Almanac Music – Aussie album review: Sunnyboys’ “Sunnyboys”



It is indisputable that a certain song or a particular album can, like a time-travelling Tardis, immediately transport me back in time. I dare say that, in varying degrees, it is probably the same for most people. Sometimes the memories are not so fond, but that is not the fault of the music. More often than not, historical favourites conjure up a wistful reverie of a more carefree, naïve, stress-free time in your life. Or maybe it’s of a particular event. It follows that it is entirely possible you love that music more for the recollections it delivers than the very music itself. And because that music is so personal, it is impossible for others to understand that depth of meaning.


For me, the Sunnyboys’ self-titled debut album is all this – and more. It provokes an instant recall of youthful summers spent in the Tucks’ caravan on the Anglesea foreshore, evenings at the pub negotiating the treacherous shift up from glasses to pots, days on the beach spent playing cricket whilst listening to a tinny transistor radio with McGilvray and co earnestly relaying the Test match proceedings from the SCG. We hammered that album to death on an old cassette player in the caravan annexe. But quite apart from the memories it stirs some thirty-eight years on, it is nonetheless remains a wonderful record.


The story of the Sunnyboys, and in particular lead singer/guitarist/song-writer Jeremy Oxley, has been well told. They burnt brightly and briefly before Oxley was affected by mental health issues, graphically described in Here Comes The Sun (Allen & Unwin, 1985) and the documentary The Sunnyboy (2013). After many years out of the limelight, the original Sunnyboys lineup reformed some seven years ago for periodic touring. I never saw them back in the day, but have seen more recent shows at the Corner Hotel and the Forum.


It goes without saying that the two best-known tracks off the album, “Happy Man” and “Alone With You”, are Australian music classics. Sing along or be damned! However, there are also heaps of other lesser-known, rollicking crackers on the record. The tracks are guitar-heavy, but the lyrics verge on genius in their simplicity, dealing with angst, frustration, confusion, sadness and occasionally even joyousness. Maybe these were the emotions my mates and I were dealing with in our mid-teens? In keeping with that theme of simplicity, take a look at the album cover; could it have been more simple?


Every track is easy to sing along to – and so comfortable to play along to with your air-guitar. Just let yourself get lost in “Trouble In My Brain”, the perennial live favourite “I’m Shakin’”, and “I Can’t Talk To You”. But I have always found it interesting that two of my personal favourites on the record – ‘Gone’ and the achingly sad ‘Let You Go’ – are the two songs penned by bass-player Peter Oxley (whose autograph Tucky unashamedly requested in the Duke of Wellington prior to the Forum gig).


This album promised so much that it would be difficult, even some thirty-eight years on, to find a better collection of Australian power-pop melodies. Alas, due to a number of subsequent poor decisions and Jeremy Oxley’s deteriorating health, that early youthful promise was never fully realised. But we will always have this superb album, and it will always stir in me the memories of those youthful summers. So, for me it has a place in my heart that perhaps only my mates of four decades ago will truly understand.




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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Yes, yes, yes Smokie, yes, yes, yes.

    Like you, I had everything they made (including Alone With You/Happy Man on cassingle) and their debut album on sunny yellow vinyl, but never saw them until recently (Zoo Twilights show with the Painters and Dockers, believe it or not).

    I had my chance when a Jeremy Oxley reformation in the late 80s lobbed, but it was ill-fated according to my workmates that attended.

    Peter Oxley has bobbed up in The Aints and also The Aints! so I’ve seen a bit of him in recent times.

    Little known fact is that Rob Younger of Radio Birdman and New Christs fame was once auditioned as the Sunnyboys vocalist.

  2. After reading this nostalgia piece, I couldn’t resist and listened to old time Australian country and western star SMOKEY DAWSON singing on You Tube. They don’t make recordings like that anymore (thank heaven).

  3. I saw the sunny Boys a few times in he early 1980’s. I’ve got a vague recollection it may have included a Sunday night gig @ the Waterloo Cup in Maribyrnong Road. Gee whizz, was it 1981, 82 ?

    It’s worth recalling Lobby Loyde, was their producer at the start of their recording career. Lobby is one of the greats of Australian rock music.


  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful Smokie.

    I must admit to knowing the Sunnyboys more for “Alone With You” and “Happy Man” than for their albums, so gave this album a listen at work this morning after reading this. It’s a cracking rock album, great riffs and as you mentioned, enjoyable in it’s simplicity. Loved it.

    Keep these great reviews coming!

  5. Brilliant Smokie. Really really good! Loved the Sunnyboys. Went to see them in Adelaide in about 1982. Wish I could recall where. Don’t think it was the Thebby. Anyone help me out?

    And Swish yes the Aints are good too.

    Didn’t know about Rob Younger. In watching an old clip from the Marryatville hotel of birdman a while ago it’s hard to imagine Rob auditioning for the sunnboys!

  6. Thanks for the comments, all.
    Swish: Probably the 80’s version was at a time when Jeremy was really struggling. I missed the Twilights show, not least because I was booked to see a couple of other Twilights shows. I did know about Peter Oxley being a part of a few bands (including the Aints) but was unaware of the Rob Younger yarn.
    Fisho: they certainly don’t make em like that anymore.
    Glen: The Waterloo Cup, back before it was a pokies den! It was unforgivable of me not mention that the album was produced by the late great Lobby Lloyd.
    Luke: Glad your fresh ears enjoyed it. As mentioned, I am way to biased after all these years to make an independent assessment as to how it holds up.
    Charlie: cheers!

  7. Rod Gardiner says

    Love your work Smokie,
    I lived a parallel sequence of summers down the road at Queenscliff and the Sunnyboys also formed a solid part of our summer days and nights on the beach and in the caravan park.
    Have been lucky enough to see them three times (including at the Forum) – and still love them. And I’ve still got the t-shirts too!

  8. Massive fan of the Sunnyboys and have seen them play in Adelaide and Sydney during the 80s. Their demise was so sad but understandable given Jeremy’s health. I am so grateful they have done a sprinkling of gigs more recently. They haven’t lost anything with their sound and they look so joyous on stage.

    To Charlie, I think the Adelaide gig you are referring to was at the Underdale Teacher’s College campus? Certainly I saw them play there. Pretty obscure venue so not surprising you may have forgotten!

  9. Smokie – I’ve just re-read your piece on the Sunnyboys. Would you believe I had never before heard of them before you brought them to my attention? Well I actually enjoyed the re -read so much I decided to listen to them on You Tube.

    As it turns out, to quote Molly Meldrum, I did myself a favour. A really good band – my type of music, much better than my earlier references to the country and western boring music of Smokey Dawson. I intend to listen to more of their work.

    Many thanks Darren

  10. Albion Rover says

    “Let You Go” is an absolute classic. At the Sunny Boys live performances I’ve seen in the last few years it’s always had an epic quality. More than any other, the song seems to unite the band and the audience.

  11. Stephen Twohill says

    Smokie – couldn’t have said it better, what a great review and recollection story from your youth. I can totally relate to it. Great stuff.

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