Classic protest song makes it to ‘Sounds of Australia’ list

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REDGUM’S classic 1983 track about the plight of returned Vietnam soldiers, “I Was Only 19,” is one of 10 recordings added today to Sounds of Australia.


This forms the ultimate selection of culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant Australian sounds, established by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Other songs listed today include the only known voice recording of an Australian soldier on his way to the First World War, songs by Deborah Conway, the Hoodies’, Hilltop Hoods and Hoodoo Gurus and a Fairlight synthesiser sample used by Michael Jackson in “Beat It”.

As well, there is the theme from the long–running ABC children’s show “The Argonauts” (this writer was Argonaut Delphi 17) and a selection of Indigenous music and songs recorded by John Hutchinson in Western Australia in 1959.

Deborah Conway
Deborah Conway

Redgum’s lead vocalist and guitarist John Schumann said, “Much has been said about 19. That it helped bring our Vietnam veterans home. That it precipitated a Royal Commission. That it changed forever the way we Australians think about the men and women we send to fight our wars. These things are for others to say, not me. For me, I Was Only 19 has been an amazing gift, and I’m delighted that it has been identified as one of the Sounds of Australia. It’s a great honour.”

Sounds of Australia was established by the NFSA in 2007 to recognise the contribution of recorded sound to our nation’s evolving identity – from AC/DC to ‘Waltzing Matilda’, from obscure experimental artists to international stars, from extinct Indigenous languages to inspiring speeches, and much more.

The 10 additions to the list for 2015 are, in chronological order:

  • 1914 – Message recorded at Mena Camp, Cairo by Second Lieutenant Henry Miller Lanser – the only known audio recording that contains the voice of an Australian soldier on his way to fight in the First World War.
  • 1921 – Love Will Find a Way by Gladys Moncrieff – One of the great stars of the musical stage of the early 20th century: ‘Australia’s Queen of Song’.
  • 1941–72 – Argonauts Row by Harold Williams – the song from the popular ABC children’s radio program, which had more than 50,000 club members by 1950.
  • 1959 – Aboriginal Recordings by John Hutchinson – rare examples of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal songs, recorded along the coast of Western Australia.
  • 1979–80 – Demonstration Tapes by Fairlight CMI – early samples that helped turn the Fairlight synthesiser into one of the most widely– used in the music industry, including an instantly recognisable sound used in Michael Jackson’s Beat It.
  • 1983 – I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) by Redgum – a powerful song, inscribed on the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial.
  • 1985 – Like Wow – Wipeout by Hoodoo Gurus – a classic track combining Australian garage rock with ‘60s American hooks.
  • 1993 – Alive and Brilliant by Deborah Conway – which represents Conway’s ability to create hits that also challenge people’s preconceptions of pop music.
  • 1995 – LSD by DJ HMC – a 1990s track by Australia’s ‘Godfather of Techno’.
  • 2003 – Nosebleed Section by Hilltop Hoods – a track which propelled the Hilltop Hoods to have the first Australian platinum hip–hop album.

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Helen Musa
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