Top Five

Top Five: Dive into Jon Toogood’s songbook

Before Jon Toogood takes over Melbourne's Geddes Lane Ballroom, he took a deep dive into his songbook and shared some little known stories about five of his favourite songs.

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With a career spanning three decades as the frontman of much-loved Kiwi rockers Shihad, as well as fronting supergroup The Adults, Jon Toogood’s songbook runs deep. 

On his latest tour, Toogood is stripping things back. With only an acoustic guitar to support him, Toogood will share secrets and stories from across his career. In preparation, we asked Toogood to take a deep dive into his songbook and share some little known, behind the scene facts with us.

Pacifier (Shihad, The General Electric, 1999)

This is a song that started out with me trying to write a bagpipe line on a guitar, failing miserably, and coming up with something completely different from anything I’d written before. Our managers at the time hated it, but I knew straight away there was something special about it so I persevered and wrote a little message to a friend of mine who was bi-polar and was going through a pretty tough time. I was basically saying to him that if he could make it through this patch then life would eventually get better again. I guess that message resonated with other people, as it went on to become one of Shihad’s biggest songs.

Think You’re So Free (Shihad, FVEY, 2014)

Every now and then you get to write something that sums up exactly how you feel about the state of the world you’re living in. This is definitely one of those tunes for me. I wrote it when the National party in New Zealand, led by ex-merchant banker John Key, had just won a third term in government. I was completely disgusted by their message or lack thereof. It was money over people, greed is good, inequalities were justified, and it just reeked of no empathy or compassion. He’s gone now and Jacinda Arden is PM, so I’m happy about that.

Run (Shihad/Pacifier, Pacifier, 2002)

One of my favourite Shihad songs of all time, written while we were called Pacifier. Confused? We certainly were. But for all it’s madness the Pacifier album, ironically enough, contains some of Shihad’s best songs on it, and Run is by far the best of them all. I played it on an acoustic guitar at my Father’s funeral as it was one of his favourites too, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. It always feels new to me every time I go to play it so there’s definitely some magic going on there.

My Mind’s Sedate (Shihad, The General Electric, 1999)

The opening track off our biggest album The General Electric which, when I first wrote it, only lasted for about a minute. Our producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers) thought it was way too good an idea to not turn into something resembling a real tune, so he helped us flesh it out until it lasted for about three minutes. It was still completely brutal, but he definitely brought out the pop aspects of what was basically a punk rock track. Glad he did. It’s such a rush to play live.

Home Again (Shihad, Shihad, 1996)

The Shihad standard tune which, at the time we first wrote the music, was just another one of our many odes to the genius of Led Zeppelin – one of my favourite rock bands. We wrote it while we were living in LA and were missing home. It definitely helped lift our spirits as it stoked as a piece of music. It took me ages to get around to writing the lyrics as I loved the instrumental so much that I didn’t want to screw it up by putting sub-par words over the top. In the end, my bandmates locked me in a room in the studio we were working at and wouldn’t let me out until I finished it. I’m claustrophobic so I had it all done within about 20 minutes.

Jon Toogood will perform Solo and Acoustic at Geddes Lane Ballroom on Saturday 30 March. Tickets are available via