Best Aussie songs of the 70s: From John Williamson’s Old Man Emu to The Two Man Band’s Up There Cazaly

Simon Collins
The Nightly
3 Min Read
The best Australian songs from 1970-79 have been revealed.
The best Australian songs from 1970-79 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.

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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Choosing between Cold Chisel’s pub anthem Khe Sanh and the Bee Gees’ monster disco smash Stayin’ Alive was the toughest decision of the 70s hit parade.

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.

1970

John Williamson: Old Man Emu

Willo released his debut single after winning TV talent quest New Faces with this novelty tune about the “poor old fella” who “ain’t got no wings”.

John Williamson.
John Williamson. Credit: Supplied

1971

Daddy Cool: Eagle Rock

This smash hit about a 1920s dance move was the biggest Aussie single of 1971 and inspired Elton John to write Crocodile Rock.

Daddy Cool.
Daddy Cool. Credit: WA News library

1972

The Aztecs: Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy)

Billy Thorpe’s signature song raced to the top of the national charts after the blues-rockers performance at the Sunbury Music Festival. Let’s not mention Gary Sweet’s 1994 cover.

Billy Thorpe.
Billy Thorpe. Credit: Fairfax

1973

Helen Reddy: I Am Woman

This enduring feminist anthem arrived as the woman’s movement gathered steam and became only the second Australian song to top the US Billboard Hot 100. The third was Reddy’s Delta Dawn.

Helen Reddy.
Helen Reddy. Credit: Universal Pictorial Press

1974

Stevie Wright: Evie

Easybeats songwriters Harry Vanda and George Young sent their band mate, who was struggling with drug addiction, back to the top of the charts with this epic three-part, 11-minute rock opera.

Stevie Wright.
Stevie Wright. Credit: Supplied

1975

AC/DC: It’s a Long Way to the Top

While Sherbet and Skyhooks maintained a mock rivalry on Countdown and the charts, the mighty Accadacca rode a flatbed truck through Melbourne to immortality with this rip-snorter about “playin’ in a rock ‘n’ roll band”.

Other contenders

Sherbet: Summer Love

Skyhooks: Horror Movie

Hush: Bony Moronie

Skyhooks: Ego is Not a Dirty Word

ACDC.
ACDC. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

1976

Sherbet: Howzat

While pub rock ruled and punk poked its nose in, Countdown still dictated the charts via acts such as Marcia Hines, John Paul Young and Ted Mulry. However, the cricket-loving Sherbet stumped the lot with this big, cheesy hit.

Sherbet.
Sherbet. Credit: Supplied

1977

Peter Allen: I Go to Rio

First appearing on Allen’s album Taught By Experts in 1976, I Go to Rio – and its passionate persuasion for dancin’ and romancin’ – was released as a single the following year and spent five weeks at No. 1.

Peter Allen.
Peter Allen. Credit: Rick Stevens/Fairfax

1978

Cold Chisel: Khe Sanh

Choosing between Cold Chisel’s pub anthem Khe Sanh and the Bee Gees’ monster disco smash Stayin’ Alive was the toughest decision of this hit parade. In the end, the team decided that a list of great Aussie songs without the mighty Chisel was not a list we could live with. Sorry, Brothers Gibb – it’s a tragedy.

Other contenders

Bee Gees: Stayin’ Alive

Bee Gees: How Deep is Your Love

John Paul Young: Love is in the Air

AC/DC: Let There Be Rock

Jimmy Barnes in Cold Chisel.
Jimmy Barnes in Cold Chisel. Credit: Ferris Davies PRM

1979

The Two-Man Band: Up There Cazaly

Mike Brady’s footy theme tune hip-and-shouldered out AC/DC’s Highway to Hell purely because it was massive. At the time, Up There Cazaly became the biggest-selling Aussie single of all time after being issued by independent label Fable Records.

Mike Brady.
Mike Brady. Credit: James Ross/AAPImage

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