10 of the best rock bands from Australia

AC/DC in 1976
AC\/DC in 1976 (Image credit: Michael Putland \/ Getty Images)

From the boozing, brawling pub rock scene of the 70s the Australian scene has splintered into many genre directions, but rock’n’roll will always be at the heart of the country. Here are 10 bands responsible for setting the Oz Rock blueprint.

The Easybeats

With songs like Friday On My Mind and She’s So Fine, The Easybeats were the greatest Australian rock band of the ’60s. They had in their ranks one of the country’s best ever frontmen in Stevie Wright, while guitarists George Young (older brother of Angus and Malcolm) and Harry Vanda would go on to produce AC/DC, amongst others.


The godfathers. Responsible for some of rock’s biggest anthems – Highway To Hell, Jailbreak, Back In Black, etc. – they may have learned their trade in Australia’s pubs, but for the past 30-odd years they’ve ruled stadiums worldwide. In Angus Young they possess the ultimate rock star – sweaty, snotty and always ready for school.

Rose Tattoo

“I’m a rock & roll outlaw,” sang pint-sized hardnut Angry Anderson in 1978, and he wasn’t lying. With their tattoos and street-level blues – not to mention the dirty slide guitar work of Pete Wells – Rose Tattoo were the ultimate Aussie bar brawlers. Future rock stars Slash and Axl Rose were taking notes.

The Angels

Artier than their Seventies pub rock peers, The Angels frontman Doc Neeson incorporated elements such as German expressionism into his stage persona. Behind that facade was a fearsome rock band with a punk intensity. L.A. rockers Great White had a minor hit with their cover of The Angels’ Face the Day.

Radio Birdman

Along with The Saints, Radio Birdman were there at the dawn of Australian punk. Debut album Radios Appear kicks off with a cover of The Stooges’ TV Eye and never lets up. The “Yeah Hup!” refrain of New Race was as important to locals as “Gabba Gabba Hey” was to the punks in New York.

Cold Chisel

One of the wildest live bands ever to emerge from the ’70s, in Jimmy Barnes Cold Chisel possess a frontman with a voice powerful enough to raise the dead, and in keyboardist Don Walker a songwriter with an ability to pen lyrics that read like novels. Check out Khe Sanh and Flame Trees.

Midnight Oil

Before Rage Against The Machine shut down the New York Stock Exchange with a guerrilla performance, Midnight Oil fought the man by performing outside that city’s Exxon Valdez HQ in 1990. Sweat practically drips from the speakers during 1979’s Head Injuries and 1982’s 10 To 1.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Rising from the ashes of The Birthday Party, since forming in 1983 Cave and his Bad Seeds have, over the years, traversed everything from malevolent, apocalyptic blues dirges to serene murder ballads and, of late, mournful atmospherics. This year’s Skeleton Tree is nothing short of a masterpiece.

You Am I

Led by the inimitable Tim Rogers, You Am I are responsible for two of the greatest Australian albums of all time in 1995’s Hi-Fi Way and 1996’s Hourly Daily. Take the drunken swagger of the Replacements with the live attack of The Who and the attitude of the Stones and you’re close.


Debut album Frogstomp may have seen the then-teens written off as grunge copyists, but by the time the Newcastle trio arrived at 1999’s Neon Ballroom they were on their own trip. Nothing could have prepared us for the multi-coloured wonder ride that was 2002’s Diorama – surely Daniel Johns’ greatest statement.

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Rod Yates

Rod Yates is Head of Original Content at Jaxsta and Host and Producer of 'Jaxsta's Humans Of Music' on SiriusXM's Volume Channel. A journalist with more than 20 years’ experience, he began his writing career in Canberra in the mid-Nineties when he founded his own fanzine, and from there has gone on to launch the Australian arm of British rock bible Kerrang!, edit the Australian versions of Rolling Stone and film magazine Empire, and freelance for publications such as Mojo, Classic Rock, Kerrang! UK, Men’s Style, Australian Guitar and Blunt, to name a few. More recently, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich sent him a toaster.