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Named after former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam, The Whitlams became one of Australia's more successful alternative acts of the late 1990s with their piano-driven pop.
Forming in Sydney, Australia in 1991, The Whitlams was originally a side project for local musicians Stevie Plunder (born Anthony Hayes in 1963) and Tim Freedman (b 1964), who had also worked with, among others, The Hummingbirds and The Sunnyboys.
Going through a number of lineup changes throughout the 1990s, it was Plunder and Freedman who were the mainstays of the group. The Whitlams built considerable local support with their live shows, but their first two albums, 1993's Introducing The Whitlams and 1995's Undeniably The Whitlams, failed to earn the band more than a cult following.
In January 1996, Plunder died after falling over a cliff in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. The future of the band was put in doubt after this, although when a track from Undeniably The Whitlams, "I Make Hamburgers", began to receive significant airplay, Freedman decided to continue with the group.
In late 1997, The Whitlams returned with Eternal Nightcap, an album dedicated to Plunder. Although there were numerous musicians who contributed to the album, the core lineup of the band had become Freedman; vocals and piano, Bill Heckenburg; drums, and Cottco Lovett; bass. Eternal Nightcap became a surprise success for the band, riding mostly on the single "No Aphrodisiac", a melancholy, piano-driven song about long-distance relationships. Another single from the album, "You Sound Like Louis Burdett", also received significant airplay on Australian radio.
In 1998, The Whitlams received three ARIA awards (the Australian equivalent of a Grammy), including best independent release for Eternal Nightcap.