In an effort to continue exploring the creative output and boundless prolific period of the 1990s Australian music scene, here are 25 of the best forgotten covers of the decade, all ripe for rediscovery.
Join us as we take you through a list of the top 25 best covers to come out of Australia in the ’90s. They’re sure to bring back some memories.
25. The Mavis’s – ‘Planet Earth’ (1999)
Taken from the Duran Duran Aussie tribute album UnDone, Ballarat babes The Mavis’s reinterpret Le Bon and Co with quirky keyboards, boxy drum beats and the unmistakable brother/sister harmonies of Matt and Beki Mavis.
24. The Porkers – ‘Know Your Product’ (1996)
The Saints go ska on this brass-heavy, rocksteady rendition of ‘Know Your Product’. Always a crowd rousing live band, The Porkers also cover crackin’ versions of Devo’s ‘Mongoloid’ and Radio Birdman’s ‘Aloha Steve and Danno’.
23. Sidewinder – ‘Wired for Sound’ (1994)
In an ideal world, Sidewinder would have been a much bigger band in this country. They were the perfect combo of swirling guitars and harmonious brotherly vocals amidst a sea of infectious distortion. (See albums Atlantis and Tangerine for further proof).
Cliff Richard gets the indie treatment with this warm and fuzzy rendition of his 1981 pop classic.
22. Frente – ‘Clouds’ (1996)
Recorded for the Australian Go-Betweens tribute Right Here – Frente manage to do away with their stock-in-trade fragility and go gung-ho with an almost mechanised version of this beautiful Forster/McLennan composition. The layered vocals, soaring strings and pounding drums make it a winner.
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21. Custard – ‘Cool World’ (1995)
Brisbane indie heroes Custard were on the crest of high profile adulation when they released this quirky cover as the b-side to the single ‘Wahooti Fandango’. The Mondo Rock version was a staple of AM radio for decades.
The same cannot be said for the Custard version but it has everything we’ve come to love from David McCormack and co: crazy sound effects, stomping drum beats, off-key harmonies and some ‘plinky-plonky’ keyboard bits.
20. The Blackeyed Susans – ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ (1998)
Susans’ frontman Rob Snarski has one of the most sensuous, honey drizzled voices in the country. He could sing the phone book and make grown men cry. Which is why this version of Hal and Bacharach’s ‘Make It Easy on Yourself’ is such a dreamy yet dramatic interpretation.
19. The Living End – ‘Prisoner on the Inside’ (1997)
If you were around in the 1980’s, you’ll remember how big of a deal the Aussie soap Prisoner was – and the show’s theme tune, sung by Lynne Hamilton, which went Top 5 on the singles chart in 1979.
The Living End recorded their version for the ‘Prisoner of Society’ EP (a clever tie-in) and it has remained a live favourite for fans ever since.
18. Tumbleweed – ‘Mr Pharmacist’ (1993)
Tucked away on their Sundial EP, Tumbleweed’s version of ‘Mr Pharmacist’ is nothing short of brilliant. First recorded by psychedelic 60’s San Fran band The Other Half but made famous by Brit post-punkers The Fall – Tumbleweed’s version stands on par.
17. Nitocris – ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ (1995)
There’s a saying: if you didn’t see Nitocris live in the ’90s, then you weren’t really there. They were the real fkn rock deal with attitudes to match. No strangers to covering rock classics either, see their awesome Sabbath cover ‘N.I.B’ and Jett’s ‘I Love Rock and Roll’.
AC/DC gets the fierce femme treatment with this unwavering ‘Dirty Deeds’ cover from the Fuse Box AC/DC tribute album.
16. The Earthmen – ‘The House Jack Keroac Built’ (1996)
Another gem from the Go-Between’s tribute Right Here – this time some indie pop perfection from Melbourne’s Earthmen. The band sadly disband at the end of the decade after almost 10 years together. This is a reminder of their greatness.
15. Hellmenn – ‘Duece’ (1990)
“You know your man is workin’ hard…He’s worth a deuce.”
There was so much to love about the Hellmenn, namely explosively loud live shows and dirty rock and roll – and Ben Brown’s memorable artwork.
This is a total meat and potatoes rock redo of the KiISS classic from Waterfront Records’ tribute called ‘Hard to Believe’ which also features a crackin’ Hard-Ons version of ‘Lick It Up’.
14. Mr Floppy – ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1993)
Possibly one of the best cult bands ever to grace our nation, (just don’t make any TISM or Lubricated Goat comparisons). Everything about Mr Floppy was fun.
From their name, to their record label (Zombie Penis Death) and their impressive body of work in just five years after which they disbanded under a cloud of smoke never to be seen nor heard of again.
This cover of the Kate Bush classic sounds like it’s been minced through a toy blender and come out the other end, albeit with a couple of valiums to ease the blow.
13. The Affected – ‘Jenny 867-5309’ (1994)
Before they changed their name to Acer (God knows why, The Affected was such a friggin’ tops name), Scot Crawford and co released a distorted guitar version of this classic made famous by Tommy Tutone back in 1981.
Think dirty riffs and Robin Zander inspired vox which became a staple on community radio stations around the country.
12. Glide – ‘She Said, She Said’ (1995)
Glide had that wonderful ability to be captivating and mesmerising both live and on record. This is a stark reminder of what the Australian music scene lost when frontman William Arthur tragically lost his life in 1999. Any band can cover The Beatles, but only Arthur could make it so goddamn heartfelt and reduce the listener to tears.
11. Bodyjar – ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’ (1995)
It only comes in at just under 2 ½ minutes long but this punk rock rework shits all over The Bangles‘ lame pop attempt in 1987. It’s fast, furious and packs a massive punch. Simon & Garfunkel would totally approve.
10. Spiderbait – ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ (1995)
Spiderbait have never shied away from a good cover – see The Goodies ‘Run’ and RamJam’s ‘Black Betty’ – but this Go-Go’s cover is just exquisite.
Janet English takes the vocal reigns whilst Kram plays a tinny sounding drum. And the distorted guitar…that glorious distorted guitar. This is why the ’90s were so bloody good.
9. Hollowmen – ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’ (1990)
This was a triple j staple in 1990 and rightly so. Billy Baxter’s fragile and haunting vocals pairs perfectly with delicate acoustic guitar and Gina Heardon’s and Barb Waters’ backing vox.
There’s not a lot of trickery but a heap of emotion and a tug on the heart-strings. There’ll be purists out there who’ll argue that Husker-Du’s original is the best, but they’ve probably never been hung out to dry after a particularly tough break-up.
8. Meanies – ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ (1995)
Question: What’s better than not taking yourself too seriously when it comes to reworking Acca Dacca?
Answer: Featuring a kick-arse kazoo solo of course!
7. Clouds – ‘Witchita Lineman’ (1995)
Hidden on their poptastic Aqaumarine EP, this version of the Jimmy Webb classic is all about the glorious harmonies. Clouds always had an uncanny knack of perfecting and crafting their vocals almost to a fault. It’s an accomplishment not many Australian bands have been able to achieve since.
6. Rowland S. Howard – ‘White Wedding’ (1999)
It’s frightening but oh, so delicate. The late, great Howard soaks his vocals in strychnine and weaves the song into an almost cautionary fairy tale accompanied by the brilliant Mick Harvey on a sparse sounding piano.
There’s a lot of emptiness in this Idol cover and soaring strings. Taken from his masterful Teenage Snuff Film album, Howard pulled off something lamenting and memorable.
5. Bluebottle Kiss – ‘Hounds Of Love’ (1998)
On paper it shouldn’t have worked but it did, and it’s all down to BBK’s frontman Jamie Hutchings. There’s a desperation in the vocal reinterpretation which takes the song to another level and far away from the Kate Bush original.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say it was this BBK version which inspired British band Futureheads to also cover the track in 2004 and take it Top 10 in the UK. If I’m wrong, I’ll take my shoes off and throw them in the lake.
4. Smudge – ‘Missing You’ (1993)
“It’s my heart that’s breaking down this long distance line tonight.” (Eat your heart out, John Waite).
Thanks to their Superhero EP, we were also treated to Smudge’s fantastic take on TV’s Laverne & Shirley theme tune ‘Make All Our Dreams Come True”. How does it get better than this?
3. Magic Dirt – ‘My Pal’ (1996)
If anyone was going to do justice on a cover of this God classic and do it well, it was always going to be Magic Dirt. Recorded for the Idiot Box soundtrack, Adalita screams all over the Dirt trademark fuzzbox distortion without losing any of the song’s meaning or former glory.
2. Jailbreak – ‘Yothu Yindi’ (1995)
A powerful rendition of a song that probably hits too close to home for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (watch out for goosebumps in most parts of the track). Didgeridoo, clap sticks and Yothu Yindi’s unmistakable and unique harmonies are key in this AC/DC cover.
1. Hard-Ons & Henry Rollins – ‘Let There Be Rock’ (1991)
The Hard-Ons and Henry Rollins‘ show at the ’92 Sydney Big Day Out (and subsequent shows that year), remain in ’90s rock folklore as life changing events. So too is this rockin’ collaboration.
The only crime here is that there wasn’t an album recorded. Now that would have been a gift from the (rock) Gods.