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Living in the 70’s (1974)


This iconic seventies song and debut album by the Melbourne band Skyhooks took Australia by storm. In 1975, soon after the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, the band was dubbed ‘Cyclone Skyhooks’. Their album featured the witty lyrics of Greg Macainsh and the distinctive voice of lead singer Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan.

Curator’s notes

In 1974, a time when the standard uniform of Australian musicians was blue jeans and long hair, Skyhooks brought a splash of colour onto the scene. Sometimes described as camp rock, glitter rock or even revolutionary theatre rock, they delighted in appearing in gender-bending outfits and singing about sex, drugs and rebellion. With playful and incisive lyrics peppered with references to their hometown Melbourne, their songs spoke of what it was to be growing up in the suburbs of Australia in the seventies. The band’s line-up consisted of: Greg Macainsh, the bass player and main songwriter for the band; lead singer Graham ‘Shirley’ Strachan; guitarists Red Symons and Bob Starkie; and drummer Fred Strauks.

The title track and first single off the album, 'Living in the 70’s’ (with its B-side 'You’re a Broken Gin Bottle, Baby’), reached No. 7 in the charts. The album of the same name was released on 28 October 1974; it charted the following week, climbing to the No. 1 spot in February 1975 – a position it held for 16 weeks. The album stayed in the top 100 for 54 weeks and became the best-selling album of 1975 in Australia, with more than 250,000 copies sold. This success came despite six of the ten tracks on the album being banned from commercial radio. The band’s manager, Michael Gudinski, was thrilled by the ban, as he thought it would result in more record sales. If fans couldn’t hear the songs on the radio, they’d have to go out and buy the record. In January 1975, the track 'You Just Like Me 'Cos I’m Good In Bed’ was the first song broadcast on the ABC’s new youth station 2JJ (which later became triple j).

Skyhooks couldn’t have reached their audience without the television program Countdown (1974–87), which was hugely influential on the Australian music scene. Before Countdown, it was very difficult for an Australian band to get known outside their hometown. Countdown gave bands national exposure, which they could capitalise on by touring the country. In a time before music video clips became commonplace, Countdown relied on the energy generated from bands fronting a live audience on set.

Skyhooks were perfect for Countdown, with their colourful costumes and theatrical showmanship. The program was one of the first Australian TV series to be produced entirely in colour, and Skyhooks were the first live band to feature on the show. They appeared many times to promote the Living in the 70’s album, using each experience to improve their performances. Close-up shots gave their studio appearances dramatic impact, as opposed to their more dynamic live shows. Moving around a lot worked well on a concert stage, but was harder with television as the camera operators had to plan their shots in advance.

The success of Living in the 70’s was in part due to the unashamedly Australian songwriting on the album which captured the experiences and dreams of young people in the suburbs of Australia at that time. Due to the band’s irreverent approach to life and their music, as well as their understanding of how to make the most of their performances on television, Living in the 70’s will forever be seen as an important landmark in the Australian music scene. Long live Skyhooks!