Cultural and creative life

5 iconic music videos from our local area

To celebrate the Australian Music Month, we’re looking at some classic Sydney rock and roll music video moments from the 1980s and 90s.


City of Sydney stalwart Perry Johnstone loves music. If it's Australian music, all the better - especially the local bands who shaped him as a teenager and young man.

“Songs can express things in ways we might not be able to, about love and heartbreak, politics, how it feels to be young, how it feels to be oppressed,” Perry said.

He’s worked at the City of Sydney for 34 years and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music videos shot around our local area.

As we celebrate Australian Music Month, we’ve asked him to recount some of his favourite Sydney music video moments.

Perry Johnstone is our resident Australian music history buff. He's been with the City for 34 years, and is the boss of the radio tuner on level 3.
Perry Johnstone is our resident Australian music history buff. He's been with the City for 34 years, and is the boss of the radio tuner on level 3.

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Cold Chisel, Saturday Night – 1984

“I was only about 14 when this song came out, but everyone loved Cold Chisel – Jimmy Barnes, what a voice! And they’re still regarded as one of the great Australian rock bands. I love this music video because it’s filmed all around Kings Cross and Central station, and it captures what the place was like in those years – it’s changed a lot!”

Although 8 of the band’s albums reached the top 5 in Australia’s charts in the 70s and 80s, Cold Chisel never made it big internationally. It’s been said the songs talk about such uniquely Australian experiences they didn’t translate overseas.

“One cool thing about this video is it was partly filmed at the 1984 Sydney Mardi Gras. A gay friend of the band suggested it, and it was quite controversial in the early 80s to show the parade on TV. But apparently Cold Chisel loved it, and really embraced it.”

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Midnight Oil, Beds are Burning – 1987

“I remember there was no warning – Midnight Oil just turned up one day and set up to film. I was in high school at the time, but it didn’t take long for the news to travel. We all ditched our classes and ran down to Eveleigh Street to see them. They used lots of locals to dance in the clip, whoever wanted to be in it. I still recognise some of the faces in the clip.

The clip was filmed on the old Block in Redfern as well as in the Mundi Mundi plains, just north of Broken Hill.

“We were all in our school uniform so we just stood at the back, but unfortunately for me my grandmother, who lived on Louis Street, right next to Eveleigh Street, firmly suggested I go back to school quick smart. So off I went, knowing full well most teenage boys don’t make it to adulthood by making their nan angry!”

“This is the ultimate protest song. Midnight Oil toured up north and saw the effect on Aboriginal peoples being removed or separated from their land and families. They wrote this song as a criticism of the land rights issues of the day. Sadly, that hasn’t changed much.”

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Icehouse, Electric Blue - 1987

“This song was huge! I used to play it over and over, I loved it. It was co-written by John Oates of Hall and Oates. Definitely the song of my youth, if only I could have grown my hair like that!

“In the video, you can see the city skyline in the background. It was filmed in Surry Hills on the roof of the old NSW Teachers Federation building, so you get those nice views.”

Icehouse was one of the first Australian bands to adopt the new wave and new romantic movement, already popular in the UK, with synthesisers one of the band’s signature sounds. Rock was dominating the local music scene at that time, so it was a significant breakthrough. Electric Blue went to number 1 in Australia and reached the top 10 in the US and Canada.

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Paul Kelly, 40 Miles to Saturday Night – 1988

“By the time Paul Kelly's album Under the Sun was out, I was working at our Bay Street Depot as a labourer.”

Kelly was a self-taught guitarist and songwriter who’d had early success solo and with other bands. He’d moved to Sydney from Melbourne when 40 Miles to Saturday Night was released as a single from the album.

“That entire film clip is shot at Bay Street Depot, in what they call the Opera House, which is the parking lot. I was working there when they filmed it. I remember we had to take all the equipment out, move all the garbage trucks, and they filmed there for 14 hours straight.”

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Angry Anderson, Bound for Glory – 1990

“Anderson was the lead singer of the rock band Rose Tattoo, who were massive on the Aussie rock scene for a few years. But they broke up for a while and Angry released some solo stuff. Bound for Glory became a big sporting anthem, especially because of its lyrics.”

Anderson is well-known for having performed the song at the 1991 AFL grand final after jumping out of what looked like a Batmobile – which was so loud that the song itself was drowned out.

“Everyone knows Angry Anderson is covered in tattoos. There’s a tattoo parlour on Elizabeth Street called The Illustrated Man run by the Cohen Brothers. It’s been around for decades. In the film clip, Anderson is there being tattooed by one of the brothers.”

Perry knows the streets of Sydney like the back of his hand and always spots our streets and buildings in local film clips.

“It always amazes me that these music legends have walked our neighbourhoods. We have an incredible history of rock and roll in this city!”

Published 17 November 2023

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