The Triffids take out the top spot in RTRFM’s birthday countdown

In honour of RTRFM’s 45th anniversary yesterday, the community radio station revealed the results of its public vote for the 45 Greatest WA Songs, with The Triffids’ iconic Wide Open Road taking out the top spot.

It received nearly double the number of votes as the second-placed song, Leaving Home by Jebediah, marking the biggest gap between any two songs on the countdown.

The 45 Greatest WA Songs were unveiled by RTRFM’s Breakfast host Taylah Strano and Music Director Matthew Perrett in a five-hour broadcast on the station’s official birthday.

The Kill Devil Hills placed third with its 2004 single Drinking Too Much, above early favourite Elephant by world-beating Fremantle outfit Tame Impala, which placed fourth.

Homesick anthem London Still by The Waifs rounded out the Top 5, with Eskimo Joe’s From the Sea, The Panics’ Don’t Fight It, The Triffids’ Bury Me Deep In Love, The Stems’ At First Sight and Stella Donnelly’s Boys Will Be Boys completing the Top 10.

Abbe May and The Scientists were the most represented acts in the Top 45, with three placements each. Abbe May’s tunes Doomsday Clock, Karmageddon and Mammalian Locomotion made the list. While the Scientist’s songs from the late 70’s and early 80’s showed they stood up to the test of time.   

The Triffids, Jebediah, Tame Impala, Eskimo Joe, The Stems, Methyl Ethel, Little Birdy and Ammonia all scored two tracks in the countdown.

More than 17,000 votes were cast by 2,000+ individuals in advance of the special 45th anniversary broadcast, with listeners able to select from a ‘Top 250’ shortlist curated by RTRFM presenters and music industry experts. However, an additional 681 songs received write-in votes from the public, demonstrating the breadth of incredible WA music that RTRFM has platformed over the decades.

Though no songs outside of the initial Top 250 managed a spot in the final 45, the most popular ‘write-in’ artist was the late Paul McCarthy, who received numerous votes for his solo efforts as well as his work within bands The Boys and Circus. McCarthy received special tribute during the broadcast from hosts Strano and Perrett.

The newest song in the Top 45 was 2020’s tongue-in-cheek punk tune WAXIT by Dennis Cometti, while the oldest was Television Addict by The Victims from 1977—the year of RTRFM’s inception.

When the 6UWA first began broadcasting 45 years ago it was the first station on the FM dial in Western Australia, commencing operations a few months before commercial operator 96FM. The station would later become 6UVS before transforming in RTRFM in the early 1990s.

While the station today is known for it’s dedicated support of local music and a wide range of different genres, it sounded very different when it first sprung to life in the late 1970s. As the radio station of the University of Western Australia the very first thing that was broadcast was a lecture, and the majority of the programming was classical music.

See the full 45 

  1. The Triffids – Wide Open Road
  2. Jebediah – Leaving Home
  3. The Kill Devil Hills – Drinking Too Much
  4. Tame Impala – Elephant
  5. The Waifs – London Still
  6. Eskimo Joe – From the Sea
  7. The Panics – Don’t Fight It
  8. The Triffids – Bury Me Deep in Love
  9. The Stems – At First Sight
  10. Stella Donnelly – Boys Will Be Boys
  11. The Victims – Television Addict
  12. Jebediah – Harpoon
  13. Tame Impala – Half Full Glass of Wine
  14. The Sleepy Jackson – Good Dancers
  15. Methyl Ethel – Twilight Driving
  16. Eurogliders – Heaven (Must Be There)
  17. Little Birdy – Beautiful To Me
  18. Ammonia – Drugs
  19. The Scientists – Swampland
  20. San Cisco – Awkward
  21. Abbe May – Karmageddon
  22. Methyl Ethel – Ubu
  23. Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs – Just A Suburban Boy
  24. Pendulum – Tarantula
  25. The Scientists – Frantic Romantic
  26. Dennis Cometti – WAXIT
  27. Ammonia – You’re Not the Only One Who Feels This Way
  28. Little Birdy – Relapse
  29. Abbe May – Mammalian Locomotion
  30. Peter Bibby – Medicine
  31. The Scientists – We Had Love
  32. The Stems – Tears Me In Two
  33. Gyroscope – Safe Forever
  34. Turnstyle – Spray Water on the Stereo
  35. The Pigram Brothers – Going Back Home
  36. Abbe May – Doomsday Clock
  37. Jack Davies and The Bush Chooks – Vegemite Sandwich
  38. Eskimo Joe – Planet Earth
  39. Verge Collection – Our Place
  40. Pond – Paint Me Silver
  41. Cinema Prague – Say It’s the Day
  42. The Rosemary Beads – Breath
  43. End of Fashion – Rough Diamonds
  44. Spacey Jane – Feeding the Family
  45. Effigy – Lovers

The story of The Triffids ‘Wide Open Road’

At first listen Wide Open Road sounds like it’s about the vast open spaces of Western Australia and possibly the long straight highways across the Nullarbor that the band would have traversed many times to play gigs on the east coast, but the lyrics by the late David McComb are also about the pain and uncertainty at the end of a relationship.

McComb wrote the song in Melbourne. In interviews McComb said he woke up one morning and the song came to him quite quickly, and it reminded him of a stretch of road between Caiguna and Norseman where the band’s touring van had collided with a kangaroo.

The track was recorded in London in August 1985 for inclusion on the band’s iconic Born Sandy Devotional album which was released the following year.

It was the band’s second album following their 1983 release Treeless Plain. The band had built up a dedicated following through the release of many shorter EPs and a series of cassette tape releases. Over the years Wide Open Road has been covered by Weddings Parties Anything, The Church and The Panics.

Born Sandy Devotional was just one of two albums the prolific band put out in 1986, later in the year they released the lo-fi In The Pines which was recorded on an 8-track recorder in a shearing shed of a remote farming property owned by the McComb family.

The following year they released Calenture, which contained Bury Me Deep in Love the second of their songs to make the RTRFM countdown yesterday. The Triffids final album The Black Swan came out in 1989.

After the band broke up in 1989 David McComb continued on with side project The Black Eyed Susans and released music as a solo artist.

In the early 1990’s McComb’s heath deteriorated, substance abuse lead to him requiring a heart transplant in 1996. Following a car accident in 1999 he was admitted to Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital. He died at home three days later on 2nd February 1999, a few days before his 37th birthday.

In 2000 the coroner reported that his physical and mental health had deteriorated following his car accident, but his death was due to heroin toxicity and a mild acutre rejection of his heart transplant.

OIP Staff


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