Living in the 70s by Skyhooks
The title track of the 'Living in the 70’s' album, recorded during June and July 1974 at the TCS Studios in Melbourne. The album, produced by Ross Wilson from the band Daddy Cool, broke all previous sales records for an Australian album.
Summary by Tamara Osicka
Great social and political changes were occurring in Australia in the 1970s. In 1972, Gough Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to victory after 23 years of the conservative Liberal Party in government. Australia withdrew from the Vietnam War and conscription, which was a dark spectre hovering over young men’s heads, ended in December 1972. As with any period of change, there is a feeling of instability – what was known has gone, and the shape of the future, and your part in it, is hard to predict. This sense of unease and dislocation is reflected in the lyrics of this track:
I feel a bit fragile
I feel a bit low
Like I learned the right lines
But I’m on the wrong show
I’m livin’ in the ’70s
I feel like I lost my keys
I got the right day
Got the wrong week…
Living in the 70s synopsis
This iconic seventies song and debut album by the Melbourne band Skyhooks took Australia by storm. In 1975, soon after the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, the band was dubbed ‘Cyclone Skyhooks’. Their album featured the witty lyrics of Greg Macainsh and the distinctive voice of lead singer Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan.
In 1974, a time when the standard uniform of Australian musicians was blue jeans and long hair, Skyhooks brought a splash of colour onto the scene. Sometimes described as camp rock, glitter rock or even revolutionary theatre rock, they delighted in appearing in gender-bending outfits and singing about sex, drugs and rebellion. With playful and incisive lyrics peppered with references to their hometown Melbourne, their songs spoke of what it was to be growing up in the suburbs of Australia in the seventies. The band’s line-up consisted of: Greg Macainsh, the bass player and main songwriter for the band; lead singer Graham ‘Shirley’ Strachan; guitarists Red Symons and Bob Starkie; and drummer Fred Strauks.
The title track and first single off the album, Living in the 70’s (with its B-side You’re a Broken Gin Bottle, Baby), reached No. 7 in the charts. The album of the same name was released on 28 October 1974; it charted the following week, climbing to the No. 1 spot in February 1975 – a position it held for 16 weeks. The album stayed in the top 100 for 54 weeks and became the best-selling album of 1975 in Australia, with more than 250,000 copies sold. This success came despite six of the ten tracks on the album being banned from commercial radio. The band’s manager, Michael Gudinski, was thrilled by the ban, as he thought it would result in more record sales. If fans couldn’t hear the songs on the radio, they’d have to go out and buy the record. In January 1975, the track You Just Like Me 'Cos I’m Good In Bed was the first song broadcast on the ABC’s new youth station 2JJ (which later became triple j).
Skyhooks couldn’t have reached their audience without the television program Countdown (1974–87), which was hugely influential on the Australian music scene. Before Countdown, it was very difficult for an Australian band to get known outside their hometown. Countdown gave bands national exposure, which they could capitalise on by touring the country. In a time before music video clips became commonplace, Countdown relied on the energy generated from bands fronting a live audience on set.
Skyhooks were perfect for Countdown, with their colourful costumes and theatrical showmanship. The program was one of the first Australian TV series to be produced entirely in colour, and Skyhooks were the first live band to feature on the show. They appeared many times to promote the 'Living in the 70’s' album, using each experience to improve their performances. Close-up shots gave their studio appearances dramatic impact, as opposed to their more dynamic live shows. Moving around a lot worked well on a concert stage, but was harder with television as the camera operators had to plan their shots in advance.
The success of 'Living in the 70’s' was in part due to the unashamedly Australian songwriting on the album which captured the experiences and dreams of young people in the suburbs of Australia at that time. Due to the band’s irreverent approach to life and their music, as well as their understanding of how to make the most of their performances on television, 'Living in the 70’s' will forever be seen as an important landmark in the Australian music scene. Long live Skyhooks!
Notes by Tamara Osicka