Albums I Want to be Buried With: Goanna, “Spirit of Place”

How many times can a pop song actually make a positive change in the world?  How many times can a lyric actually convince a government to change its path?

For the Australian folk-rock band Goanna, that album was “Spirit of Place,” and its first single, “Solid Rock,” told a story of Australia that the rest of the world never heard about.

In the center of Australia is the world’s largest monolith, an outcropping of rock known by the Aboriginal people as “Uluru.”  When Australia was populated by British settlers and convicts, Uluru was renamed “Ayers Rock,” and was referred to by that name for generations.

In 1981, a song about the arrival of the white man to this heart of the continent was released on Australian radio – and it hit #1 on the pop charts, where it stayed for weeks.  The song, “Solid Rock,” became a worldwide hit, and even charted in the United States for a few weeks.

Here’s a YouTube clip of Goanna, featuring lead vocalist / guitarist Shane Howard, performing the official music video for “Solid Rock.”

Their next song from the album, “Razor’s Edge,” talks about disenfranchised Australians looking for a way home to a more peaceful place. Yes, I have a YouTube clip for this track as well.

But the thing is, Goanna didn’t stop with these songs. They actually used their music to help effect social change in Australia. When the Australian government planned to dam up the Franklin River in Tasmania for a hydroelectric power generating facility, Goanna and their friends recorded a charity single, “Let the Franklin Flow,” with the argument that damming the river would destroy much of the unique flora and ecology in that region. The dam was never built, and the Franklin flows today.

Nearly 20 years after the Spirit of Place album, Goanna recorded a very painful ballad called “Sorry,” a track about Australia’s deepest, darkest secret – the Stolen Generation. For decades, Aboriginal children were taken from their families, to be raised instead with white families – in a calculated effort to reduce, if not eliminate, the Aboriginal tribe.  “Sorry” became a radio hit in the late 1990’s, and the core members of Goanna – Shane Howard, his sister Marcia Howard and friend Rose Bygrave – reunited for a series of concerts.

You should definitely add Goanna’s “Spirit of Place” to your record collection, it’s a great folk-rock album with enough social commentary to make you see Australia in a whole different light.