New music book series, 33 1/3 Oceania, celebrates influential albums from Australia and New Zealand

January 15, 2023

30 November 2022Since 2003, the world-renowned book series 33 1/3 has provided music fans with detailed, impeccably researched examinations of seminal albums by artists from the US, UK and Europe; now the series is expanding to cover some of the most influential records by musicians from Australia and New Zealand. “Each book is devoted to a single album, which allows a detailed look at each recording, exploring not just how it was made or received, but also analysis of the social and cultural significance of these albums,” Prof Stratton says. “These albums are all important moments in Australian music, but for very different reasons, and none have been examined in the way this series does,” Prof Stratton says. “And while John Farnham is an Australian icon, surprisingly little analysis has been written about Whispering Jack,” Prof Stratton says. “When the station started, there was a significant commitment to play Australian, and particularly South Australian, music, but then it was discovered that there weren’t that many local bands with recordings – so, the station set about recording them.

30 November 2022

Since 2003, the world-renowned book series 33 1/3 has provided music fans with detailed, impeccably researched examinations of seminal albums by artists from the US, UK and Europe; now the series is expanding to cover some of the most influential records by musicians from Australia and New Zealand.

Edited by UniSA Adjunct Professor Jon Stratton (senior editor) and Melbourne-based music critic Jon Dale (Uncut), the new 33 1/3 Oceania series – which is published by Bloomsbury – will shine a light on some of the most significant albums from the region, with three books in stores now, eight further titles announced and many more in development.

“Each book is devoted to a single album, which allows a detailed look at each recording, exploring not just how it was made or received, but also analysis of the social and cultural significance of these albums,” Prof Stratton says.  

“That scope means we can look at albums that are significant for much more than just mainstream success, and in addition to covering some big names, the series aims to bring attention to many lesser-known and under-appreciated albums from Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the Oceania region.”

Released recently, the first three titles in the 33 1/3 Oceania series showcase some of that diverse approach, covering Regurgitator’s Unit, The Church’s Starfish and John Farnham’s Whispering Jack.

“These albums are all important moments in Australian music, but for very different reasons, and none have been examined in the way this series does,” Prof Stratton says.  

“Unit came from a certain DIY approach to music that emerged in Queensland at the time, and the book captures that spirit, in part because it was co-authored (with Lauren Istvandity) by Lachlan Goold, who produced the album.

“Starfish ended up being internationally successful for The Church, but it was a departure and turning point for the band, and Chris Gibson’s book on the album reveals a lot about the world at the time.

“And while John Farnham is an Australian icon, surprisingly little analysis has been written about Whispering Jack,” Prof Stratton says.   

That lack of analysis of an artist as significant as Farnham is a good example of the sort of space 33 1/3 Oceania is looking to fill, and author of John Farnham’s Whispering Jack, Professor Graeme Turner, says the series provides an opportunity to look at more than just commercial success.

“Whispering Jack is still the highest-selling album in Australia by an Australian artist, and it transformed the former pop star Johnny Farnham into the major rock performer, John Farnham,” Prof Turner says.

“Despite all of this, Australian popular music studies have had nothing to say about John Farnham or Whispering Jack and so this book sets out to address that omission by examining the album, its role in reinventing its singer, and its place within Australian popular culture.”

Eight further 33 1/3 Oceania titles have been announced for release in 2023, including Bic Runga’s Drive, Kylie Minogue’s Kylie, The Dead C's Clyma est mort, and Hunters & Collector’s Human Frailty, with the latter written by Prof Stratton.

The series will then continue to add regular new releases, with Hilltop Hoods' The Calling and Ed Kuepper’s Honey Steel’s Gold among the titles in development, along with a look at groundbreaking indie release 5MMM's Compilation Album of Adelaide Bands 1980, which will be written by UniSA senior lecturer Dr Collette Snowden, who was one of the founders of the 5MMM radio station.

“This is an album that was made by Adelaide community radio station 5MMM – which is now 3D Radio – to meet their commitment to local content,” Dr Snowden says.

“When the station started, there was a significant commitment to play Australian, and particularly South Australian, music, but then it was discovered that there weren’t that many local bands with recordings – so, the station set about recording them.

“The resulting compilation not only preserved a whole generation of bands that might have otherwise been lost, it also inspired other community radio stations around the country to do the same thing.”

While the 33 1/3 Oceania series is written for a mainstream audience, many of the authors involved come from a range of academic disciplines, and Prof Stratton believes this perspective makes the series a little different from many music books.

“These books are definitely intended for all music fans, but because many of them also have an academic dimension, the series can explore some ideas and topics that might not be open to mainstream writers in more commercial settings.

“In part, we expect these books will be used in cultural studies and popular music studies courses, and having that aspect to the series means we can look at a whole range of albums that might otherwise never be written about.

“In that sense, a big part of what 33 1/3 Oceania is doing is putting a lot of stuff on the record for the future, and one of the things I am hoping is that the books will help people find music that they might have otherwise missed.”

All editors and authors are available for interview.

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Media contact: Dan Lander M: +61 0408 882 809 E: dan.lander@unisa.edu.au

The source of this news is from University of South Australia

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