G’day, mate! Australia is the Land Down Under, where Christmas is sunny, the crocodiles are plenty, kangaroos hop across the wilderness, and koalas clutch eucalyptus trees.
Australia is fascinating and wonderful, and the music hailing from there is no exception. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how many famous Australian rock bands you know or have heard of.
Keep reading as we strap on our boots and take a tour of 10 of the greatest and most famous Australian rock bands ever.
Table of Contents
We’ll start this list with AC/DC, one of the most famous Australian rock bands ever. For a time, they were one of the most famous rock bands in the world. Their legacy still rocks pretty hard with hits like “You Shook Me All Night Long,” Back in Black,” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
Brothers Malcolm and Angus Young formed AC/DC in Sydney in 1973. Other founding members included Phil Rudd, Mark Evans, and Bon Scott. Their debut album was 1975’s High Voltage.
However, it was 1981s For Those About to Rock We Salute You that skyrocketed them into fame, as it was their first album to hit #1 in the US. Altogether they recorded 18 albums, selling over 200 million copies.
Australian bands made serious waves in the 1980s, and INXS was at the forefront. The band was formed in Sydney in 1977 by founding members Garry Gary Beers, Andrew Fariss, Jon Fariss, Tim Fariss, Kirk Pengilly, and Michael Hutchence. Initially, they called themselves the Fariss Brothers.
In 1979, INXS hired manager Chris “CM” Murphy, and by early the following year, he had them signed to a five-album contract with Australian indie label Deluxe Records.
Active until 2012, even after the death of Hutchence, INXS recorded 12 albums selling over 80 million. “What You Need,” “Never Tear Us Apart,” and the US #1 single “Need You Tonight” are considered their best works.
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Out of the wreckage of Nick Cave and Mick Harvey’s former band, the Birthday Party, came Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Blixa Bargeld joined Cave and Harvey, and the band took on a rolling roster of other musicians over the years.
The group had several studio albums before they had US commercial breakthrough with Murder Ballads (their ninth album) in 1996. Since then, they’ve dropped all top-10 albums.“Where the Wild Roses Grow” is their best single to date and features Kylie Minogue.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are known for their gothic lyrics and sensibilities. Their music has changed over the decades and has been influenced by many genres, including blues, post-punk, and piano ballads.
4. Midnight Oil
Sydney band Midnight Oil was formed in 1972 by members Peter Garrett, Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, and Martin Rotsey. They released their self-titled debut album in 1978 and quickly gained a cult following of fans, but the mainstream wasn’t quite feeling it.
However, with the release of 1987’s Diesel and Dust and the songs “Beds Are Burning” and “The Dead Heart,” Midnight Oil became a worldwide sensation. The group’s lyrics focused on social and political issues, and these two songs spoke to the injustices faced by indigenous Australians.
Midnight Oil is an on-again-off-again band that has released 13 albums and sold over 20 million worldwide. Other popular songs of theirs include “Power and the Passion” and “Forgotten Years.”
5. Men At Work
New wave, pop rock, and reggae rock band Men at Work formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1978. The original lineup consisted of Colin Hay, Ron Strykert, Jerry Speiser, Greg Ham, and John Rees.
In January 1983, Men at Work became the first Australians to have a #1 album (Business as Usual) and single (“Down Under”) on the US charts simultaneously. They also accomplished this impressive feat on the Australian, New Zealand, and UK charts.
They recorded only three albums in their career together but sold over 30 million records worldwide. In 1983, they won a Grammy for Best New Artist, and in 1994, they were inducted into Australia’s ARIA Hall of Fame.
6. Crowded House
From Melbourne, members Neil Finn, Paul Hester, and Nick Seymour founded Crowded House in 1985. They hit it big with their 1987 self-titled debut album, which made it to #12 on the US charts.
The album featured the hits “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong.” The former gained Crowded House an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist and Song of the Year from the ARIA Music Awards.
Despite gaining international popularity, Crowded House disbanded in 1996, as members were focused on personal issues. However, their career of a little over a decade earned them a spot in the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2016.
In 1992, grunge and alternative rockers Silverchair formed in Newcastle, New South Wales, when members Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies, and Chris Joannou were still in their pre-teens (though they were initially named the Silly Men).
They won a national demo competition in 1994 and were signed by Murmur. The year after, Silverchair debuted with Frogstomp, and with the songs “Tomorrow” and “Pure Massacre,” they became an overnight international success—the band members were only 15 years old.
Each of Silverchair’s five albums debuted at #1 on the Australian charts. After their fourth album, Diorama, the group went on an extended hiatus. They were active again between 2006 and 2010, only to take another indefinite break in 2011.
If you were paying attention to the tides of hot music in the mid-aughts, Wolfmother might have washed up on your shores. Formed in 2004, the band has undergone quite a few lineup changes, and the only constant member is founder, singer, and guitarist Andrew Stockdale.
After signing with the indie label Modular Recordings, Wolfmother released an eponymous debut album in Australia in 2005. It hit #3 on the Australian charts and was released internationally in 2006 through Interscope and Island Records. Overall, the album sold over 1.5 million records.
“Woman” and “Joker & The Thief” are considered Wolfmother’s best works, with the former winning the band an award for Most Played Australian Work Overseas as well as a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.
New wave, pop rock band the Divinyls formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1980. The band underwent many lineup changes through the years, though founding members Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee were the only constants.
Amphlett was known to often perform in a school uniform paired with fishnet stockings. She would take out her on-stage aggressions with a glowing neon tube that she’d wave and poke around.
The group gained attention and a cult following with the single “I Touch Myself.” It reached #1 in the Australian charts, #4 in the US charts, and # 10 in the UK charts.
They steadily grow in popularity through the 1980s and 1990s. However, before the decade was over, McEntee and Amphlett had a falling out and ended the band.
10. Tame Impala
Last on our list, but not least, Tame Impala is the psychedelic rock project of Australian musician Kevin Parker. He writes, records, and produces the band’s music himself. However, when it comes time to tour, he’s joined by musicians Dominic Simper, Jay Watson, Cam Avery, and Julien Bargallo.
Tame Impala began in Perth, Australia, in 2007. Their 2010 debut album, Innerspeaker, has been certified Gold in Australia. Their second album, Lonerism, was nominated for a Best Alternative Music Album Grammy.
So far, their biggest hits are “The Less I Know the Better,” Let It Happen,” and “Borderline.” Tame Impala has released four albums, sold over 1.7 worldwide, and are still very active in the music industry.
Summing Up Our List Of Rock Bands From Australia
Australian rockers were super-popular internationally during the 1980s, but it didn’t begin in that decade—and it didn’t end there either.
Australia is fertile ground for groundbreaking rock and roll of all volumes and flavors, and there are so many famous rock bands from Down Under that you might not have even known were Australian.
If so, no worries. You know now and have a whole continent of rock bands to explore, so give their songs a listen. Who knows? You might find a new favorite!