Australian Made celebrates 30 years with remaster

The Australian Made festivals helped create the Aussie music industry of today

Bob King

Thirty years ago, a major series of outdoor festivals was born that helped create the Aussie music industry of today – Australian Made.

In celebration of the anniversary, a remaster of acclaimed director Richard Lowenstein’s feature film of the Australian Made tour – Australian Made: 30th Anniversary Edition – is screening exclusively for one night at 40 Event and Village Cinemas on Friday 25 November.

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The restored film features 15 live concert tracks, including explosive performances from INXS and Jimmy Barnes, as well as “never-before-seen” outtakes and intimate behind-the-scenes “home movie” footage that’s recently been unearthed from the archives.

Australian Made was a critical and box-office success when it was released nationally in July 1987. Academy Award-winner Jill Billcock was responsible for the rapid-fire editing, with music production by the legendary Mark Opitz, who’d previously collaborated with producer John McLean on Cold Chisel’s Last Stand – the country’s first theatrically-released rock film.

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Alongside the inaugural ARIA Awards in 1986, the festival series not only broke the rules, it forever changed the perception about how we, as a country, viewed our place on the world stage when it came to music.

As INXS frontman Michael Hutchence said during the tour: “It’s grown-up time. We’ve come of age. This has proved that we’re part of the world music scene.”

For a full list of cinemas, session times and to purchase tickets, go to eventcinemas.com.au or villagecinemas.com.au.

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While Australia is these days plugged into the world and considered a serious player in the global music industry (with the likes of Sia, 5 Seconds of Summer, Iggy Azalea and Tame Impala, to name but a few) it wasn’t always like that.

Back in the 80s it was a very different world to the world we live in today. For starters, 1986 was, well, last century – an analogue world where news travelled slowly from one corner of the globe to another, particularly in the world of music. Unlike today, back then no other country knew, let alone cared, if you were “big in Australia”.

On 26 December 1986, one in ten of Hobart’s citizens attended the very first of six outdoor concerts staged in the summer of 86/87: an ambitious national tour under the banner Australian Made that featured some of the hottest music talent this country had to offer. The idea was conceived and borne from a frustration and visceral reaction to Australia’s perceived cultural cringe and sense of self-worth; a widely held belief that when it came to the arts and in particular contemporary music, we as a country were maybe not quite good enough to match what the rest of the world had to offer.

Settling for second best was no longer an option for a creative industry that was fast finding its feet and its voice and hungry for new worlds and markets to conquer.

“I’m not saying that Australian bands are better than any other or that the music is particularly unique,” said INXS manager and co-producer Chris Murphy at the time. “But what we are saying that our country’s music is as good as any being produced and promoted around the world”

From that chance spark, came a year of planning and preparation, of major breakthroughs and (on the odd occasion) soul-destroying setbacks as this audacious idea grew from an abstract concept into something very real. Fuelled by nothing more than belief, passion and determination this little idea evolved into an unstoppable force of nature called Australian Made – a national outdoor tour that would feature INXS, Jimmy Barnes, Divinyls, Models, I’m Talking, The Saints and The Triffids.

It was much more than just a collection of one day music festivals. It was a first. In fact the first of its kind to feature an all-Australian lineup and presented on such a grand scale.

Thankfully this particular moment in Australian music history was filmed and recorded in the summer of 86/87.  But afterwards, due to contractual issues, was pretty much buried and quickly forgotten.  Until now.

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