The REAL Best Songs of the Past Twenty Years

By Jack Brady

It has been two weekend’s past since Triple J played their Hottest 100 for the best songs of the past twenty years. It was literally music to mine, and I’m sure, the majority of the Australian public’s ears. I listened to the countdown from start to finish over the weekend, and while generally, it was a fantastic countdown, with Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’ finishing up on top I couldn’t help but wonder how some songs even registered a mention. Songs like the Avalanches ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ (#27), Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ (#31), Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ (#56) and MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’ (#97) were questionable inclusions. It’s also hard to fathom how Hilltop Hoods (‘Nosebleed Section’ in at fourth) finished as high as it did. This article is a list of songs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in this Hottest 100. On a grand scale of everything, each of these songs is undeniably better than being subjected to the aneurysm-inducing, sixteen minute version of Daft Punk’s “Around the World”.

Ben Lee- Gamble Everything for Love (2004)

‘Gamble Everything for Love’ was the first single of Ben Lee’s 2005 album Awake is the new Sleep, Lee’s highly acclaimed ARIA winning fifth studio album. Released on December 13th, 2004, the song had eighteen days to impress to be even considered for the year’s annual Hottest 100. Fresh in Australia’s mind though and attributing to the song’s greatness, ‘Gamble Everything for Love’ finished within 2004’s top twenty songs at #15. Unfortunately by the time 2005 rolled around, the second single of the album ‘Catch my Disease’ overshadowed the first dramatically. It took Lee mainstream and saw ‘Gamble Everything for Love’ fall to the side, a forgotten gem of Lee’s greater accomplishments.

The Wombats- Jump into Fog (2011)

It’s not often a song is released in January and finishes as high as Jump into the Fog did in 2011. The second single of the Wombats second studio album This Modern Glitch finished at an admirable #18 in the annual Hottest 100, the highest of the four Wombats songs that made it into the countdown in 2011. A coming of age song for the Wombats, the darker sounds of ‘Jump into Fog’ emphasises a greater diversity of music and a change from the usual upbeat indie-pop beats usually contributed by the band. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Wombats though with the band’s 2007 cult classic, ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ finishing in at #74 in the best songs of the past twenty years.

Live- Lightning Crashes (1995)

The wonderful voice of Chris Shinn painted a beautiful picture in Live’s 1995 classic ‘Lightning Crashes’. Ironically, the song about the transference of life between the elderly dying and a child being born, hasn’t materialised in the transference of Hottest 100 countdowns over the past twenty years. This masterpiece finished #22 in the 1995 Hottest 100. In 1998, in the Hottest 100 of the Greatest Songs of All Time it went one better and finished #21. That’s every song ever. Fifteen years later, and it doesn’t even rate a mention in the best songs of the past twenty years? It could be quite possibly the most unwarranted fall from grace of all time, especially since Matt Corby made the countdown. It’s a musical travesty!

End of Fashion- O Yeah (2005)

Here’s a fun fact for you, End of Fashion released their third studio album last year, bet you didn’t know that. Relatively unknown and seemingly disappearing into nothingness, End of Fashion haven’t made legitimate head ways in Australian music since 2008 upon the release of their second studio album Book of Lies. What is undeniable though is their biggest single, off their self-titled debut album in 2005 ‘O Yeah’ is essentially a rad song. The winner of two ARIA awards and the owner of an APRA Song of the Year nomination, ‘O Yeah’ managed to finish eighth in the 2005 Hottest 100. A high pitch OOOO YEAHHH definitely wouldn’t have been out of place on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, that’s for damn sure.

Blur- Parklife (1994)

Like a fine wine, ‘Parklife’ only gets better with age. A thick British narrating about his day-to-day life doesn’t seem like much, especially since Blur is primarily recognised nowadays from their 1997 ‘Song 2’ wooooohooooos which managed to come in at #22 in the latest Hottest 100 edition. Rewind three years previously though and ‘Parklife’ was all the rage from their third studio album of the same name. This song still makes an odd appearance in normal programming on Triple J and gladly so, the good feels from ‘Parklife’ and the sing-along vibes is what makes it quintessentially a brilliant song.

Red Hot Chili Peppers- Around the World (1999)

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seventh studio album Californiacation it marked a turning point for the band’s fortunes from thereon in. Anthony Kiedis, Flea and co. created a masterpiece. Songs from the album like ‘Californiacation’ (#30) & ‘Scar Tissue (#28) were celebrated accordingly within the latest Hottest 100, yet, the opening track ‘Around the World’ didn’t get a look in, not withstanding Daft Punk’s own interpretation of the song title. The shredding guitar at the beginning of this track albeit the album allows for Californiacation to expand and flex its muscles in what is truly one of the greatest albums of at least the past twenty years. While it came in at #37 in the 1999 Hottest 100, it definitely wouldn’t have looked out of place as one of the best of the past two decades.

An Eskimo Joe Song (1998-2012)

It is unbelievable that one of Australia’s best and most beloved bands over the last fifteen years didn’t rate a mention in the Hottest 100 of the past twenty years whatsoever. Over the course of the Hottest 100’s existence, Eskimo Joe has managed to make the countdown twelve times while two of their albums Black Fingernails, Red Wine (#47) & A Song is a City (#87) made the Hottest 100 in 2011 as two of the best Australian albums of all time. From the band’s breakout 1998 single, Sweater (#33 in Hottest 100), to their most recent appearance in any countdown, Foreign Land (#65 in 2009), with their peak songs ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ (#2 in 2006) & ‘From the Sea (#3 in 2004) chucked in for the greater measure, how Eskimo Joe didn’t warrant one song in the Hottest 100 of the past twenty years is beyond explainable.

Bob Evans- Don’t You Think It’s Time (2006)

Jebediah front man Kevin Mitchell would’ve been stoked listening to the Hottest 100 of the past twenty years on the Queen’s birthday long weekend. ‘Harpoon’ (#91) & ‘Leaving Home’ (#98) just scraped into the countdown by the skin of their teeth in what was a good day out for Jebediah. Bob Evans, Mitchell’s alter-ego, wasn’t as lucky. ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’ is one of the more pleasant songs of our generation, having come in at #37 in the 2006 Hottest 100. Having witnessed this song performed live in the middle of a crowd, uncut and unplugged, with the one man singing, playing guitar and the harmonica together, it is definitely one of the more grander memories of musical performances I’ve ever been too. While it may seem bias that this song is in here, I guarantee upon listening to it you will fall in love with it as well.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes- 40 Day Dream (2009)

While the first single ’40 Day Dream’ off the band’s debut album Up from Below never made the hottest 100 of its year of release it would have definitely not been out of place. If the Kooks’s ‘Naive’ (#87), Temper Trap’s ‘Sweet Disposition’ (#38) & Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ (#57) could make it into the Hottest 100 of the past two decades without ranking in an annual list, why couldn’t Edward Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros? While Eddy could celebrate the fact that the second single of the same album ‘Home’ charted at #73 as one of the best of the last twenty years, the better song ‘40 Day Dream’ is left floundering in most individuals  memories… except mine obviously and those almost two million people who have listened to this well crafted song on YouTube.

Johnny Cash- Hurt (2003)

The haunting and raw lyrics of Johnny Cash seven months before his death in ‘Hurt’ is one of the most eerie albeit beautiful musical journeys of the last decade. While yes, it is a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song of the same name, Cash’s version is arguably better and conveys several degrees of emotion further, considering the life he had. ‘Hurt’ never made a Triple J annual countdown, however, in 2009, in the Hottest 100 of All Time; the song came in at #60. What happened between then and now though is blurred. There can be only one explanation. Damn those fucking teenagers with their hippy pop music!

Beck- Loser (1993)

This song is a lyrical mess. With words that make no real sense and a chorus that can be established as an ironic funeral song, ‘Loser’ still manages to get the sing-along’s pumping when occasionally heard on our radio waves to this present day. Coming in at #45 in the 1994 Hottest 100, ‘Loser’ jagged the #97 spot in the 1998 Hottest 100 of All Time. Obviously the Australian public thought the song had become a “loser, baby” and were like “why don’t we kill” the songs aspirations as one of the best over the past twenty years. See what I did there? Comedian, eh? Yep, I’m done.

Bernard Fanning- Wish You Well (2005)

“Up so early, feel so bright. Didn’t get in the Hottest 100 last night”

While this is half-true, with two songs of Bernard Fanning’s band Powderfinger getting into the top ten, the man must ponder how ‘Wish You Well’, the #1 song of 2005 mind you, didn’t rate a mention as one of the best songs of the past twenty years. The song’s lyrics “why’d you give up on me so soon” must have been racing through the poor bloke’s head. ‘Wish You Well’ was one of only five songs that came in at #1 over the past twenty annual countdown’s that didn’t make it into the one just gone. Most of these are explainable, with Dennis Leary’s ‘Arsehole’ (1993), The Offspring’s ‘Pretty fly for a White Guy’ (1998) and Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ (2012) being absolute travesties of songs, ‘Wish You Well’ however is not. A pity party between Fanning and Kevin Mitchell aka Bob Evans would seem appropriate. Maybe the old saying is true after all? No-one is bigger than the band.

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Shark Attack!

By Jack Brady

While the Port Stephens Sharks, the newest addition to the Real NRL competition this season, aren’t quite at ‘Great White’ status yet, think more along the lines of a baby shark, they are nonetheless the most important team in the Newcastle competition at this point in time. The club at this point in time is attempting to secure the area’s rugby league nursery and support for the game north of Newcastle for seasons to come.

With the introduction of Raymond Terrace into the Real NRL in 2001, the Port Stephens area has been well represented in some capacity through the Northern Blues (Nelson Bay) since the competition’s inception in 1910. However, this hasn’t stopped the Port Stephens Sharks being touted as the saving grace for rugby league north of Newcastle this season as it looks to go far and beyond the now defunct Northern Blues and Raymond Terrace senior clubs within Newcastle’s premier rugby league competition.

This however will not come without its challenges. Without the significant financial support needed for a rugby league club to survive, the dire lack of senior players willing to play and the non-existence of a contributing leagues club, the Port Stephens Sharks are barely swimming let alone striking as fears that the club could fold as quickly as it was established are not far from becoming a reality.

Wayne Humphreys, the president of the Port Stephens Sharks, has labelled the club as the most important project there is for senior rugby league to exist in the area.

“Is it getting the level of support that it needs? No it’s not, not corporately and sometimes even the player base is a little bit slack,” Humphreys said.

John Teaupa hits the ball up. Photo by: Emily Elias

Unlike every other club, the Sharks were allowed the concession of not fielding a third grade side this season. Yet only three weeks ago the club couldn’t even manage to field a reserve grade side.

This, plus the lack of finances that saw the Northern Blues and Raymond Terrace drop out of the competition only a couple of years ago, could end up haunting not only the Port Stephens Sharks but the existence of senior rugby league in the area: regardless of its importance to the region and the Newcastle rugby league.

John Fahey, the General Manager of the Newcastle rugby league competition stressed the significance of the Port Stephens Sharks existence and the club’s importance in tying up the area’s rugby league nursery for the sake of a quality competition and the rugby league region as a whole.

According to Fahey, the Port Stephens Sharks were positively received by the board before mentioning that the “well over”  one thousand registered players floating around the Port Stephens area could’ve been left with nothing without the existence of the Port Stephens Sharks.

“The importance of the Sharks boils down to the future of rugby league north of the Stockton Bridge and to be frank the number of players that have dispersed from up there [Port Stephens] to other clubs in the last ten years with the Northern Blues in existence is a pretty clear sign of the importance of rugby league in the area,” Fahey said.

“The strength of Raymond Terrace as a club is something that also needed to be secured and to make sure that it remained viable in the future.”

In the end though it all comes down to money and without the backing of either a leagues club or significant sponsorship the Sharks could be left floundering as early as the end of the season.

“The biggest problem with rugby league in the Port Stephens area is that there is no registered leagues club, and that’s where the problem still lies…there is significant financial support for the club this season from the Newcastle Rugby League and now we’re just waiting for the baby and taking it from there,” Fahey resonates.

Having struggled from its inception off the field the Port Stephens Sharks have not fared much better on it, the club beginning its inaugural campaign, while competitive, in an abysmal fashion, having not won a game in both of its senior grades.

Beyond all this though, the club’s committee have still managed to lay the foundations in attaining the future of rugby league in the Port Stephens region for years to come.

From this, in a move that president Humphreys labelled as a “principle philosophy of the project,” the Sharks have attempted to bridge the gap between the area’s rugby league community by including a 16’s, two 17’s and an 18’s junior team under the senior Sharks emblem.

President Humphreys explains that the inclusion of the juniors under the Port Stephens Sharks banner was the cornerstone of the project and that was it an absolute essential to the success of the club.

“The Port Stephens Sharks was always going to be about developing our juniors to play senior football in our competition,” Humphreys said.

“We identified from the youngest age, the 16s, where we could start to teach them senior league effectively.”

This decision and the importance of the junior Sharks hasn’t been taken lightly throughout the club as junior coaching co-ordinator Ric Astorini reiterates the importance of the juniors’ relationship with the senior Sharks.

Astorini signalling that the most appropriate action for rugby league in Port Stephens involves having the juniors under the Sharks banner.

“The Sharks are very important for those kids who want to play first division and proceed through to the senior ranks,” explains Astorini.

“It’s essential that [the Sharks inclusion of juniors] be in place for something that the kids can strive for.”

Ric Astorini (Back Row: 2nd from the right) with future Sharks first graders. Photo taken by: Jack Brady

Among all this it is now up to the Sharks to rekindle the area’s support towards senior rugby league and attempt to unite Port Stephens fragmented rugby league community that is Nelson Bay, Stockton, Raymond Terrace and Mallabula into the one entity.

President Humphreys notes that the Port Stephens Sharks longevity relies on the philosophy of incorporating and encompassing all of the shires through the Port Stephens Sharks.

While it may be a tough ask for the Port Stephens Sharks to get the whole community behind them in their first season, the area is not uncommon to success in Newcastle’s ‘Real NRL’ senior rugby league competition in the past.

In the last decade, a club from the area has reached the competitions’ grand final four times: Raymond Terrace in 2003 and the Northern Blues in three consecutive years: 2004, 2005 and 2006.

While only the 2005 Northern Blues managed to win on the day, the unbelievable support has all of those involved in the Sharks, including Ji Hill, convinced that the support for the ailing club will only grow stronger.

Hill, a lynchpin in the Northern Blues side for the best part of the last decade speaks of the Blues grand final run as the most memorable times and the best years of his footballing life.

Hill, who is now the assistant coach of the Port Stephens Sharks first grade side, describes the Blues grand final run as absolutely unreal.

“It was awesome, mate,” Hill said.

“The boys always loved playing at home especially if we got a home semi-final… the hill would always be packed full of blue shirts.”

When quizzed about whether the Sharks can ever reach these previous heights of support Hill is realistic about the matter.

“I do think it’ll happen although in saying that I think the club probably needs a more mature coaching staff to come in and of course for them to bring in some new players to come into the side and mix in with our local guys,” Hill said.

“I think that’s what it’s going to take.”

Like Hill, James McCabe managed to also play throughout the Blues grand final run in the mid-2000s. After beginning his senior rugby league tenure in the area in 1999 before being rewarded the captaincy of the Northern Blues in 2007, McCabe has forayed into unknown territory this season after becoming the Shark’s inaugural captain-coach.

While he says it has been fun, McCabe realises there’s still a whole lot of improvement to do.

“Coaching has been good, it has been difficult because we haven’t had a great start results-wise, but I’ve still enjoyed it,” McCabe said.

While 2004 may have seemed an eternity ago, McCabe still has fond memories of the three consecutive grand finals with the Northern Blues.

“While we didn’t win when we made our first grand final in 2004 it was very special because the area had never been in such a major grand final before,” McCabe said.

(L-R) James McCabe, Wayne Humphreys & Ji Hill

“I remember running out for that first grand final and the hill at the sportsground was just a sea of blue.

“It was something that I’ll never forget.”

Fast-forward eight years and the area’s rugby league landscape has completely changed. The Port Stephens Sharks are thus far the cellar dwellers of this year’s competition, and yet, McCabe isn’t fazed.

“This year was always going to be tough, everyone knew that,” McCabe said.

“I think we can turn it all around come the back end of the year; I think we’ll be better placed than where we’re at now.

“It’s a building process.”

While there have been some positive signs for the Sharks thus far the club is still floundering in the paddling pool. Nevertheless, the fundamentals of the club have been established this year allowing for the club to eventually become the aspired ‘Great Whites’’ in seasons to come.

While the club is still searching the waters for their first win, the Sharks will continue to swim in the Newcastle rugby league ocean, readying itself to attack everyone else in the competition.

In due time, the Sharks will strike.

Supporting Sarah

By Jack Brady

The past two years of hardship and pain her young family have faced seem an eternity away upon entering Sarah Litten’s home.

Mrs Litten’s youngest daughter Brooklyn is buzzing with excitement over her newly discovered pet mice found at the bottom of the family’s aviary.

Her youngest child and only son Eden meanwhile shows off his Batman costume, proudly crashing on to a mattress laid out on the lounge room floor.

It’s quickly made clear Mrs Litten, a brilliant wife and mother, is a lover and not a fighter.

But on the 25th June, 2010, she discovered she was in for an unavoidable battle for her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now in remission, Mrs Litten’s concentration has shifted to preparing other ladies in their respective “battles” against the disease as the pioneer of the Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group.

Mrs Litten was forced to rely on networks in Newcastle for the support she’s looking to introduce to female cancer sufferers in her local area.

“I helped establish [the network] here for a friend of mine. She had blood cancer and didn’t have any help at all, she didn’t have any support and that’s when I thought that Port Stephens needed a support group for all types of cancer,” Mrs Litten said.

“We are planning to help and teach people on how to help themselves. I just thought it would be nice to get everyone in the one place to learn about what is available and how  to help your body after all it’s been through.”

Born in England, Mrs Litten moved to Australia with her husband Andy back in September, 1994.

Mrs Litten first met Andy in 1986 and nervously laughed about how she met him at a nightclub because that’s “how they were so meant to meet”.

Mr Litten laughed off any suggestion of fate as he proudly recalls  “he was a bit of a douche” and joked how it wasn’t uncommon for the ladies to be chasing him.

Engaged after just six months, they married in 1991. Six years, and three kids later, they found solace in Anna Bay after moving between Ballarat, Stockton and even back to England for 18 months.

In 2007 their family was complete with the birth of Eden, the Litten clan were finally settled and living their dream life in Australia.

That was until 2010 when Mrs Litten’s fears about a bump underneath her arm was confirmed as breast cancer. The news shocked her family to their core.

“I knew I was in for the fight of my life straight away,” Mrs Litten said.

The cruel pain of her diagnosis was compounded by the fact her father Eric was dealing with incurable lung cancer.

As Mrs Litten recalled: “It was horrendous. I couldn’t even tell him about my diagnosis, Andy rang him and he just couldn’t believe it.

“I just knew I couldn’t break the news to them, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to tell Dad when he’s laying there dying from cancer himself that I have it.

“I actually contemplated not even telling them and just going through with everything because I didn’t want to make things worse.”

At this point, Mrs Litten answered every question without hesitation. Even with Eden injecting himself into the interview by amusingly repeating his mother’s answers.

The possibility of tears being shed grew when questions shifted to the death of her father but true to her character she battled through.

Eric passed away in December, 2010, while his daughter was undergoing chemotherapy.

It prevented her from travelling back to England to attend the funeral in what she said was the lowest point of her life.

“I never want to be down that low again but from that I thought I had to carry on. I could have gone two ways: fall down in a heap and never get up or get on with it and fight it, and that’s what I did,” Mrs Litten said.

Adding insult to Mrs Litten’s already difficult cancer turmoil was the fact her husband was made redundant.

Mr Litten put it into perspective however.

“Redundancy was barely anything compared to what Sarah was going through,” he said.

“In hindsight, it was probably a good thing really because it gave me time off to help her out. I never missed any of her treatments or doctor sessions.”

Mrs Litten’s chemotherapy finished up on the eve of 2011, signalling a fresh start for the family following their year from hell.

Mr Litten said it led to a lot of “positives” for his family.

“I think Sarah’s learnt a lot, all the healthy stuff she now does and all the healthy stuff the family is now all doing,” he said.

“It’s led to her doing the cancer support network group which is a great thing.”

Litten now plans on sticking it to cancer through the Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group.

The Port Stephens Women’s Cancer Support Group begun on May 15 and will run every third Tuesday of the month at Salamander Bay Natural Health Services centre.