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Steve reflects on Aussie greats Print E-mail
Friday, 09 December 2011

In interview from Melbourne's "The Age" newspaper, Stevecomments on some classic Australian songs.

http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/music/steve-kilbey-reflects-on-aussie-greats-20111208-1ol11.html

Steve Kilbey reflects on Aussie greats
December 9, 2011

Sometimes the most throwaway of songs can grow into a national treasure.

When Steve Kilbey presented his band The Church with a song called Under The Milky Way they shared little enthusiasm for his rough piano composition.

Yet the single would become an ARIA-winning anthem, voted the best Australian song of the past 20 years and soundtracked everywhere from Hollywood films to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Now the track sits alongside other homegrown classics from the likes of Cold Chisel, John Farnham, INXS and Powderfinger in The Great Australian Songbook, a journal and CD collection compiled by rock journalist Murray Thom to define the music that shaped Australian culture.

While Kilbey is politely dismissive of recent pop hits by Kylie Minogue and Pete Murray, he admits the passing of the years is one
ingredient to generating the timeless tune.


"A great Australian song has something about it which is either intended or which through time manifested into something else," he
says.

"When I first wrote Under The Milky Way it was a very ambiguous song but through the years it's become something bigger."

Released in 1989, Under The Milky Way became a surprise sleeper hit in the US and transformed The Church into a worldwide proposition.

Spending several weeks in the Billboard top 40, the song featured in the Denis Leary film Monument Ave and later in the movie Donnie Darko.

"It has a whole different meaning in the US," says Kilbey.

"I get people coming up to me and saying they remember exactly where they were when they first heard that song."

Yet Under The Milky Way's mark has been felt the deepest at home.

Enthusiastic radio play and remixes have kept the song alive, while a cover by indigenous star Jimmy Little sent it in a new direction.

"Jimmy Little brought a whole aboriginal community thing into it," Kilbey says.

"Friends used to ring me up saying I've just been walking through Waterloo and there's a load of aboriginal people sitting outside
singing Milky Way."

Kilbey acknowledges the esteemed company of Gurrumul, Paul Kelly and Empire Of The Sun within the pages of the Great Australian Songbook.

While The Church boast 20 albums' worth of music, they will always be best remembered by Under the Milky Way. And he's aware he lucked out.

"I had no intention at all when I wrote the song, it was like drawing a doodle while you're on the phone to your mum.

"Now there's all this meaning and patriotic malarky surrounding it but that's the power of music."

Steve Kilbey's top Australian tunes

Khe Sanh - Cold Chisel

"I did the RocKwiz tour around Australia and every night someone from the audience would sing Khe Sanh. Be it man or woman, they would throw away the songsheet, get in position and sang it like Barnsey. The audience would always erupt so I don't know how you're going to find a more Australian song. You have to take your hat off."

Eagle Rock - Daddy Cool

"An incredible rocking song. When I was a kid Eagle Rock song was number one for months and months and I never stopped loving it. I believe Mark Bolan might have heard it because I remember Ross Wilson once saying he and Bolan had a bit of an argument over Bolan's song Ride A White Swan. There's a strange synchronicity going on there."

Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats

"Iva Davies and I were doing an interview the other day and he said his band Icehouse did many covers of the Easybeats but Friday On My Mind is the one you just don't touch. I still can't work out how they're making the sound on that record. All those guys were English but they're like me, they wouldn't have happened if they hadn't moved to Australia."

Reckless - Australian Crawl

"Definitely a great Australian song, Australian Crawl could have had several songs included. Just look at their name. But Reckless is so iconic with its mentions of the Manly Ferry and Circular Quay. My only gripe is the '80s drum machine which imposes itself over such a beautiful song. The acoustic versions are better and Paul Kelly does a nice cover."

Djarimirri - Gurrumul

"How more Australian can you be than Gurrumul? You just can't. He makes Cold Chisel look like they're French."

Big Jet Plane - Angus & Julia Stone

"They epitomise the new generation of Australian acts going global. A lot of great Australian music never made it overseas but Angus & Julia Stone are doing that. Their music is so simple and melodic and achieves what it does so effortlessly. And they do Under The Milky Way sometimes. Their dad taught them apparently."


The Great Australian Songbook is out now.

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