1989 ARIA Award Winners - Where Are They Now?

1989 ARIA Award Winners - Where Are They Now?

kylie mole
L: Kylie Mole, 1989 (Photo by Impressions Photography/Getty Images) R: Kylie Minogue, 1989 (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

1989 was a big year for some of the biggest names in Australian pop; the ARIA’s were dominated by John Farnham, INXS, Kylie Minogue, Crowded House, and Jimmy Barnes. Even the Best New Talent award-winner was someone who is now something of a household name – Diesel

Let's look back at the acts, albums, and tracks that dominated the local music landscape 30 years ago.

30 years would seem a long time in pop music, yet virtually all the winners at the 1989 ARIA’s are still performing. Indeed, while at least one is arguably bigger than ever – Jimmy Barnes – and a couple are no longer with us – INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and Crowded House drummer Paul Hester – pretty much all the winners – or at least key members thereof – are still very active. Even if one of them did somewhat prematurely announce his retirement 17 years ago!

The man who couldn’t stay retired of course was John Farnham, who was one of 1989’s big winners with his album Age Of Reason scoring Best Selling Album of the Year and,  for producer Ross Fraser, Producer of the Year. Age Of Reason was the follow up to Farnham’s Whispering Jack; of course Whispering Jack is better remembered today, but Age Of Reason, coming off the back of that success, was of course released to a huge level of anticipation. The album debuted at #1 upon release in July 1988 and stayed there for 8 weeks. Ten years later it was 11 x Platinum.

With such success at the time, it’s perhaps surprising that Farnsey didn’t win Male Artist of the Year. He was nominated but the honour went to Barnsey. Jimmy won it on the back of his live album Barnestorming: other nominees were Stephen Cummings for A Life Is a Life, James Reyne for the single “Motor’s Too Fast”, and, in a sign of things to come, Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls for the single “Forty Miles to Saturday Night”. (The album from which that single came, Under The Sun, qualified for the 1988 Awards but was not nominated). Jimmy recently announced an Aussie tour with fellow ARIA Award winners Jet and Eskimo Joe

1989 also saw INXS flying high internationally, and for their efforts, they were awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award along with Best Group and, for director Richard Lowenstein, the Best Video gong for “Never Tear Us Apart”. A Michael Hutchence doco has been prodiced and is due to hit cinemas in July this year. 

Kylie perhaps didn’t match INXS’s Outstanding Achievement Award with her own Special Achievement Award – assuming ‘outstanding’ is more significant than ‘special’? – but she would’ve been happy to have won the Highest Selling Single Award for “I Should Be So Lucky”. And of course, Kylie would soon get her own piece of INXS when she started a relationship with Michael Hutchence. Kylie also inspired the fab “So Excellent” by Kylie Mole, a nomination for Best Comedy Release, an award which was won by The Comedy Company, the program on which Mary-Anne Fahey’s Kylie Mole character first appeared. The Comedy Company Album was also the second highest selling Australian album of the year beyond Age Of Reason.   

Kylie is releasing a career-spanning collection titled Step Back In Time, in line with what is set to be another iconic Glastonbury Festival this year. 

Top selling single or not, Kylie couldn’t manage Best Female Artist, which went to fellow Melbournian Kate Ceberano. In addition to Kylie, other nominees were Marcia Hines, Wendy Matthews, and Sharon O’Neill. Kate is now a patron for the Women In Music Awards. 

Crowded House won the coveted Album Of The Year for Temple of Low Men, which also won the slightly lesser awards for Best Adult Contemporary Album and, for bass player Nick Seymour,  Best Cover Art. More significantly, for Neil Finn at least, their “Better Be Home Soon” won Song of The Year. Other nominees for Album of the Year were Age of Reason, 1927’s...ish, Big Pig’s Bonk and the Black Sorrows’ Hold On To Me.

The Church were awarded Single of the Year for the classic “Under The Milky Way”, but the equally classic album on which it appeared, Starfish, didn’t even get a nomination.  Other Singe of the Year contenders were 1927’s “That’s When I Think of You”, Crowded House’s “Better Be Home Soon”, John Farnham’s “Age of Reason” and INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart”.

Johnny Diesel & The Injectors got Best New Talent for the single “Don’t Need Love”, beating out Died Pretty (who had actually been putting out records since 1984) and the long-forgotten Roaring Jack, Go 101 and The State; whilst funky Sydney siders the Rockmelons shared Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award (album) with 1927, who also won Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Single). In both Album and Single categories, other Breakthrough nominees included Don Walker’s band Catfish and former Split Enz and Swingers founder Phil Judd’s band, Schnell Fenster. 

The term Indigenous obviously had different meanings back in the day as Mick Thomas’s folkie rockers Weddings Parties Anything with Roaring Days pipped out former member Dave Steel, Midnight Oil and inner-city Sydney country outfit Flying Emus. Of all the artists nominated for this award, it was only Kev Carmody, who was nominated for his landmark Pillars of Society album, was actually Indigenous.  

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