Clinton Walker (born 1957) is an Australian writer, best known for his works on popular music but with a broader interest in social and cultural history and theory. Sydney's Sun-Herald has called him "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture." He is remarkable as a critic whose work has exerted a pro-active impact on Australian music and its development, with the way especially his groundbreaking books like Inner City Sound (1981/2005) and Buried Country (2000/2015) have informed and inspired successive generations of musicians.
Born in Bendigo, Victoria, Walker dropped out of art school in Brisbane in the late 70s to start a punk fanzine with the late Andrew McMillan and to write for student newspapers. In 1978 he moved to Melbourne where he worked on-air for 3RRR, and with Bruce Milne on the fanzine Pulp, and wrote for Roadrunner magazine. Moving on to Sydney, where he still lives, he commenced a career as a freelance journalist. Over the next fifteen years he wrote for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including longstanding associations with both RAM and Australian Rolling Stone; he also wrote extensively for Stiletto, The Bulletin, the Age, New Woman, Playboy, Inside Sport, the Edge and Juice.
He published his first book, Inner City Sound, in 1981. It documented the emergence of independent Australian punk/post-punk music, and became itself one of the icons of the movement. A revised and expanded edition was published in 2005, at the same time as a CD anthology with the same title.
In 1982/'83, he lived in London, where he worked at the legendary Record & Tape Exchange and served as a stringer for Bruce Milne's pioneering cassette-zine Fast Forward. Returning to Australia, by 1984 he was back on the freelance treadmill, had published his second book (The Next Thing) and got a job cleaning toilets at Pancakes on the Rocks.
Walker's third book, Highway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott (1994) was widely acclaimed and a best seller in Australia. It has since been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, and Finnish. He then published Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977-1991 (1996) and Football Life, a personal history of minor league Australian Rules culture (he was himself a promising junior player).
His sixth book, Buried Country, a history of Aboriginal country music, was published in 2000 and spawned a documentary film and soundtrack CD with the same title. It was hailed as a groundbreaking and monumental work of music historiography, and still stands as the closest thing Australia's ever produced to the efforts of a Harry Smith or Peter Guralnick. A new updated edition of the book was released in 2015 along with a rebooted version of the CD called Buried Country 1.5.
Walker has also worked at ABC Television on the documentary series, Long Way to the Top and Love is in the Air, as well as co-hosting the live music program Studio 22 and hosting the short-lived Fly-TV show for record collectors, Rare Grooves. He has contributed to many literary anthologies, from the 1995 best-seller Men-Love-Sex to the 2012 collection of journal Meanjin's 'greatest hits', and he has also produced and/or annotated a long list of CD anthologies.
In 2005, his seventh book, Golden Miles: Sex, Speed and the Australian Muscle Car, was published. Once again it was widely praised for its innovation, irreverent humour and beautiful design/presentation, and when its original publisher, Lothian, went bust, it was re-released, in 2009, by Wakefield Press, in an expanded, updated edition.
In 2012, he published History is Made at Night, a polemic on the endangered Australian live music circuit. In 2013 he published his ninth book, The Wizard of Oz, about the ill-starred Australian speed ace from the 1920s, Norman 'Wizard' Smith, as well as co-producing the CD Silver Roads, an anthology of Australian country-rock from the 1970s.
Walker has also worked as a cook, graphic artist, a DJ and a bookseller – he even did some modelling in the 80s, on fashion shoots for magazines like Stiletto and Follow Me – and he was a member of the country-grunge band the Killer Sheep, who in 1987 released the single "Wild Down Home" on Au-Go-Go Records. An outspoken, colourful character, he has himself often appeared in other works, from Peter Lawrance's teen crime novel Family Affair to walking through numerous music videos, to making a cameo in John Birmingham's book He Died with a Felafel in His Hand to getting namechecked in the Go-Betweens' song "Darlinghurst Nights".
He lives in Sydney's inner west with his wife and two children, and is currently working on a PhD at Macquarie University, serving as an honorary research fellow at the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology, and completing his tenth book – and first graphic history – on black women in Australian music, which is also anticipated to become a film and album.
- Inner City Sound (Wild & Woolley, 1981; revised and expanded edition, Verse Chorus Press, 2005)
- The Next Thing (Kangaroo Press, 1984)
- Highway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott (Pan Macmillan, 1994; revised edition, Verse Chorus Press, 2001)
- Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977-1991 (Pan Macmillan, 1996)
- Football Life (PanMacmillan, 1998)
- Buried Country (Pluto Press, 2000; revised and expanded edition Verse Chorus Press, 2015)
- Golden Miles (Lothian, 2005; expanded edition, Wakefield Press, 2009)
- History is Made at Night (Currency House, 2012)
- Wizard of Oz (Wakefield Press, 2013)
Discography (as Producer)
- Buried Country (Larrikin-Festival, 2000/Warner Music, 2015)
- Long Way to the Top (ABC, 2001)
- Studio 22 (ABC, 2002)
- Inner City Soundtrack (Laughing Outlaw, 2005)
- Silver Roads (Warner Music, 2013)
Videography (as Writer)
- Notes from Home (ABC, 1987)
- Sing it in the Music (ABC, 1989)
- Studio 22 (ABC series, as co-presenter, 1999-2003)
- Buried Country (Film Australia, 2000)
- Long Way to the Top (ABC, 2001)
- Love is in the Air (ABC, 2003)
- Rare Grooves (ABC series, as presenter, 2003)
- "A high-revving romp through time – Books – Entertainment". Sydney Morning Herald.
- "News Store". Newsstore.fairfax.com.au. 19 August 2000.
- "Australian Public Intellectual [API] Network". Api-network.com.
- "Howe-written...BURIED COUNTRY (2002)...Four Decades of Country Music Journalism". Bobhowe.com.
- from Currency House Plus 2 years ago Not Yet Rated (7 August 2012). "Clinton Walker 'HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT' on Vimeo". Vimeo.com.
- rortydog's channel (26 February 2008). "Clinton Walker interview". YouTube.