The Wild Ones

The story of Australian music is full of ‘wild ones’ who have improvised, innovated and followed sparks of intuition to propel the home-grown industry in new and exciting directions. Early local heroes such as Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye cultivated the rock and roll scene in the 1950s when a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to managing, recording, publishing and promoting was necessary. If something didn’t exist they created it – from flamboyant handmade suits to electric guitars and amplifiers.

Many artists had to overcome social barriers to their success. Australia’s first Indigenous popstar, Jimmy Little, became a household name in the early 1960s at a time when Australia’s First Peoples were still waiting to be formally recognised as citizens. During the 1970s, gutsy blues singer Wendy Saddington shook up a live music scene dominated by male ‘prog rock’ and pub bands.

As the music industry grew so too did the need to innovate. Trailblazing audio engineer Bill Armstrong imported Australia’s first eight-track recorder in 1968 and worked closely with engineer and designer Graham Thirkell to create a new 16-track recorder, the Optro 1000 MTR. In the 1970s, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum pioneered a new way of reporting that combined critical reviews with personal opinion and anecdotes sourced from within the music scene.

In 1972, Michael Gudinski changed the Australian musical landscape forever when he launched a bold new recording venture in the form of Mushroom Records. Over the past five decades his 360 degree management model of publishing and recording, artist bookings, concert promotions and merchandising has helped to revolutionize the industry and nurture the careers of generations of artists.

Today, new and creative approaches to recording and distribution continue to drive Australian music forward today through online and streaming platforms and, more locally, on independent artist-run labels such as Milk! Records.


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