred to himself as the Placido Domingo of Australian politics, centre stage, always giving quality performances.

Leadership is not about being popular. It’s about being right and being strong.

And as he was making that speech, this song sung by Bette Midler was roaring up the charts.

From a distance
The world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains wide
From a distance
The ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance
There is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man.

While this positive song echoed throughout the land, Mr Keating told us that this was the recession we had to have, and his running of the economy was being blamed for a 30% increase in hair loss.

From a distance
We all have enough
No hungry mouths to feed
Mr Keating, can we believe this stuff?
That no one is in need.

For the first time news of the secret agreement known as The Kirribilli Agreement in which, some years earlier, Hawke assured Keating that he would hand the leadership to him at a suitable time after the 1990 federal election. Keating decided that the suitable time was now, so on June 3 1991 he challenged Hawke, losing by 44-66 and immediately resigned as Treasurer. He vowed not to challenge again, and instead sat and watched from the comfort of his backbench pew.

From a distance
There is no harmony
And it echoes through our land
It’s the voice of Bob
It’s the voice of Paul
It’s the voice of the Big Picture Man.

The conflict between Paul and Bob was being reported everywhere, which led one overseas journalist to interview one Labor politician who knew exactly what was going on. (The journo’s questions in regular italics, the politician’s answers in dark).

Is Bob Hawke from the Right or the Left?
He’s from the Right.

How Right?
He’s the most Right wing Labor PM since Scullin.

So he’s supported by the ALP’s Right wing?

So who is supporting him?
The Left wing.

Oh so the Left like Hawke?
No they can’t stand him.

Why does the Left support him then?
Because by supporting him they can extract concessions from him.

Why doesn’t the left support PK in return for concessions?
Because the Left can’t stand Keating either.

Hasn’t the ALP got a better chance of winning the next election with Keating?

So by sticking with Hawke the Left is guaranteeing the government’s defeat at the next election?

Are you saying the Left would rather see the government thrown out of office than switch from Hawke to Keating?

Have the Left got any brains?
Yes, but cleverly concealed in the rear of their trousers.

Then on December 19, Keating challenged again and by a narrow margin of 56-51, became Australia’s 24th Prime Minister.

And the portrait on the wall
It must be anything but small
Must be as wide as it is tall
Big Picture Man
Big Picture Man.


The never ending fight for rights of our indigenous people was as strong as ever, as three landmark songs were written, all with links to one man, Paul Kelly.

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow

Vestey was fat with money and muscle
Beef was his business, broad was his door
Vincent was lean and spoke very little
He had no bank balance, hard dirt was his floor

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow.

In 1991, singer/songwriters Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody went camping at Lake Wivenhoe in Queensland, and one night around the campfire, guitar and mandolin in hand, a cycle of chords started to form, and a song emerged.

Eight years went by, eight long years of waiting
Till one day a tall stranger appeared in the land
And he came with lawyers and he came with great ceremony
And through Vincent’s fingers poured a handful of sand

From little things big things grow
From little things big things grow.

It was Paul Kelly who gave Archie Roach’s career the nudge it needed to record this iconic 1990 song about the Stolen Generation, from his album Charcoal Lane.

This story’s right, this story’s true
I would not tell lies to you
Like the promises they did not keep
And how they fenced us in like sheep

Said to us come take their hand
Sent us off to mission land
Taught us to read, to write and pray
Then they took the children away

Took the children away
The children away
Snatched from their mother’s breast
Said this is for the best
Took them away.

Back in ’88 Bob Hawke had promised to enter into a treaty with indigenous Australians by 1990. The magic year had come, but alas no treaty or any steps towards it becoming a reality. So Galarrwuy Yunupingu from Yothu Yindi invited Paul Kelly up to Arnhem Land to work on the song with him, and once again it was around a campfire that a verse of lyrics were developed.

According to Paul Kelly:

We got pretty stuck for a while. I’m not really someone who writes from the top up, or from a theme down. So we struggled.

Then in Darwin, as the band were rehearsing songs for their next album, Kelly jammed with them and a groove started to develop. Over the top of the groove they started singing the words they had so far, including an improvised chant:

Treaty yeah, Treaty now

Some time later, Yothu Yindi’s manager rang Paul Kelly to tell him that the band had recorded Treaty and that the record company were keen to release it except no one can really hear the words properly.

Kelly informed him that that was probably because they weren’t all written yet, so he quickly convened with Yunupingu, and the two collaborated with Peter Garrett who made a few suggestions. The next day the song was recorded, and its remixed version that came out in 1991 went global, taking Aboriginal music and language to the world.

Well I heard it on the radio
And I saw it on the television
Back in 1988, all those talking politicians
Words are easy, words are cheap
Much cheaper than our priceless land
But promises can disappear
Just like writing in the sand

Treaty yeah treaty now treaty yeah treaty now

Nhima djat’pangarri nhima walangwalang
Nhe djat’payatpa nhima gaya nhe
Matjini Yakarray
Nhe djat’pa nhe walang gumurrt jararrk gutju.

(which translates as-‘dance, improvise, keep going, my grandson’).


Looking back at these years from 2017, it’s interesting to see who’s still around, and how little some things change.

For example, Donald Trump divorced his then wife Ivana who was moaning that she might have to survive in a $5 million mansion on a mere $33 million pay-out. The poor darling needed millions a year just to cover basic necessities like bodyguards, chauffeurs, servants and cosmetic surgery. Not to mention the therapy for the poodles, and the goldfish’s personal trainer.

In Australian politics, Barrie Cassidy was Bob Hawke’s press secretary, and Tony Abbott was John Hewson’s.

A $2.50 Medicare co-payment was proposed by the Hawke government, and a 15% GST by the Liberals.

It was alleged that there was a political bias to the left in the press gallery, and a claim of ABC bias from Bob Hawke, so Gerard Henderson was called in to appear on the ABC for balance.

And in sport, South Sydney footballers were caught up in a drug scandal.

Some things never change.


Hey hey hey hey
There’ll be food on the table tonight
Hey hey hey hey
There’ll be pay in your pocket tonight

My gut is wrenched out, it is crunched up and broken
My life that is lived is no more than token
Who’ll strike the flint up on the stone and tell me why
If I yell out at night, there’s a reply of blue silence
The screen is no comfort, I can’t speak my sentence
They blew the lights at heaven’s gate and I don’t know why

But if I work all day on the blue sky mine
There’ll be food on the table to night
Still I walk up and down on the blue sky mine
There’ll be pay in your pocket tonight.

Blue Sky Mine from Midnight Oil, a response to reports of a rapid increase in cases of Mesothelioma, which had doubled over the past decade. The main culprits were power stations, the building industry, and ship-building.

But Rear Admiral Holthouse of the Australian Navy didn’t agree, declaring in front of 15,000 sailors and their families that the deadly blue asbestos which still infested the Navy’s ships and bases ‘is a naturally occurring fibre and is so harmless you can eat it’.

Midnight Oil’s song was about the town of Wittenoom in WA where blue asbestos had been mined for many years.

But if I work all day on the blue sky mine
There’ll be food on the table to night
Still I walk up and down on the blue sky mine
There’ll be pay in your pocket tonight.


1990/1991 movies
Terminator 2
Naked Gun 2 ½
Godfather 3
Omen 4
Rocky 5

1990/1991 births
Harry Potter
Wyatt Roy
The Australian Republic Movement
The Wiggles

1990/1991 deaths
Sir John Kerr
Manning Clark
Patrick White
Roald Dahl
Greta Garbo
Leonard Bernstein
And Freddie Mercury


Girls, is your under-arm area a little on the nose? On the bugle? A bit funky? Then you need Teen Spirit deodorant. It comes in a full range of aromas- Pink Crush, Sweet Strawberry, Romantic Rose, California Breeze, Ocean Surf, Caribbean Cool and Orchard Blossom. Teen Spirit Deodorant- it leaves no white residue.

Teen Spirit, the deodorant of choice of the girlfriend of Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Seattle band Nirvana. When a friend told him he smelt like Teen Spirit, Kurt took it as having a revolutionary meaning, a good name for a song, so he wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit, although he never actually used those words in the lyrics. The song became a Generation X anthem, introducing grunge, a hybrid of punk and heavy metal, to the world.

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend
She’s overboard, self assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid, and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido.

Cobain grew up in the logging town of Aberdeen, 100 miles west of Seattle. Through his father’s record collection he became familiar with the heavy metal sounds of Black Sabbath. His connection to punk is a little more obscure, because record shops in his home town didn’t sell the works of the Sex Pistols and the like, so he had to make do with reading about the punk lifestyle in magazines.

A fellow high school mate, bassist Krist Novoselic, formed a band with him and an ever-changing array of drummers. They became Nirvana, eventually found themselves the right drummer, Dave Grohl, and were working on their second album Nevermind when Cobain sent a distorted cassette recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit to producer Butch Vig. Even through all the roughness of this demo he could tell it was a great song.

Rolling Stone gave the album 3 stars.

With Nirvana the latest underground bonus baby to test mainstream tolerance for alternative music, given the small corner of public taste that non-metal guitar rock now commands, the Washington State’ trio’s version of the truth is probably as credible as anyone’s. Nevermind finds Nirvana at the crossroads- scrappy garageland warriors setting their sights on a land of giants.

Nirvana certainly succeeded in the conquest mentioned in the review, with Nevermind eventually selling over 30 million copies worldwide. Smells Like Teen Spirit makes it into many lists of Greatest Songs of All Time, and has been covered by a cappella and jazz groups, there’s a beat-box version, it’s been sampled, and even satirised by Weird Al Jankovic…

What is this song all about?
Can’t figure any lyrics out
How do the words to it go?
I wish you’d tell me, I don’t know
Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know, oh no

A garage band we’re from Seattle
‘Cos it sure beats raising cattle
Well we don’t sound like Madonna
Here we are now, we’re Nirvana.

And so we come to the time when we introduce Professot Nicholas Brown, who’s been poring through the cabinet documents of ‘90/’91 to give you the lowdown on the machinations of the final years of the Hawke government and the early Keating days.

In the Archives, it is dangerous
So here he is now, entertain us
Doctor Nick is all bravado
Give the man an avocado
Hello hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello

Ladies and Gentlemen, Professor Nicholas Brown.

To find Nicholas Brown’s in-depth take on the cabinet documents of 1990/’91, go to Professor Nicholas Brown 90 & 91


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
All parodies by John Shortis (except for Weird Al’s)
Nothing Compares 2U written by Prince
Nothing Compares 2 U Sinead O’Connor
For Prince’s version go to Nothing Compares 2U Prince
For Gina Riley’s parody, go to Nothing Compares 2U Gina Riley
Unforgettable written by Irving Gordon
Watch the 1990 ALP election ad
Boris Yeltsin written by John Shortis
Asimbonanga written by Johnny Clegg
For an ad for McDonald’s in Russia, go to McDonalds in Russia
I Touch Myself written by Chrissie Amphlett, Mark McEntee, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg
From a Distance written by Julie Gold
Big Picture Man written by John Shortis
From Little Things written by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly
Took the Children Away written by Archie Roach
Treaty written by Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Paul Kelly
Blue Sky Mine written by Midnight Oil
Teen Spirit written by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl
Acoustic version at Teen Spirit acoustic
For Weird Al Jankovic’s  parody, go to Smells Like Nirvana

Books and newspapers
A Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
All Fall Down by Matthew Condon
Reflections of a Bleeding Heart by Don Watson
How To Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
The Canberra Times
Australian Magazine

Treaty J Files

Show performed March 2016
Essay written August 2017

Out of the Cabinet 1981

Please note that we did no Out of the Cabinet show for 1981. Somehow when the Cabinet Papers release changed from one a year to two a year, it was omitted. So I’ve written this as if we did it, so that there is no break in the timeline of essays.


1981 was the year when the dangers of passive smoking were becoming evident, with experts claiming that it caused somewhere between a third to half of the effect of direct smoking.

And still on health, the CSIRO announced that 60-70% of lead in topsoil came from petrol. The petroleum industry disagreed, claiming that the peak scientific organisation had wildly overestimated it, and that the looming change to unleaded petrol was unnecessary.

But with the cost of the dreaded fuel rising from 37c to 37.5 cents per litre, there was a growing shift towards smaller cars, like the Mitsubishi Sigma, which you could purchase for $5,999. Despite this, the 4 millionth Holden car left the GMH assembly line that year.

If you preferred public transport, and you were in Sydney, you would have had to buy your ticket from the driver, or a kerbside ticket-seller, as bus conductors became a thing of the past.

So to the banks- with interest rates rising from 11.5% to 12.5%, long established banks were merging to form Westpac and the National Australia Bank.

It was enough to drive you to drink, which you could achieve quite cheaply by buying yourself a wine cask at just over $1 a litre. But it seems that the world hadn’t yet caught up with this accessible invention from Down Under, because at an Australian Government reception at Davos, in Switzerland, the menu consisted of seafood, beer and cask wine. The only problem was that the Swiss waiters couldn’t work out how to get wine out of a cardboard box so the Aussie diplomats had to come down a peg or two and show them how it was done.

After downing all 4 litres you could probably do with a visit to the doctor, which would set you back $14. And if the doctor suggested you look at an alternative method of relaxation, you could always turn to the Sydney Morning Herald which, in May 1981, published its 10,000th cryptic crossword, a milestone indeed.

All this at a time when the average wage was $315 a week, and the average price of electricity was $6.63 a week. You could get yourself a tube of Colgate toothpaste for 69c, a packet of Blue Omo for $1.19., and a plastic rubbish bin for $6.50. The bin of course had no wheels, and was not provided by the council.

1981 was the year when a referendum was held in Tasmania to vote for whether or not the Franklin Dam should be built. The questions on the ballot paper gave voters choices as to where the dam should be situated, not whether they approved or not. So 45% voted informally, writing ‘No Dams’ on their ballot papers.

And more and more people were taping music off FM radio, so much so that a levy on blank cassette tapes was advocated. Whether your cassettes were illegal or legal, you could listen to them on your brand new Sony Walkman, while you were perambulating.


I like small speakers
I like tall speakers
If they’ve music they’re wired for sound
Walking about with a head full of music
Cassette in my pocket and I’m gonna use it
Out on the street, you know
Oh oh whoa oh oh whoa oh oh

Into the car, go to work and I’m cruising
I never think that I’ll blow all my fuses
Traffic flows
Into the breakfast show.

Wired For Sound was a big hit for Cliff Richard in 1981, making it to number 1 here in Australia. By then, Cliff had had hits in every decade since the fifties, and this was one of his eighties’ efforts.

Power from the needle to the plastic
AM, FM, I feel so ecstatic now
It’s music I’ve found
And I’m wired for sound
I was a small boy who don’t like his toys
I could not wait to get wired for sound.

The Walkman was created by Sony, first released in 1979, so quite the thing by ’81. These days the sight of someone walking around or sitting in a train with headphones on is ubiquitous, but back in the day, Cliff was singing of the latest technology.

I like small speakers
I like tall speakers
If they’ve music they’re wired for sound.


Her hair is Harlow gold
Her lips are sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She’s got Bette Davis eyes

She’ll turn her music on you
You won’t have to think twice
She’s pure as New York snow
She’s got Bette Davis eyes.

Jackie DeShannon is a prolific American singer-songwriter with a string of credits including When You Walk in the Room, made famous by The Searchers in the sixties.

Some years later, after watching Hollywood legend Bette Davis starring in the classic movie, Now Voyager, she co-wrote a song called Bette Davis Eyes. Her recording of the song had a jazzy, bluesy swing, and went pretty well unnoticed.

DeShannon’s co-writer, Donna Weiss, a backing singer for the likes of Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder, sent the song to husky-voiced session singer and songwriter, Kim Carnes. With her band and her producer, Carnes threw the song up in the air and rearranged it as a darker contemporary synthesiser-driven track, recorded in one take.

I’m a big fan of the mondegreen, and the producer of this new version of Bette Davis Eyes perpetuated a beauty when he misheard the line ‘She knows just what it takes to make a crow blush’. He thought it was ‘to make a pro blush’, quite a different meaning.

She’ll unease you
All the better just to please you
She’s precocious
And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs
She’s got Bette Davis eyes.

Bette Davis herself loved the song, writing in her memoir:

It was a thrill to become a part of the rock generation.

She actually wrote to all involved to tell them this, and Carnes visited the actress at her home a number of times.

She’ll let you take her home
It whets her appetite
She’ll lay you on her throne
She’s got Bette Davis eyes.

The track has a local connection, in that the video clip was directed by an Aussie, Russell Mulcahy, and his creative effort, which was huge on MTV, helped get the song to number 1 in Australia, and around the world, one of the big hits of 1981.

She’ll tease you
She’ll unease you
Just to please you
She’s got Bette Davis eyes.


After their disco successes, The Bee Gees were moving towards projects beyond the confines of the group. When asked in a newspaper interview who they’d most like to work with, they unanimously went for Barbra Streisand. Her people saw the article, and spoke to The Bee Gees’ people.

Streisand was looking for a way to put out a contemporary album that took her away from the Broadway orientation of much of her work. So Barry, Robin and Maurice sent her five songs which she liked so much she asked for five more.

The big hit on the ensuing album, Guilty, was written by all three Bee Gees, and recorded as a duet with Barry.

And we got nothing to be guilty of
Our love will climb any mountain near or far, we are
And we never let it end
We are devotion
And we got nothing to be sorry for
Our love is one in a million
Eyes can see that we got a highway to the sky
Don’t wanna hear your goodbye.

Barbra and Barry weren’t the only ones to have nothing to be guilty of in 1981.

John Hinckley Junior, obsessed with actor Jodie Foster, had written Foster a love note threatening to kill newly inaugurated President Reagan if she didn’t love him. She didn’t, and his subsequent assassination attempt wounded the president and three others.

Foster had played a teenage prostitute in the 1976 movie Taxi Driver which was due to be aired on Channel 7 just a few days after the incident. The viewing was promptly cancelled by the Broadcasting Tribunal.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

And he’s got nothing to be guilty of.

Other assassination attempts that year did result in persons being found guilty. Pope John Paul II was riding in a Fiat Popemobile which had just arrived at St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City, when Mehmet Ali Ağca fired 4 shots at him, causing severe blood loss. Ağca was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, though the Pope forgave him.

A group of assassins was responsible for the killing of Egypt’s President Sadat in 1981. Each were tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad.

And in The Mall in London, six blanks were fired at the Queen at the Trooping of the Colour, while she was riding her 19-year-old horse, Burmese, but monarch and horse were unharmed. The perpetrator was Marcus Sarjeant, who, inspired by the attempts on Pope and President that year, as well as the killing of John Lennon months earlier, said he did it to be famous.

In Australia in 1981 we got to find out who was guilty of the killing of baby Azaria Chamberlain- it was the dingo. Well, that was in February, but after new evidence was presented, this verdict was quashed later in the year and a second inquest begun.

This time, (but watch this space), the  dingo had:

                     Nothing to be guilty of.


Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles had known each other for several years, and had been ‘seeing each other’ for about 6 months when the Prince finally popped the question in February 1981. But Di had a holiday planned, so she didn’t give him an answer up front.

The holiday was spent at Bloomfield, the property owned by her mother and stepfather near the NSW town of Yass. When she wasn’t helping rid the property of the noxious weed called the Bathurst burr, she was staying in a beach house near Bateman’s Bay. The Australian air must have gotten to her because on her return she accepted the Prince’s offer, and was soon sporting a £30,000 engagement ring, made of diamonds, sapphire and white gold.

Despite the British feminist magazine, Spare Rib, producing a prophetic badge that bore the words Don’t do it Di!, the royal wedding went ahead in July, attracting a television audience that represented 1/6 of the world’s population. Amazingly, the BBC didn’t charge for coverage, so it was picked up by most Australian channels, except ADS-7 in Adelaide who showed a John Wayne movie, and TVT-6 in Southern Tasmania who showed Last Tango in Paris.

The wedding had a few interesting moments, like Diana calling her beloved Phillip instead of Charles. And there was a change to the traditional vows with the Princess not promising to obey the Prince.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser wanted Charles to be the next Governor-General, but, according to a poll, only 28.4% agreed. Overwhelmingly the opinion was that our next representative of the Queen should be, as had been the custom for 50 years now, an Australian.

Later in the year the royal family could relax as it was announced that the Princess was expecting an heir to the throne the following July.


Not long before I began writing this essay, the great AC/DC musician and songwriter, Malcolm Young, had died. A few days later, a fellow Malcolm (Turnbull that is), in an attempt to break through to a different demographic, was doing an interview on Sydney’s Triple M’s morning show. The hosts asked the then PM what his favourite AC/DC song was. It was obvious he didn’t know any, which is fine, but instead of declaring ignorance, he asked the interviewers to name theirs. ‘Long Way to the Top’ and ‘Highway to Hell’ were mentioned, so he could have named one of those, but no, what does our Malcolm do? He names a song by Mental As Anything- If You Leave me Can I Come Too, a song that happens to come from 1981.

Words were exchanged last night
You could call it a fight
It’s such a shame, I never thought we would
Wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t so good
I’ve had enough of that
With other loves in days gone by
It wasn’t much I know
Mmm just enough, enough to make me cry

If you leave me, can I come too?
We can always stay
But if you leave me, can I come too?
And if you go, can I come too?

The song has one of the great hook lines of all time in my opinion, one of those that makes you think ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ But the credit goes to singer/guitarist of The Mentals, Martin Plaza.

If You Leave Me made it to number 4 in the Australian charts.

Don’t let it happen again
‘Cause that I couldn’t take
Ooh once was quite enough
It’s easy to forgive, harder to forget           

If you leave me, can I come too?
We can always stay
But if you leave me, can I come too?
And if you go, can I come too?

In 1981, another Malcolm (Fraser that is) was PM, and that year his Industrial Relations minister Andrew Peacock resigned, accusing the PM of gross disloyalty. Leadership challenges were in the air, though not acted upon (unsuccessfully) until the next year. Fraser was never a big fan of Peacock and vice versa, so it’s very unlikely that he would have ever said to Andrew:

If you leave me, can I come too?


It was the 25th anniversary of TV in Australia, and Federal Health Minister, Michael Mackellar, marked the occasion by buying a colour TV set in Hong Kong, but made a false customs declaration when he brought it into Australia. To make matters worse, the Minister for Customs, John Moore, did nothing to make sure that the fine of $184 was paid. Both ministers resigned over the affair. These days they’d be stars of Border Security.

Big TV shows of 1981 were Brideshead Revisited, and a TV adaptation of A Town Like Alice, presenting the Northern Territory to the world.

The TV quote of the year though came from George Negus on 60 Minutes, when he said of Treasurer John Howard:

His manner of speech is as exciting as a Dictaphone on an off day.

Just in case TV wasn’t boring enough, televised parliament was being talked about, and the keenest advocate was none other than Speaker, Billy Snedden.

Meanwhile on the big screen we viewed Australian movies like Gallipoli, Breaker Morant and Puberty Blues. From America there was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark , The Shining and Superman 2. And from Britain, French Lieutenant’s Woman, Elephant Man, Being There, The Life of Brian, and Chariots of Fire, based on the true story of two athletes, one Christian, one Jew, competing in the 1924 Olympics.

The movie was a blockbuster, winning many awards, as did its soundtrack, written by Evángelos Papathanassíou (known professionally as Vangelis), a Greek composer whose work ranged from ambient music to jazz, to orchestral and electronic music. Choosing a contemporary sound was quite ground-breaking for an historical film which would normally attract a symphonic score reminiscent of the period.

Chariots of Fire was the biggest-selling single of 1981.


Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go away, don’t come ’round here no more
Can’t you see that it’s late at night?
I’m very tired, and I’m not feeling right
All I wish is to be alone
Stay away, don’t you invade my home
Best off if you hang outside
Don’t come in, I’ll only run and hide
Who can it be now?

The music of Who Can It Be Now? was written by Colin Hay in a treehouse in Bermagui on the south coast of NSW. The words came later, when he was living in a flat in Melbourne’s St Kilda, next to drug dealers, and people would often knock on Hay’s door by mistake, to the point where he became paranoid about opening his door.

Who can it be knocking at my door?
Make no sound, tip-toe across the floor
If he hears, he’ll knock all day
I’ll be trapped, and here I’ll have to stay
I’ve done no harm, I keep to myself
There’s nothing wrong with my state of mental health
I like it here with my childhood friend
Here they come, those feelings again!

The song was a hit in Australia for Men At Work, made it on to their album of that year, Business As Usual, and went on to become an international hit.

On each episode of SBS’s RocKwiz, the house band always plays an instrumental version of this Aussie classic as the panel tries to work out who the guests are.

So, Quiz Time:

  1. Who can it be now?
    When I was elected French president in 1981, one of the first things I did was to abolish the guillotine.
  2. Who can it be now?
    I’m a slick, bright and bouncy, manufactured English vocal group that won Eurovision in 1981 with a particularly annoying song that was only notable because the two boys in the group pulled long skirts off the two girls, revealing mini skirts.
  3. Who can it be now?
    I’m an Australian state premier who, after a ‘xxxxxslide’ at the last election, was returned even more handsomely in 1981.
  4. Who can it be now?
    I’m a notorious Australian state premier who allowed sand mining on Moreton Island in 1981, the year my wife became a senator.
  5. Who can it be now?
    I’m an ex-pat Australian singer-songwriter who managed, in 1981, to get a songwriting credit for co-writing (with Carol Bayer-Sager) one line of Arthur’s Theme.

When you get between the moon and New York City.

The best line in the whole song, in my opinion.

  1. And finally, Who can it be now?
    I am an ex-pat Aussie living in the USA, and I sang one of the big hits of 1981. The song was about the physical side of a relationship, but I managed to make it look like it was more about fitness than sex.

And the answers are-
1. Francois Mitterand
2. Buck’s Fizz
3. Neville Wran
4. Joh Bjelke-Petersen
5. Peter Allen
6. Olivia Newton-John, and the song?


Let’s get physical, physical
I want to get physical
Let’s get into physical
Let me hear your body talk, your body talk
Let me hear your body talk

I’m saying all the things that I know you’ll like
Making good conversation
I gotta handle you just right
You know what I mean
I took you to an intimate restaurant
Then to a suggestive movie
There’s nothing left to talk about
Unless it’s horizontally.

A backing singer on The Bee Gees’ Spicks and Specks album from 1966 was Steve Kipner, who went on to become half of duo Tin Tin, best known for the 1971 hit Toast and Marmalade For Tea.

In 1981, Kipner, then living in California, had co-written (Let’s Get) Physical, with overt references to horizontal folk dancing. Thinking it would be ideal for a raunchy singer like Rod Stewart, he was surprised when it was taken up by squeaky clean Olivia Newton-John.

The accompanying video gave a boost to the popularity of the fairly new exercise regime that combined music with exercise, aerobics. And Olivia’s gym gear made physical exercise a fashion statement.

It was still too steamy, though, for certain conservative US communities, and was on the banned list on some radio stations, which of course added to its success.

I’ve been patient, I’ve been good
Tried to keep my hands on the table
It’s gettin’ hard this holdin’ back
If you know what I mean
I’m sure you’ll understand my point of view
We know each other mentally
You gotta know that you’re bringin’ out
The animal in me.

Enough of that sex talk, time for a history talk from Dr Jim Stokes.

I want to get cerebral
Let’s get into cerebral
Let me hear your history talk
Let me hear your history talk.

Unfortunately, there was no history talk for 1981 from Dr Stokes with his usual wry look at the Cabinet Records of that year, but you can read about the papers by going to Cabinet documents 1981.


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Bette Davis Eyes written by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss
Bette Davis Eyes Jackie DeShannon version
Bette Davis Eyes Kim Carnes version
Wired For Sound written by Alan Tarney, B. A. Robertson
Guilty written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb
If You Leave Me written by Martin Plaza
Who Can It Be Now? written by Colin Hay
(Let’s Get) Physical written by Steve Kilby and Terry Shaddick.

The Bee Gees by Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook and Môn Hughes.

Show never performed
Essay written Nov 2018.


Out of the Cabinet 1980


At the end of 1979, a song called Escape was released in the US. It didn’t raise any interest at first, but when the song’s writer and singer, Rupert Holmes, reluctantly sub-titled it The Pina Colada Song, it took off and made it to number 1 on the Billboard charts.

By the time it reached our shores in January 1980, the new title was entrenched and it reached a very respectable number 3 on our music charts.

He was tired of his lady
They’d’ been together too long
Like a worn-out recording
Of a favourite song
So while she lay there sleeping
He read the paper in bed
And in the personals column
There was this letter he read

‘If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight
In the dunes of the Cape
I’m the lady you’ve looked for
Write to me and escape’.

Holmes’ website is adorned with the names of many plays, musicals and books he has written, so it’s no surprise that his one big hit is a song with a story. The plot thickens.

So he waited with high hopes
And she walked in the place
He knew her smile in an instant
He knew the curve of her face
It was his own lovely lady
And she said ‘oh it’s you’
Then we laughed for a moment
And he said ‘I never knew,

That you liked Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean
And the taste of champagne
If you’d like making love at midnight
In the dunes of the Cape
You’re the lady I’ve looked for
Come with me and escape.

Holmes originally used the words:

If you like Humphrey Bogart 

At the last minute changed it to Pina Colada, a Latin American cocktail made of rum, coconut and pineapple juice, a drink he didn’t even like, in fact he reckoned it tasted like a cure for diarrhoea. According to some, you would need such a cure after hearing the song, an opinion supported by Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Worst Songs Of All Time.

But the song has had a life of its own, being used in many movies including Shrek, the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and in the streamed TV series Better Call Saul.


In 1980, when the average weekly pay was $238, a loaf of sliced bread cost 61 cents, petrol was 33.5 c a litre. You could buy a beautiful bottle of Blue Nun Liebfraumilch for $3.99 and a slab of Toohey’s cans for $9.30.

A brand new Ford Escort went for $4 999, a Ford Fairlane for $12,458, and in those pre-float days, the American and Aussie dollars were at parity.

Australia’s first test tube baby was born, the Pritikin diet was the latest thing, as was the Casiotone mini keyboard.

63% thought that the man should be the breadwinner of the family.

Woolworths became a major shareholder in Dick Smith shops.

Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from an Ayers Rock campsite.

One series of the TV show Dallas ended with an important question- who shot JR?

The press made some interesting predictions that in the next seven years we’d have a 24-hour news channel, cricket would become the national sport in the US, and women priests would be ordained in the Catholic Church.

And the latest hair fashion was the Bo Derek look, consisting of a beaded and plaited style like the one she sported in the movie 10.


There was another fashion developing in London nightclubs, called the New Romantic Movement. It was the post-punk era, and the austerity of punk gave way to its opposite, a world of flamboyance and glamour, sent up beautifully in this David Bowie classic from 1980.

There’s a brand new dance but I don’t know its name
That people from bad homes do again and again
It’s big and it’s bland full of tension and fear
They do it over there but we don’t do it here.

The recording is notable for its mechanical-sounding solo from English experimental guitarist Robert Fripp, and the sound is so contemporary that it feels like it came straight from the dance floor in those London nightclubs.

Fashion- turn to the left
Fashion- turn to the right
Oooh, fashion
We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town

But surprisingly it didn’t do as well as some of Bowie’s other records, only making it to number 70 in America, and 27 in Australia. It did make it to number 5 in the UK, the land of the New Romantic Movement.

Oh, bop, do do do do do do do do

In Australia, Fashion would have been one of the first tracks played on Triple J when it went to FM in 1980, along with adult contemporary stations Triple M and 2DAYFM.


British PM Maggie Thatcher suffered that year from functional dysphonia, a swelling of the vocal cords caused by too much shouting in Parliament. Much of her shouting was about her economic program which was so austere even the Queen had to economise.

At the 1980 Conservative Party conference, the Iron Lady’s voice was in fine form when members of her own party suggested she reverse some of her tough economic decisions. Her reply?

To those waiting for a U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.

In the USA, former actor and governor of California, Ronald Reagan, became the Republican nominee, and defeated Jimmy Carter in the November election.

A recession is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours, and recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.

Joh Bjelke Petersen had a 6th resounding win in Queensland.

You know the trouble with Queensland is that it gets branded as being part of Australia.

In the year that Bob Hawke was running for the seat of Wills at the federal election, a novelty song called The Bob Hawke Song made it on to the ABC news, because its writer, Pat Alexander, was working in the national broadcaster’s mail room. Alexander pressed a single of the song and sent it out to radio stations and performers, including Slim Dusty. On the B-side was a song called Duncan.

I love to have a beer with Duncan
I love to beer with Dunc
We drink in moderation
And we never ever ever get rolling drunk.

Slim’s wife, Joy McKean, noticed the song and suggested that Slim record it. He did, and promoted the song to radio stations by recording versions with the relevant announcer’s name replacing Duncan’s. John Laws must have liked his version because he played it 11 times during one show. Duncan went on to become a best-seller. If only he’d written a verse for Bob.

I love to have a beer with Hawkie
I love to have beer with Bob
He drinks in moderation
And he never ever ever drinks on the job.

Hawkie, a renowned drinker, gave up the grog in 1980. He later said:

If you’re going to become Prime Minister of this country you can’t afford ever to be in a position where you can make a fool of yourself or of your country, and I never had a drop for the whole period I was in Parliament.

Opinion polls dominated this election like never before. A Labor win was predicted, and Fraser responded with diatribes on the evils of unions and socialism. The Anglican Church prayed for voters. By the eve of the election, Labor voters were feeling pretty confident.

Nothing could be crazier than to vote for Grazier Fraser in the morning
What would be more welcome than defeat of dear old Malcolm, no more yawning
When I have to cast my vote on Election Day
I’ll write a note and here’s what I’ll say
Nothing could be crazier than to vote for Malcolm Fraser this morning.

But the polls proved very wrong, and for the third time, it was a case of:

What a friend we have in Malcolm
Loud his praises let us sing
If he ever tries to walk on water
I hope, like Harold Holt, that he can swim.

More female politicians were elected than ever before- in the lower house we had Margaret Guilfoyle, Joan Child and Ros Kelly, and in the Senate, Susan Ryan and Flo Bjelke-Petersen.

Mrs Bjelke-Petersen, can I ask you a couple of questions?
As long as the answer’s not Labor.

Why’s that, Flo?
Because I always say that if the answer is Labor it must have been a very foolish question.

Do you know anything about Pol Pot or the killing fields of Kampuchea?
No I don’t, but they definitely sound like they’re communistic-oriented.


In the world of music-
Belgian-born Australian multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Wally De Backer, better known as Gotye
American singer/songwriter, actress, dancer, Christina Aguilera.

In the world of sport-
Aussie Rule legend and anti-racism campaigner, Adam Goodes
Tennis champions, America’s Venus Williams, and Sweden’s Martina Hingis.

In the world of acting-
American TV and film actress, Michelle Williams
American film actor, Jake Gyllenhaal.

And in the world of being famous for being famous-
Reality TV personality, actress, socialite, model, singer, businesswoman, Kim Kardashian, the woman who said that her biggest fear in life was stretchmarks.

Lady Diana Spencer had first met Prince Charles in 1977, but it was in 1980, when he sat on the same bale of hay at a friend’s barbie, that he began to think of her as a future bride.

And it was the year that film writer and director Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow first got together.

1980 was the year we lost many luminaries of stage and screen like Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers, Jimmy Durante, Steve McQueen, Mae West, as well as some iconic music heroes such as Bon Scott of AC/DC and, of course, John Lennon.

After five years of domesticity in his New York apartment, Lennon had released Double Fantasy, a collaboration with Yoko, his first album of new songs since 1974. On Monday, 8 December 1980, he heard that, despite mixed reactions, the album was about to go gold. After a day of finishing the recording of Yoko’s song, Walking On Thin Ice, the couple returned to their Dakota apartment, Lennon clutching a tape of the final mix of the song.

Waiting for him was Mark Chapman, a deranged fan who thought Lennon had betrayed the ideals of The Beatles. As the car pulled up, Chapman shot him then leaned against the brickwork calmly reading Catcher in the Rye. Written on the flyleaf were the words…

This is my statement. JL DOA.

The first single from the album was (Just Like) Starting Over, and John Lennon had chosen the second single release to be Woman, the most Beatle-sounding song he’d written as a solo artist.

Woman I can hardly express
My mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness
After all I’m forever in your debt
And woman I will try to express
My inner feelings and my thankfulness
For showing me the meaning of success.


The big Australian movie of 1980 was Breaker Morant, directed by Bruce Beresford. It cleaned up at the AFI Awards, and was accepted as the Australian entry at the Cannes Film Festival, where Jack Thompson won best actor.

Internationally, movies of 1980 included The Shining, The Empire Strikes Back, All That Jazz, Xanadu, The Secret Policeman’s Ball, Kramer vs Kramer, and The Rose, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, starring Bette Midler.

Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love it is a flower
And you its only seed.

When word was out that the movie was being made, an unknown singer-songwriter called Amanda McBroom dug out a song she’d written years earlier, also called The Rose, and sent it in to the producers, who put it in the reject box. But when Bette Midler heard it, she loved it and the song became the hit theme song of the hit movie of 1980.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.


Every year has its one-hit wonders and 1980 wasn’t immune from this eternal phenomenon.

Day Trip to Bangor by English folk group, Fiddler’s Dram, was in the Aussie charts for 15 weeks, peaking at number 5, proving what true sophisticates we were back then.

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor?
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack and we opened a bottle of cider
Singin’ a few of our favourite songs as the wheels went around.

One story goes that the song was written after a day trip to the nearby North Wales seaside town of Rhyl, but…

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Rhyl 

didn’t quite cut the mustard, to the dismay of the Mayor of Rhyl who thought the song would single-handedly increase the town’s tourist potential. Then when he heard the rest of the song…

Wasn’t it nice, eating chocolate ice as we strolled around the fun-fair?
Then we ate eels in big ferris wheels as we sailed around the ground but then
We had to be quick ’cause Elsie felt sick and we had to find somewhere to take her
I said to her lad, what made her feel bad was the wheel going ‘round.

He decided that Elsie getting ill in Rhyl wasn’t a good look.

Anyhow, in an interview many years later, Debbie Cook, who wrote the song, said this story is:

A great piece of nonsense.

But, as the author of this essay, I never like the truth to get in the way of a good story.

And one of the good stories in the world of one-hit wonders is Shaddap You Face, written and performed by American/Italian/ Australian singer/songwriter Joe Dolce. It soared to Number 1 in Australia in 1980, was our first triple platinum record, and was number 1 in 11 countries, including Italy.

What’s-a-matter you? (Hey)
Gotta no respect, (Hey)
What-a you t’ink you  do? (Hey)
Why you look-a so sad? (Hey)
It’s-a not so bad, (Hey)It’s-a nice-a place

Ah shaddap-a you face. 

There have been over 50 different foreign-language versions, and the song has even been quoted on The Simpsons.


After her big hit some years earlier, English singer/songwriter Kate Bush had achieved moderate success with two subsequent singles. Then in 1980 she was at the top of her game again with a new release, Babooshka, with a story uncannily similar to the one in The Pina Colada Song.

She wanted to test her husband
She knew exactly what to do
A pseudonym to fool him
She couldn’t have made a worst move
She sent him scented letters
And he received them with a strange delight
Just like his wife

But how she was before the tears
And how she was before the years flew by
And how she was when she was beautiful
She signed the letter-

All yours
Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!
All yours
Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!

Kate had just wanted an alluring name to sign a letter, so used Babooshka without knowing that, spelled slightly differently (Baboushka), it means ‘grandmother’ in Russian.

And it was Russia, in the wake of its invasion of Afghanistan, that was the focus of one of the big stories of 1980.

For many years, the USSR had been supplying aid for infrastructure and education in Afghanistan in return for control of rich natural gas reserves. But the country was in disarray as the Communist policies weren’t in line with traditional Muslim values, which led to a rebellion by extremists.

At the end of the previous year President Amin had seized power, and Soviet soldiers dressed as Afghan guards stormed the presidential palace, murdered the President and replaced him with an exiled Communist leader, Babrak Kemal. 80 000 troops followed and a Soviet invasion was a reality.

In these pre-September 11 days, the West preferred anything other than Communism, including Muslim extremism, so saw this as Soviet aggression. The Soviets said they were acting in response to an appeal for help from the Afghanis.

NATO denounced the Soviet position, and suggested a boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Moscow in the European summer. When US President Carter delivered an ultimatum for the USSR to withdraw its troops by February or there would be no US athletes at the Olympics, he asked other nations to support a boycott. After a four-hour cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Fraser announced that Australia would be part of the boycott.

As part of my series of songs written about all of Australia’s prime ministers, I offer this as my contribution to the story.

Us Soviets, we hatch plan
To invade Afghanistan
West looks at us from afar
Says ‘What naughty boys you are’

In Moscow soon Olympic Games
Jimmy Carter, he’s Insane!
Says ‘athletes, stay where you are’
Who parrots him like budgerigar?

It is special Boycott Boy
Aussie, Aussie, oi-oi-oi
He gives us little joy
Not our pal, Moscow Mal.

With public opinion on side with the boycott, it was a good move for politicians as it was election year in the US and Australia. But the Australian Olympic Federation thought differently and, by a narrow margin, decided to send a strong contingent of athletes to the Games. The Australian Government was so sure of its position that they even offered financial incentives to encourage sporting organisations to stay behind.

Election coming very soon
Moscow Mal plays boycott tune
And to every sporting star
He offers cash in brown paper

Some say ‘da’, and some say ‘nyet’
Some stay dry, and some get wet
Boycott causes brouhaha
Does not hurt USSR

It is special Boycott Boy
Aussie, Aussie, oi-oi-oi
He still gives us little joy
Not our pal, Moscow Mal
I-O-C, oh O-I-C.

The Olympics went ahead, and here in Australia, Channel 7 had to wait till the last minute to announce that they would be broadcasting the Games, even though sponsors and athletes were withdrawing. With every broadcast, this theme song was played endlessly.

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all
A ha ha ha ha – ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We’ll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha – hey!

The song was recorded by a German group called Genghis Khan, and as soon as it was broadcast, the song went straight to number 1 in the first week, a feat that had not been accomplished since Farewell Aunty Jack in 1974. It stayed in the charts for 4 months. We were a sophisticated nation in 1980.

Moscow Moscow drinking vodka all night long
Keeps you happy, makes you strong,A ha ha ha ha – ha!

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr Jim Stokes.

To read a transcript of Jim Stokes’ take on the Cabinet Records of 1980, click onto Jim Stokes 1980 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Parody lyrics by John Shortis
Escape (The Pina Colada Song) written by Rupert Holmes
Fashion written by David Bowie
Duncan written by Pat Alexander. Parody by John Shortis
Malcolm Fraser Grazier, lyrics by Mungo MacCallum, (based on Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be in Carolina  in the Morning)What a Friend We Have in Malcolm, lyrics by Eric Bogle, (based on What a Friend we Have in Jesus)
Woman written by John Lennon
The Rose written by Amanda McBroom
Day Trip to Bangor written by Debbie Cook
Shaddap You Face written by Joe Dolce
Babooshka written by Kate Bush
Moscow Mal written by John Shortis
Moscow written by Ralph Siegel.

John Lennon by Philip Norman
Boycott by Lisa Forrest.

Rupert Holmes’ website
Transcript of an interview with Bob Hawke on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope
Songfacts website.

Show performed 2011
Essay written August 2016.

Out of the Cabinet 1979


We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.       

Another Brick in the Wall Part II was the single from Pink Floyd’s blockbuster double album, The Wall. The album was an outlet for bassist Roger Waters’ feelings of alienation after he’d spat on an irritating audience member at the end of a long North American tour two years earlier. The incident made him realise how there was now an enormous barrier between them and their audience.

This theme of alienation became the basis for The Wall. And just to add to the feeling of isolation, they spent a good part of 1979 in studios across the world, recording it. The Wall was the concept album taken to extremes, more like a play, with characters and storyline- very theatrical.

This track from the album, Another Brick in the Wall Part II, was originally 90 seconds long. The record’s producer who saw the song as a potential single, extended it and added a children’s chorus. The head music teacher at Islington Green School provided the kids, who were asked to sing in an edgy almost shouted fashion, and with a cockney accent. Waters loved the result, and the single became an unlikely Christmas number 1 in the UK. (Hardly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!)

The album went on to sell 12.5 million copies, which led to some questioning about why the Islington kids were paid only with a free copy each of the album, plus a £1,000 donation to the school.

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
(If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t get yer pudding )
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
(You behind the bike sheds, stand still Laddy)

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.


And all this in the UNESCO International Year of the Child.

Care for Kids, it’s important to care for kids
It’s important to be there for kids
It’s important to care for kids.

The Care For Kids jingle, written by Australian composer Peter Best, came to attention via an advertising agency in which broadcaster Philip Adams was involved. The jingle actually made it into the Australian charts getting as high as number 13.

1979 was also the year when an Aussie girl wearing nothing but a bikini made front page news when she kissed Prince Charles on a Perth beach. And a Ukrainian girl wearing nothing but a bikini made front page news when she jumped from a Russian ship and swam her way to defection.

It was a time when we were driving smaller cars, eating less meat and more vegies, drinking more wine and less beer.

Science discovered we should be concerned about the hole in the ozone layer, CO2 in the atmosphere, and the resulting threat to forests and water.

At a time of strikes, inflation and tax increases, the cost of a night at the movies for two was $10, the cost of a double room in a motel for two $22, the cost of a meal at a BYO restaurant for two $24, and the weekly poverty line for two $121.44.

A visit to the dentist went up to $14.20 for a filling, and a standard consultation at the doctor went up to $10.20.

According to the Sun Herald, the prize for best dressed politician went to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the sartorially elegant Mr Andrew Peacock. The prize for the worst dressed politician went to Country Party Leader Doug Anthony, described as:

Dressing like a pig farmer visiting the big city for the first time, with enough room in his ill-fitting suits to carry emergency bags of feed.


Technology, whilst not at the level of today’s usage, was creeping into our lives. We had pocket calculators, microwave ovens, electronic ticket dispensers, pioneer digital recordings, and according to Aussie/New Zealand group, Mi-Sex…

Computer games.

 Computer Games went to number 1 in Australia in 1979.

I fidget with the digit dots and cry an anxious tear
As the XU-1 connects the spot
But the matrix grid don’t care
Get a message to my mother
What number would she be
There’s a million angry citizens
Looking down their tubes at me

Computer games
Computer games.

The synthesiser was a key part of the Mi-Sex sound, and it also featured strongly in a British hit song with a machine theme.

I heard you on the wireless back in ‘52
Lying awake intent at tuning in on you
If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through
Oh-a oh, I met your children
Oh-a oh, What did you tell them?

Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star.

Video Killed the Radio Star, recorded by The Buggles, was one of those infectious songs that plays in your head incessantly, what we would now call an ‘earworm’.

In my mind and in my car
We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far
Pictures came and broke your heart
Put the blame on VCR

Video killed the radio star
Video killed the radio star.


While in the USA there was a ‘death to disco’ movement, here in Sydney alone 100 discos opened in 1979. Mostly these were converted from former restaurants and theatres, and attracted a cover charge of $2.

Roller discos, too, were the latest thing, and colourful Labor politician Al Grassby was invited to the opening of one such venue because apparently Al loved roller skating. St John’s Ambulance was on hand and I’m not sure if that was because of Mr Grassby’s presence, or a regular thing.

One song that was played perpetually in discos at the time began as a B-side, but eventually eclipsed its A-side to become a worldwide hit, coming in at number 3 on the Australian charts.

Go on now go
Walk out the door
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Did ya think I’d crumble
Did ya think I’d lay down and die

Oh no not I, I will survive
As long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive
I will survive.

Sung by Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive struck a chord with the gay community, not just as a superb dance track, but as a statement of determination in a world of discrimination and unequal rights.


Malcolm Fraser was right in the middle of his term as Prime Minister in 1979, and was at the ABC in Melbourne, appearing on a show called Talk of the Nation. Countdown was being recorded in the next studio so the producer coerced him into coming onto the set of the influential music program to announce the show.

To help the ABC survive, 1979 was the first year that the ABC was allowed to keep the profits from sales of records, books, concerts and programs instead of it going into general coffers, setting the scene for ABC merchandise and ABC shops.

Meanwhile on commercial TV, two high rating Australian shows had hit songs that went with them.

If I were a minstrel I’d sing you six love songs
To tell the whole world of the love that we share
If I were a merchant I’d bring you six diamonds
With six blood red roses for my love to wear

But I am a simple man, a poor honest farmer
So take my 6 ribbons to tie back your hair.

Against the Wind was a 1978 mini-series produced by Crawford Productions, set in convict Australia. It starred Jon English who, with one time band member Mario Millo, composed and recorded the soundtrack of the series. The album became the best-selling middle-of-the-road album of 1979, and the single, Six Ribbons, the best-selling single by a male artist that year.

Tooralie, tooralie
All I could share
Is only six ribbons
To tie back your hair.

It was the year when the long-running international hit Prisoner was first aired. The story lines were controversial, the lighting dimmer than usual, and it was an instant hit. So too was its theme song, On the Inside.

He used to give me roses
I wish he could again
But that was on the outside
And things were different then

On the inside the sun still shines
And the rain keeps falling down
But sun and rain are prisoners too
When morning comes around.

Prisoner attracted a million viewers a week, but its popularity was not shared by Mr Fred Nile.

This despicable new show emphasizes terror and violence, it has objectionable language, and depicts illicit sex acts. I prefer more wholesome entertainment like The Brady Bunch, the Waltons, and Australians at War.

One of the big international movies of the year upset believers all over the world, and delighted non-believers. It was Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which featured a song, sung by Eric Idle whilst being crucified, just to prove that there is a positive side to crucifixion.

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best.

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath
And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life.

In the world of Australian theatre, David Williamson had been writing successful plays at the rate of one every year or so, and his 1979 offering told the story of an aged couple moving from Melbourne to Queensland. The play contains this line:.

Moya Simpson’s just had another one, and it’s made me clucky

Moya Simpson, please explain.

I can only assume that Mr Williamson visited the Sydney Theatre Company with whom the dance company I worked for shared a space in Alexandria. We all had to sign in at the front of the building, so is that where he pinched my name? I’m still waiting for the royalty cheque.


Good evening here is the world news for 1979.

The Shah was driven into exile, and Ayatollah Kohmeini victoriously returned from exile to seize power. Later in the year fanatic followers of the Ayatollah stormed the US Embassy in Teheran and took nearly 100 hostages.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship.

The Ugandan National Liberation Front deposed Idi Amin.

Cousin of the Queen, Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb while heading out on a fishing trip.

A crack Soviet unit took Kabul airport, paving the way for a Soviet invasion, the Kremlin claiming that its forces were:

requested to render urgent political, moral, military, and economic assistance.

After Vietnamese troops occupied the capital, Pnomh Penh, the Red Cross launched an immediate food and medicine operation, in an attempt to save 2 million lives.

The country’s first black Prime Minister, Abel Muzowera, was elected, but with whites still exerting much control. Exiled leaders Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo denounced the election and threatened to overthrow the new regime.

United Kingdom
Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, came into office after a general election, promising an overhaul of the British economic and industrial climate. Thatcher presented herself as a leader of radical change, declaring to Labour voters that they wanted the same things as she did.

Thatcher visited Canberra in 1979, and during her talks with Malcolm Fraser proposed a mediation role for Australia in the Zimbabwe controversy.


Malcolm Fraser, hero of the left in later life, was once not very popular with that faction at all, as illustrated in this song by Eric Bogle.

My friend big Malcolm
Has a jaw like Desperate Dan
A schnozzle like Durante
And the heart of Genghis Khan
He’s got eyes like twin icebergs
And he very rarely smiles
And the general disposition of a rhinoceros with piles
He’s our buddy, he’s our mate
And he is our pal Mal
Ain’t we all so lucky to have Mal.

In 1979, a poll asked the question- who is your preferred Prime Minister?

In third place was Opposition leader Bill Hayden, second was Malcolm Fraser, and in first place was Robert J. Hawke, a man who wasn’t even a political candidate. Although that was soon to change.

I went to school and I got full marks
So I toddled off to Oxford with the ruling class
I wore clean flannels and a lecherous leer
I studied economics and I drank bulk beer
He studied economics and he drank bulk beer
I drank so much I could hardly stand
One day I will be leader of this big, broad land
He drank so much he could hardly stand
One day he will be leader of this big, broad land.

In 1979, Bob Hawke won pre-selection for the safe seat of Wills, not long after Hayden had said there was no way he was stepping aside for Hawke.

And everyone said ‘Poor bugger me
He’ll become the leader of the whole country’
And everyone said ‘Poor bugger me
He’ll become the leader of the whole country.’


Looking like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee
Looking like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee.

Three years earlier a single boat carrying five Vietnamese asylum seekers had arrived at Darwin Harbour without much fanfare, and the five were processed quickly and allowed to stay. From this small beginning the era of the boat people began, and within 18 months there were daily arrivals.

In opposition, Fraser had argued that Australia had a moral obligation to take refugees from Vietnam, so, against strong recommendations to create a ‘reception centre’ or turn back the boats, his government adopted a humanitarian approach. Where possible, Department of Immigration officials were sent to refugee camps to process applicants, but boat arrivals were willingly accepted. In contrast, ALP policy was to provide temporary stay for boat people till arrangements were made to settle them overseas, and to treat asylum seekers as queue jumpers.

By 1979, 29% of our immigrants came from Asia, and most of these as refugees or as part of the family reunion program. Polls showed an increase in support for Australia to take in boat people, though one poll indicated that Coalition and Democrat voters were more accommodating of the policy than ALP voters.

Fraser’s attitude was to not give in to any hardline stance, but to stick to his beliefs and take the electorate with him. In so doing he changed Australia’s ethnic mix forever, and made a massive contribution to multiculturalism.

And she’s crying like a refugee.

The song Choir Girl was a hit for Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel in 1979, making it to number 14 on the charts. It is written from the point of view of a woman facing an abortion, but the reference to this was obscure enough for Catholic stations like 2SM to keep it on their play list.

One nurse to hold her
One nurse to wheel her down
The corridors of healing
And I’ve been trying
But she’s crying like a refugee

Suffer little children
Send that little child to me
All day the doctor
Handles his responsibility
Loves me like a choirgirl
Crying like a refugee.


Born in ’79 were singer Ravi Shankar’s little girl Norah Jones, singer Pink, and all 3 members of silverchair. It marked the beginnings of Men at Work and Australian Crawl.

When it came to marriages, Alana Hamilton, one of the numerous tall leggy blonde models in Rod  Stewart’s life, married Rod that year, obviously answering ‘yes’ to the question posed in the title of his 1979 hit album.

Do ya think I’m sexy?
Do ya like my body?
Come on sugar let me know.

And it was goodbye to punk rocker, Sid Vicious, who died aged 24.

I’ll probably die by the time I reach 25. But I’ll have lived the way I wanted to.

It was farewell also to one of my all-time favourite songwriters, Richard Rodgers, who died aged 77. In writing political satire I often find that I call on Rodgers’ songs to parody, and the more I get into them, the more I respect his writing.

And 1979 was the year that we lost legendary English star of stage and screen, Gracie Fields.

On her funeral day she was many miles away
Drinkin’ doubles at the Rose and Crown
Undertakers had to wait ‘cos she’d quite forgot the date
She’s dead but she won’t lie down.


These days the most streamed music genre on the spotify playlist is hip-hop. It has its origins in the early ‘70s, but 1979 is a seminal year in its development because it marks the point where it made the leap from the ghettos of New York to the ears of the wider American community, and from that to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

The song that made the difference was Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, the first rap single to make the Top 40 in the USA. 

I said a hip hop,
The hippie to the hippie
The hip hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it
To the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie,
To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

Hip-hop has deep cultural roots, coming as it does from African-American and Puerto-Rican youth culture in the Bronx. It is a subculture with its own distinctive music, dance, art and jargon. From it, we have vocal rhythmic rhymes and wordplay (rapping or MCing), the manipulation of two turntables to play segments of vinyl records that combine to create a rhythm track (DJing), the use of excerpts from other people’s records (sampling), vocal percussion in which rhythms are created orally (beatbox), and energetic gymnastic street dancing (breakdancing).

Being an authentic voice of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, hip-hop has a political edge to it, expressed not only through its lyrics and music but also through the use of graffiti art.

Hip-hop has always been controversial, its lyrics being seen as promoting misogyny and violence, and its music being guilty of plagiarising already existing records. For instance, Rapper’s Delight included samples of a Blondie song, which led to a copyright dispute which was settled by adding Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Blondie to the songwriting credits.

Now hip-hop is a worldwide phenomenon which has gone way beyond its New York neighbourhood roots, and adapted itself to the cultures of other countries. It took another decade or so before Australian hip-hop had its first commercial outing, but the style has since developed its own regional flavour and lyric references.

And as far as the mainstream goes, it all began with Rapper’s Delight in 1979. 


In 1979, Joh Bjelke-Petersen kept up the standard of outrageous political shenanigans, like launching a vote of no-confidence against the opposition. Guess who won!

It was year in which he authorised the demolition of the 93 year-old Belle Vue Hotel in Brisbane at 1 o’clock in the morning.

It was the year in which there was talk of mining oil on the Great Barrier Reef? But he did have a good explanation.

It’s not all reef, you know, there’s a tremendous lot of water.

And people were still being arrested for demonstrating on the streets of Brisbane.

We don’t want to disrupt the comings and goings and goings and comings of ordinary decent people.

Joh and his Queensland police state provided continual inspiration for great Aussie bands like Skyhooks…

Well I spent too long in the deep south
The land of the big peanuts
It ain’t that good in the police state
They burn down the hippy’s huts
They turn back the clock a decade
They bust you for no reason
The sun shines the whole year round
The shotgun’s still in the season

I’m goin’ over the border
Over the border
Over the border
Down in NSW.

Joh had this to say about Skyhooks’ song.

A cheap little gimmick aimed at attracting free publicity.

Redgum had released their first album the year before, which featured Letter to BJ.

Hear me Bjelke Petersen
In your leather- padded chair
There’s a tide outside your door
That’s steadily rising
And it’s a simple case of freedom
And a lot of us who care
So if demonstrations aren’t enough
Make sure you’ve said your prayers

Joh Bjelke Petersen
Joh Bjelke Petersen
He’s the flying peanut
Uncle Joh.

And Joh’s reaction to the songs?

Any song mentioning my name is bound to be a hit.


And finally, 1979 was a golden year for Australian music. AC/DC and Air Supply had breakthrough albums in the USA and there were more hits for the group that led this wave of international success- The Little River Band.

If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear waters
There’s lots of those friendly people
Showin’ me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so pre-arranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change.

Cool Change hit number 10 in the US, and even though it didn’t make it into the Australian charts at all, it was voted as one of the top 30 songs of all time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association.

I know that it’s time for a cool change
He is the man who’s read every page
So we know that it’s time for a cool, cool change.

A cool change from us to the archival scholar, Dr Jim Stokes. Click here to read a transcript of his 1979 talk.

 Jim Stokes 1979 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Another Brick in the Wall Part II written by Roger Waters
Care For Kids written by Peter Best
Computer Games written by Murray Burns and Kevin Stanton
Video Killed the Radio Star written by Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn and Bruce Woolley
I Will Survive written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Six Ribbons written by Jon English and Mario Millo
On the Inside written by Allan Caswell
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life written by Eric Idle
Our Pal Mal written by Eric Bogle
The Drover’s Dog written by John Schumann
Choir Girl written by Don Walker
He Is Dead But He Won’t Lie Down written by Michael Carr, William Haines and Jimmy Harper
Rapper’s Delight written by The Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards
Over the Border written by Greg Macainsh
Letter to BJ written by John Schumann
Cool Change written by Glenn Shorrock.

Malcolm Fraser- The Political Memoirs by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

Show performed 2010
Essay written March 2017


Out of the Cabinet 1978


Windin’ your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day
You’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything

This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul
And it’s taking you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it had everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re tryin’
You’re tryin’ now.

Many people know Baker Street, London as the street where fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes was based. But to Scottish singer/songwriter, Gerry Rafferty, it was the location of a friend’s flat which became a bit of a crash pad while he was sorting out legal issues with his former band Stealers Wheel. He would sit and chat and play guitar through the night, and out of it came this hit song and the album City to City.

Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now.

Rafferty came from Paisley in the Scottish Lowlands, (as did one-time Australian Prime Minister, George Reid- there the similarity ends). The musical influences on Gerry were wide, from hearing French composer Ravel at his church, to Elvis and Little Richard on Radio Luxembourg, and Irish rebel songs from his father. He taught himself the banjo, formed a duo with Billy Connolly, then the folk-rock group Stealers Wheel, with whom he had the hit Stuck In the Middle With You.

Baker Street was a gigantic hit and made Rafferty a very rich man. Part of the song’s appeal is the soaring sax solo played by a session musician with the great name of Raphael Ravenscroft. He reckons he created the solo, and Rafferty says he always had it as part of the song but couldn’t make it work on guitar, so decided on sax. Whichever story is true, Ravenscroft was paid £27.

When you wake up it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
You’re going, you’re going home.

1978 was the year that Moya migrated to Australia from London, and it was this song that made her feel homesick. It was the year that the $10 departure tax was introduced, so no wonder she never went back home.


In 1978 the population of Australia was 14,192,234. Our average annual income was $6,763.54, and unemployment was at a record post-war high. The cost of a dozen long-neck beers was $7.69, a white sliced loaf of bread 54c, and 86c would buy you a 25-pack of Winfield cigarettes, which were being advertised by Paul Hogan.

The comic strip Garfield, created by American cartoonist Jim Davis, made its debut.

The world’s first baby to be conceived by IVF was born, and artificial insulin was invented.

Hang gliding was growing in popularity.

Corporal punishment was still allowed in schools.

Commercial whaling ended in Australia

After 10 years of construction marred by a fatal industrial accident, Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge finally opened, with 6% of people afraid of being blown off it.

In one newspaper poll, 69% saw public transport as a solution to city transport problems, rather than freeways.

And in another poll, our most popular politician, at 21%, was Nifty Neville Wran, re-elected that year in a Wranslide. Second, at 17%, was Donny Dunstan, in the year he sacked his police commissioner. Coming in at 14% was the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, and right at the bottom on a whopping 0% was the Treasurer, John Howard.


John Howard had become Treasurer the year before when Phillip Lynch was forced to stand down. Next to Fraser’s six-foot-four, Howard’s five-foot-nine looked disproportionately diminutive, and he soon earned the nickname Little Johnny. Of course Howard was actually of average height, but that didn’t stop the cartoonists from portraying him as one of the short people.

Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
To live

They got little hands
And little eyes
And they walk around
Tellin’ great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

Well, I don’t want no short people
Don’t want no short people
Don’t want no short people
Round here.

 Randy Newman’s satirical song from 1978 was about prejudice, but because he sang it from the point of view of the biased person, it was too ironical for some.

We don’t want no irony around here.

Newman even gave us a clue to the irony in the bridge section of the song, where he sang, deliberately back in the balance of the mix,

Short People are just the same
As you and I
(A fool such as I)
All men are brothers
Until the day they die
(It’s a wonderful world).

Many radio stations refused to play Short People, and of course the publicity generated by the controversy helped to give Newman his first hit record, number 1 in Canada, 2 in the US and 10 in Australia.


To show that many things stay the same, the world’s trouble spots in 1978 included Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma. There was concern about desalination of the Murray-Darling, a drought was causing food prices to rise, there was debate about where Sydney’s second airport would be, and Australia lost The Ashes.

Test Cricket was now under threat from a new heightened television-friendly star-ridden Packer-driven take on the sport. The ABC had always broadcast Test Cricket since the days when the wireless reigned supreme, but Kerry Packer, looking for ways to boost the ratings of his Channel Nine, eyed these prized TV rights. Years earlier, he had made an outrageous offer to the Australian Cricket Board, but was turned down and the national broadcaster’s contract was renewed.

So Packer secretly signed individual players from around the world, streamlined the game, radically increased the pay packets of the cricketers, and to increase its market reach, commissioned an advertising jingle.

The jingle came from the advertising team that had created such successful campaigns as:..

You oughta be congratulated


I feel like a Tooheys or two.

Alan Johnston and Alan Morris, Mojo as they became, made the most of the Aussie accent in their jingles, always sung by Johnston in a gruff voice that encapsulated the stereotypical irreverence of the Australian character.

C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon.

‘Packer’s Circus’, as cricket traditionalists called it, went on to enjoy great success in its second season in the summer of 1978/’79, and C’mon Aussie C’mon developed a life of its own. Mojo lengthened it, released it as a single, which soared to number 1 on the Australian charts.

It’s on again this summer
We’ll take on every comer
The question is who will make the team?
Will the wild and woolly new boys
Beat the test of tried and true boys?
There’s only just eleven vacancies,
Will it be the rocket Rodney Hogg?
Or will our Shirley Thompson get the job?
Sure it wouldn’t be the same
Without them shouting Lillee’s name
And they tell me Lenny Pascoe’s running hot
For openers we’re looking pretty good
With bats like Darling, Hilditch, Laird and Wood
There’s Border, Hookes and others
And the mighty Chappell brothers
I tell you boys this year we’re looking good

C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon c’mon
C’mon Aussie c’mon. 

World Series Cricket with its night matches, one-day matches, coloured clothing, full-time professional players, marketing, and merchandising has had a major effect on the game.


Meanwhile, another song from England hit Moya’s homesick button.

Out on the wildly, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green
You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. but I loved you, too
Bad dreams in the night
You told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering

Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy, I’ve come home
I´m so cold, let me into your door.

Teenager Kate Bush was a self-taught piano player and prolific songwriter whose artistic family encouraged her to record a rough demo of 50 of her songs, and send it around to record companies. There was no response until David Gilmour, guitarist and vocalist of Pink Floyd heard it, and had a producer friend re-record the demo to a more professional level.

Consequently EMI signed her, and in 1978, at the age of 19, she released her first album The Kick Inside. The recording executives wanted her to release a rocky song, but she held firm and insisted it should be the ethereal Wuthering Heights.

Too long I roamed in the night
I’m coming back to his side, to put it right
I’m coming home to Wuthering, Wuthering
Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy, I’ve come home
I’m so cold, let me in your window.

 In Bush’s own words:

When I first read Wuthering Heights I thought the story was so strong- this young girl in an era when the female role was so inferior and she was coming out with this passionate, heavy stuff. Great subject matter for a song.

Many a British high school student was grateful for Bush’s song helping them to get interested in the novel, as it was on the reading list in 1978. Kate said:

One thing that really pleases me is the amount of positive feedback I’ve had from the song, though I’ve heard that the Bronte Society think it’s a disgrace.

No matter what, Wuthering Heights was a major hit, making it to the top of the charts in Britain, Europe and Australia, thanks also to a video clip featuring dance moves that were as wild and moody as the moors.

In the UK she gave the male-dominated music industry a kick in the pants when she became the first British woman to reach number one in the UK charts with a self-penned song.

On a radio interview she was once asked what preparation a soprano like her does to hit low notes. Her highly technical reply was:

I eat a great big block of chocolate.


Bob Dylan surprises everyone when it comes to his live performances. His guises, his reworking of songs, his line-ups of musicians, the standard of his performances, are all variable. But I’ve always been a big fan, so when he toured Australia in 1978, as part of a world tour, I decided to go and see him at the Sydney Showground. I hadn’t booked a ticket so when the big day arrived, April Fools’ Day it was, I just turned up and came across a woman who was selling tickets that she couldn’t use. I paid the actual ticket price of $12.50, and was ushered to a seat in a reserved section relatively close to the stage.

It was a week after Easter and Sydney had had a very wet holiday season, but the sky cleared as the pre-concert music started with a string quartet playing classical music. Then out came Dylan looking nothing like the folk-club troubadour that had once been his image, but clad in a white suit complete with band, brass section, and female backing group. It was so slick that the tour had been dubbed The Vegas Tour.

I loved it. It was like a greatest hits show, with Dylan re-inventing many of the songs, the arrangements were tight, his singing self-assured and at one point with a hand-held microphone, no guitar. After 2½ hours, 30 songs including two encores, I drove home, high on a great experience.

When I heard reports of the concert the next day it was like I was hearing about something I hadn’t been at. From my position in the front stalls I hadn’t noticed the mayhem behind me, as the crowd of 30,000 waded through mud and animal manure. The Royal Easter Show had been held in exactly the same spot just days before and it had rained during the whole Easter period, so the ground was saturated. Plastic sheeting and wooden planks were insufficient to offset the quagmire.

Since the early ‘70s, in the wake of Woodstock and the advent of bigger PA systems, big outdoor concerts had become the venues for the big international acts. But after this Dylan concert, Consumer Affairs was swamped with so many calls from angry fans, that the NSW government vowed to construct a large indoor venue, marking the beginning of the era of large soulless Entertainment Centres.

In another controversy, Elvis Costello had seat covers and cans thrown at him at Sydney’s Regent Theatre after he left the stage having played for less than an hour and without an encore.

But, causing a sensation and pleasing the crowds at an indoor venue at the Showground, the Horden Pavilion, was the discovery of the year, the singing equivalent of Ringside Wrestling, Meat Loaf.

It was a hot summer night and the beach was burning
There was fog crawling over the sand
When I listen to your heart I hear the whole world turning
I see the shooting stars
Falling through your trembling hands
You were licking your lips and your lipstick shining
I was dying just to ask for a taste
We were lying together in a silver lining
By the light of the moon
You know there’s not another moment
Not another moment
Not another moment to waste

And then you took the words right out of my mouth
Oh — it must have been while you were kissing me
You took the words right out of my mouth
And I swear it’s true
I was just about to say I love you.

Meat Loaf was a Texan songwriter and actor whose real name was Marvin Aday. He’d come to the stage via high school musicals, moved to LA and was cast in Hair. This led to a list of appearances in other musicals, during which time he met and performed with New York Songwriter, Jim Steinman.

Steinman had written a musical based loosely on Peter Pan and thought that some of the songs could be the basis of an album featuring Meat Loaf. With that in mind, he kept writing until they had enough tracks recorded to peddle to record companies. For over two years they were knocked back until being taken up by a lesser known company. It paid off because the album, Bat Out of Hell, has sold well over 40 million copies. The best-selling single off the album was You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth, number 5 in Australia in 1978.


As far as Oz music goes, the hardest rocking venues were the pubs, a scene that spawned a host of very tight and highly original bands. But record companies were reluctant to attempt to catch the raw excitement of these live acts on vinyl.

One such band had come out of Adelaide where it attracted large crowds at their regular haunt, the historical Largs Pier Hotel in Port Adelaide. The band was Cold Chisel.

Needing to spread their wings the band moved to Melbourne, then Sydney, where they finally released an album and a single, Khe Sanh.

Now the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Only seven flying hours
And I’ll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain’t nothing like the kisses from a jaded Chinese princess
Gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long.

Khe Sanh was written by the band’s keyboard player Don Walker, on a scrap of paper in Sweethearts Café, Kings Cross. Even though the Battle of Khe Sanh involved mostly US Marines, with a small Australian presence, the song is an Aussie classic, strongly identified with our Vietnam vets. First released in 1978, it was considered to be too racy, was banned from radio, and even Molly Meldrum asked them to change the words when they went on Countdown. They refused.

The last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone.

At a time of outrage over Cold Chisel’s reference to prostitution, Australia was graced by a visit from famous British morals crusader, Mary Whitehouse, President of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association and the Clean Up TV Campaign…

The organisation I hold most responsible for the state of our country today is the BBC, the platform for anyone who is prepared to say anything morally subversive.

Mary Whitehouse, due to talk at a rally in Sydney, was advised by police to give it a miss, as hundreds of protesters, armed with rotten tomatoes and eggs, were waiting to meet her. So instead their decomposing vegies were hurled at the young organiser of the rally, a certain Mr Tony Abbott.

Can’t help himself
Bad Abbott
Was running wild
Lost control
Now it’s a case
Of egg on face
For young Crusader
Bad Abbott.


In 1978 it was predicted that 50% of cars would be electric by the year 2000, that Andrew Peacock would be Prime Minister in 2 years, that Australia would soon become a republic, that Prince Charles would marry Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg, and that the next Pope would be Italian.

At least that last one came true because in 1978 the head of the Catholic Church was Italy’s own Albino Luciani, better known as Pope John Paul I. After 33 days though he was dead (controversially to some), and in his place was the first Polish pope, Pope John Paul II.

Here in Australia we led the world because we had our very own John Paul who preceded them both. Ours was John Paul Young, nicknamed ‘Squeak’ by PR guru Patti Mostyn, because he spoke in a high-pitched voice. In 1978, after a string of pop hits, he recorded a new track that bore the influence of the disco beat.

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Love is in the air
Love is in the air.

Love Is In the Air was written by one-time Easybeats’ musicians and songwriters, Harry Vanda and George Young, who by now were the brains behind the hit machine that was Alberts, home to pub rock acts like AC/DC, The Angels and Rose Tattoo.

Midnight Oil happened to be recording their debut album at one of Alberts’ studios at the time.

I’m on the whiskey flying, and I’ll run by night
I’m on the phone to summer, so I’ll see you on the flight
My friends are at a party, playing games with the light
I hate to say I’m wrong
I just know I’m right
We all run by night.

Every time the Oils had a break they could hear the relentless disco beat and that landmark ascending crescendo in the next studio

Love is in the air
Love is in the air.

Midnight Oil’s song went to number 100 on the charts, the song next door made it to the top, not just in Australia, but around the world.

Many years later after The Oils were a success story, they performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, and on the bill was John Paul Young singing:

Love is in the air
Love is in the air.


One wintry night in 1978, 500 members of Sydney’s gay community gathered for a parade calling for an end to discrimination and the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws. As the revellers moved down Oxford Street and the numbers swelled to 2000, this British gay anthem by the Tom Robinson Band was broadcast through a small PA on the back of a truck.

The British Police are the best in the world
I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard
‘Bout them raiding our pubs for no reason at all
Lining the customers up by the wall
Picking out people and knocking them down
Resisting arrest as they’re kicked on the ground
Searching their houses and calling them queer
I don’t believe that sort of thing happens here

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way
Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way.

The NSW police weren’t impressed with the fact that the song had made it to number 18 on the UK charts, and as the crowd reached Hyde Park they confiscated the truck and sound system, then blocked the parade once it got to Kings Cross. Over 50 were arrested, some seriously beaten, and despite most of the charges being dropped, the good old Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested.

This simply had the effect of galvanising the gay community into further protests and a regular parade each year. By 1981 it was shifted to the warmer month of February and called the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, now a major part of Sydney’s calendar of events.

Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way
Sing if you’re glad to be gay
Sing if you’re happy that way.

Interestingly, I can find no reference to this song on the Australian charts, although a follow-up song by the Tom Robinson Band called 2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway did get to number 11 that year. It’s not clear whether it was banned, or simply not released here.


Revered by some, despised by others, Sir Robert Menzies has the honour of having more songs sung about him than any other Prime Minister. This one is sung to the tune of The Bells of St Mary’s.

The balls of Bob Menzies are wrinkled and crinkled
Curvaceous and spacious as the dome of St Paul’s
The crowds they all muster to gaze at that cluster
They stand and stare at that wond’rous pair of Bob Menzies’
Balls, balls, balls, balls
Balls, balls, balls, balls,
Bob Menzies’ balls.

During his two times in office, the man who inspired these immortal words appealed successfully to the middle class (the forgotten people), took Australia into three wars (World War II, Korea, Vietnam), took a very anti-Communist tack through many years of the Cold War, formed the Liberal Party, and saw off three opposition leaders (Chifley, Evatt and Calwell).

But for Pig Iron Bob, it was the end of the road in 1978, when he died of a heart attack in his Malvern home, while reading a book.

Menzies was given a state funeral, one of the largest Australia had known, attended by Prince Charles, former British Prime Ministers Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson, as well as former Australian Prime Ministers Gorton, McMahon, McEwen, and of course the then PM, Malcolm Fraser. A 19-gun salute was fired at the end of the ceremony, and as the funeral procession made its was way to the Crematorium, over 100,000 people lined the streets of Melbourne.

If we should lose our Menzies
Wherever should we be
If Menzies means as much to you
As Menzies means to me.


Just five months after Menzies went to that great Parliament-in-the-sky, Australia lost another national icon, Johnny O’Keefe.

There are two Australian acts that I regret never experiencing live- one is Midnight Oil, the other is J O’K. A pioneer of Australian rock ‘n’ roll, a flag-waver for the local entertainment industry, he certainly lived up to his moniker of The Wild One, with a life of car accidents, ever-changing fortunes, drug and alcohol dependency, and living and performing on overdrive. What he lacked in technical vocal skill he made up for in spades with raw excitement and energy. I think his live rendition of Shout at Sydney Stadium is one of the gems of rock ‘n’ roll, in terms of capturing a moment, up there with The Beatles doing Twist and Shout. (They’re both Isley Brothers’ songs. Is that a coincidence?)

When Elvis died in August 1977, aged 42, O’Keefe was shocked, and told a friend ‘I’ll be next.’ His prediction wasn’t far off the mark because just 14 months later, aged 43, he was dead after a massive heart attack induced by barbiturate poisoning.

Johnny O’Keefe, Rocker, as his listing in the phone book read, was gone. The country was stunned and shocked at the news, his funeral was enormous, and thousands of mourners lined the streets.

Gonna break loose
Gonna keep a-movin’ wild
Gonna keep a-shakin’ baby
I’m a real wild child.


In 1978 Australian rock music was making its mark overseas, with the two best-selling albums of the year in the US having strong Australian connections. The link between the two was Australian-born impresario Robert Stigwood.

At the age of 20, Stigwood migrated to Britain where he went on to have much success in the music industry. By the early ‘70s his fortunes had declined greatly so he turned to producing music films like the screen adaptations of Jesus Christ Superstar and Tommy. On the lookout for new projects he came across a magazine article about a group of Italian teenagers in Brooklyn who spent their time dancing at discos. He bought the rights and the article eventually became Saturday Night Fever.

When it came to music he turned to the group he had long represented, The Bee Gees, who came up with four songs that fitted the movie like a glove- Night Fever, More Than a Woman, How Deep Is Your Love, and this masterpiece that reeks of the energy of New York.

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk
Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around
Since I was born
And now it’s all right, it’s okay
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man 

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

Beginning as a few lines scrawled on the back of a plane ticket, Stayin’ Alive, an affirmation of survival on the streets of New York, was the perfect song to be played as the Travolta character walks those very streets in the film’s opening scene.

Saturday Night Fever, the movie, was made for $3.5 million, and has made its money back eighty times over. Now Stigwood and The Bee Gees were certainly…

Ah ah ah ah stayin’ alive.

Stigwood’s next film was a screen adaptation of the musical Grease, first produced in 1971 as a gritty stage show that told the story of working class youth in the ’50s, with a score that evoked the music of the time.

John Travolta was cast as well as Olivia Newton-John, and when it was felt that the film needed some extra songs, Stigwood called up Barry Gibb to ask for a song called Grease. Gibb was stuck. 

Do you write about combing your hair? Do you write about Brylcreem or what? How can you make that romantic?

He solved the dilemma by writing about the word ‘grease’.

Grease is the word,

It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling.

Stigwood also called on expatriate Aussie songwriter, John Farrar, who came up with Hopelessly Devoted To You and this one.

I got chills
They’re multiplyin’
And I’m losin’ control
‘Cause the power
You’re supplyin’
It’s electrifyin’

You better shape up
’cause I need a man
And my heart is set on you
You better shape up
You better understand
To my heart I must be true
Nothin’ left for me to do.

Whenever the musical Grease is staged live it includes the songs that were added into the film.

You’re the one that I want
You are the one that, ooh ooh ooh
The one that I want
You are the one that, ooh ooh ooh
The one that I want
You are the one that, ooh ooh ooh
The one I need
Oh, yes indeed.

Now we’d like to hand you over to the National Archives historian who will give you his take on the Cabinet Records of 1978, making sure that our history is:

Ah ah ah ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Yes, Jim Stokes,

You’re the one that we want.

To read the transcript of Jim Stokes’ summary of the cabinet records of 1978, click on this link.



Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Baker Street written by Gerry Rafferty
Short People written by Randy Newman
C’mon Aussie C’mon, Meadow Lea ad and Feel Like a Toohey’s written by Allan Johnston and Alan Morris
Wuthering Heights written by Kate Bush
You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth written by Jim Steinman
Khe Sanh written by Don Walker
Bad Habits written by Billy Field and Tom Price. Parody by John Shortis
Love Is In the Air written by Harry Vanda and George Young
Run By Night written by Peter Garrett, Rob Hirst, Andrew James, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey
Glad To Be Gay written by Tom Robinson
The Balls of Bob Menzies, lyrics anonymous, sung to tune of The Bells of St Mary’s, printed in the book of that name by Warren Fahey
There’ll Always Be a Menzies, lyrics anonymous, sung to tune of There’ll Always Be an England, printed in The Balls of Bob Menzies by Warren Fahey
The Wild One written by Johnny O’Keefe, Johnny Greenan and Dave Owens
Stayin’ Alive written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb
Grease written by Barry Gibb
You’re the One That I Want written by John Farrar.

Songwriters Speak by Debbie Kruger
The House of Hits by Jane Albert
Big Blue Sky by Peter Garrett
The Balls of Bob Menzies by Warren Fahey
The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely by Mungo MacCallum
Johnny O’Keefe by Jeff Apter
The Bee Gees by Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook and Môn Hughes.

Little Johnny and the Fat Man by Mungo MacCallum (from The Best Australian Essays 1999, edited by Peter Craven)
Nothing But the Truth, published in Sydney Morning Herald, July 30 2011 (in which Tim Freedman interviews Randy Newman)
Kate Bush Encyclopaedia website
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras website.

Show performed 2009
Essay written Feb 2018

Out of the Cabinet 1982/1983


Back in 1982/’83, there were more women than men for the first time since records were kept. Despite this, average weekly earnings were just over $300 for men and just under $250 for women.

Marriages in which both husband and wife worked accounted for 41% of marriages, and the model of working father, dependent wife and kids applied to only 20% of marriages.

Just eight months short of its 50th birthday, The Women’s Weekly went from 52 editions a year to 12, resisting the temptation of calling itself the Women’s Monthly, but not resisting a price rise, from 70c to $1.50.

White wine was the drink of choice for 60% of drinkers, and it was available in a 4-litre cask that you could pick up for $4.77, or in a 2-litre flagon for $1.99.

A stamp cost 27 cents, a meat pie 70 cents, and the Sydney Morning Herald, 25c. Coles and Woolies had only 17% of the market between them. Saturday afternoon trading was just being introduced. Milk was still available in bottles made of glass.

The video came into its own, with local video rental shops popping up everywhere, and Australia switching to video recorders faster than any other country.

1982 was the year when the Compact Disc was launched on the world, but it was many years before CD players were affordable enough to be commonplace, so we were still buying our music on vinyl, despite a slump in the record industry due to an economic downturn, an ageing market, and the popularity of home taping on cassette.

The environmental concern of the time was the depletion of the ozone layer, with moves to limit use of chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans.

And this song was a worldwide hit.


Travelling in a fried-out Kombi
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said

“Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”

Colin Hay was a Glaswegian whose father ran a music shop, assuring him a ready supply of his favourite records, and an easy way to own a guitar. At the age of 14 he and his family migrated to Melbourne.

In 1978 he and guitarist Ron Strykert started playing and writing together, and Strykert presented Hay with a tune he’d made up by hitting bottles filled with different levels of water. Inspired by Skyhooks’ use of Aussie themes, the song developed into Down Under.

The next year the duo recruited a few more musos including Greg Ham on sax, and they played their first gigs at The Cricketers’ Arms Hotel, opposite the hallowed MCG. The newly named Men At Work did covers and originals, and Down Under was merely a humble addition to the set list that they worked their way through each Thursday night.

In 1980 they’d saved enough money to pay for a recording session, and released a single on their own label- the A-side was called Keypunch Operator, and on the B-side was that throw-away track, Down Under. Interestingly, you can hear snatches of the famous flute solo in the instrumental section in the middle of that early recording.

The single wasn’t what you could call a huge success but as a live act they were growing from strength to strength. An executive from CBS Records was so convinced the company should sign the band that he turned up to work each day as a different Man At Work, one day a plumber, next day a house painter, then an electrician till they gave in.

The result was a single Who Can it Be Now?, and an album, Business As Usual. Down Under was re-recorded for the album, complete with flute solo. It was released as their second single, and became so big in the US in 1982 that 30,288 jars of Vegemite were exported there that year, and Men at Work’s fee went from the $50 a night they once received to $30 000.

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said

I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.


Winning the America’s Cup yacht race was a goal that had always eluded Australia, and was high on the wish-list of achievements that would show the world that we were up with the best.

In 1983 we had a contender that showed promise- Australia II owned by an Alan Bond syndicate, and skippered by John Bertrand, designed by Ben Lexcen.

After four races, Australia II was trailing 3-1, then made a miracle comeback to level the scores at 3-all. So for the first time in the race’s history, a seventh race was called and in the early hours of September 26, the whole nation was glued to see if yachting history could be made.

Prime Minister Hawke was in Perth, purportedly for a Cabinet meeting that was scheduled for the day of the final race. I’m pretty sure there are no cabinet papers for that meeting because when Australia II won that final race by 47 seconds, the image on our screens was of a wildly jubilant PM giving a long TV interview in which he was presented with a famously garish Oz-centric jacket. It was during that interview that he uttered the immortal lines…

Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.

The soundtrack to that day that brought the nation together was Down Under, and the song was a massive hit all over again. It had sold 500 copies all up in its first incarnation, now it was selling that many in a day.

Many years later there was an innocent question on the ABC’s music quiz show, Spicks and Specks.

What children’s song is contained in the song Down Under?

The answer was Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, a song that is often credited as traditional Australian, but was actually written by a Melbourne schoolteacher Marion Sinclair in 1934 as an entry in a competition for the Girl Guides Association of Victoria. The song won and was picked up worldwide. Somewhere along the way its copyright had been assigned to Larrikin Records, and as Sinclair had died in 1988, the song was still in copyright.

So Larrikin’s New York based parent company sued Men At Work and won the case, receiving a six-figure settlement.

We come from a lawyers’ office
Where the guiding rule is to fill the coffers
Men At Work, we say, they go and plunder
A single bar of the song that’s called Down Under.


Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry, on a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Up where the clear winds blow.

Up Where We Belong, from the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, hit the Australian charts in early 1983, just as Malcolm Fraser was about to call a snap double dissolution election, confident that he could run rings around a Labor Party then led by Bill Hayden.

But lurking within the ALP was the popular Member for Wills, Bob Hawke, whose leadership ambition was unstoppable. On the very day that Fraser called the election, Hayden stepped aside and Hawke was elected unopposed as Leader of the Opposition.
So, Fraser was now up against a new and much more formidable opponent.

Please lift me up where I belong
Where the Liberals cry, eating humble pie
Please lift me up where I belong
To lead the ALP

I was in Italy at the time of the election, and no Italian I approached had ever heard of Signore Fraser or Roberto Hawke. So, in desperation, I bought an Italian newspaper, and there, tucked away deep inside, was a tiny article, in Italian of course, that mentioned Hawke more than Fraser, and Bob’s famous drinking prowess. From that I gathered it was hello Bob and goodbye Malcolm.

It was a landslide win for Labor, Fraser resigned in tears, Keating became Treasurer, Peacock was the new Liberal leader, and his deputy was John Howard.


With an ocker Prime Minister in The Lodge, 1983 was a bumper year for Australian number one records that stayed on the charts for months on end.

Me mate Boomer rang
Said he was havin’ a few people around for a Barbie
Might cook a burra or two

Will Walla be there?
Yeah, and Vege might come too

D’you wanna go Anna?
I’ll go if Ding goes

What’ll we do about Nulla?
Nulla bores me to tears.

Australiana is a comedy monologue written by humourist, Billy Birmingham, and performed by Jewish Australian comedian, Sandy Gutman, better known as Austen Tayshus. It stayed in the charts for nearly eight months, and is still the biggest-selling Australian single of all time.

He’ll definitely lead you astray, Liana.

It wasn’t all comedy though.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel
God help me, I was only nineteen.

Based on recollections of his brother-in-law, I Was Only 19 was written by John Schumann and recorded by Redgum. The song raised awareness of the physical and mental effects of the Vietnam War on its veterans, at a time when the government announced a Royal Commission into Agent Orange.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

Another massive Australian hit in 1983 was an EP by Australian Crawl, called Semantics. The EP made it big thanks to this classic song.

Meet me down by the jetty landing
Where the pontoons bump and spray
I see the others reading, standing
As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay

Hear the Captain blow his whistle
So long she’s been away
I miss our early morning wrestle
Not a very happy way to start the day

She don’t like
That kind of behaviour
She don’t like
That kind of behaviour

So, throw down your gun
Don’t be so reckless
Throw down your gun
Don’t be so reckless.

1983, the year the dollar was floated, and Medicare was launched.

Don’t be so reckless.

The year the Labor government softened its stand on uranium.

Don’t be so reckless.

And 112 women were arrested for trespassing onto Pine Gap satellite tracking station, each giving her name as Karen Silkwood.

Don’t be so reckless.


When we performed this back in 2011 it was obvious that some things never change.

1982- Fraser PM, Peacock sniffing around leadership.
2011- Gillard PM, Rudd sniffing around leadership.

1982- Unions lift bans on live meat exports.
2011- Government lifts bans on live meat exports.

1982- at the ALP conference MPs were allowed a conscience vote on abortion.
011- at the ALP conference MPs were allowed a conscience vote on same sex marriage.

1982- Electricity prices to rise by 27%, not much kerfuffle.
2011- Electricity prices to rise by 18%, lots of kerfuffle.

1982- An attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi fails.
2011- An attempt to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi succeeds.


In doing these performances, as well as looking at some of the great songs of the relevant years, we resist some that are so bad they’re good. This is one of those songs.

Oh, I’ve been to Nice and the Isle of Greece
While I sipped champagne on a yacht
I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
And showed ’em what I’ve got
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things
That a woman ain’t supposed to see
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

I’ve Never Been to Me, what they call a sleeper, was first recorded by American singer, Charlene, in 1976. It went nowhere, until 1982, when the song was played by a Florida DJ and the response was so great that it was re-released, with the addition of this heartfelt monologue.

Hey, you know what paradise is?
It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding, and it’s that man you fought with this morning
The same one you’re going to make love with tonight
That’s truth, that’s love.

And so, Charlene joined the ranks of one hit wonders, making it to number 1 in Australia, in the charts for 15 weeks, proving there’s no accounting for taste.

Sometimes I’ve been to crying for unborn children
That might have made me complete
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

With philosophies like Charlene’s out there, it’s no wonder that the Monty Python team searched for The Meaning of Life in their 1983 film of that name. This was the song that Eric Idle sang over the film’s credits.

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.


One of Australia’s most celebrated mysteries has been the subject of four inquiries, an opera, a play, a film, TV broadcasts and numerous books. It’s the story of the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance, which took an interesting turn in 1982.

Two years earlier, Lindy Chamberlain had claimed that a dingo had taken her daughter from their tent at the Ayers Rock campsite, an explanation that was supported by an immediate inquiry. But some in the police and in the community were unconvinced, especially when Lindy didn’t display the perceived level of emotion. The investigations continued, and, in 1982, the Northern Territory Supreme Court had the case re-opened. Lindy was convicted of murder and sent to Berrimah Jail for three years.

She was later exonerated, and just after we performed this show, a fourth inquest was beginning. As had been found twice before, the dingo did it.

In another story, Prince Charles and Princess Di were due for an Australian tour in March 1983, a tour that that was so anticipated that it actually played a part in deciding the date of the federal election. But, although Australia was captivated, this was at a time when the Royal Family was under a cloud in a number of ways. Prince Andrew’s affair with Koo Stark had been revealed, Princess Margaret was also having open dalliances, and the marriage of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips was shaky.

Charles and Di’s happiness too was being questioned after it was reported that they’d had a row on a recent holiday, returning to London in stony silence. But Australia welcomed them and their visit was hailed as the biggest celebrity tour since The Beatles.

Back in Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was bathing in the glow of popularity that followed her decision a year earlier to retaliate when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain had owned these islands, just off the coast of Argentina, since the 1800s, and were, according to Thatcher, inhabited by 1800 people ‘of British tradition and stock’. The war lasted less than three months, the British victory giving a much needed confidence boost to Britain, and providing the impetus for Thatcher to win the ’83 election.

The British Navy obviously played a big part in a war situated in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, and Split Enz’ s song Six Months In a Leaky Boat was ‘discouraged from airplay’ in Britain.

The war brought prosperity to shipbuilding towns in England and Northern Ireland, as more ships were being built to replace those destroyed in the war. Elvis Costello saw the irony in the fact that the young men of these same regions were being sent off to the Falklands to potentially become casualties in the very same ships. He co-wrote a song, Shipbuilding, which was a hit for English singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt. In 1983, Costello released his own version featuring jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker.

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding

Well I ask you
The boy said “Dad they’re going to take me to task
But I’ll be back by Christmas”
It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.


Shane Howard was a Geelong-based singer/songwriter who way back in ’77, while in his mid-teens, had formed a folk-rock band called Goanna. In 1982, they made their first album, Spirit of Place, from which came their first single, Solid Rock. Both topped the charts.

Around the same time, the Tasmanian government was attempting to carry out its promise to dam the Gordon and Franklin Rivers in order to generate hydro-electricity. Thousands of protesters converged on the site to join a blockade, and the voice of the protest was the head of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, local GP, Bob Brown, one of the 1200 who were arrested.

Under the pseudonym of Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble, Goanna joined forces with Peter Garrett and Redgum, to lend their voices to the protest.

Oh Tasmania, the hardest heart would understand
Just to feel your wilderness
Your silence sings to me.

Let the Franklin flow, let the wild land be
The Wilderness should be strong and free
From Kuta Kina to the south-west shore
It has to be something worth fighting for
It has to be something worth fighting for.

The B-side consisted of a monologue by Bob Brown himself, and all proceeds made from the sale of the single, which made it to number 12 on the Australian charts, were donated to the cause.

Support for the No Dams movement came from a number of notables including Dick Smith, Manning Clark, and David Bellamy. Even Prince Charles weighed in with an environmental message.

When I was in Australia some years ago they were busily cutting trees down to turn them into the late edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Despite the fact that he was right- Fairfax used tonnes of newsprint manufactured 100 kilometres from the site of the dam- the local member told Charles to…

mind your own business.

It was in the Sydney Morning Herald that I was reminded that a state referendum was held, but with only two choices- do you want to dam the Gordon here, or there? The ‘No’ campaign urged voters to tick neither but simply write ‘No Dams’ on the ballot paper. The informal vote was 45%.

And I also read about a by-election called as a result of Prime Minister Billy McMahon’s retirement. On the ballot papers, 9% of voters wrote ‘No Dams’.

It became a federal issue, with the Coalition supporting the dam, and Labor opposing. At the ’83 election Bob Hawke promised to stop the dam project if he was elected.

Power, I collect it
As long as it is not hydro-electric
Power, I choose it
Power, I know how to use it

One of the first things Hawke did on coming to power in ’83 was to take the issue to the High Court. Section 51, paragraph 29 of the Constitution, which states that the parliament has power with respect to external affairs, was cited. And what did external affairs, or foreign affairs as we now call it, have to do with a dam in Tasmania? Well, the area where the Franklin and Gordon are situated is listed as World Heritage, and therefore by blocking the dam, the government was fulfilling its responsibilities under an international treaty.

Lawyers, know your constitution
External powers, that is my solution
A wilderness In this ‘no dam’ nation
That is the power of the federation.

The High Court voted 4-3 to support the government’s case, and no dam was built.

Oh, let the Franklin wend
Its way around Rock Island Bend
Let the Gordon run
Where the sun has kissed the morning mist
And Mister Gray, I say don’t mess with Robert J
I’ll change your plans
I say ‘No dams’.


In 1982 there was a row over whether homosexual groups should be allowed to join in Anzac ceremonies. Bruce Ruxton, then Victorian president of the RSL had this to say…

I don’t know where all these gays and poofters are coming from. I don’t remember a single poofter from WW2.

Then there was morals campaigner Jerry Falwell who, whilst visiting Australia that year, told us…

We are not against homosexuals- we just feel that homosexuality is a moral perversion.

When Festival of Light’s Fred Nile gave a breakfast address for $3 a head at the Central Coast Christian Centre, the topic was anti-discrimination, but only men could attend.

And Joh Bjelke-Petersen had this to add to the debate about an equal opportunity policy.

In Queensland, we already give people equal opportunity in areas where they qualify to be equally qualified.

Speaking of Joh, when he fell out with the Liberal Party in 1983, one Liberal politician said of him…

He’s a power drunk egotist- that’s not a political view, that’s a medical view.

So now the Country Party had to rule in its own right, and Joh had to dig deep to find talent in his cabinet. One of the new ministers was Vince Lester whose greatest feat was walking backwards across his electorate, and who was a vigorous campaigner for outward opening lavatory doors, reflective number plates, and real sausages.

With such talent, Joh led a lone Country Party to victory in the ’83 elections. In the Sun Herald the next day, Joh’s win only made it to the bottom half of the front page. On the top half was the real news…

Simon, the doctor on A Country Practice, is to wed Vicki, the vet.


And finally, 1983 was a monumental year in the world of showbiz because of one small black-ish man by the name of Michael Jackson, and one huge album success, Thriller.

On a live TV show, Jackson introduced his iconic moonwalk, whilst singing…

She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene
I said don’t mind, but what do you mean, I am the one

Who will dance on the floor in the round
She said I am the one, who will dance on the floor in the round.

Billlie Jean, the second single off the album, would have been called something different if producer Quincy Jones had had his way. He thought everyone would think Michael was singing about tennis star, Billie Jean King. Jackson held his ground because of the real-life story behind the song. He’d had to deal with many a female fan who claimed he was the father of their child, and one of these, who called herself Billie Jean Jackson, reckoned that he had fathered one, not both, of her twin sons.

Billie-Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son.

Music TV (MTV) was only two years old when Thriller came out, and the video clips it broadcast were not much more than promotions of the artist’s performance of a song. Billie Jean changed all this with a clip that was like a short film, with high production values, and a narrative. MTV, though, was exclusively the domain of white artists so, at first, they showed no interest in it. Jackson encouraged his record company CBS to not take this lying down, so they simply threatened to provide no videos from any artist in their massive stable, black or white.

MTV buckled, and Billie Jean was shown, helping to take the song to the top of the charts around the world.

The videos accompanying other singles from Thriller took the art form further to the point of the title track having a 14-minute clip that cost $14 million, and was distributed to cinemas. Music videos would never be the same again, and would now be a vital part of any song’s success.

Thriller became the biggest selling album of all time, with sales of 100 million.

‘Cos this is Thriller, Thriller night
And no-one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.

And our very own beast is about to strike, in the form of Dr Jim Stokes, so Jim, take that cabinet documents essay and..

Read it, read it
About debates that may be heated,
Cabinet meetings that went through the night
It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right
Just read it, read it
Read it!

For Jim Stokes take on the Cabinet Records of 1982 and 1983, click on here.

Jim Stokes 19821983 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Down Under written by Colin Hay and Ron Strykert. Parody by John Shortis
For the original 1980 recording go to Down Under original recording
Up Where We Belong written by Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings. Parody by John Shortis
Australiana written by Billy Birmingham
I Was Only 19 written by John Schumann
Reckless written by James Reyne
I’ve Never Been To Me written by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch
Galaxy Song written by Eric Idle and John du Prez
Shipbuilding music by Clive Langer, lyrics by Elvis Costello
Solid Rock written by Shane Howard
Let the Franklin Flow written by Shane Howard (pseudonym F. River)
To hear Bob Brown’s only hit go to Bob Brown B-side
No Dams written by John Shortis
Billie Jean written by Michael Jackson
Beat It written by Michael Jackson. Parody by John Shortis
Thriller written by Michael Jackson

Down Under- The Tune, the Times, the Tragedy by Trevor Conomy
Australian Prime Ministers edited by Michelle Grattan
Unfaithful Music by Elvis Costello

To see Bob Hawke being given his Aussie jacket and delivering his immortal line go to Hawke in Perth 1983

Show performed 2012
Essay written July 2017.

Out of the Cabinet 1984/1985


Up till this time Australia had a dollar note, a brown piece of paper with Aboriginal motifs of kangaroos and boomerangs on it. Then, in came the dollar coin, with which you could purchase a twin pack of Sorbent toilet paper, but not quite a bottle of Fountain Tomato Sauce ($1.06), or a 100g block of Cadbury’s chocolate ($1.34).

In the same year, the hundred dollar note was in circulation for the first time, and it could buy you 5 Compact Discs, much the same cost as today. CDs were then a brand new technology, and had only been adopted by 3% of consumers.

Australia’s population at the time was 15.5 million, and the car loved by most of those was the Ford Falcon GL, yours for just $12,200.

All this at a time when a typist’s salary was $13,785, Prime Minister Hawke was paid $124,219 a year, the Queen 7 million, and a musician $5,000.

In the world of technology, it was the era of the first dot-com domain name, the first Apple Macintosh, and Microsoft’s very first Windows, version 1.


In 1979, a relatively unknown singer/songwriter called Robert Hazard recorded Girls Just Want To Have Fun, a song he’d written very much from a male perspective.

The phone rings in the middle of the night
My father says, “My boy, what do you want with your life?”
Father dear, you are the fortunate one
Girls just want to have fun

Come home with the morning light
My mother says, “My boy, you’ve got to start living right”
Don’t worry, mother dear, you’re still number one
Girls just want to have fun
These girls just want to have fun.

Cynthia Lauper was a New York girl with a big voice, who had been singing and writing songs since she was 12. By the age of 17 she’d changed her name to Cyndi, and was in a band called Blue Angel, making an album, and getting support gigs to acts like Hall and Oates. After a dispute with a manager, the band broke up and Cyndi, depressed and bankrupt, was unhappy with her first record label.

They wanted to put cement go-go boots on me so I couldn’t do anything on stage.

By 1983, she had changed labels and her debut solo album, appropriately called She’s So Unusual, went platinum many times over. A mixture of covers and originals, it included her reworking of Hazard’s song. In Cyndi’s words:

The first time I heard it, I understood how I could sing from my point of view and make it a call to solidarity for women. I really wanted every woman to hear that song and think about their power.

Helped along by her outrageous multi-coloured hair, a stand-out video clip, and an idiosyncratic vocal sound, the once masculine song became not only one of the biggest international hits of 1984, but also a classic feminist anthem.

I come home in the morning light
My mother says- when you gonna live your life right?
Oh Mommy dear, we’re not the fortunate ones
And girls, they wanna have fun
Woah girls, just wanna have fun
That’s all they really want
Fun fun
Yes they wanna have fun, fun

Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls they wanna have fun
Oh girls just wanna have
That’s all they really want
Fun fun,
Yes they wanna have fun, fun.

Rolling Stone magazine described her as:

Rock’s answer to Betty Boop. One of the most vividly compelling female talents to emerge in the eighties.

When Lauper was asked her age, her reply was:

I’m not a car. It doesn’t matter.

What mattered was that her career was well and truly launched. Her follow-up single was Time after Time, a song she wrote after she noticed a TV guide listing for a sci-fi film with that name.

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick
And think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories
Time after time

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time.


One singular sensation
Every little step she takes
One thrilling combination
Every move that she makes
One smile and suddenly nobody else will do
You know you’ll never be lonely with you-know-who.

One, from the musical A Chorus Line, filmed in 1984 by Richard Attenborough.

In February that year he was in New York auditioning for dancers and in walked an unknown 25 year-old hopeful by the name of Madonna Louise Ciccone. He turned her down.

Unlike Cyndi, Madonna wasn’t a New Yorker through and through but had moved there while still in her teens to follow a career in dance, performing with celebrated contemporary choreographers like Alvin Ailey.

After a brief stint working in a musical in Paris, she started playing drums and singing in New York rock bands, developing a style that definitely had dance at its heart.

Then from her second album in ’84 came this song.

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn’t know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat, incomplete
I’d been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats
Next to mine.

Helped along, no doubt, by moral rights campaigners who saw the song and its accompanying video as undermining family values, Like a Virgin was a number 1 hit around the world. Madonna was now the rage among young women who longed to adopt her look of lace tops, rosary beads, crucifixes, bleached hair and bustiers. These female disciples became known as Madonna wannabes, because their catch-cry was:

We wannabe like Madonna.

Whereas Cyndi Lauper’s feminism was worn on her sleeve, Madonna’s influence was the subject of much debate among feminist elders.

Like a Virgin was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the writers of True Colours for Cyndi Lauper, Eternal Flame for the Bangles, and co-writers of I Touch Myself for the Divinyls.

Weird Al Jancovic released a parody of the song that gave it a completely new meaning.

Finally made it through med school
Somehow I made it through
I’m just an intern
I still make a mistake or two

I was last in my class
Barely passed at the institute
Now I’m trying to avoid, yeah I’m trying to avoid
A malpractice suit

Like a surgeon, hey
Cuttin’ for the very first time
Like a surgeon
Here’s a waiver for you to sign

Ooh baby, yeah I can hear your heart beating
For the very last time.


Back in 1984, Australian surgeons were not happy. Nor were many who worked in the local health industry. It was the year the newly re-elected NSW government, led by Nifty Neville Wran, cut hospital budgets, and the Hawke government introduced Medicare, the combination of which led to a bitter drawn out series of resignations and strikes within the medical profession.

But Hawkie felt secure enough to call an early election, which he won, but with a reduced majority. One of his first tasks was to deal with the failing ANZUS Treaty, and he rang up newly elected David Lange to beg him to change his policy of no nuclear warships in New Zealand.

Around the same time, Stevie Wonder released a song that marked a change from technological experimentation to a simpler approach where the melody, lyrics and vocal delivery said it all.

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring
No song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Bob Hawke could have sung it to Lange with these words:

No nuclear ships
Down Auckland way
No joy for Reagan and his USA
For saving face
To save the day
David, there’s one thing I have to say

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Bob had a bit of a problem with the left faction of his party who convinced him to renege on the Fraser government’s decision to allow the US to trial its MX missiles in the oceans south of Tasmania. He had to face newly re-elected US President Reagan and give him the bad news.

In the words of Aussie band, Redgum, from their 1985 hit, The Drover’s Dog,

I flew around the world to improve my stature
I met Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
The Pentagon rang so I sank in the boot
‘Cause they don’t need ANZUS or kiwi fruit
(No they don’t need ANZUS or kiwi fruit)
I serve as Reagan’s deputy
That’s why I am governing the whole country
(He serves as Reagan’s deputy
That’s why he is governing the whole country).

Who could forget the famous parody of the Gone With the Wind movie poster! Maggie Thatcher is in the arms of Ronald Reagan, and the caption reads:

She promised to follow him to the end of the earth. He promised to organise it. Now showing worldwide!

Around the same time, Greenpeace had been protesting at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific, the site of France’s nuclear tests. The environmental organisation was about to take a flotilla to the danger area for a Bastille day protest, when two explosions ripped through the Rainbow Warrior, a converted trawler that was to lead the flotilla. One crew member was killed.

And 1984 was the year that the British government confirmed that British nuclear testing had occurred almost 30 years earlier at Maralinga, South Australia, home to the Pitjantjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

Paul Kelly’s response was this song, Maralinga.

This is a rainy land
First we heard two big bangs
We thought it was the great snake digging hole
Then we saw the big cloud
Then the big black mist began to roll
This is a rainy land

A strangeness on our skin
A soreness in our eyes like weeping fire
A pox upon our skin
A boulder on our backs all our lives

This is a rainy land
This is a rainy land
No thunder in our sky
No trees stretching high
But this is a rainy land.

In 1985, a Royal Commission, led by Jim McLelland, recommended a major clean-up of the land and compensation for the traditional owners.


The nuclear issue was a key one back then, the subject of many songs, films and stage shows. One of these was The Boiling Frog, the last play presented by Nimrod at their Surry Hills venue (now the Belvoir Street Theatre). I know all about it because I wrote the music, and as I was going through the Heralds of ’84 I came across the press coverage of the show.

The Nimrod’s publicity machine described it as:

A brave and jolly band of people who live, love, work, sing and dance- all happy characters with a cheering message.

But it’s not how the reviewers saw it.

An evening of unrelieved tedium, a dismal evening.

Meanwhile in London, the blockbuster musical, Les Miserables, which had originally been produced in Paris back in 1980, had its first English language production in 1984.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from the hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

In New York, Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George premiered on Broadway, and here in Australia, Cats began its long run. On opening night at the Theatre Royal, in the presence of Sydney’s glitterati and PM Bob Hawke, the big intro began for the hit song, and just as Debbie Byrne was about to give her golden tonsils an outing, there was a bomb scare. The audience was evacuated and by the time the all-clear was given and the audience was herded back in, it was almost


Because Andrew Lloyd-Webber had not needed a lyricist for Cats, thanks to T.S. Eliot, Tim Rice had to find new composers for his idea to create a musical about the Cold War. He heard that the Abba boys were looking for a project and, when the band broke up, they jumped at the chance. They even recycled the chorus of an obscure ABBA song.

I am an A
I’m a B
He is OK
So is she
Singing together in harmony.

The musical became Chess, released as a concept album in 1984, and the song became:

Wasn’t it good?
Wasn’t he fine?
Isn’t it madness
He can’t be mine?
Oh so good
Oh so fine
He can’t be mine?

But in the end he needs
A little bit more than me
More security
He needs his fantasy
And freedom
I know him so well.


In 1984 the movie of George Orwell’s book 1984 was showing at the cinema. Other films of ‘84/’85 included Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Big Chill, Amadeus, Out of Africa, A Passage To India, This Is Spinal Tap and Cocoon. Politics came to the fore in The Colour Purple, The Killing Fields, Silkwood and Gorky Park.

In Australia a young Sydney actor called Nicole Kidman made her movie debut in BMX Bandits, several local films were based on books (Annie’s Coming Out, Careful He Might Hear You and Bliss), and we produced the most expensive Australian film to date, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, featuring Tina Turner singing this song.

Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can’t make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond

In music news, Michael Jackson, who had been advised by Paul McCartney to get into music publishing, bought the rights to nearly every Beatles’ song, much to McCartney’s dismay. It was also the year when his hair set alight in a Pepsi commercial.

And in surprise news, Elton John got married, while on tour in Sydney, on Valentine’s Day 1984, to Renate Blauel, his German recording engineer.

I wanna kiss the bride yeah
I wanna kiss the bride yeah
Long before she met him she was mine, mine, mine
Don’t say I do
Say bye bye bye
And let me kiss the bride yeah.

The wedding was held at St Mark’s, Darlinghurst. For obvious reasons, the marriage didn’t last for too long.

Advance Australia Fair was officially our anthem, just in time for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Luckily Australia did badly at the Games, only winning 5 gold medals, so we didn’t have to put up with too many embarrassed athletes singing, with mouths open narrowly

Australian sons let us rejoice.

But, we can be thankful that a committee of Canberra’s best changed that line to:

Australians all let us rejoice.


There weren’t many years in which there wasn’t a story about Joh Bjelke- Petersen, and these two years were no different.

A mate of his who ran the Queensland TAB, was accused of betting irregularities to the tune of $700,000. When it was suggested to Joh that he should get rid of him, Joh refused and said:

It’s not like in NSW where politicians and influential people get up to all sorts of illegal mischief all the time.

Then, in 1985, Joh excelled himself when he quickly brought in tough anti-union legislation to control the Queensland power workers.

His inspiration was Maggie Thatcher. She was in the midst of a year long dispute with the Yorkshire coal miners who went on strike after severe pit closures. In response, Sting wrote this song which appeared on his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, in 1985.

We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

This place has changed for good
Your economic theory said it would
It’s hard for us to understand
We can’t give up our jobs the way we should
Our blood has stained the coal
We tunnelled deep inside the nation’s soul
We matter more than pounds and pence
Your economic theory makes no sense

We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together.

Maggie won of course, significantly weakening the British trade union movement. 


In December 1984, Australia had a premature election, eighteen months early. Labor lost seats, for which Hawkie blamed the introduction of above-the-line voting in the Senate.

During the ten-week, Opposition leader Andrew Peacock challenged Hawke to a US-style pre-election television debate, which he reluctantly agreed to, and thus began the tradition that we now know and love. There was no worm back then, just phone calls.

Mike Carlton wrote that viewers had a choice between:

A sun-tanned silvery PM in a sombre navy suit and oh so discreet maroon tie or a sun-tanned silvery Opposition Leader in a sombre navy suit and oh so discreet maroon tie.

The winner was deemed to be the latter, but his popularity in the debate wasn’t enough to stop John Howard from taking over as Opposition Leader in 1985. Howard from Sydney, Peacock from Melbourne, neither of them ever had to bother about being:

Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend.

Neighbours, the international television phenomenon, was first aired in 1985, on Channel 7. It didn’t get good ratings in Sydney, so the goings on in Ramsay Street were taken off the air, before Kylie and Jason even had a chance to appear. But the song did. Written by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, it has become the best known TV theme song in the world.

Neighbours should be there for one another
That’s when good neighbours become good friends.


In those politically correct times, the Inner London Education Authority banned Peter Rabbit because he was too upper class, Tom Sawyer and Robinson Crusoe because they were racist, and Oliver Twist because it was anti-Semitic. But Christmas was still allowed, which is just as well for the inventors of Trivial Pursuit, because Christmas that year saw 200,000 Trivial Pursuit games being given as presents.

And what Christmas song of 1984 became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone, stayed at Number 1 for five weeks, and was also number 1 in Australia?

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Bob Geldof had seen a BBC TV report that year which highlighted the famine that had hit the people of Ethiopia, and wanted to raise money to help that cause. So he co-wrote Do They Know It’s Christmas? with his mate Midge Ure, and gathered a group of British artists to record it. Among them were Boy George, Sting, Phil Collins, members of U2, Spandau Ballet, Bananarama, Status Quo, Duran Duran, and the Boomtown Rats.

To maximise its income for the cause, Geldof worked tirelessly to talk record executives and manufacturers to donate time and services and to eliminate percentages. He talked around retailers, the Musicians’ Union, the BBC, and the media. It worked and the single raised £8 million, despite the British government refusing to remove the VAT on sales.

The next year Harry Belafonte instigated an American response, with another money-raising anthem, We Are the World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and recorded by a who’s-who of superstars like Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, , Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and  Ray Charles. It became the fastest-selling single in the world, raising $63 million.

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me.

This song led to the Live Aid concerts, shown in 155 countries to an audience of 2 billion. Australia nearly missed out on the telecast when Channel Nine questioned the wisdom of giving up a day to an unknown demographic. Molly Meldrum convinced the ABC to broadcast an Australian version, Oz For Africa. Live Aid raised an additional $50 million for famine relief and earned Bob Geldof his sainthood.


By co-writing a song that contributed to such a good cause, Lionel Richie perhaps redeemed himself somewhat after giving us a video clip a year earlier, in which he follows a blind student into a craft room. As the student moulds a head that looks just like Lionel’s, he looks at her longingly while singing:

Is it me you’re looking for?
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You’re all I’ve ever wanted
And my arms are open wide
‘Cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love you.

On the good side, there was a very strong Leonard Cohen album called Various Positions, which contained two Cohen classics.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love.

And a song that went pretty well unnoticed till it was picked up by Jeff Buckley many years later.

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

This is one of the few songs I know that gives you the chords, albeit indirectly- Leonard does it in the key of C, the fourth of which is F, the fifth is G. then it’s to A minor for the minor fall, and to F major for the major lift. Thanks Leonard.

As far as Australian music goes, Ross Wilson’s Mondo Rock, a band that had been turning out great original music since 1976, made it to number 2 in the charts in ’84 with a song that had the honour of being banned by Sydney’s Catholic radio station 2SM.

The band split in 1980 and was launched with a new line-up that included guitarist/songwriter Eric McCusker, the writer of this coming-of-age gem, Come Said the Boy.

It was a party night, it was the end of school
He’s head was feelin’ light, the first time
She seemed much older then, she had turned seventeen
And she knew some older men, the first time

Come said the boy, let’s go down to the sand
Let’s do what we wanna do, let me be a man for you.

McCusker says of the song:

When you write a song you can write what you like, and perhaps Come Said The Boy was me writing how I would have liked to have lost my virginity. Perhaps the fact that it didn’t happen that way explains the strong under-current of yearning in the song.

Interestingly for me, McCusker lists one of his inspirations for the song as French composer, Erik Satie. I say interestingly because I cite Satie as one of my major musical influences.

I’d listened to a lot of Erik Satie and I think there is a simple atmospheric surrealism in my song that might trace from there.

A bit of trivia- the keyboard and guitar player for Mondo Rock was James Black, who for many years featured in the band on SBS’s RocKwiz.

More trivia- 1985 was the year that TV network changed its name from 0-28 to SBS (Special Broadcasting Service).


And finally, 1984 was the year when Wham!, two English boys, hit the number 1 spot on the Australian charts for the first time. The song’s title, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, came from a sign that was hanging on a bedroom door. Wham! were the first Western pop group to perform in China, and after their historic 10-day visit, left a Chinese public slightly bemused with lyrics like these.

You put the boom-boom into my heart
You send my soul sky high when your lovin’ starts
Jitterbug into my brain
Goes a bang-bang-bang ’til my feet do the same
But something’s bugging you
Something ain’t right
My best friend told me what you did last night
Left me sleepin’ in my bed
I was dreaming, but I should have been with you instead.

And what better way to introduce Dr Jim Stokes with his wry look at the Cabinet Records. Back then we always did 4 shows and got to hear Jim Stokes’ talks over and over, so by the fourth time we had to ask him that when he’d finished to

Wake us up before you go-go
Don’t leave us hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake us up before you go-go
We don’t want to miss it when you hit that high
Wake us up before you go-go
‘Cause we’re not plannin’ on going solo
Wake us up before you go-go
Take us dancing tonight
We wanna hit that high (yeah, yeah)
Whim Bim, thank you Jim.

To read Dr Jim Stokes’ take on the Cabinet Records of 1984 and 1985, click on here.

Jim Stokes 1984-85 Cabinet Records

(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Cyndi Lauper written by Robert Hazard
Find the original version by Robert Hazard at Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Robert Hazard
Time After Time written by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman
Like a Virgin written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg
Like a Surgeon parody written by “Weird” Al Jankovic
I Just Called To Say I Love You written by Stevie Wonder. Parody by John Shortis
The Drover’s Dog written by John Schumann and Michael Atkinson, with a little help from Gilbert and Sullivan
Maralinga written by Paul Kelly
One written by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban
I Dreamed a Dream written by Michael Schȫnberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Ketzmer
I Am an A written by Benny Anderson and Bjȫrn Ulvaeus
I Know Him So Well written by Benny Anderson, Bjȫrn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice
We Don’t Need Another Hero written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle
Kiss the Bride written by Elton John
We Work the Black Seam written by Sting
Neighbours written by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch
Do They Know It’s Christmas? written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure
We Are the World written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie
Hello written by Lionel Richie
Dance Me written by Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen
Come Said the Boy written by Eric McCusker
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go written by George Michael.

Books and magazines
Is That It? by Bob Geldof
Rolling Stone Magazine, Nov 24 1983

Performed in February 2015
Essay written in September 2016

Out of the Cabinet 1988/1989


The Proclaimers are a musical duo consisting of identical bespectacled Scottish twins, Charlie and Craig Reid. ‘Swotty geeks and speccy eight eyes’ according to the British press. ‘Pub singers who write about lassies and drinking’ by their own account.

On their debut album, the boys accompanied themselves with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a tambourine. That album produced a hit song, Letter From America, but the song that really took off for them was I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), from their second album Sunshine on Leith. This time they had a band, which included two veterans of the British folk-rock act Fairport Convention, with Jerry Donahue on lead and Dave Mattacks on drums.

Released in Britain in 1988, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) quickly became one of those songs that was loved as much as it was loathed, with no middle ground. It only made it to eleventh spot on the charts over there, but here in Australia we loved it, taking it to number 1 for 5 weeks in 1989.  Since then it’s been reinvented so many times that it’s like it never went away.

The first big boost was in 1993, when the song was used in the opening of the offbeat romantic comedy film, Benny and Joon, starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson. The five-year-old song was suddenly a huge hit in the USA.

In 2007 it was re-recorded as a comedy single with Peter Kay and Matt Lucas, and went straight to number 1 in the UK. Then in 2014, the film Sunshine on Leith, made up of many Proclaimers’ songs, meant it was popular all over again.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) has been used in the Alvin and the Chipmunks video game, as a farewell to David Tennant in Doctor Who, at Scottish football matches, and in countless TV shows, ads and movies. And The Proclaimers are still performing, were at Glastonbury in 2015, and have a new album.

They have long been staunch supporters of Scottish independence, and at the 2014 referendum, supported the cause with their name, their music, and their money.

And it all began with a catchy 3-chord wonder back in 1988/’89.


Commercial computers had been used in Australia for 30 years, and there was still a shop called Typewriter World, but in ‘88/’89 the technology that we now know and love started to really flourish.

There was an explosion in the use of mobile phones, which were beginning to rear their ugly brick-sized heads in restaurants, cinemas, bus queues and the like. The cheapest was $2,796, the dearest $5,537, or you could rent one for $25 a day. You could get yourself an Apple CD rom drive for $2,500, or a new Apple scanner for $3,495.

The first well-known computer virus, the 1988 internet worm, was unleashed, the first of 24 GPS satellites were placed into orbit, the first officially sanctioned online commercial e-mail provider debuted, and the first text message was sent.

It was a time when Australia was honoured to be the country with the highest number of McDonald’s restaurants per capita in the world, but if you preferred to eat at home, a Sunbeam Frypan would set you back $59.95, an electric carving knife $19.95, and a microwave at Harvey Norman Discounts, $399.

At a time when casks were 2/3 of the wine market, $6.99 was all you needed for a cask of Lindeman’s Riesling. If you weren’t up to the sophistication of a cardboard drink, you could try cans of Tooheys Draught for $18.49 a slab.

It cost $100 to clothe a kid for school, the average electricity bill for a 4 person family was $110 a quarter, the median house price in Sydney was $134,000, petrol was 42c a litre, and for $18,990, you could be the proud owner of a Holden Commodore Executive.


You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove.

And speaking of desirable cars, 1988 was the year when we first heard Boston singer-songwriter, Tracy Chapman. Brought up in a working class district in Cleveland, Ohio, she wrote and sang songs that focused on social issues such as the dehumanising effects of inner city life, racism and domestic violence.

It was her song Fast Car that shot her to international stardom, but it may not have happened if it weren’t for Nelson Mandela and Stevie Wonder.

Mandela, still imprisoned, turned 70 that year and major events were held worldwide to mark the occasion, as well as raise money and awareness for the Anti-Apartheid movement. At London’s Wembley Stadium, a star-studded event featured acts like Harry Belafonte, The Bee Gees, Dire Straits, the Eurythmics, Sting and Stevie Wonder. But Stevie’s computer played up, rendering him unable to perform, so Tracy Chapman was given his spot.

Armed with her acoustic guitar she gave a heart-rending rendition of Fast Car, letting the intensity and purity of her voice and the depth of her lyrics speak for themselves.

Her musical tale of a hard-done-by life became the surprise hit of the show. Being in a concert that was broadcast to 67 countries and watched worldwide by 600 million people meant that Fast Car and Ms Chapman would be ignored no more.

That concert was just one small part of world opinion and sanctions that were isolating South Africa, and the following year’s election in that country was the last to be held under Apartheid.

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision,
Leave tonight or live and die this way.


Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry be happy.

With a title taken from a famous quotation by Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, Bobby McFerrin’s song Don’t Worry Be Happy was the first a cappella recording to ever top the charts.

George Bush Senior ran for president in 1988 with these slogans- A Kinder, Gentler Nation’, and ‘Read My Lips, No New Taxes.’

McFerrin’s song was adopted by the Bush camp as a campaign song. This is my version of what Bush could have used.

Here’s a song I never wrote
But I might use it to get your vote,
Don’t worry, be happy.

But he used it as it was.

The poor old Republicans! They want popular songs for their campaigns, but the writers of these songs are invariably on the left, and Bobby McFerrin was no exception. This is my version of what Bobby might have been thinking.

This song don’t go in your campaign,
Remove it, wash it down the drain,
And hurry, be snappy.

The song was removed, but its absence didn’t stop George becoming President. And like all good politicians, he took the kinder, gentler nation to war with Iraq, and while Americans watched his lips, he raised taxes. The song, though, won Best Song of the Year at the Grammies.

Don’t worry, be happy.


Meanwhile, here in Australia, 1988 marked the 200th anniversary of European settlement. Indigenous activists called it the Year of Mourning, but to governments and advertisers it was the Bicentenary, a celebration of the nation. It even had its own song, sung by Rick Price and Margaret Urlich, whose American accents helped to illustrate how proudly Australian we were when it came to promoting this seminal year in our history.

Have you noticed something happening
Something going on round here
Have you noticed there’s a feeling
Of something in the air
It’s a feeling that keeps growing
From the outback to the sea
All those years of sweat and tears
It’s our Bicentenary.

MOJO advertising agency, incredibly successful at selling cricket and margarine, got the job of capturing the spirit of our nation in the TV ad. Akubra hats, Aussie flags and a truckload of celebrities were sent out to Uluru to wave and clap their hands in sync with the slick recording. Have a look at it on YouTube, and see how many people in it aren’t white, young and active.

Celebration of a nation
Give us a hand
Celebration of a nation
Let’s make it grand,
Let’s make it great in ‘88
Come on, give us a hand.

Australia Day was marked by a massive event on Sydney Harbour with tall ships, fireworks, and Charles and Diana. It was seen across the world and led to an increase in visa applications to come to Australia. But it was a divided celebration of a nation, with more than 40,000 indigenous and non-indigenous people marching through the streets of Sydney in protest.

All this at a time when 99 deaths of Aboriginal people in custody were being investigated by a Royal Commission. Singer songwriter Paul Kelly offered up an alternative take on events, in his song Bicentennial.

A ship is sailing into harbour
A party’s waiting on the shore
And they’re running up the flag now
And they want us all to cheer

Charlie’s head nearly reaches the ceiling
But his feet don’t touch the floor
From a prison issue blanket his body’s swinging
He won’t dance any more

Take me away from your dance floor
Leave me out of your parade
I have not the heart for dancing
For dancing on his grave.


In 1985, I was asked by a colleague who was working at the NSW Bicentennial office to come up with a proposal for a community event. It seemed that most of the planned events were centered around Sydney Harbour so I suggested a project in which I’d create a show with primary students in outback NSW. The concept passed the audition and for a year between October 1987 and October 1988, I lived in Dubbo, driving to 50 schools between there and Broken Hill, the artistic director of what became The Outback Children’s Spectacular.

I began by collecting stories from the kids, which became the basis for songwriting workshops in all the schools. The tunes and the lyrics were theirs, I just facilitated and guided them. A team of arts workers, one of whom was my partner Moya Simpson, then turned the songs into drama and puppetry, circus and dance. The end result was a massive show on a football field in Dubbo with a cast of the 3000 children who wrote it.

The show told of life in the outback through the eyes of its children – stories of isolation, School of the Air, wildlife, technology, lead poisoning, the landscape, motor bikes and so on.

Throughout that year I worked with many Aboriginal communities and saw first-hand the reactions to the Bicentenary. Wilcannia decided not to participate, which I understood but it rocked me a bit. I would like to have had a face-to-face meeting to make sure they knew what they were saying ‘no’ to, but the principal at the school wouldn’t let me. He said they were opposed to the Bicentenary, not to me.

In Brewarrina where there had been riots at the time of a death-in-custody court case, response was pretty positive. The kids there told me of the Weir, a place in the Darling River where they could catch crabs and fish easily, ride and slide across, and swim under the rapid flow of water. I went to see them for myself and was surprised at how simple and effective the traps were.

This some of the song they wrote:

All the fish swimming in the water
Down at the Weir
All around the rocks
All the pelicans, flying in the sky
Up above the weir, diving in the stream.

We know why
They put the rocks there
Long time ago
It’s because there were no shops there
Long time ago.

In towns like Bourke and Weilmoringle I heard of the Min Min Light, a mysterious presence seen many times on the surrounding plains. ‘The closer you get to it, the further it goes away’, they told me.

The Min Min light’s over there
It’s getting close to the car, close to the car
The head-light’s blown in the dark, dark night
I wish we were on the tar

The Min Min light’s on the plain
Everybody’s petrified, we’re all petrified
The closer you get, the farther it goes
I wish we were safe inside

The Min Min light, the Min Min light
Shines mysterious in the night.

At the other end of the scale, some of the parents at one of the small schools I visited, wanted to know what I was going to do to keep their kids safe from the Aboriginal riots that were going to happen in Dubbo. ‘They’ve got guns, you know, we saw it on the tele.’

I succeeded in placating them and after nearly two years of preparation, Dubbo filled with visiting children. A specially commissioned train brought in the kids from Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Nyngan, and towns in between. As the train came in, the theme song the kids wrote played on the station loudspeakers.

The Outback Children’s Spectacular
We don’t mind if you bring Dracula
To the Outback Children’s Spectacular
We don’t mind if you’re a big galah
All around the outback
All around the outback.

The very the first day we assembled the full cast at Apex Oval, I noticed the White Cliff kids walking gingerly on the verdant acres of lawn, so unlike the moonscape they lived on back home.

The day of the final dress rehearsal was a scorcher and had to be cancelled, a nerve-wracking decision, but it was the only thing to do.

On the night it rained as the politicians spoke pre-show, and stopped as soon as the show began. There were 25,000 in the audience. I sat with the sound engineer, with a feeling of anti-climax when it actually happened. ABC TV’s Countrywide had followed me around a bit during the process, and were there on the night. When I saw the footage of me being interviewed afterwards, all I could see was me looking like a stunned mullet.

The Outback Children’s Spectacular was televised throughout regional NSW, and we still get emails from 40 year olds who remember it very fondly.

It was an extraordinary highlight of my creative life, and an experience I’m sure will never be forgotten by those who participated.


Australian films of ’88 and ’89 included Young Einstein, Cane Toads, Evil Angels, Sweetie, Dead Calm, and Crocodile Dundee 2, which was widely panned. One American reviewer called it Crocodile Donedough.

International blockbusters included A Fish Called Wanda, Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man, Roger Rabbit, Dead Poets Society, Ghostbusters, Batman, and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which Fred Nile never viewed, but referred to as ‘a Satan production from the studios of hell.’

Cher had a career boost with the film Moonstruck, as did Bette Midler with the tearjerker chick-flick, Beaches, complete with theme song which has gone on to become a huge hit at weddings and funerals.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle
‘Cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

Speaking of wings, the nation’s 1640 domestic pilots resigned en masse in 1989, in a dispute over a new salary package. The Prime Minister Bob Hawke stepped in, backed the airlines, and took on the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. Pilots were recruited from overseas to take their jobs, an unusual step for a PM who was once head of the ACTU.

Unions like you should be illegal
I’ll take the wind beneath your wings.

But this wasn’t the end of Hawke’s troubles. It was well known that his Treasurer, Paul Keating, had his eye on the top job, and although Bob had ordained him as his successor, by 1988 he was changing his tune, and was even talking up Kim Beazley as the one to fill his shoes. Hawke saw Keating as too abrasive, unpopular, with an undertaker image. The polls indicated that Hawke was the popular one and Keating was seen as one dimensional.

Like all leadership issues, all seemed well. ‘My friend and colleague will remain PM as long as he chooses,’ said Keating.

Then, just after the ’88 budget was brought down, Hawke said publicly that he considered his Treasurer to be good at his job, but not indispensable. Keating’s response was ‘I tell you right now, mate, I’m not going to be someone else you can walk over. When I decide to come at you, mate, I’ll take your head right off.’

This led to a succession agreement at Kirribilli House known as The Kirribilli Agreement, at which, in the presence of two witnesses, the PM agreed that he would hand his job to the Treasurer after the next election. Keating was champing at the bit.

It’s been pretty cold here in your shadow
To never have sunlight on my face
I was content to let you shine, that’s my way
I always walked a step behind
But did you ever know I rate you zero?
You’re everything I don’t want to be
Don’t try and replace me with Kim Beazley

I will break wind beneath your wings. ….Scumbag!


Bob Hawke got a bit sentimental in April 1988, when he farewelled the old Parliament House and moved in to the new one.

And he cried on national TV when he admitted that he had been unfaithful to Hazel.

Then in 1989 he cried again, along with many of us, this time in response to the horrific events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, at the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

In May that year Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping were shaking hands in an historic meeting at Beijing’s austere Great Hall of the People. Just a few hundred metres away, hundreds of thousands of students and supporters were amassing in Tiananmen Square, in an impassioned call for democracy following the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader who had pushed for a more transparent China.

The protest grew and grew with up to a million taking to the streets. Talks between the students and the government were held, and failed. After six weeks, martial law was declared. Then in early June, the People’s Liberation Army moved in, firing indiscriminately on the protesters, followed by tanks that flattened everything in their path.

Tiananmen, Tiananmen
Let the gunfire cease
Tiananmen, Tiananmen
The Gate of Heavenly Peace.

China’s emerging pro-democracy movement was crushed. An official death toll has never been released, but is estimated to be well over 1,000, and could be as many as 2,600.


In stark contrast, the European call for democracy was a different thing all together.

When Mikhail Gorbachev had become General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, he was aged 54, was the youngest member of the Politburo, and the first leader to have been born after the Revolution. A year after he took the position it was clear that he was bringing in generational change as he launched glasnost, perestroika, demokratizatsiya (openness, restructuring, and democratisation).

In 1988 his Christmas present to the world was a dramatic speech at the United Nations in which he announced troop cuts of 500,000 within the next two years. At the same time, there was a growing movement for self-determination in Soviet states across Europe.

As an indication that things were changing, The Scorpions, a rock band from West Germany, was allowed to play in Russia, and invited back for the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August 1989. The band was so moved by the atmosphere of goodwill at that event that they returned to Germany and wrote this song.

The world is closing in
And did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future’s in the air
You can feel it everywhere
It’s blowing with the wind of change

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change.

The most striking symbol of Cold War division was the 45 kilometre-long Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 to stop the exodus of East Germans. In November 1989 the checkpoints opened, and the streets were filled with dancing, car horns, and champagne sprays. Thousands clambered over the wall, breaking bits off as they did. Wind of Change became the unofficial anthem of German Reunification.

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
In the wind of change.


Among those who died in ‘88/’89 were Aboriginal land rights pioneer Vincent Lingiari, writers Raymond Carver, Daphne du Maurier and Samuel Beckett, artists Lloyd Rees and Salvador Dali, songwriter Irving Berlin, singer/ song-writer Roy Orbison, actors John Mellion and Laurence Olivier, comedians Lucille Ball and Graham Chapman.

Politicians who died that year included F D Roosevelt and the ex-Prime Minister who is better known for his wife’s dress than he is for his policies, Sir William McMahon.

Bill made no impact at all
Till Sonia he took to a ball
When they walked in, Nixon choked on his rum
When they saw Sonia’s dress all the guests were struck dumb
‘Cos her dress had two side-splits right up to her bum
Poor wee Billy McMahon.

Poor wee Billy McMahon
He’s mutton dressed up as lamb
He tries to be ‘with it’ and dresses real moddy
But with his big lugs and his skinny wee body
He looks like a cross between Big Ears and Noddy
Poor wee Billy McMahon
Poor wee Billy McMahon.


Come and sit, sit here before me
And I will tell you a tale
Of so many years rocky and stormy
Of a fight so that right would prevail
A tale of a town where the winter is cold
And summer’s unbearably hot
Of a town called Canberra that wanted no government
But still, a government it got.

Despite Canberrans voting against self-government 11 years earlier, the ACT had its first election in May 1989, an election that was notable for having a ballot paper almost one-metre wide. It listed 117 candidates for 22 political parties with names like the Sun-Ripened Warm Tomato Party, the Surprise Party, and the Party! Party! Party! Party.

It took almost two months after Election Day to determine the results of the election, and four people won seats on platforms of abolishing self-government. Not surprisingly, the result was a hung parliament.

The spectrum, the whole of the palette
From blue Liberal to sun-ripened red
Lined up on a metre-wide ballot
“It won’t work,” the populace said.
The no self-government and Party Party Party
Party danced ’til voting was done
Then, once in, as we all do, they dropped all their platforms
To suck up to those who had won
Forming the biggest town council, the tiniest parliament
Roadworks and drainage without the allure
As caring as fed’ral, efficient as local
Enduring and bound to endure
Here in the biggest town council, the tiniest parliament
Budget the size of an Anglican school
As caring as fed’ral, efficient as local
Big fish in a very small pool.


Just to show that nothing changes, in 1989 Andrew Peacock staged a party room coup in which he deposed Howard as leader, Prime Minister Hawke gave Prince Phillip a Companion in the Military Division of the Order of Australia without a flicker of reaction, and the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption began in Queensland.

As far as corruption inquiries went though, entrepreneurs in Queensland took exploitation to a new level when they launched a line of Fitzgerald Inquiry merchandise. There were stickers and badges, earrings, T-shirts, a vice tour of dens of iniquity in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, and Corruption – the board game: ‘Collect bribes, misappropriate public funds, use the police for political purposes, and commit perjury’, boasted the publicity material.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen appeared before the inquiry in December 1988, and when asked:

What do you understand by the ‘the separation of powers?

And his answer?

Well you tell me. And I’ll tell you whether you’re right or not. Don’t you know?

After 32 years of National Party rule, Labor’s Wayne Goss was elected as Premier. Joh was gone, but not forgotten.

Don’t you worry ‘bout that.


The powers-that-be at Channel Seven had let go of the very popular Neighbours some years earlier, and were keen to atone for their sins with a show with tougher storylines. The show was Home and Away, launched in January 1988 with its own theme song, written by New Zealand-born composer Mike Perjanik.

Hold me in your arms
Don’t let me go I want to stay forever

With you each day
Home and Away

Meanwhile, Neighbours was still a raging success on Ten, and Jason and Kylie were still as popular as ever, winning the Silver and Gold Logies respectively.

Kylie was now a singing star, with her second single number one in the UK and Australia.

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.
I should be so lucky in love.

Although they sound like a firm of solicitors, Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) was the song writing and production team behind The Singing Budgie’s success. SAW was a hit factory extraordinaire, and when it produced her first album simply entitled Kylie, it sold over two million copies. Their re-recorded version of Locomotion made it to top 10 in the USA, and Kylie left Neighbours behind her to follow her new musical career, which is still going strong.


Another big female act of this time was the all-girl band The Bangles, who tasted success in 1988 with a song inspired by the eternal flame at Elvis’ Graceland home.

Close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin’
Do you feel my heart beating?
Do you understand?
Do you feel the same?
Am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame?

It is said that the lead singer, Susannah Hoffs, recorded that song in the nude, but when Cher appeared on an aircraft carrier in the video clip of her latest hit song Turn Back Time, she wasn’t nude. But she did wear a body suit that left nothing to the imagination.

If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you
And you’d stay
If I could reach the stars
I’d give them all to you
Then you’d love me, love me
Like you used to do.

This year we shared the National Archives stage for the first time with Dr Nicholas Brown from the ANU history department, who filled everyone in on the politics of 1988 and 1989 as it appears in the Cabinet papers. If anyone can turn back time, he can.

He’s gonna turn back time
Here at the NAA

He’ll go back to what Hawkie blurted
In his day
Now he has read the files
He’ll spill the beans to you
Hear the secrets, secrets
Have a peekaboo
He’s gonna turn back time.


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
All parodies written by John Shortis
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) written by Charlie and Craig Reid
Fast Car written by Tracy Chapman
Don’t Worry Be Happy written by Bobbie McFerrin
Celebration of the Nation, music by Les Gock, lyrics by Fran Allen and Tim Phillp
Bicentennial written by Paul Kelly
We Know Why, Min Min Light, and The Outback Children’s Spectacular were written by John Shortis and children in NSW primary schools
The Wind Beneath My Wings written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar
Gate of Heavenly Peace written by John Shortis
Wind of Change written by Klaus Meine
Poor Wee Billy McMahon written by Eric Bogle
The Biggest Town Council written by Peter J Casey
Home and Away written by Mike Perjanik
I Should Be So Lucky written by Stock, Aitken and Waterman
Eternal Flame written by Susanna Hoffs, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg
If I Could Turn Back Time written by Diane Warren

Books and newspapers
The Berlin Wall Story by Hans-Hermann Hertle
Keating, the Inside Story by John Edwards
The Guardian


Out of the Cabinet 1986/1987

I wish to advise that, thanks to two politicians, this essay does contain language that some may find offensive.


Welcome to the years of 1986 and 1987, a time when Aussie cars first ran on unleaded petrol, and that petrol cost around 51.9 cents a litre. Back then, a 4 litre cask of Lindemans Claret would set you back $5.49, a schooner of beer $1.70. $13,995 would get you a Ford Falcon, $599 a Video Cassette Recorder, and $79,950 a nice little bungalow in the Canberra suburb of Duffy.

These years ushered in a new social group, the DINKS (Double Income, No Kids), but if you did have kids, you’re most likely to have named them Sarah or James.

In fashion, boys were sporting acid-wash jeans, mullets and rats’ tails. For girls, the ubiquitous scrunchie appeared in hair for the first time, and it was the era of leggings, denim jackets, and parachute pants. The really groovy ones, though, teamed flowing Laura Ashley dresses with Doc Martins.

It was a time when Australia became the fastest growing market for fax machines, the first computer virus appeared, and Email was merely a brand of fridge.

In Sydney, a monorail was proposed, a Very Fast Train was being considered, and our second airport, we were told, would be at Badgery’s Creek.

Halley’s Comet appeared in our skies, the Grim Reaper ads appeared on our tellies, and the mobile phone first hit our shores. Known as The Brick, you could pick one up for a mere $4,500.


In the mid eighties, Johnny Farnham’s golden days of number-one hits like Sadie (The Cleaning Lady) and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head were far behind him. The career of the five-time King of Pop was going down the gurgler.

He’d had a spell as lead singer of the fading Little River Band, and had dropped the ‘Johnny’ to become a more sophisticated ‘John’,

But he was broke and dispirited, forced to do the club circuit, to sell his properties and move his family into a rented house on a four-lane highway in the north-western Melbourne suburb of Bulleen.

It was in the garage of that faded brick veneer bungalow that a chapter of Australian music history was written. Manager Glenn Wheatley mortgaged his house to raise the $150,000 needed to make a comeback album, and put Farnham, and sound engineer Ross Fraser on a retainer, giving them the time to chain smoke their way through box after box of cassette demos that had been sent to them.

Word got out amongst music publishers that Farnham was on a song search, but they didn’t want to send their best songs to a washed up nightclub singer. So the task was laborious as not all the songs were gems. Still they listened to each tape right through, looking for tougher lyrics than on previous Farnham records.

Talented keyboardist and arranger, David Hirschfelder, who’d worked with Farnham in LRB, was called in, and they started tinkering with drum machines and synths, working up demos for the songs on a 4-track TEAC recorder.

The codename for the album was Whispering Jack, a nickname that Farnham had developed after he was introduced by mistake one night in the USA as Jack Phantom. Inspired by Whispering Ted Lowe, commentator in the TV billiards show Pot Black, Jack Phantom morphed into Whispering Jack Phantom. The theory was that if a redhead could be called Bluey, then a singer with a powerhouse voice like Farnham’s could be called Whispering Jack.

They thought the final song selection had been made when they came across a tape that they’d missed. The song on that tape pricked their interest enough to see if its publishers had any other songs. They did. When Farnham heard You’re the Voice he was blown away, thought it sounded like it was written for him. He recorded it, complete with bagpipe solo (Farnham’s idea), and now Whispering Jack was ready for the world.

Farnham delivered the final tape to Wheatley with a heartfelt message written on it ‘This is the best I can do, boss.’ But Farnham’s lack of confidence meant he wasn’t eating or sleeping, and he would often be found curled up in the foetal position on his suburban couch, convinced that the venture would fail.

Aware that Farnham was considered passé by the radio stations, Wheatley cleverly sent the single out in a plain white cover, with no credits. Triple M in Sydney twigged immediately and sent Wheatley a note to say that they weren’t fooled, and that they didn’t play John Farnham records on their very cool FM station.

Rival station, 2DAYFM, gave the record a spin and the switchboard lit up. Wheatley’s Porsche was equipped with a car phone, the latest technology of the era, so from his luxury car, he rang the depressed singer to tell him the song was number 1.

You’re the Voice went straight to the top spot on the singles charts to become the biggest Australian hit of 1986, sold over a million copies in Europe, and went to number 6 in the UK. Whispering Jack was the first local album to sell over 1 million copies in Australia alone, and broke all sales records for an Australian album worldwide.In 1987 he won the ARIA award for best male artist, went on a successful tour.

Farnham was back in the world. His renting days were over, and he could afford to hire Sadie the cleaning lady again.


Playing around with a UHF radio scanner they’d just bought at Dick Smith for $299, some members of an activist group for the disabled, unexpectedly eavesdropped upon a car phone conversation that would soon become national headlines, and embarrass three prominent politicians.

It was March 1987, John Howard was Opposition leader, and a bitter rivalry between him and he-who-would-be-Opposition-leader, Andrew Peacock, was burbling away. A Victorian state by-election had just been held, and Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett rang Peacock to complain about Howard. This is just a bit of what the disability activists heard:

He got on the phone and said are you happy with the result, and I said ‘No I’m not’, and he said, ‘Why?’ And I said ‘Without your front pages and total disunity I’d have had ten percent swing. I would have got myself another four and you’ve fucked it up for me’, and he went off his brain.

He said to me, ‘I didn’t like the way you kept me out of the campaign’. I said, ‘Wouldn’t have you in it, and I didn’t have any federal people in it’.

He said, ‘I know where your sympathies lie’, and I said, ‘I couldn’t give a fuck. I have no sympathies any more. You’re all a pack of shits and tomorrow I’m going berserk’. Well he went off his brain and in the end I said to him, I said, ‘Howard. You’re a cunt. You haven’t got my support, you never will have and I’m not going to rubbish you or the party tomorrow but I feel a lot better having told you you’re a cunt’.

To which Andrew Peacock replied:

Be humble, mate.

And Peacock was humbled when Howard sacked him from the shadow ministry.


One of our most successful TV comics, Paul Hogan, had seen an interview on Michael Parkinson’s show with a Northern Territory man who’d been savaged by a crocodile. The interview inspired him to create a character and a movie, Crocodile Dundee, released in 1986.

Made on a budget of less than $9 million, it was a smash hit world-wide, and Hogan was invited to co-host the next Academy Awards. In true Hoges style, he took the piss. Here’s a tiny excerpt.

G’day. the atmosphere here is pure electricity. But as a television show it does tend to go slightly off the boil, especially as it drifts into the third and fourth hour. So, winners, when you make your speech, it’s a good tip to remember the three Gs- be gracious, be grateful, get off.

Bob Hawke was our Prime Minister at the time, and was having bit of a problem with his Treasurer, Paul Keating. Amid bad trade figures, a plunging dollar and high interest rates, Hawke had just returned from a trip to Beijing to find that, while he was away, Keating had made an appearance on The John Laws Show, dropping the famous line:

Australia is in danger of becoming a banana republic.

Hawke decided to do a pre-recorded television address to the nation to let everyone know who was in charge. He hired Peter Faiman, the producer of Crocodile Dundee, to direct his TV appearance, but nothing could alter the fact that this was the beginning of the end of the once strong Hawke/Keating relationship.

Hawke wanted to be positive, give the gloom and doom about the economy a good spin. Keating on the other hand wanted to tell it like it was and prepare Australians for a drop in the standard of living. The gulf between them was widening.


There’s a battle ahead
Many battles are lost

So begins Don’t Dream It’s Over, the first hit for Crowded House in 1986, not written about the Hawke/Keating drift apart, but surprisingly relevant.

After Split Enz had split, Neil Finn and drummer Paul Hester decided to form a new band, The Mullanes. They’d secured a recording contract with Capitol Records, and moved to LA to record their debut album. The band lived together in a crowded apartment in West Hollywood, and soon the band and the album would go by the name of Crowded House.

This song became a massive hit in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and still remains their most commercially successful song.

Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know that they won’t win.

One man who did win in 1986 was Queensland Premier for 17 years, the irrepressible Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who, thanks to the gerrymander, managed to win 39% of the vote, and over 60% of the seats. He ruled in a state where creationism was taught alongside evolution, God Save the Queen was still sung in schools, and sex education was banned in schools.

His ultra-conservative, populist style allowed him to get away with acts like banning a book on the Red Cross because it appeared to support blacks in South Africa. On the other hand, a book that was rife with anti-Labor propaganda was distributed to Queensland schools and TAFEs.

Also at that time, with 93% of Queenslanders in favour of AIDS education in schools, Queensland police used crowbars to remove condom machines from the University of Queensland campus. Joh’s justification for this was that condom machines stop Australia from a being great nation, and Queensland from being a great state. In his words:

Homosexuals should stop that horrible lifestyle they’re living in rather than worry about condom vending machines.

This was despite his Health Minister, Mike Ahern, vigorously supporting the machines, and the National Party conference delivering Joh a string of rebuffs over the policy.

There were calls for him to go, but his maverick ambition was now to rule not just the Sunshine State, but the whole of Australia. He handed control over to his deputy and he was off. The fact that he didn’t have a federal seat didn’t seem to faze him.

I am a bushfire raging across the country. I will do everything to help save Australia from Socialism.

What became known as the Joh for PM Campaign was driven largely by a group of Gold Coast property developers who were affectionately known as ‘the white shoe brigade.’ His messages were simple–as PM he would look closely at moral standards in education, welfare, film and printed material, and bring in a 25% flat tax.

The polls showed that 1 in 5 voters supported him, and the effect on federal politics began to be felt, especially in the Federal coalition.

I’d rather push a 44 gallon drum of molasses up a hill than try to get them (Howard and Sinclair) elected.

Then the ABC’s Four Corners aired The Moonlight State, an exposé of police corruption in the sunshine state. The Fitzgerald Inquiry began, Joh self-imploded, Mike Ahern took over as Premier. It was the end of an era. Or should that be–end of an error?

Goodbye Joh, you gotta go, me oh my oh
‘Cos the time has come for you to say goodnye-oh
Don’t you worry ’bout the Fitzgerald Inquiry-oh
Just retire and spend your time eating pumpkin pie-oh
Bulldoze trees, and if you please, grow peanuts-oh
You sun of a gun, you’ve had your fun, now bugger off-oh


Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Vol. II doesn’t sound like a game changer, but when it arrived, as a bootleg cassette, in the life of Paul Simon, that’s exactly what it became. His career plummeting, his second marriage over, this tape opened his ears and heart to South African township music.

I tried to absorb the musical essence of the music, which was difficult, because the shape of the songs was not what I was used to.

The next step for him was to go to the source of the music, meet the musicians on the tape, record with them.

I learned a long time ago that if yoiu wanted to work in a different idiom, you can’t simply imitate what you hear. Your ears aren’t trained to the nuances. You’ve got to go to the source.

But with apartheid at its height and the cultural boycott in place, he knew that any visit would be controversial. Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones gave him their blessing, as did the township musicians.

They decided that my coming would benefit them because I could help to give South African music a place in the international community of music similar to that of reggae.

Simon’s decision to go to South Africa split opinion between those who saw the liberal principles of rock ‘n’ roll violated, and those who said he focused world attention on the complexity and artistry of black South African culture.

Beyond the controversy, the music was a brilliant hybrid, as exciting and fresh as the blending of white country and black gospel and blues that had created rock ‘n’ roll in the first place.

The resulting album Graceland was released in 1986, ten years after the Soweto uprising, and ten years before apartheid was ended and Nelson Mandela became president. It sold 14 million copies worldwide.


1986 was the UN International Year of Peace and so, to mark the occasion, US President Ronald Reagan bombed the crap out of Libya, tried to get rid of Nicaragua’s left wing government, sold arms to Iran, and carried on the Star Wars program.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, propped up for so long by the US, was being tested in an election.

The one who wore the trousers in the Marcos family was Ferdinand’s wife, wannabe singer Imelda. She also wore the shoes, all 3000 pairs, and she wore a custom-made bullet proof brassiere whenever she sang at her husband’s election rallies.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings
I sing this for my Ferdinand
I know he’ll win again.

But he didn’t. Cory Aquino did. So, when the Marcos duo fled to the USA, did they they still believe that Marcos was the rightful President?

Catholic, oh is the Pope a Catholic?
Is Sinatra geriatric?
And does he have blue eyes?
Vodkas, does Gorbachev drink vodkas?
And does Imelda Marcos know her shoe size?


Among unlikely contenders for a spot in the pop charts in 1986 was Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). An excerpt from his Lieutenant Kijé Suite became the instrumental break in a song by Sting, called Russians, from his hit album of 1986, The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets

Mr Kruschev said he will bury you
I don’t subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too.

Exactly at the same time as the album was top of the charts here in Australia, a Soviet nuclear reactor was ablaze at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
there is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too.

The Soviets were tight-lipped about the disaster and published photos of happy Ukrainians in full traditional costume, dancing in the streets, just a few days later on May Day, with big smiles on their faces, as if nothing had ever happened.

But when the West started to experience levels of radiation a hundred times above normal, we came to learn that it was the worst nuclear disaster ever, with eventually tens of thousands of victims.

What might save us, me and you
Is if the Russians love their children too.


1986 and ‘87 proved to be bumper years for babies destined for fame- babies like Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Baby Gaga, who would later morph into Lady Gaga.

Baby there’s no other superstar
You know that I’ll be
Papa, paparazzi
Baby you’ll be famous
Chase down until you love me
Papa, paparazzi.

And it was a great time for baby tennis players. Nadal, Murray, Djokovic, Sharapova and Ivanovic, all of whom ended up being pursued by:

Papa, paparazzi.

Deaths at that time included former opposition leader Billy Snedden, who apparently died with a smile on his face. He was last seen in public at John Howard’s policy speech, and had died, not of boredom, but of a heart attack, while having sex in the Rushcutter’s Bay Travelodge. It seems Billy had died on the job.

Other deaths included James Cagney, Liberace, Robert Helpmann and Fred Astaire who tap danced his way to:

Heaven, he’s in Heaven.

As far as weddings go, there were two big ones that each attracted millions of TV viewers.

One was that of Scott and Charlene on TV soapie,I. Played by Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue, the Ramsay Street couple’s wedding attracted a UK audience of 20 million, and featured a song sung and written by Angry Anderson, chosen by Kylie herself.

Suddenly you’re seeing me
Just the way I am
Suddenly you’re hearing me
So I’m talking just as fast as I can to you
Suddenly every part of me
Needs to know every part of you.

The other wedding was that of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, watched by 500 million worldwide. Poor old Fergie, she was never seen to match up to the glamorous Princess Diana, so reports of her broad bum, boisterous behavior, frumpish frocks and thundering thighs were like Manna from Heaven to the

Papa, paparazzi.


Fortunately, the paparazzi weren’t in Memphis on Tuesday October 26 1986, when ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was seen in the lobby of a sleazy $29-a-night motel, without his wallet, without his pants, and without his dignity.

An eminent person once did go
Down to Memphis where the cotton do grow
And all the lassies said ‘hello’
Donald where’s your troosers?

Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low
You got no pockets for your jewels to fo
And all the lassies shout ‘hello’
Donald where’s your troosers?

He came into the lobby feeling foul
Wearing nothing but an old bath towel
Shirt and socks and a dreadful scowl
Donald where’s your troosers?

Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low
You got no pockets for your jewels to fo
And all the lassies shout ‘hello’
Donald where’s your troosers?

Malcolm was in Memphis in his role as a member of the Eminent Persons Group, speaking at the local Country Club on the issue of justice in South Africa. He was booked in to stay at the Club, but decided to head down to the touristy Beale Street district, went to the famous Peabody Hotel for a drink, and woke at the not-so-salubrious Admiral Benbow Hotel. The rest is history, but not history that Mr Fraser has ever expanded on.

And now he’s gone back to Nareen
there’s going to be a terrible scene
When Tammie cries ‘where have you been?’
And Malcolm where’s your troosers?

Let the wind blow high let the wind blow low
You got no pockets for your jewels to fo
And all the lassies shout ‘hello’
Donald where’s your troosers.

Isn’t it funny that, after the huge contribution he made towards ending apartheid, he still better known for being caught with his pants down? Malcolm is quoted as saying ‘I wish I’d never been to bloody Memphis.


Once Fraser left Federal politics, the coalition was in turmoil, thanks to the dysfunctional Howard/Peacock relationship, and the Joh for PM campaign. So, to cash in on coalition disunity, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced an early election in 1987.

The Labor Party’s slogan was Let’s Stick Together, which came complete with a horribly catchy jingle written by well-known advertising man John Singleton.

Together, let’s stick together
Australians together, let’s see it through.

It was the election campaign in which Bob Hawke uttered the immortal words:

By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty.

Labor won the election resoundingly, their third win in just over 4 years.

Australians together, let’s see it through.
(Written by Bob McMullan for the Australian labor Party, Canberra.

Yes, that Bob McMullan, then National Secretary for the ALP, just before he became the member for the Canberra seat of Fraser. In fact, many of those in politics we now know and love were waiting in the wings at this time.

Bronwyn Bishop was President of the NSW Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull was lawyer for the publishing firm in the Spycatcher case, Peter Beattie ALP State Secretary for Queensland, Simon Crean President of the ACTU, Anthony Albanese research officer for Tom Uren, Clive Palmer was working on the Joh for PM campaign, and Tony Abbott was studying to be a priest. Even in these early stages of their political careers, they were all showing their true colours.

I see your true colours shining through
I see your true colours and that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colours
True colours are beautiful
Like a rainbow.

True Colors was a hit single and album for Cyndi Lauper in 1986, and in 1987, Irish band U2 reached number 3 on the album charts with The Joshua Tree, which featured this song.

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

This was our sixth year of doing this show as the warm-up act for Archives historian Jim Stokes. Sadly, Jim retired that year, which made this his last time presenting his take on the cabinet records. We enjoyed his company and his wry look at what could have been a dry topic in other hands.

He has read Cabinet papers
he has run through the file
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
He has dug
He has delved
He has caled the Archives’ shelves
Only to be with you

But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for
But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

Ladies and gentlemen, the man who still hasn’t found what he’s looking for, Dr Jim Stokes.

Jim Stokes 1986-1987 talk
(Used by permission of National Archives of Australia)


Songs, YouTubes and credits
You’re the Voice, co-written by Keith Reid (lyricist of Whiter Shade of Pale), Chris Thompson (lead singer of Manfred Mann Earth Band), Andy Qunta (keyboard player with Australian band Icehouse), and Maggie Ryder (session singer with the Eurhythmics, Queen, Manfred Mann Earth Band etc).
See the $10, 000 video made to market the song at the time
Look out for cameos by then husband and wife, Jacki Weaver and Derryn Hinch. And better still if you’d like to see Julian Assange singing the song as part of his unsuccessful campaign to gain a Senate seat in Victoria at the 2013 election, try Julian Assange dons mullet to sing You’re the Voice

The full recording of the Kennett/Peacock conversation can be heard on YouTube

See more of Hoges at the Oscars

Don’t Dream It’s Over written by Neil Finn

Goodbye Joh parody by Melbourne singer- songwriter Bruce Watson, published in The Balls of Bob Menzies by Warren Fahey (based on Jambalaya written by Hank Williams)

For an acclaimed documentary on the Graceland project, YouTube has  Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Feelings written by Louis Gasté and Morris Albert. Parody by John Shortis. Experience Imelda singing for Ruby Wax and hear her turn Feelings into a dental serenade

Hear and see the Azusa Pacific University Symphony Orchestra perform Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite live in 2013.

Catch the video clip of Sting singing ‘Russians’
Russians is written by Sting

Paparazzi written by Lady Gaga and Rob Fusari (2008).
Watch the clip on YouTube

To watch Scott and Charlene’s wedding, go here

Suddenly was written by Angry Anderson.

For the Prince Andrew/Fergie wedding, go to YouTube here

Donald Where’s Your Troosers written by Andy Stewart and Neil Grant. Parody by John Quiggin, published in The Balls of Bob Menzies by Warren Fahey

And here is the clip of the song by Cyndi Lauper ‘True Colors’ written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly

And video of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For written by U2

Whispering Jack- The John Farnham Story by Clark Forbes
Paper Paradise by Glenn Wheatley
The Boy in the Bubble a Biography of Paul Simon by Patrick Humphries
Malcolm Fraser The Political Memoirs by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons

Performed March 2014
Essay written Sept 2015