Monday, October 23, 2017

The Easybeats ( Stevie Wright 1947 – 2015: and George Young 1946 - 2017)

The Easybeats formed in Sydney in late 1964. The line-up was lead singer Stevie Wright (1947 – 2015), Gordon "Snowy" Henry Fleet (drummer, former member of the Mojos) George Young (rhythm guitar), Harry Vanda (lead) and Dick Diamonde (bass). The name came from Liverpudlian Snowy Feet and the group was managed by former Sydney real estate agent, Mike Vaughan. The Beats quickly rose to become one of the most popular groups in the city and signed with EMI's Parlophone label. By chance the same label as their heroes, The Beatles. Like Lennon and McCartney, Stevie Wright and George Young wrote their own material which was refreshing changes from other Australian artists who made a career out of covering others musician’s works. The record buying public agreed and between 1965 and early 1966 they released a string of Australian hit singles all produced by Ted Albert. Their debut single was For My Woman (1965), followed by She's So Fine which gave them their first number one record in Australia.

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'. On stage Little Stevie Wright's charisma and energy (including 'mod' dancing and onstage backflips) were matched with strong song material and the sheer energy of the quintet. Their debut albums, Easy and 2 Easy contained a collection of contemporary music demonstrating heavy influences from the English Invasion and distinct, Hollies and Beatles’ influences.

The group’s manager signed the Beats to a contract with United Artists in the US which meant their songs could be heard, overseas. The group was keep to try their luck in London and relocated there in 1966. Wright & Young songwriting prowess was eagerly sought after in Australia and they wrote a number of hits for other artists, including Johnny Young’s "Step Back", which became a #1 hit.

Unfortunately their early endeavors in London were less successful and producer Ted Albert was replaced by Shel Talmy (of Who and Kinks fame). The Wright/Young songwriting team which had been so successful in Australia was now passé and Harry Vanda and George Young began writing songs together. "Friday on My Mind” was a Vanda and Young composition with lyrics instantly identifiable as a teenage anthem.

'Friday,' became an international success and provided the vehicle for the Australians to tour Europe and the US. They moved their permanent base to London and started to concentrate on a follow up. Now a studio based band they tried more and more complex music but a commercial follow up was illusive. Snowy retired from the band in 1967, just after their triumphant Australian homecoming tour. He was replaced with Tony Cahill. Their single “Heaven and Hell" was banned from the BBC for suggestive lyrics and although "Falling Off the Edge of the World" and "Come in You'll Get Pneumonia," were good the Easybeats had lost their commercial edge.

Indulgences and excesses did not improve the situation and by mid-1969, the band had receded to a mere shadow of itself. Their last chart success was a cover version of “St. Louis," which managed to scrape the very bottom of the American Hot 100.

Following a return to Australia for one final tour, the band decided to call it quits. Tony Cahill (replacement drummer) moved to America; Dick Diamonde retired from music completely. Stevie remained in Australia and established a solo career before he fell to the ravages of alcohol and drug dependency. Meantime Harry and George returned to England to work as freelance writers and producers to pay off the debts. They returned to Australia in 1973 and reunited with Ted Albert and became the house producers for his new Albert Productions record label, writing for and/or producing many chart-topping acts including Stevie Wright, Rose Tattoo, Cheetah, William Shakespeare, The Angels, and of course ACDC. Vanda and Young wrote the 1973 hit "Evie" for Stevie Wright and John Paul Young’s “Love Is in the Air, “among many others.

In 1986 the original lineup of the Easybeats including Snowy Fleet, got back together for six-week national tour and performed to sell-out houses around the country. Stevie was back in good health and even performed his famous leaps and backflips. In 2002 he appeared in Long Way To The Top tour and 2003 he was back on the road with the Hard Road Tour with Matt Taylor, Kevin Borich, Harry Brus, Max Merritt and Russell Morris. Stevie Wright passed away in December 2015 aged 68; and George Young died in 2017.

Worth a listen:
For My Woman (1965)
She's So Fine (1965)
Wedding Ring (1965)
Sad and Lonely and Blue (1965)
Women (Make You Feel Alright) (1965)
In My Book (1965)
Come and See Her (1966)
Sorry (1966)
Friday on my mind (1966)
Who’ll be the one (1967)
Heaven and Hell (1967)
Falling off the edge of the world (1967)
St Louis (1969)

Stevie Wright
Hard Road

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