Best Aussie songs 90s: From the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself to Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply

Simon Collins
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The best Australian songs from 1990-99 have been revealed.
The best Australian songs from 1990-99 have been revealed. Credit: The Nightly

Across the nation, pubs, parties and backyard barbecues hum along to that old chestnut: what’s the best Australian song of this era or that year?

Put down those tongs and argue no more, our entertainment team has sizzled our homegrown music down to the best song of each year from 1958 to last year.

Based on chart performance, sales and cultural impact, we have chosen 66 Aussie anthems spanning more than half a century and genres ranging from country to hip-hop, from Slim Dusty to 5 Seconds of Summer.

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We’ll reveal our top picks from each decade so come back to see which songs dominated in the other decades.

We hope this gets you talking — and listening.


Divinyls: I Touch Myself

The incomparable Chrissy Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee conceived this ode to, shall we say, enjoying oneself with the songwriting team behind Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors and other mega-hits. The pleasure was all ours.

Chrissy Amphlett.
Chrissy Amphlett. Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian


Daryl Braithwaite: The Horses

While Yothu Yindi took reconciliation to the dance floor with Treaty, former Sherbet frontman Daryl Braithwaite’s recording of The Horses – written by Americans Rickie Lee Jones and Walter Becker of Steely Dan, and featuring backing vocals from Margaret Urlich – has galloped into our collective souls.

Daryl Braithwaite.
Daryl Braithwaite. Credit: Marianna Massey/Getty Images


John Paul Young: Love is in the Air (Ballroom mix)

Originally released in 1977, this disco number from Vanda and Young enjoyed a second life on the charts thanks to Baz Luhrmann using it as the theme song to Strictly Ballroom. While Love is in the Air never climbed higher than No. 3 on the Aussie charts, the song is sung at Dundee United matches in Scotland and remains one of our most popular exports.

John Paul Young.
John Paul Young. Credit: Sue Graham/News Corp Australia


Hunters & Collectors: Holy Grail

While Mark Seymour wrote the song about Napoleon’s ill-fated army and Hunters’ equally unsuccessful attempts to crack the US market, Holy Grail is now part of the soundtrack of AFL Grand Finals.

Hunters and Collectors.
Hunters and Collectors. Credit: ©Martin Philbey


Silverchair: Tomorrow

Unfairly derided as Nirvana in pyjamas, the ‘Chair peeled off this era-defining smash when they were called Innocent Criminals and still at high school. Tomorrow topped the ARIA charts for six weeks, won single of the year and highest selling single at the 1995 ARIAs, and launched one of the biggest bands in Oz rock history.

Silverchair. Credit: Unknown


Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue: Where the Wild Roses Grow

A duet between the Prince of Darkness and the Singing Budgie? Sure. This murder ballad became Cave’s most successful single and lent some credibility to Minogue. Win-win!

Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave.
Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave. Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images


Paul Kelly: How to Make Gravy

Another song that has grown in stature over time, our greatest songwriter’s unusual Christmas carol has become a festive favourite. Not bad for a song dashed off for The Spirit of Christmas charity compilation – and the gravy recipe is real.

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly Credit: Supplied


Savage Garden: Truly, Madly, Deeply

While alternative rock was going strong, a pop duo from Brisbane stole the show (and a record 10 ARIA Awards) with their self-titled album, which spawned four Top 10 singles – none bigger than this double platinum-coated ballad.

Savage Garden.
Savage Garden. Credit: Supplied


The Living End: Prisoner of Society

Youth network Triple J ruled the airwaves, propelling acts such as Missy Higgins, Spiderbait, John Butler and Little Birdy to national acclaim. Melbourne punk rockers The Living End also benefited from high rotation on the Jays, with their double A-side single Second Solution/Prison of Society becoming the highest-selling Aussie single of the year.

The Living End.
The Living End. Credit: Unknown/Supplied


Killing Heidi: Weir

Unearthed by Triple J, Violet Town siblings Ella and Jesse Hooper exploded onto the national stage in late 1999 with their debut single, teen anthem Weir.

Killing Heidi.
Killing Heidi. Credit: Supplied


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