From the campaign that changed the way we baked in the sun to the sweetness of Sherbet’s Howzat – these are the Sounds of Australia.
The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) has announced its top Sounds of Australia for 2023 – with the earworm that was Slip Slop Slap hot on the list along with the Sherbert classic.
Each year, the NFSA adds to the Sounds of Australia registry with the best audio content that resonates with Australians – from popular music to advertising jingles, symphonic broadcasts and a 21st-century concerto from a multi-instrumentalist master.
The NFSA’s curator of Sounds of Australia, Nick Henderson, said all sound recordings were eligible – as long as they were Australian and more than 10 years old. The NFSA invites people to nominate their favourites and then a panel of industry professionals pares it back down to 10 – or 11 this year because there was a tie.
“I’m always amazed at the diversity of the sounds,” Mr Henderson said.
“This year, we received more than 200 nominations, a little more than we usually receive. From that, I pull together a long list and make sure they’re all digitised. Usually, we have about 50 sounds on that list and then the panel votes on them.”
The panel is made up of industry professionals, from musicians to record label owners.
“Slip Slop Slap, for example,” he said, “while it really is an animation, had a life of its own. It was even played over loudspeakers at the beach.”
Robyn Archer’s 1978 Menstruation Blues also made the list, which champions the rights of women to speak publicly about their bodies – a song she continues to perform today.
“Wilma Reading’s I Only Came to Say Goodbye launched the jazz singer’s stellar international career, while the output of Harry Williams and the Country Outcasts has been recognised for its development of Aboriginal country music,” he said.
One of the most iconic Australian songs, ‘The Loved One’, the first single by Melbourne R&B band The Loved Ones, also made the grade.
“Joseph Tawadros’ Concerto of the Greater Sea is recognised for its ambition, technique and range, and the beloved I Am Australian is included for its involvement in many significant national events.”
Mr Henderson said it was hard to name his favourite in the 2023 list, but he was pleased Indigenous musician Wilma Reading made the list because she had such an impressive international career, including touring with Duke Ellington.
The 2023 Sounds of Australia, in chronological order, are:
1. Anvil Chorus, P. C. Spouse – 1927.
2. Sweet Nell of Old Drury, Nellie Stewart – 1931.
3. The death of a wombat, Ivan Smith (author), George S. English (composer), (broadcaster) – 1959(composer), (broadcaster) – 1959.
4. I Only Came To Say Goodbye, Wilma Reading – 1961.
5. The Loved One, The Loved Ones – 1966.
6. Howzat, Sherbet – 1976.
7. Menstruation Blues, Robyn Archer – 1977.
8. Harry Williams and the Country Outcasts, Harry and Wilga Williams – 1979.
9. Slip Slop Slap jingle, Phillip Adams (writer), Peter Best (composer) and Cancer Council Victoria – 1981.
10. I am Australian, various – 1997.
11. Concerto of the Greater Sea, Joseph Tawadros – 2012.
The NFSA’s Sounds of Australia registry was established in 2007 to reflect the power of audio to chart Australia’s social, cultural and political development, Mr Henderson said.
“Together, they join the definitive list of Australia’s recorded sound history. It’s a huge privilege to preserve this audio celebration of Australian life for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The complete Sounds of Australia list (1896-2012) is available on the NFSA website.