I’ve been asked, for a forthcoming book, to give my thoughts on five great Australian pop/rock stars. So without further ado, here they are:

1 Neil Finn

I was so glad to hear Neil could be considered an honorary Australian for the purposes of this poll, as I believe he is the most gifted pop/rock songwriter to have ever sprouted from Australasia, and some would argue, one of the greatest songwriters period. That beautiful tune he wrote for a friend’s mother’s funeral, “She Goes On”, just kills me very time every time I hear it. And how about “Four Seasons In One Day”, “Into Temptation”, “Private Universe”, “Message To My Girl”, “One Step Ahead”, “Fall At Your Feet”, “Not The Girl You Think You Are”, “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” and more recent gems like “A Sigh”, “Even If” and “Nobody Wants To”; well that’s really just for starters! I feel like all these songs and more are etched into my consciousness. While living in Ireland I got to see the Crowdies a few times, and I was always blown away by the intense respect and crowd choir sing-along vibes that occurred at every show. I’m normally fine with meeting musicians I really respect, but when I had the opportunity to say hello to Neil Finn at an APRA awards night a few years back, I acted like a bumbling idiot. I had a good laugh at myself afterwards, but I reckon Neil must have walked away thinking “What a dork”! (Neil, if you happen to be reading this, I would love to do a co-write one day, and I promise to be coherent.)

2 Barry Gibb

I know many people in the world consider this man to be one of the world’s greatest songwriters, and I’m damn proud that he and his brothers spent their formative years just outside of my hometown. I had the opportunity to witness one of Barry’s recent homecoming gigs in Brisbane, and his sincerity was overwhelming. It was a life-changing gig for me; he got right through and made me cry like a baby, and helped remind me why I’m a songwriter and musician, and what it’s really all about, and I still carry that feeling with me. If I ever write a song anywhere near approaching an absolute perennial classic like “To Love Somebody”, “How Deep Is Your Love” or “Words”, I’ll certainly die a happy man! I think he and his brothers are/were wonderful freaks of nature.

3 Michael Hutchence

I guess I’m putting songwriting above stage performance here, as I don’t think many would dare to question that Michael is the greatest frontman Australia has ever produced; right up there with Freddie Mercury, Jim Morrison, Robert Plant et al. I know he has strong contenders in Bon Scott, J.O’K, Stevie Wright and others; but then there is also the fact that he co-wrote nearly all of INXS’ songs with Andrew Farris! He was a triple threat: amazing stage presence, moves and charisma, a great voice and incredible songwriting skills. He helped create songs that crossed that huge divide from in-the-moment party vibes to deep, yearning reflections on love, loss and misunderstanding, including standouts like “Just Keep Walking”, “Stay Young”, “Original Sin”, “Dancing On The Jetty”, “Don’t Change”, “This Time”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Mystify”, “Bitter Tears” and “Beautiful Girl”. It’s a damn shame he’s no longer with us, but I guess his life and legacy reminds us of the many variations of the saying: “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” (Lao Tzu).

4 Peter Garrett

I had the great fortune of touring with Midnight Oil on a few occasions towards the end of their career, and I know it’s very hard to make this call when you have bands like ACDC to consider, but for me they are the greatest live band this country has ever produced; and Peter is also right up there with Michael et al as one of the most unique, intense and engaging performers we have ever seen. Apart from that, he was one of the band’s principal songwriters, and musically their songs really stand up for their innovative arrangements – backed by awesome musicianship – and unflinching, intelligent, intense commentaries on all areas of life – personal, social, political and “corporational”. So many of those lyrics are even more pertinent now. Having recently returned from three years living and working in the US, it used to give me great pleasure to judge the reactions from the audience when I would play “US Forces” at my solo shows. (I of course never tried that anywhere outside of my hometown of New York)! I just LOVE that line “L. Ron Hubbard can’t save your life”. Brilliant.

5 Grant McLennan

This is a very personal choice, as I first met Grant as a primary school kid hanging out at Toowong Music Centre in Brisbane, and then got to know this wonderful soul in the latter days of his life. Just like the Bee Gees before them, Grant and The Go-Be’s helped inspire a whole generation of musicians to believe that you could actually be in a successful band from Brisbane. And I feel to this day that he is a highly underrated songwriter. Like Neil Finn, I feel like some of his songs are buried in my DNA somehow; the soundtrack to my teenage life. Songs like “Cattle and Cane”, “Love Goes On” “Quiet Heart”, “Right Here” and then later compositions like “I’ll Call You Wild”, “One Plus One”, “Mrs Morgan” and “Finding You” all stand the test of time.