Best Aussie songs from 1958-1969: From Slim Dusty’s Pub With No Beer to John Farnham’s Sadie

Simon Collins
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The best Australian songs from 1958-1969 have been revealed.
The best Australian songs from 1958-1969 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.

1958

Slim Dusty: A Pub With No Beer

Ranked fifth on APRA’s best Australian songs of all time in 2001, this country classic was the first Aussie single to earn gold status and has been adapted as Café Zonder Bier in the Netherlands and Ich steh an der Bar und ich habe kein Geld in Germany.

Slim Dusty.
Slim Dusty. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

1959

Johnny O’Keefe: Shout!

Only a month after the Isley Brothers recorded their original version, the Wild One put his stamp on this party favourite.

Johnny O’Keefe.
Johnny O’Keefe. Credit: Unknown/WA News

1960

Johnny Ashcroft: Little Boy Lost

This bush balladeer and vaudeville performer found fame with this smash-hit, regarded as Australia’s first country-rock single which recounts the successful search for four-year-old farm boy Steven Wells in NSW’s rugged New England Ranges.

Johnny Ashcroft spent 3 months touring New Zealand and broadcasting his own 8-programme radio show, "Round-up Time for Western Songs", which was repeated for three years on the National Radio station.
Johnny Ashcroft spent 3 months touring New Zealand and broadcasting his own 8-programme radio show, "Round-up Time for Western Songs", which was repeated for three years on the National Radio station. Credit: wikimedia commons/Lynley Joy/supplied

1961

Lonnie Lee: Sit Around and Talk to Me

Hardly a year packed with hits, rockabilly pioneer Lonnie Lee takes the biscuits over his mentor J.O.K. with this jaunty come-on.

Lonnie Lee.
Lonnie Lee. Credit: Wikimedia commons/Starlite Inter

1962

Lucky Starr: I’ve Been Everywhere

Penned by Australian country singer Geoff Mack in 1959, musical all-rounder Leslie Morrison made his name as Lucky Starr with this chart-topper that starts out on the dusty Oodnadatta road.

Lucky Starr.
Lucky Starr. Credit: UNKNOWN/WAN Historical Archive

1963

The Atlantics: Bombora

Sydney group The Atlantics rode the popularity of surf rock to the top of the charts with this instrumental borrowing an Indigenous term for hazardous sea waves.

The Atlantics.
The Atlantics. Credit: The Atlantics/twitter/supplied

1964

Billy Thorpe: Poison Ivy

Billy Thorpe’s version of this oft-covered Leiber and Stoller chestnut about a sexually transmitted disease launched his career and kept the Beatles off the top of the charts.

Billy Thorpe.
Billy Thorpe. Credit: Unknown/Fairfax

1965

Normie Rowe: Que Sera, Sera

The impact of the Beatles hit Down Under, with the Seekers and the Easybeats among the bands writing and recording their own material. Both those bands are unlucky not to land the best Aussie song of 1965. However our first King of Pop Normie Rowe’s reworking of Doris Day’s sing-along song Que Sera, Sera became his biggest hit and also, some say, the best-selling homegrown single of the decade.

Other contenders

The Seekers: The Carnival is Over

The Seekers: I’ll Never Find Another You

The Easybeats: She’s So Fine

Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs: Over the Rainbow

Normie Rowe.
Normie Rowe. Credit: Unknown/The West Australian

1966

The Easybeats: Friday on My Mind

Not just the best song of 1966, the Easybeats’ rocking ode to the working week is one of the greatest singles released by an Australian band. Which is bad news for the Bee Gees and the Loved Ones, who both released classic singles, as well as Johnny Young, who recorded Step Back — a hit co-written by Stevie Wright and George Young from the Easybeats.

Australian pop group The Easybeats ride bicycles around Berkeley Square, London, circa 1968. (Photo by Andrew Maclear/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Australian pop group The Easybeats ride bicycles around Berkeley Square, London, circa 1968. (Photo by Andrew Maclear/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Credit: Andrew Maclear/RETIRED/Getty Images

1967

The Seekers: Georgy Girl

Hey now, how can you go past the Seekers’ Georgy Girl? The song used as the title song to the 1966 film topped the charts in Australia and overseas, was only held off No. 1 in the US by the Monkees and is now stuck in your head.

The Seekers.
The Seekers. Credit: Rod Locke/WAN Historical Archive

1968

Johnny Farnham: Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)

The novelty song that launched a career that continues today. Has claims on being the biggest-selling Aussie single of the decade … but so does Rowe’s apt Que Sera, Sera.

Johnny Farnham.
Johnny Farnham. Credit: FRANCES NEWHILL/Supplied

1969

Russell Morris: The Real Thing

Written by Johnny Young and produced by Molly Meldrum, this Oz rock classic ushered in the 70s and remains a psychedelic masterpiece. Tame Impala should cover it.

Russell Morris.
Russell Morris. Credit: wikimedia commons/supplied

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