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The outstanding success for Kamilaroi man Charlton Jeffrey, or as most of us know him, The Kid Laroi, (#1 song in the USA, Stay; ARIA and NIMA awards; two Grammy nominations this year, for new artist and album of the year; making Justin Bieber bearable) is a reminder that those peaks are not very common for Australian artists.

Each time it happens there are dreams of sustained and repeated success for that artist and other Australians – and in fact The Kid has declared himself an ambassador for local music with a goal of seeing others follow in his footsteps soon – and plans are hatched. And then usually fall short for reasons that rarely have anything to do with talent or quality.

As Wind Back Wednesday has dug up, a decade ago, when Wally De Backer, or as most of us know him, Gotye, scored a #1 song in the USA, thoughts turned to who had gone before and had fallen short. Sometimes just short, sometimes repeatedly short. And to those who bucked this trend in ye olde music times.


IT HAPPENS SO RARELY that it is genuinely news and genuinely a shock when an Australian act gets to number one in the USA. That's why Gotye, the first Australian act to make it to number one on the main Billboard singles chart in 12 years, the first Australian solo artist to do that in 30 years, matters.

We like to think we punch above our weight in matters cultural and that the music made here is as good as anywhere in the world. That may or may not be true but it is no guarantee of success in the biggest, and hardest to penetrate, music market, the USA.

For every Silverchair and Crowded House, who each did exceptionally well with their debut albums without getting to number one, and then progressively worse with each subsequent album, or Midnight Oil, who had some mid-career success, there’s scores who can tell you about beating their head against an indifferent brick wall.

They’re the people who could walk unrecognised down the main street of any town in the USA today. Think of a Powderfinger or Divinyls (who at least had one chart hit with I Touch Myself), a Cold Chisel or Kylie Minogue (who’s had dance hits but no mainstream pop chart hits) or for that matter Delta Goodrem (who isn’t reduced to judging on a talent show because she has a deep desire to win a Logie).

Keith Urban on the country charts is the exception but then his large, genre-specific audience would be hard pressed to identify any particular Australian characteristics of his music even if they knew he was Australian - or a New Zealander if you're nitpicky.

The last time Australians were at number one was Savage Garden in 2000, on their way to selling 25 million albums and 15 million singles. Sustained success is one difference so far between Gotye, whose Somebody That I Used To Know is his first major release in the USA after success in Europe four years ago, and Savage Garden.

By the time the Brisbane duo of Daniel Jones and Darren Hayes reached the top with I Knew I Loved You, from their second album Affirmation, they had already had two top 10 American singles and their first number one with Truly Madly Deeply.

More than a decade before them came INXS, who had one chart topping single among their 30 million album sales, 1987’s Need You Tonight. And that success was the first Australian breakthrough on the singles chart since Men At Work had their successive number ones, Who Can It Be Now and Down Under, in 1982/83.

Men At Work climaxed a mini-Australian boom, coming soon after number one records for Rick Springfield (Jessie’s Girl) and Olivia Newton John (Physical, Magic and a few years earlier, You’re The One That I Want).

Indeed, for all our contemporary confidence and Gotye’s success, 21st century Australian music is still in the shadow of not just the ‘80s but the 1970s. That’s when apart from Newton-John, Helen Reddy had three number one songs (I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and Angie Baby) and the much-maligned Air Supply had The One That You Love.

And if you’re wondering why AC/DC haven’t been mentioned so far, they’ve never had a number one single. To console themselves though they’ve probably sold more albums than all the other Australian acts put together.

The Grammys have been moved to early April this year. The Kid Laroi will have to wait to see if, like Gotye, he caps off a chart topper with a Grammy.


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