Almanac Music: Australia’s Best Song – another take

Mine is one for the ages, this age. Here and now. As we sit in our cocoons, Covid cocoons that is. Entertaining ourselves with TV ‘n reruns, Netflix, Kayo Sport and books that have sat waiting for the time to come and, well, knocking over a 900-page book on WW1 set the tone for reading five books in 3 weeks.


Music is in the mix too and when you have four adult kids that all think their taste leaves yours for dead and recommend the weird and wonderful…well, you grimace and listen through it and begrudgingly admit they have found some bewdies over time. The Smith Street Band, Xavier Rudd, Carus and Blair Dunlop amongst them.


Having introduced them to some classic Aussie bands over the years and attended plenty of concerts with them, we still enjoy the banter that comes with remembering visits to suburbs or  holidays at destinations written and sung by the likes of Paul Kelly, Mick Thomas, Darren Hanlon, Dan Warner & James Stewart and, more recently, Michael Waugh and Bec Sykes. Haven’t heard of her, huh? Check out her song ‘Edithvale’. The voice and piano work – just outstanding! My youngest daughter was surprised I was able to refer such a beautiful song to her!


I’ve always been a sucker for bands that wrote and sang about our place. I was at the first two Sunbury music festivals with Billy Thorpe making the first his own and Skyhooks capturing the moment and my imagination at the second.


Skyhook’s Greg Macainsh was unsurpassed for about 10 years for the songs he churned out about the everyday experience of life in Melbourne and its suburbs. I’d go so far as to say there was no-one else and, if there was, the names of their songs don’t come to mind in the way that ‘Carlton’, ‘Balwyn Calling’ and ‘Toorak Cowboy’ invoke memories, smiles and sentiments for the moments of love and lust of years past.


And then along came a band named Weddings Parties Anything. Mick sure can tell a story in a song! The first song they released, ‘Away Away’, with the opening line “A picture’s worth a thousand words” immediately has your mind racing. It is my favourite WPA song, BUT, it is not the song for the moment, for the current moment.


No that belongs to WPA’s ‘Hungry Years’. A song about the depression and what people did to survive. Is this a repeat 90 years or so later? The Covid lock down-in-up has set the mind agog of many in the community. It seems there are many not coping very well with plenty ringing radio talkback to get it off their chest and all too many posts on social media letting us all know it’s their right. I’ve spent 33 years as a volunteer dealing with homeless and disadvantaged people and never heard anyone complain about the cards they were dealt, unlike so many at the present. All a matter of perspective.


Among the lines in the song are –


‘With men all wearing rags and frowns

And if you want to listen, if you want to know

It’s caution to the wind they’ll throw in our town


So won’t you spare a smile

Can’t you shed a tear?

In these sad times

In these bad times

In these hungry years


Some say that they are pickers

They are up for honest work

And some they are just hard time men

A little bit down on their luck

So why is it you are frowning Dad

When I say they’re not that bad?

O they are tired men, they’re unhired men

And they ain’t slept warm since who knows when.’


Hungry years – well, there is plenty of government assistance to try and get us through. Along with food banks, facemasks, long walks with the dog, but little family contact. Yes I miss that, and the footy, golf, live music, eating out, banter with my mates but, generally, it is no great hardship.


‘Hungry Years’ is Australia’s Best Song right now for the lessons it can teach.

Down on your luck?

Don’t complain.

Why frown?

Unhired men/women.

Sleeping rough.

Spare a smile!


In these sad times

In these bad times

In these hungry years.


For the full lyrics of WPA’s ‘Hungry Years’, click here.


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About Ken Wilson

Left footer, golfer, runner, well travelled, sometime writer, volunteer, live arts/music lover, self employed, school drop out and Tiger tragic.


  1. A great nomination, Ken.
    I was fortunate enough to see the Weddo’s many many times.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Much food for thought here, Ken. I’ll certainly be re-reading this piece.

  3. Smokie, we probably stood next to each other at many of those Weddos gigs but didn’t know it! Always front left just on the edge of the mosh pit. Great memories.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Great piece Ken. I first heard “Edithvale” by Bec Sykes a couple of weeks ago, loved it straight away, can’t wait to hear more from her.

  5. Thanks Luke. Did you hear it on ABC David Astle’s program with Geoff Jenkins by chance? Pre-covid curfew I would walk my dog between 8-9 most nights and always of a Wed-night so as to listen to this segment. So often some new piece or artist will get a mention Michael Waugh’s “This Song Reminds Me” is a classic that I first heard after Geoff played it one night. MW is the new Mick Thomas but a much better singer!!

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Yes, that’s exactly where I heard it! Always a great segment, get most of my new music from that hour of radio. Did hear Michael Waugh on there too.

    There’s so much fantastic Australian music around that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

  7. Liam Hauser says

    Something that sticks strongly in my mind is that in the first 6 months of this decade there were fires, Hong Kong riots, COVID-19 and the George Floyd saga (and of course there’s no forthcoming respite with the virus). What about the remaining 9-and-a-half years of this decade? Things hopefully only get better.
    As for songs that come to mind this year, I must mention two from the 1960s. They are not Australian, but very relevant nevertheless in any difficult times.
    Reflections of my life (by Marmalade, in 1969) has an all-time quality about it, as well as being a great song. Particularly the lyrics: “The world is a bad place, a bad place, a terrible place to live, oh but I don’t want to die”.
    Another classic is Turn! Turn! Turn! (The Byrds version, 1965). The last line is a perfect end to a perfect song: “A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”
    But alas, I sometimes wonder if it really is too late!

  8. Daryl Schramm says

    Wow. So much more music I need to discover to participate a little more in these discussions.

    In regards to the current word situation, and following on from Nicole’s piece just now, I have a song I first heard 12 years ago which I loved at the time for its music and sentiments, but is not Australian and I’d be pleasantly surprised if anyone has heard it before. It seems some things have not changed in many, many years.

  9. Jason Buffier says

    Can I throw Perry Keyes into the mix here.

    Very Sydney centric, but “The Day John Sattler Broke his Jaw” is about as Australian a song as you’ll find.

    It’s from his “The Last Ghost Train Home” album.

    Do yourselves a favour this cold wet weekend.

  10. Nice choice Jason and I wonder if that is a part where Mick Thomas picked up a liking for the Rabbitohs’s. Folklore often influences our thinking as we expand our horizons.

  11. G’day Ken, can i be a pedant about the Sunbury music festivals.

    The first festival held in Sunbury was 1972. The Aztecs recorded a double live album from that festival.8 tracks on that double album including C C rider, Rock Me Baby & of course Oop Oop A Doo! That final track covering all of side 4 of the album.

    Thorpie & the Aztecs returned again in 1973, 1974. At the second listed festival we saw the emergence of Skyhooks, the year they recorded/released Living In The 70’s.

    The Sunbury music festivals ran from 1972, finishing in 1975.


  12. Rick Kane says

    Hi Ken

    Great read and yes, Hungry Years is a fantastic song and good reference for these troubling times.

    I have a couple of song suggestions, not to challenge HY, but to add to your idea. I also love songwriters and songs that connect with place. Growing up in Perth in the late 70s and 80s we were fortunate to have our own bard of Bicton in Dave Warner. Then The Triffids came along and another band, Innocent Bystanders (Diesel started his career in this band) who spoke to us living on the other side of the continent about this place called Perth and WA.

    My first suggestion is a Dave Warner song from the great and under-rated album, Mug’s Game. It is called, Worst Day. You can find it on Spotify. The second song is from our truest troubadour, and someone who has brought places across this fair land to life in song. I’m talking of course about Slim Dusty. His song, Duncan epitomises what many of us in lockdown in Melbourne are hungry for, to catch for a beer with friends.


  13. Good pick up Glen! Must have been caught up in the memory haze of remembering swimming in the creek starkers with a Joan Jett lookalike in ’72 and forgot about ’73. I was there in ’74 though. I have that double album in my collection of Thorpie & the Aztecs you refer too.
    Although Skyhooks were not well received at Sunbury I was taken by the theatrics and outrageous get up they wore (which was mild compared to later in their tenure). I saw them later that year in Warnambool (could have been NYE) and they were outstanding.

    Rick – Agree with your sentiments about muso’s coming out of the West. It seems to me they rolled out one after the other (The Waifs & Carus to add just a couple to those you mention) which says the music scene must be encouraging the development.

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