Music Opinion

The ARIA charts let us down, so let's turn to Page

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Former yellow Wiggle Greg Page has an impressive catalogue of solo work behind him (Screenshot via YouTube)

If the Australian music scene is getting you down and you're handy with a guitar, the Smashing Pumpkins might have a job for you! Meanwhile, IA's music guru David Kowalski unearths some treasures from former yellow Wiggle, Greg Page.

IT’S A SHAME to start an article with this, however, the 2023 end-of-year ARIA singles and album charts are now available and the outcome is utterly dire for local artists.

There are three Australian singles in the top 100 and none of them were released this year. The most recent local track in the charts was from Dean Lewis and his enduring lament to his terminally ill father, ‘How Do I Say Goodbye’, was released in 2022.

The album charts are even worse. The four local albums on the list weren’t released this year. The latest one was Spacey Jane’s 2022 album, Here Comes Everybody.

So what the hell is going on? The ARIA charts don’t measure actual physical media sales exclusively, they also include streaming data. I would suggest that if the data could be examined closely, streaming would take up the largest slice of the pie graph.

The fact that INXS’s Very Best Of is the highest-selling local album of 2023 (at #58) indicates another problem. Most of the top 100 best-selling albums are vintage catalogue items, not new releases. The 1977 release Rumours by Fleetwood Mac crashed in as the #26 best-selling album of 2023. Doesn’t every household in the country already own a copy of this by now?

Where has all the new music gone? It’s not as if there are no musicians in Australia anymore. There are loads of them! However, who’s listening to it and who is getting it into the ears of Australia’s music listeners? Does Spotify need to change the algorithm to prioritise local content for Aussie subscribers? Do we need a Netflix show? What other ideas are there? At this stage, any idea is a good idea.

A smashing job opportunity!

In other news, U.S. alternative rock legends Smashing Pumpkins put out a worldwide call for auditions for a new guitarist earlier this month, via their social media pages.

(Image via Facebook)

I haven’t thrown my hat in the ring as of yet. I may have left my run a bit late, as it has just been reported that they have had to hire eight staffers to sift through the over 10,000 applicants they have received from all over the globe so far. How do you find the best person for the job in this instance? Could it be a fairytale win for some lucky axe-slinger looking for their big break?

Personally, I’m a bit wary of this opportunity, as it has been documented elsewhere that Billy Corgan has, in fact, overdubbed all the guitar parts (and bass parts, too) on some of the band's classic recordings. It makes you wonder why a second guitarist is necessary then (aside from filling out the band’s sound on stage) and whether the opportunity will be all it's cracked up to be. Time will tell

Wiggle it, just a little bit

In 2023, The Wiggles were featured in a documentary on their formation and history for Amazon Prime called Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles. It is quite an engaging watch. The film also doesn’t shy away from the darker undercurrents that go on within the band. Who knew that behind the colourful costumes and cherry singalongs about food and purple octopi, there were mental health struggles, chronic illness and on-stage heart attacks and the controversy surrounding the changing of band members?

One thing they conveniently left out of the story, I might add, was the solo albums that Greg Page, the original yellow Wiggle has issued for many years now. His first solo album was self-titled and issued by EMI in 1998. The album cover featured a very dark-looking photo of Page, in a white shirt and a black blazer, leaving people totally confused as to who this artist is, away from his day job. It’s not until one reads the sleeve notes to see that Page thanks the other members of The Wiggles, among other little clues within the text.

It probably didn’t rate a mention in the film because, in terms of marketing and sales performance, the record didn’t so much as float to the top, but rather it swam like a brick — straight to the bottom without a trace. Anyway, I ended up with a copy of the CD and I quite rate it. It is worth a mention as a side project, in order for a musician to try other things aside from what they’re known for.

This record has a strong '90s indie power-pop element to it – think Teenage Fanclub or Ashley Naylor’s band, Even – and some of the tracks, like ‘Only When You Fall’ deserve to be exhumed from the depths.

Greg has had a rough time in the last few years with his health, but I’d love to hear a new solo album from him. I hope he’s up for up.

Fun fact: The Allmusic Guide has genre-categorised The Wiggles as “Avant Garde”. Who knew?

LISTEN TO THIS WEEK'S SPECIALLY CURATED PLAYLIST BELOW:

David Kowalski is a writer, musician, educator, sound engineer and podcaster. His podcasts 'The Sound and the Fury Podcast' and 'Audio Cumulus' can be heard exclusively here. You can follow David on Twitter @sound_fury_pod.

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