Our top 10 Powderfinger songs list digs deep into the music of a Brisbane band that rose in the rock and roll scene in the ‘90s becoming one of Australia’s most revered outfits. The band built its legacy from a mere Brisbane-based act to a globally successful multiplatinum group. Over the years, Powderfinger’s imposing music career has won the band tons of awards. Among the awards are eighteen ARIA Music Awards wins, with the band only coming third after John Farnham and Silverchair.
Despite going on hiatus in 2010, Powderfinger proved too big to either replace or forget. The endured relevance of the band’s music follows its ability to represent the true feel of Australian rock and roll. Powderfinger joins Cold Chisel and Hunters & Collectors in the list of outfits whose music is emblematic of a true Australian soul. However, the road to success for the band hasn’t been a walk in the park. Thanks to its great musicianship and endearing work ethic, the band solidified its position as one of the most sought-after acts in the Australian alternative rock scene.
Powderfinger’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
The band came into existence around 1990 with its original members consisting of drummer Steven Bishop, bassist John Collins, and guitarist/vocalist Ian Haug. Powderfinger started playing cover songs to songs by Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, and The Rolling Stones, artists who the band has cited as an influence on its musical pursuits. The band’s name itself was inspired by “Powderfinger,” a 1979 song by Neil Young.
While the band’s early ‘90s were not successful its members held on together to ride past the tough formative years. Unfortunately, original member Steven Bishop never saw the band rise to prominence. After falling ill, Steven would be replaced by drummer John Coghill. The band also added Bernard Fanning to take on the lead vocals leaving Ian Haug to concentrate on his role as a guitarist. Joining Ian on the lead guitars was Darren Middleton, who also played the keyboards while singing backing vocals.
This classic lineup catapulted Powderfinger to stardom, staying united from 1992 to 2010 when the band went on hiatus. Powderfinger’s breakthrough to the rock scene came after the band issued its eponymous EP in August 1992. The seven-track EP attracted the attention of major record labels with Polydor Records awarding the band a recording contract.
Powderfinger’s Album Releases over the Years
Powderfinger’s major release, after bagging a recording contract with Polydor Records, was its debut studio album Parables for Wooden Ears. Some of the songs issued on this album had been released on the band’s preceding extended plays. Parables for Wooden Ears failed to impress with some critics terming it an uninspired rock album. Nevertheless, the album managed to feature notable tracks by Powderfinger including “Tail,” “Grave Concern,” and “Save Your Skin.” Parables for Wooden Ears made it to the ARIA Albums Chart, peaking at number fifty-one.
The band achieved its commercial breakthrough after releasing its sophomore studio album, Double Allergic in 1996. Double Allergic was also the band’s proper mainstream breakthrough, rising to the fourth spot on the ARIA Albums Chart. “Pick You Up,” “D.A.F.,” “Take Me In,” and “Living Type” are the best Powderfinger songs from the album. Double Allergic earned platinum certification three times in Australia. The album’s production work was handled by Tim Whitten who has also worked with reputable artists including Hoodoo Gurus, Augie March, and The Go-Betweens.
In 1998, Powderfinger issued its third studio album, Internationalist. This purely alternative rock album ushered the band into new mainstream and commercial success levels. The album topped the ARIA Albums Chart, earning platinum certification in Australia five times. Producer Nick DiDia played a central role in the success of this album’s audacious work. Nick has also produced albums for other stars including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and Rage Against the Machine. “The Day You Come,” “Already Gone,” “Passenger,” and “Don’t Wanna Be Left Out” are some of the best Powderfinger songs from Internationalist. The album went on to win the 1999 ARIA Music Awards Album of the Year accolade beating albums by Silverchair, Spiderbait, and The Living End.
Odyssey Number Five, issued in 2000, is the epitome of Powderfinger’s music career. Despite being the shortest release by the band, the album remains Powderfinger’s best-selling release, boasting eight platinum certifications in Australia. Odyssey Number Five won five ARIA Awards with its single “My Happiness” winning Powderfinger an ARIA Music Award for the Single of the Year in 2001. Other outstanding artists in the 2001 ARIA Music Award ceremony include The Avalanches, Kylie Minogue, and Nick Cave. “My Happiness” led other hits including “Like a Dog,” “The Metre,” and “My Kind of Scene” into crowning
Odyssey Number Five ARIA’s Album of Year in 2001.
In 2003, Powderfinger returned with its fifth studio album, Vulture Street. The album, also produced by Nick DiDia, topped the ARIA Albums Chart, earning platinum certification six times. Vulture Street won four ARIA Music Awards accolades including the Album of the Year beating albums by Delta Goodrem, Something for Kate, The Waifs, and The Sleepy Jackson. “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind,” “Love Your Way,” “Sunsets,” and “Since You’ve Been Gone” are the best Powderfinger songs from the album.
Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, issued in 2007, marked Powderfinger’s sixth studio album. With this album, the band implored more pure rock sounds with production work handled by Rob Schnapf, who is renowned for his work with Beck, Elliot Smith, The Whigs, and Guided by Voices. The album also topped the ARIA Albums Chart, earning platinum certification three times. “Lost and Running,” “I Don’t Remember,” and “Nobody Sees” are the most acclaimed hits from the album.
Months before Powderfinger disbanded, the band issued its seventh and last studio album Golden Rule. The album saw the band reunite in production with Nick DiDia. Like the band’s previous four studio albums, Golden Rule topped the ARIA Albums Chart. The album was also fairly successful commercially, earning platinum certification two times. “All of the Dreamers,” “Sail the Wildest Stretch,” and “Burn Your Name” are the best Powderfinger songs from this album.
Powderfinger’s Accolades and Legacy
Powderfinger remains one of the most iconic rock and roll acts in Australia. With eighteen accolades, Powderfinger is the ARIA Music Awards’ first runners-up in most accolades won by a band, only second to Silverchair. Its radio-friendly rock hits saw the band’s music receive much airplay. The band’s lead vocalist Bernard Fanning would also rise to become a compelling Australian music figure after starting his solo career in 2005.
His album Tea & Sympathy won him the Album of Year accolade in the 2006 ARIA Music Awards Ceremony. Fanning has accumulated four more ARIA Music Awards accolades with his solo career promising more greatness. During its active years, Powderfinger shared stages with other distinguished artists including Pantera, Silverchair, You Am I, and Crowded House. Here we present the ten best Powderfinger songs of all time.
#10 – Already Gone
Ushering us to the top 10 Powderfinger songs list is the haunting hit “Already Gone.” The song is among the most revered hits by the band from its third studio album, Internationalist. “Already Gone” brings this notion of getting caught up with the schedules of life that leads to some placing their love life in jeopardy.
However, the song reveals that we can all keep our love young meaning that there’s always a way of getting past all the hurdles of life and retaining a strong relationship. The song managed to rise to number sixty-eight on the ARIA Singles Chart. “Already Gone” was nominated for the International Viewer’s Choice Award for MTV Australia in 1999.
However, the song lost the award to “Anthem of the Year 2000” by Silverchair. Other songs nominated for the award were “Stevie” by Spiderbait and “Save the Day” by The Living End. Before rising to fame, Shannon Noll performed this song in the first season of Australian Idol. Shannon came second to Guy Sebastian, establishing a solo career that has been fairly impressive.
#9 – My Kind of Scene
Despite never making it to the ARIA Singles Chart, “My Kind of Scene” still holds a special place in the hearts of Powderfinger fans. The song was penned for release on the band’s fourth LP, Odyssey Number Five. However, quite a number heard the song first from the soundtrack of the movie Mission: Impossible 2. Other prominent hits featured on the soundtrack of this movie include “I Disappear” by Metallica, “Scum of the Earth” by Rob Zombie, “Going Down” by Godsmack, and “Take a Look Around” by Limp Bizkit.
“My Kind of Scene” was big in New Zealand — in fact, it is the band’s first hit to make it to the New Zealand Singles Chart, rising to number forty-one. Listening to the song gives you the perfect reason why Powderfinger was a staple on Australian radio stations. “My Kind of Scene” also made it to the third spot on the Triple J Hottest 100.
#8 – D.A.F.
After quite a mildly poor debut album, Powderfinger returned strong with its second studio album, Double Allergic in 199. Thanks to songs like “D.A.F.” Double Allergic was critically acclaimed rising to commercial success status almost imminently. After its release, an Australian TV program Recovery ran a competition to what the song’s title meant. A while later, the band’s guitarist Darren Middleton revealed that the song’s title referred to its chord progression.
Quite a creative yet peculiar way to come up with the song’s title but anyway, “D.A.F.” rose to become a fan favorite hit in 1996. Singer Fanning went on to reveal that the song’s lyrics alluded to the ideal of maintaining honesty with oneself as a foundational value towards becoming honest to others. The song went on to peak at number thirty-nine on the ARIA Singles Chart. “D.A.F.” was nominated for the ARIA Music Awards Single of the Year accolade.
However, it lost to “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden. Other songs that had been nominated for the two awards simultaneously include “Buy Me a Pony” by Spiderbait, “Even When I’m Sleeping” by Leonardo’s Bride, and “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
#7 – Lost and Running
“Lost and Running” gives a taste of Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, the band’s penultimate album. The song has its lyrics allude to being discontented with life’s devastating dullness and apprehensions. “Lost and Running” is the band’s second highest-charting hit, rising to a peak position of number five on the ARIA Singles Chart.
The song’s impressive quality saw it nominated for two ARIA Music Awards accolades including Best Video and Single of the Year. However, the song lost the two awards to the hit “Straight Lines” by Silverchair. “Straight Lines” was Silverchair’s first chart-topping single since the band’s 1997 hit “Freak.”
#6 – The Day You Come
Number six on our ten best Powderfinger songs list is the striking hit “The Day You Come.” The song holds a special place in the heart of Powderfinger’s members being the band’s first hit to bag the ARIA Music Awards Single of the Year accolade. This saw the band crush competition from “Cigarettes Will Kill You” by Ben Lee, “Addicted to Bass” by Josh Abrahams, “Ana’s Song (Open Fire)” by Silverchair, and “! (The Song Formerly Known As)” by Regurgitator.
“The Day You Come” had its parent album, Internationalist, also win the ARIA Album of the Year and Best Rock Album accolades in 1999. This song marked Powderfinger’s first song to feature political references. However, the band moderately incorporated political affiliations and activism in its songs. This is quite different from outfits like Midnight Oil, whose lead singer Peter Garrett turned into a politician/activist.
#5 – Burn Your Name
Just before the band shelved its musical pursuits, it released a studio album, Golden Rule. Golden Rule is home to the fifth pick on our ten best Powderfinger songs list, “Burn Your Name.” The reunion between the band and producer Nick DiDia was a success as evidenced in this track. “Burn Your Name” has its anthemic tune guides the song to stand boisterous above all the releases on Golden Rule.
The song’s sound feels like a perfect call to a rock and roll frenzy! Powderfinger’s fans heeded the call with the song becoming one of the band’s most commercially successful rock singles. “Burn Your Name” earned a gold certification from ARIA becoming the band’s second most commercially successful track. The song achieved success on the ARIA Singles Chart, rising to number forty-five.
#4 – (Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind
We have listened to the band’s alternative rock sound and awe-inspiring is just a perfect description of its feel! However, fans of the band can’t seem to move on from the band’s pure rock ballads such as the incredibly marvelous hit “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind,” a song from the band’s fifth LP, Vulture Street. The song feels like the new reincarnation of the pure rock sound.
This saw critics accuse Powderfinger of trying to sound more like AC/DC. Either way, true rockers will never go past this hit at any moment! The song impressed Australians rising to the ninth spot on the ARIA Singles Chart. “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind” was warmly received in Europe, charting at number thirty-four on the UK Rock & Metal Chart.
#3 – These Days
Let’s return to Odyssey Number Five where we find the magical gem “These Days.” It is just charming to hear fans of the band sing along to Bernard Fanning’s croons! This simple yet elegant hit has had its fame endure to date. “These Days” was a commercial success, earning ARIA platinum certification three times. This melancholic track has its lyrics alluding to bowing down to the responsibilities and obligations of this life.
The song has also been cited to be a perfect response to the emotive scene of reprisal, justice, and redemption in the 1999 film, Two Hands. “Belter,” another single by Powderfinger joins “These Days” on the soundtrack to Two Hands. While the song is quite emotive the singer manages to maintain some sense of resilience. “These Days” topped the Triple J Hottest 100 Chart. Thelma Plum issued a cover of this song in May 2020. This song has been cited to be one of the most Australian songs by the band.
#2 – Pick You Up
“Pick You Up” is the earliest mainstream successful hit by the band. To Powderfinger’s members, “Pick You Up” was more like the band’s saving grace. After a dismal debut studio album, the band issued the hit “Pick You Up” as the first single off its sophomore LP, Double Allergic. The song convinced Polydor Records that Powderfinger was still a promising outfit worth the label’s patience.
“Pick You Up” went on to receive massive airplay on Australian radio stations. The song would also become the band’s first song to make it to the mainstream charts, peaking at number twenty-three on the ARIA Singles Chart. “Pick You Up” would eventually earn the band its first ARIA Music Awards nominations for the Single of the Year accolades in 1996. However, the song lost the accolade to “Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Kylie Minogue.
#1 – My Happiness
Number one on our top 10 Powderfinger songs list is the band’s signature hit “My Happiness.” The song is the brightest cut off the band’s fourth studio album, Odyssey Number Five. “My Happiness” is a tad bit melancholic, owing to its lyrical content that describes feelings of love and separation. According to the writer of this song, vocalist Bernard Fanning, “My Happiness” is a sad narrative of touring and the absence that emanates from being away from your loved ones.
“My Happiness” is the band’s highest-charting track, rising to number four on the ARIA Singles Chart. The song also made it to number twenty-three on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. “My Happiness” is also the band’s best-selling single, earning platinum certification seven times. The song topped the Triple J Hottest 100, earning the APRA Awards Song of the Year accolade in 2001. “My Happiness” also won the 2001 ARIA Music Awards Single of the Year accolade beating competition from songs by The Avalanches, Kylie Minogue, You Am I, and Something for Kate.
Jeanie McKinder (flickr profile)., CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Powderfinger Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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