Somebody Called Me Australian - Music Videos Part III - The Australian Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 7, 2011 07:00pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is part of a series on the history of music videos in the pre-MTV era. Part I dealt with the era from 1890s-1940s. Part II covered the 1940s-1960s. This section focuses on Australia's domination of music videos, beginning in the 1970s.

Videos took off in Australia largely because the country is a dang continent and back in the day traveling across it was harder than just moving to England and getting famous there, something which many Aussie bands have done… and probably continue to do. So rather than drive through bush fires and blizzards to get from Perth to play to seven larrikins in Brisbane, music videos were increasingly used to promote bands.


Sounds Unlimited

Sounds Unlimited was begun by DJ Graham Webb for Sydney’s ATN-7 in 1974. Since music videos were still uncommon (and live performances weren't going to happen with the show's budget), Webb asked a station employee, Russell Mulcahy, to make his own. Mulcahy made about a dozen, which got him noticed and led to his quitting to freelance. In that capacity he went on to film videos for AC/DC, Stylus, Marcia Hines, Hush and more before he moved to the UK (typical) and filmed videos for The Vapors, XTC and, interestingly, The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." Two years later it was the first video shown on MTV. It may surprise younger readers to know that MTV began as a station that almost exclusively played music videos. Mulcahy later went on to direct classic feature films like Highlander, Razorback, The Shadow and Resident Evil – Extinction. Meanwhile, Sounds Unlimited became simply Sounds




Shortly after Sounds Unlimited debuted, Australia's ABC jumped into the fray. Director Paul Drane created videos for the show, including AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” and “Jailbreak." With a larger budget, the show also featured live performances, which probably led to its much greater popularity. At its peak in the 1980s, it aired in 22 different countries. Drane went on to produce the Orson Welles-hosted The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.




Rage (sorry, "rage") is an Aussie video program that began on ABC1 in 1987. That's well after the debut of MTV, which somehow became synonymous with music videos, leading many to wrongly assume that the channel invented the concept. The first video shown on Rage was The Lime Spiders' "Weirdo Libido." Rage is still going strong, as far as I know… years after MTV switched over to a reality show format. 

More Aussie videos:

Relevant Tags

Graham Webb (1), Australia (13), Music Videos (15), 1970s (45), Russeell Mulcahy (1), Ozpop (1)