Thursday, October 2, 2008



Early career

Beginning their career in Sydney in late 1964, the band was inspired by the "British Invasion" spearheaded by The Beatles. They quickly rose to become one of the most popular groups in the city. They were signed to a production contract with Albert Productions, one of Australia's first independent production companies. It was established by Ted Albert, whose family owned J. Albert & Sons, one of Australia's oldest and largest music publishing companies.

Albert then signed the band to a recording contract with EMI's Parlophone label, and they began a meteoric rise to national stardom. By the end of 1965 they were the most popular and successful pop band in Australia, and their concerts and public appearances were regularly marked by intense fan hysteria which was very similar to 'Beatlemania' and which was soon dubbed 'Easyfever'. Stevie Wright's charisma and energy (including 'mod' dancing and onstage backflips) were matched with strong songwriting.

Rise to success

During 1965 and early 1966 they released a string of hit singles, all co-written by Young and Wright, including "For My Woman" (#5), "She's So Fine" (#1), "Wedding Ring" (#6), "Sad and Lonely and Blue", "Easy as Can Be", "Women (Make You Feel Alright)" (#1), "In My Book", "Come and See Her" (#1), "I'll Make You Happy" (#1), and "Sorry" (#4), and all produced by Ted Albert. In addition, the Wright-Young songwriting team wrote a number of hits for other artists, including "Step Back", which became a #1 hit for Johnny Young (no relation) in 1966.

In early 1966, while the group were still touring Australia, manager, Mike Vaughan, flew to New York to attempt to secure an American recording contract for the band. After initial lack of interest, on the last scheduled day of his visit Vaughan was able to convince the United Artists label to sign The Easybeats. Ten days of negotiations resulted in a groundbreaking five-year contract for overseas releases.

Just before relocating to London in late 1966, they recorded a farewell TV show, The Coca Cola Special, regarded as one of the prime artefacts of Sixties Australian pop TV.

London, 1966-69

After arriving in London the band recorded a number of songs with Ted Albert at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, but these were deemed unsuitable by UA and Albert was removed as producer. The band were then teamed with freelance producer Shel Talmy (noted for his work with The Who and The Kinks).

One of the tracks they recorded with him became their first big international hit, "Friday On My Mind", which made #1 in Australia, #6 in the UK, #16 in the USA, and the Top 10 in Germany, Holland, France and Italy, eventually selling over 1 million copies worldwide. In 1973 David Bowie covered the song on hisPin Ups album, and in 1977 the punk band London, introduced the song to a new generation on a four-track EP for MCA Records; the London version, produced by Simon Napier-Bell, was actually recorded in the same studio (IBC Studios in Portland Place) in which the Easybeats had cut the original.

Vanda-Young songwriting partnership

The song also marked the end of the Wright-Young partnership. "Friday" was co-written by Harry Vanda and George Young. With Dutch Vanda now having mastered English, he replaced the increasingly erratic Wright as Young's songwriting partner from this point on. They toured Europe (with The Rolling Stones) and the United States. After a triumphant homecoming tour in mid-1967, original drummer Snowy Fleet left the band, unhappy at the amount of time he had to spend away from his wife and young children. After extensive auditions in London he was replaced by Tony Cahill, formerly of the Purple Hearts, but in the interim several recordings (including "Good Times") were cut with session drummer, Glaswegian Freddie Smith (who'd played with George Young's older brother Alex Young aka George Alexander of Grapefruit fame in Bobby Patrick & The Big Six) . The group spent the remainder of their career based in London.

Two of their songs, "Bring a Little Lovin'" and "Come In, You'll Get Pneumonia", were covered by Los Bravos and Paul Revere and the Raiders, respectively. "Good Times" and "Falling Off The Edge Of The World" were minor hits in the United States. However their career stalled in the late Sixties due to poor management, problems with radio airplay (one single, "Heaven and Hell", was banned by US radio because of a mild sexual reference, and likely the title) and the lack of record company support.

A 1967 album intended as the follow-up the success of "Friday", produced by Glyn Johns, was recorded and prepared for issue but was never released because of the band's complicated financial and contractual problems. One of the songs recorded for the LP, "Good Times" was released as a single; when broadcast on BBC radio it was reputedly heard by Paul McCartneyon his car radio; McCartney apparently rang the station immediately to request a repeat playing.[citation needed] The song featured Steve Marriott of The Small Faces on backing vocals.

cover version of "Good Times" by INXS and Jimmy Barnes became a #47 hit in the US after being featured on the soundtrack of the film The Lost Boys in 1987 and a #1 in Australia as well the previous year, becoming the biggest selling single on Mushroom Records).

Decline and break-up

Through late 1968, the formerly tight-knit band began to drift apart. Drugs were a factor, but the growing independence of the Vanda-Young team as a creative unit was also a major catalyst. By this time the duo were working substantially on their own, and between them they could now play almost any instrument needed for recordings and had become skilled in engineering and producing their own recordings. They wrote prolifically, but many of their songs from this period remained unreleased for many years. They were also reluctant to do more than a few gigs per month, and so the band only came together for occasional performances or for 'demo' sessions at Central Sound studios in Denmark St.

Their last official LP Vigil was released in June 1968 in the UK and it was issued in an altered form in Australia and in the USA in October, retitled Falling off the Edge of the World.

In early 1969 Vanda and Young took over a flat in Moscow Rd, London, which had previously been used as a jingle studio for pirate radio stations. With modifications, it became a 4-track home studio and Vanda & Young began producing demos, working mostly on their own. The only official recordings they made -- which provided the songs for the last Easybeats single -- was the rocking "St Louis" (presaging their later work with AC/DC), and the B-side "Can't Find Love", recorded in April at Olympic Studios with Ray Singer, a former member of UK bandNirvana, who had made a name for himself as a producer with Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)". The single was issued in June in the UK and USA, and began to chart there during their final tour later in the year.

In August "St Louis" was released in Australia, along with a new album released on Polydor. Friends was in fact not a real Easybeats album -- the only true Easybeats tracks being "St Louis" and "Rock & Roll Boogie". The bulk of the tracks were Vanda-Young Moscow Rd recordings, intended as 'demos' for other artists. The album was also issued in the UK in October, and in the USA in November on the Rare Earth label.

In September the band undertook a short European tour and then reluctantly accepted the offer of a five-week Australian tour. The group were worn out, disillusioned, and at odds with their with management -- they reportedly viewed the tour as a last-ditch attempt to bail the group out of its mounting pool of debts. Again they were victims of bad timing, having reverted to 'no frills' hard rock, while the Australian pop scene was preoccupied with progressive rock, soul and bubblegum pop.[citation needed] The situation was further complicated by Parlophone's unwelcome release of the psychedelic 1967 song "Peculiar Hole in the Sky" as a single, presumably to cash in on the tour.[citation needed] Regardless of its merits as a song, it was released against the band's wishes, since it had been made purely as a demo for The Valentines.

In October the band made a valedictory TV appearance in the ATN-7 Easybeats Special, then gave their final Sydney performances at the Trocadero and Caesar's Disco. Once the tour was over, The Easybeats drifted apart, although there was no official announcement of the split. After a final gathering for Dick Diamonde's wedding in early 1970, they went their separate ways.

No comments: