Dedicated to the loving memory of Billy Thorp, Graeme "Shirley" Strachan, and Bon Scott
1970 to 1975 was a fertile period in Australian Rock with veteran rockers and new performers joining in new formations to develop a more mature, progressive and distinctively Australian rock style. Some acts were successful within Australia and others with considerable international success. Australian music is often distinguished from the rock styles of other nations by its focus on melody and complex rhythms usually accompanied with humorous lyrics which were dry and often self-deprecating.
Skyhooks were the first to write songs in Australia, by Australians, about Australia, and make money doing it. The Melbourne band formed in 1973 and considered themselves counter to glam rock. Skyhooks were ostensibly pre-punk rockers that reveled in camp costumes, lyrics, and on-stage activities that would shock. More importantly lyrist, Greg Macainsh wrote commercial songs about contemporary young Australians. Their first album, Living in the Seventies, rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for so long it became the best selling Australian album up until that time.
This was despite seven of the ten album tracks being banned by Australian commercial radio. Compare the glam rock of Skyhooks to UKs Sweet.
Until 1975, all commercial pop radio in Australia was broadcast on the AM band, in mono. Unless pop songs were three minutes long and contained no contentious or suggestive lyrics then they were just ignored and that meant many talented acts went unnoticed. The most commercially successful new wave band was Sydney’s Sherbet (a.k.a. The Sherbs and Highway) who formed in 1969.
They were the first Australian band to reach $1M in record sales and scored a couple of Australian number ones. They started as a soul band doing Motown covers before Daryl Braithwaite joined them in 1970. After they won Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds in 1971 and a few lineup changes, Sherbet became an upfront pop band who wrote many of their hits and toured Australia often to the remotest regions. They had one international hit “Hozat” in 1976 but in 1975 their first Australian was ‘Summer love’ when they were an Australian teen sensation.
Meanwhile elsewhere the world had gone mad for five lads dressed in plaid. By the seventies national popularity was encouraged through of a variety of means. The traditional dance hall and disco were dead and much more reliance was placed upon the media to convey popular music. Changes to broadcasting meant the introduction of Double Jay to FM radio. The Go-set magazine had been introduced in 1966 as the first Australian Rock Magazine. Founded in Melbourne by a couple of university students and aimed at a teenage audience and was soon distributed to other states. A popular feature was a center page spread called The Scene which featured a ‘what’s on,’ this became compulsive reading for acts and their fans alike.
Ian Molly Meldrum wrote a weekly column for Go-Set until its demise in 1974. The introduction of colour television and Countdown had a phenomenal effect, gaining a huge audience which soon exerted a strong influence on radio programmers, because it was broadcast nationwide on Australia's government-owned broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Countdown was certainly influential in the rise of many Australian acts including Little River Band.
Little River Band was formed in 1975 in Melbourne, Australia. The first formation of the band included Glenn Shorrock, lead vocals, Beeb Birtles, guitar and vocals, Graeham Goble, guitar and vocals, Derek Pellicci, drums, Roger McLachlan, bass, Rick Formosa, lead guitar. The band were made up of set consummate musicians with a definite soul background and started to produce some funky music. By comparison the Average White Band was Scottish and came out with similar music to Little River Band both could easily have been mistaken for USA bands. Make up your own mind as we play Little River Band, Average White Band with Steely Dan.
The Sunbury music festival which started in 1972 gave rise to a newer generation of tough, uncompromising, adult-oriented rock bands which was continued in the popular in the pub circuit, which followed in the latter part of the decade. Festivals meant big sound bands could get rocking and there was no bigger band than ACDC.
They were formed in 1973 by guitarist, Malcolm Young (Velvet Underground) after his band collapsed. He joined forces with his younger brother Angus (lead guitarist), and Dave Evans (singer), and they played around Sydney. They recorded “Can I sit next to you” which was produced by Harry Vanda (Easybeats) and older brother George Young (Easybeats) but it failed to raise much interest.
Phil Rudd (Coloured Balls) and Mark Evans (bass) joined the group when they moved to Melbourne. Bon Scott (Fraternity and The Valentines) was the drummer and driver and had much more experience in the business than the rest of the lads. When Dave took stage fright, Bon stepped in as lead singer, and when Dave left the band in 1977, Cliff Williams took his place. Bon Scott eventually took over and they were on their way to the top.
One sure influence on Bon in particular was a fellow Scot by the name of Alex Harvey. Alex had been around since the 50s and was a well respected performer, known for his rock/blues background. He started in the skiffle craze moved through the rock’n’roll era and worked the German Clubs and Beer Kellers before ending up as a musician in Hair. He loved mixing theatre (usually Music Hall) with rock and had a distinctive stage presence which included manic look, tight jeans and stripped jumper. So whether Alex and Bon were clones or one influenced the other we will never know. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) scored a couple of hits in the UK "Delilah" (1975), a re-make of the Tom Jones hit, and also with "The Boston Tea Party"(1976). They broke up in 1977.
Worth a listen:
Highway to Hell AC/DC (1975)
Average White Band
Pick up the pieces (1975)
Bay City Rollers
Bye Bye Baby (1975)
Little River Band
Curiosity killed the cat (1975)
Summer Love (1975)
All My Friends Are Getting Married (1975)
Bad Sneakers (1975)
Fox on the run (1975)