In an earlier installment of this series, I mentioned Cold Chisel’s “One Long Day”, which I find myself terribly sorry there wasn’t a place in this list. But I promised myself only one Chisel song, and as brilliant as that one is, it loses out to “Bow River”. They both have a similar subject matter, but one is a mellow bluesy piece and the other one is rock’n’roll – no contest, really.
That subject matter is something that flows on naturally from the last couple of installments of Australian Anthems: it the idea of getting away from it all. The flipside of urbanisation is the desire to get the hell out of the city, for good or for just a weekend, and feel truly free.
The Australian built environment is quite centralised and dense – it doesn’t take more than a few hours driving to get out to an area where even the farms are fairly far from each other, and you can imagine what this land was like as a wilderness.
This longing is a holdover from our frontier past, although in recent decades it also partakes of environmentalist sentiments. Either way, it’s a desire for clean, fresh air and no sounds but the wind and occasional birds.
At the same time, it acknowledges that this dream is a forlorn one without the money to pay for it (and the logical corollary, that working will be necessary to get that money together) – and that furthermore, when this holiday is over, however long it lasts, nothing will remain but the memories of it.