Category: Strine Songs

Sounds to Trigger an Aussie

Prompted by a Scottish mate’s post on Twitter about a tune that reminds him of his homeland, I got to thinking about the same kinds of songs that have an effect on me regarding Australia, my native country.

While doing so, I realized there are probably a few shared by just about every Aussie on the planet.

For Australians in their mid-60s and under, there is only one answer to the question posed by Doc Neeson and the Angels in their 1976 song, Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? Ironically, the song was only a minor hit when first released, but has since became an iconic tune Down Under. Personally, I had an amazing experience with this song several years ago while riding through the deserted streets of Shibuya’s Centergai while playing this tune out loud through a speaker mounted on my handlebars. TRhe chorus played and from somewhere out on the streets I heard the yelled response. I never saw the person who responded, but to me it represented my peak Straya moment of living in Japan.

Released around the same time, and with a much greater response that effectively heralded AC/DC’s first step toward global superstardom, It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) has an opening riff that will stir some sort of emotion in most Aussies. Perhaps symbolic of AC/DC and Aussie pub rock, the song still only just managed to sneak into the national top 10 upon its initial release in December 1975.

Similarly stimulating with its opening riff is Eagle Rock, the debut 1971 mega hit by Daddy Cool, and a perennial favorite to this day, lasting far longer than the band itself did.

While all the above bands are from Australia, there is a much-beloved overseas performer who created a hit that was, at least as long as I was in Australia, guaranteed to fill the dance floors. Considering the late, great Tina Turner‘s Nutbush City Limits is the theme song of the Australian men’s netball team today, the 1973 tune’s popularity Down Under endures. Another personal recollection about this song came on a train platform over a decade ago. I was listening to Eagle 810 and the song came on and I was surprised to find myself doing the moves while I waited for the train to come. You can take the boy out of Straya, but it;’s harder taking the Straya out of the boy….

Are there more? Australia has certainly had a lot of global stars in the years since I left in 1988 and largely lost contact with the Australian music scene. Are there more? If you’re not an Aussie, what are iconic sounds of your country? I guess from Japan, I immediately think of 上を向いて歩こう (Sukiyaki) by Kyu Sakamoto as the first of many, many other examples of tunes that immediately stir people’s emotions.

Waltzing Matildas In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Waltzing Matilda is probably Australia’s most famous song and it’s certainly a tune that remains powerfully iconic of Down Under, but has not had the impact in Japan of other Aussie tunes, like say, Click Go the Shears.

That’s not to say that Matilda hasn’t made it’s mark.

However, like many things Japan, it’s legacy lies not quite in the way you’d expect.

My understanding is that Waltzing Matilda is probably best known in Japan for being the jingle used to open Japanese language shortwave radio broadcasts on Radio Australia, which ended in 1990, so there’s a fair chance that my guess is well out of date.

Three-piece rock band The50kaitenz used the tune and undoubted influence of Waltzing Matilda on their song, Machiruda to Tabi wo, released on their 4th album in 2018. It didn’t chart.

But a much deeper influence was made upon performer Naohiro Tsurube, who used the stage name Odorou Machiruda (a translation of waltzing Matilda) with quite a degree of success in the 2010s before going on hiatus in 2019 (and performing under his real name since, apparently).

One of Odorou Machiruda’s songs is even called Odorou Machiruda, and though it’s not a Japanese version of the song symbolic of Australia, the influence is apparent.

Sheer Nonsense? No, Shear Delight!

Australia hasn’t really had much of an impact on Japanese culture over the years, but there is one case that inspires sheer delight….or perhaps that should be “shear?”

For Japanese of a certain age, 調子をそろえて、クリック、クリック、クリック (Choshi wo soroete kurikku, kurikku, kurikku, is a highly familiar song picked up in an early season of Minna no Uta, a radio and TV program broadcast by NHK since 1961 to introduce new tunes to the Japanese public.

The song is known in English as Click Go the Shears and Peggy Hayama, who sang the Japanese version of the song with lyrics written by Takashi Otowa, would retain a lifelong connection with Australia because of it.

Ironically, her version of the song was originally a B-side to a 1962 release, but became a hit after NHK picked it up for Minna no Uta. It became a roaring success after being re-released as an A-side in 1963, and resurfaced in 2022 when broadcast to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the program being on air.

Hayama had a series of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, many being Japanese language covers of English songs, perhaps most notably being the Japanese version of Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and Que, Sera, Sera, the lyrics in the latter also penned by Otowa.

Hayama made considerable contributions to the fine arts, receiving honors from the Ministry of Education and an Order of the Rising Sun medal. She died aged 83 in Tokyo in 2017. Her legacy lives on with a touch of Australia.

Sending a Message

Gokokuji Temple

Alright, I hadn’t known this before, but when I arrived in Japan in the mid-1980s, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I stayed in Bunkyo-ku, not far from Gokokuji Temple.

Unbeknown to me at the time, and not until today, in fact, right around the same time, Australia’s biggest band, and then one of the hottest acts globally, INXS, had also filmed the music video for their hit, I Send a Message, at the same temple.

Japanese crow

I’d come to Japan with few expectations, but among the images I had were those from a couple of INXS videos from around the time.

I had no idea that it had been so close. Gokokuji was the first temple I ever visited in Japan.

Australian crow

To this day I remember two things from the visit….sponsorship signs from Hitachi (at the time, Japan was still in the midst of the bubble era and appeared poised to become the world’s largest economy); and the Japanese crows.

The size and fierce countenance of the birds took me back, especially as I had found Australian crows to be quaint.

INXS – I Send a Message

I’ve grown to love crows now, but I can still remember that seeing my first Japanese crow gave me a bit of a shock.

The other INXS video from the era, incidentally was for Original Sin, for which there were two versions made, actually.

INXS – Original Sin (mainstream version)

One of these featured dekotora, which were still then a comparatively common sight on Japanese roads.

INXS – Original Sin (alternate version)

These videos were shot in the Oi Wharf area.

Although I stayed near Gokokuji for about a year, I never really went back after that first visit. I’ve never forgotten it, though (maybe because it also gave its name to the subway station I most frequently used). I remember the huge crowds lining up for miles to go there for Yutaka Ozaki‘s funeral a couple of years later, and a kyoiku mama who murdered a little girl who made her daughter look bad at a kindergarten in the area in the late 1990s.

Bringing a Western Beat to Japan

Shonen Knife covers Acca Dacca’s Who Made Who

For some reason, Japanese artists covering Western songs has also held something of a fascination for me.

I’m not really attuned to hit charts, nor really have been.

And music isn’t one of my great loves, though I have an appreciation for pretty much any type of tune.

Perhaps my liking for the out-of-the-ordinary stems from the Aussie DNA, which seems to have a likeness for the novelty song, with national and international No. 1 hits during my lifetime Down Under including the likes of I’ve Been Everywhere, A Pub with No Beer, A Redback on the Toilet Seat, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, Rak Off Normie, The Newcastle Song, Farewell, Aunty Jack, C’mon Aussie C’mon, Shaddup You Face and Australiana, and, of course, rockin’ Sister Janet Mead, the Catholic nun who parlayed a funky Lord’s Prayer into becoming a global sensation, to name but a handful. Even AC/DC, Australia’s most successful act in history in terms of record sales, started off as something of a comic band with Angus Young wearing his schoolboy outfit and songs such as The Jack and She’s Got Balls.

Last weekend I fell into a rabbit hole of Japanese artists’ covers of Western songs, which I planned to write up.

Then, as I delved deeper and found out more, I branched out into those covering in Japanese, those in the original language (mostly English) and those mixing two or more languages.

That led down an even deeper hole where my focus got switched to Japanese artists’ covers of Australian artists.

And, typically, now I have run out of time before I can find enough focus to stick to the original topic, so it’s bits and pieces of everything and nothing really clear.

I can at least take solace by being on brand in that regard, anyway!

But if I can manage to consistently update this blog in the future in a way I haven’t been able to for the past nine years, there will be a lot more related matter on this topic.

Beat Crusaders cover Acca Dacca’s Thunderstruck (Unfortunately, the video is only viewable outside of Japan)

If you absolutely want to, you might be able to view the link from inside Japan by clicking here.

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Not So Fast, Sonny! Skippy The Bush Kangaroo Has Turned 50!

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, probably the most-loved Australian children’s TV program in history, has turned 50 years old.
The first episodes screened in Australia in February 1968 and the show remains popular to this day, though only three series comprising 91 episodes were made.
The show premiered outside of Australia. Its run in Japan had effectively ended before Skippy showed in Australia, mainly because the series was made in color, which did not arrive in Australia until 1975.
Skippy told the story of a grey kangaroo and her best friend, a young boy named Sonny Hammond, played by Garry Pankhurst in his only role of significance in an acting career that had finished by his teens. Pankhurst grew up to work in the hospitality business and eventually ended up exporting kangaroo meat for consumption in Asian countries.
Sonny’s father, Matt, was the head ranger at the (fictional) Waratah National Park, as depicted by Ed Devereaux.
Other cast regulars included Sonny’s brother, Mark, portrayed by Ken James, the park pilot, Jerry King, played by Tony Bonner, and park receptionist, Clancy, performed by Liza Goddard.
Skippy was the marsupial equivalent to the likes of Lassie, Flipper and Rin Tin Tin, to name a few animal sleuths, solving all sorts of problems and achieving all manner of feats worthy of a superhero.

The series was one of Australia’s most heavily exported TV programs. It was broadcast in at least 128 countries. Among its versions are Skippy in Norwegian and Finnish, the French, Skippy le kangourou, the Spanish, Skippy el Canguro, Dutch, Skippy de Boskangoeroe, the Russian, Скиппи (телесериал), German, Skippy, das Buschkänguruh, Persianاسکیپی, Italian, Skippy il canguro and of course, Japan, where it was known as カンガルー・スキッピー(kangaruu sukippii).
In Japan, Skippy ran on the NTV network. The show started running in 1966 in a dubbed version, with re-runs playing in an early morning slot into the 1970s.
Skippy was mildly popular. The theme song, 森のスキッピー(Mori no Sukippii) was sung by School Mates, a large group of talented young kids belonging to the Tokyo Music Academy.
The Tokyo Music Academy has schools throughout Japan.
It is closely tied to Watanabe Productions, one of Japan’s biggest talent agencies.
Incredibly, School Mates continues performing to this day, albeit with a complete change of membership.
Moreover, a popular folk band at the time, The Riginnies, also released a song based on the show, called Skippy.

In addition to the TV series, in 1969 there was also the release of a feature-length film called Skippy and the Intruders. See the movie here.

Skippy’s iconic theme also proved to be a winner for transplanted Pom, Eric Jupp, who wrote and performed it. On the back of the successful son, Jupp released a series of Skippy-themed singles, including the main theme.

Skippy remained an integral part of the Australian TV landscape long after its original run.
In 1992, an updated version of the show ran, called The Adventures of Skippy.
In this show, Andrew Clarke played a grown Sonny Hammond, himself now a park ranger, but who retained strong ties to Skippy.
Even this series had a Japanese angle, as you can find out by watching the show below.

And, just as a bonus, here’s the French version of the show’s opening titles.
Skippy – générique en français




Australian parliament breaks into song after passing same-sex marriage law