Background. In the winter of 1982-83, I received a cassette tape filled with Australian rock and pop songs, songs by artist I had never heard before – groups like InXs and Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo and Dragon. Yeah, got hooked on that stuff pretty quickly.
One track on that home-recorded cassette tape, however, stood out among the rest. It was a song called “Solid Rock,” a track about land rights and colonial appropriations of sacred religious locales for tourism. The lyrics were blunt, the music mixed screaming guitars with the buzzing drone of an Australian didgeridu, and the track just claimed my attention and would not let it go.
I had a college radio show at the time, and I played “Solid Rock” by this group Goanna nearly every time I took the microphone. Probably drove everybody else at college nuts when I played it. But I didn’t care, the song was just that great.
And eventually, after reaching #3 on the Australian pop charts, “Solid Rock” did become a minor hit in the United States, clawing its way to #73 or so.
Goanna had several other hits Down Under – songs like “Razor’s Edge” and “Sorry” and “Let the Franklin Flow” and “What Else Is a Life” and the like … their lead singer / songwriter, Shane Howard, went on to a productive solo career of his own, and his sister Marcia Howard – who was also in Goanna – later spent a few weeks wowing Australian viewers on the Oz version of The Voice.
And “Solid Rock” itself has stayed in the Australian public consciousness; it’s been recovered as a rock-rap song …
and Shane Howard has revisited “Solid Rock” as a folk anthem.
Now comes some major news. This year, the NFSA – the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia – has included the original hit version of “Solid Rock” as part of its “Songs of Australia” archive.
This is tremendous. Congratulations to Shane, Marcia, Rose Bygrave and Goanna members past and present, as this song – which still tells the historic story of how sacred land was stolen from native tribes who lived there peacefully for 40,000 years – is now a cultural part of Australian music history.
Oh, and one more thing.
That sacred land in the epicenter of the Australian continent? The “Solid Rock” that is the subject of this track?
Before “Solid Rock” came out, the area was known as Ayers Rock. After “Solid Rock” became a major phenomenon, the Australian government eventually handed the land back to those who had it first, and the sacred land returned to its original name of Uluru.
Just another example of how one small act of conscience can right what is wrong and make the world a much better place.
Good on ya, Goanna. Good on ya, as always.