Some people feel old when they reach the age of 30, for others it's 40 or 50, but age is all relative, age doesn’t mean anything bad, age is a good thing. With age comes wisdom (you’d hope), with age comes learning and understanding, we become closer to perfection. Actually, that’s a load of rubbish, because I was just reminded that the ARIA's started THIRTY-ONE YEARS AGO, not twenty-one, as I first thought. As it turns out, as you get older, you deny years. You live in your heyday, which for me was 20 odd years ago in the 90s, not the 80s. One thing that hasn’t changed, or dissipated over my years, is my love for music. And our big Aussie music night of nights is close at hand, airing on Channel 9 on Wednesday 28th November.
The ARIA Awards were held for the first time in 1987, there weren’t as many categories, and really, it could have been named The John Farnham Appreciation Awards, but JFAA or (Jaffa) probably wouldn’t have held as much prestige over the trip. Johnny cleaned up with six pointy statuettes thanks to his Whispering Jack album and his massive single, "You’re The Voice." 1987 was Johnny’s year.
Here's the entire event, for when you have time...
The night was a different beast back then, it wasn’t televised, there were no live performances, walk-on walk-off music was provided by a nightclub DJ, and the whole shootin’ match was over pretty quickly. However, the international flavour was always present, with Sir Elton John hosting the first event in Sydney. In fact, it was under his advice that if they wanted the event to stay fun, keep it off television. Well Dwight, that lasted five years before it was shown to the masses on the telly. Cheers.
This writer has only ever been once, in 2004, and I was working both on the red carpet, and in the media room interviewing people for my radio show at the time. I can say this; it’s dead boring down in the media room whilst the awards are on. You’re watching TV’s to see if you want to interview the next winner, prepping your area and questions, and actually, the best part about it was hanging out with others doing the same thing. Talking to people from all kinds of media that you’ve seen names of, but have never actually met, so for that opportunity, it’s great. Of course, it’s a blast interviewing winners who are on a high, but the downtime is like any other job. Sit down and wait.
Since live performances started at the ARIA’s in the 90s, we’ve been treated to some incredibly powerful shows, and some that have now become part of Australian musical history. One that always raises the hairs on my arms was Silverchair performing a cover of Midnight Oil’s "Don’t Wanna Be The One" in 2006, as the Oil’s were inducted into the Hall Of Fame that year.
Oddly enough, 2006 provided somewhat of a less impressive performance by then Channel 10 employee and former Australian Idol contestant, Axle Whitehead, who famously pulled out his old fella and simulated masturbation as the winners for Highest Selling Single and Highest Selling Album winners were on their way to the stage. Classy stuff for sure. Needless to say, a few days later Axle “resigned” from Channel 10.
With that in mind, the ARIA’s have had their fair share of controversies over the years, like when Paul Mac thanked the ecstasy dealers of Sydney when receiving his award for Best Dance Release in 1995 (Itch-E and Scratch-E). Then there was Craig Barnes aka, Cousin Creep, from radio station 3RRR in Melbourne, who gave out his username and password for ARIA voting on a music website, a big no-no. (We’re told very clearly to keep voting private).
Heading back into the very early days, let’s not forget the dust-up that happened between Midnight Oil manager Gary Morris, and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum at the 1988 awards after a disagreement about Brian Ferry being part of the show. I often wonder what Molly thinks about that incident now. He’d probably stand by what he did, such is the passion the man has for music. Rightly so, Molly was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2014 for his contribution to Aussie music via Countdown. You can reference the full list of Hall of Fame inductees here.
The ARIA's have always shown that the cream rises to the top with popular music, cementing the doyens of our music industry, especially when you start looking at nominations and awards received. ARIA has all of that info archived here, if you're interested.
Consider this, we are about to celebrate the 31st ARIA's, and Paul Kelly has been nominated 52 times over the years. John Farnham, nominated 56 times. But our favourite Newcastle lads, Silverchair have been the most successful band in ARIA Award history, being nominated 49 times, taking home 21 wins; 1 more than Johnny. If you’re looking at perfect strike rate, you only need cast your mind back to 2008, when a 16-year-old singer-songwriter by the name of Gabriella Cilmi from Dandenong Victoria, was nominated for 6 awards and took home all 6. Including Single of the Year, Best Female Artist, and Best Breakthrough Artist. In that instance of 2008 and Gabriella, the buzz around her and her album, Lessons To Be Learned was enormous, so it was no real surprise that she did the clean sweep, however, it’s not always as predictable as that. As mentioned earlier, there have been some gaffs, and continues to be some questions around where some artists lay in the genre-pool of music. There has, in the past seem to have been some confusion when it comes to the heavier categories, easy one of Australia’s most loved genres of music, with sold out concerts happening every year across the country, yet an area which seems to be largely bunched together due to lack of knowledge.
One thing is for sure, it is our musical night of nights, and the exposure can massively increase a bands reach and affect their album sales if they do well. My prediction for the stand out this year? New pop artist Amy Shark. Her album Love Monster is a brilliantly personal debut, she’s nominated for 9 awards and up against some seriously talented women, but I think the world and her work ethic speaks for itself and I wish her all the very best. It’d also be nice to see King Parrot take home a gong in the Heavy metal category, and Luca Brasi get up on stage too. However, the ARIA’s have been known to throw a curveball or two over the trip, so watch this space.
2018 will see an Aussie icon, Kasey Chambers, be honoured for her huge career by being inducted into the prestigious Hall Of Fame, and deservedly so. Her list of accolades over the years between pop and country music is one of pure hard work and passion for her craft. If you've not checked out her latest release, Campfire, you really need to give it a listen for it's perfectly executed belnd of blues, soul and country.