top of page

Nifty Fifty - my musical catalogue of cool

Coolness is a subjective quality. Claiming to be an arbiter of what is cool is a fraught exercise, being open to accusations of complete wankerdom. Well, starting a blog is pretty self-indulgent, so "guilty your honour".

BTW, if you get the cryptic meaning of the photo above then well done! Tip: you likely need to be Aussie to understand it.

* * * * *

Let me set out the parameters I have applied in selecting these musical numbers for cool status:

They don't follow a trend. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it's no indicator of coolness.

Popularity is no test of coolness. Smash world-wide hits or obscure gems - it doesn't matter. Also, there is one nomination per artist here because some were so prolific they'd dominate any list.

Enhanced perceptions. If you need weed to get through it, it ain't cool. If it inspires indulgence in some weed then it is.

My taste rules. The bias here is to music from my favourite era, the 60s and 70s.

And there are some genres I just don't get (rap/hip-hop, country & western). Their merits are totally lost on me.

Whiney, mono-tone slop is what I hear when I am accidentally exposed to contemporary popular music. Maybe I have missed some worthwhile candidates. I suspect not.

I found this description of disco at "At one time it seemed disco would live forever. It still does, of course, at wedding receptions for some people's third marriages." LOL!

Classical music can be pretty cool. But it's a whole separate subject.

In no particular order, 10 of my 50 favourites - being a work-in-progress with updates on an irregular basis til i get to #50.


Steely Dan - Do It Again

It ain't rock and roll but I like it. The first track on Can't Buy A Thrill, their debut album, Do It Again lays the foundations for a stream of immaculate, sophisticated craftsmanship. From the first few bars this is a cracker of a number from which they went on to produce smooth fusions of soft rock, jazz-inspired pop experimentalism and Latin rhythms with obtuse lyrics that provided a ready excuse to re-listen.

Walter Becker and Donald Fagan - two self-taught, taut perfectionists; they took two and a half years to make Aja for example but it was worth the wait.

In memory of Walter Becker.

INXS - Don't Change

From the last album written by this Sydney band for an Australian audience Don't Change was INXS's first single to be released internationally and we lost a great pub band to an international audience, Bob Geldorf's ex-missus and other tragedies.

In memory of Michael Hutchence.

ZZ Top - La Grange

Long beards, dark sunglasses, driving rock rhythms, good-humoured, innuendo-laden lyrics and a song about a Texan whore house. If that doesn't pass the cool test nothing will.

The guy without the beard's name is Beard. That just makes me love 'em that little bit more.

Skyhooks - Balwyn Calling

From cheeky through to outright Smut, the 'Hooks irreverence was a key part of their appeal and also to the blacklisting of several of their songs by the more staid radio stations of the 70s. Melbourne-themed lyrics did no harm to their broader popularity with those many of us non-Victorians who wouldn't know Balwyn from Lygon Street; and they smashed the last of the cultural cringe with unabashed Aussie 'kulcha'.

In memory of Shirley Strachan.

AC/DC - It's A Long Way To The Top

Accer Daccer - Aussie rock royalty made up of immigrants from Glasgow, small town Forfar in Scotland and Essex supplemented with one native born Australian.

'It's A Long Way To The Shop If You Want A Sausage Roll' is definitive, formative Oz rock albeit with Bon Scott's inspirational inclusion of bag pipes. We'll let the Scots claim credit for most of AC/DC's DNA, but we'll insist on credit for their realisation of their long way to the top.

Thunderstruck is certainly one of the coolest rock video clips ever.

In memory of Bon Scott.

Angels - Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again

Audience participation is an indispensable part of this, having provided the default chorus in response to the title refrain "am I ever going to see your face again?" It edges out Take A Long Line in my list because of that.

Sophisticated ? Nah. Crude? Yup. R-rated, mullet headed good fun.

In memory of Doc Neeson.

Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine

Hard edged political messages set to a solid rock beat the Oils' music pissed off the grifters, bag-snatchers and flat-earthers of the right in parliaments around the country and their corporate masters. This alone qualifies them as cool.

In line with my own rules I haven't listed Beds Are Burning or their other many arse-kickers - all worthy inclusions otherwise.

Carlos Santana - Samba Pa Ti

No justification required. Santana's signature guitar virtuosity at its funky best.

Killing Heidi - Mascara

Young Ms Hooper can belt out a song and she's awfully cute, ergo cool.

The Hooper siblings Elle and Jesse from tiny Violet Town in country Victoria started out as a folky duet, something to which they have apparently returned. In the interim they produced this and 'Weir' as two rocky belters.

Paul Kelly - To Her Door

"'To Her Door' was a song that was lying around on a tape for seven years before I got words to it. I had forgotten about it and then I played an old tape and there it was. And I thought 'Oh, that's pretty good*'." Damn right.

*from Double J, ABC

David Fricke from Rolling Stone called Kelly "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise."

Kelly is a stand out Australian songwriter, chronicling the country's society and identity through songs with a social conscience such as the masterpieces From St Kilda to Kings Cross, From Little Things Big Things Grow, Before Too Long, Leaps and Bounds and How To Make Gravy.


Old Favourites. Funky but forgotten

bottom of page