In 1945 the Australian Government launched the rather drastically named “Populate or Perish” policy. British migrants were encouraged by an assisted passage costing only 10 of our English pounds and until the cost was increased in 1973 over 1 million people took up the offer. I have met some of these “Ten Pound Poms” & they regard it as the best decision of their lives. In 1952 this was extended to other European countries, places where white people lived but hey…another time yeah. So in the early 1960s 5 young kids, 3 Brits and 2 Dutch, met in a Sydney migrant hostel. They formed a band which brought the energy, excitement and fan hysteria of the decade’s music to Australia. These guys were a long way from civilization but they certainly got what was going on.
The Easybeats & “Easyfever” were absolutely the thing Down Under in 1965-6. When the band left for England it was big, big news. The early hits were the work of guitarist George Young and singer Stevie Wright. Young formed a new partnership with lead guitarist Harry Vanda. They brought some good songs with them to the UK, brought their old producer too. After a false start Shel Talmy replaced the producer, Shel was fresh from “My Generation” & “You Really Got Me” so obviously knew a thing or two. The first single “Friday On My Mind” was a worldwide smash. It’s a wonderful thing, a living for the weekend classic. The rough edges of the band had been smoothed a little but those lyrics, “even my old man looks good”, benefited from the simple guitar line rather than the power chords of the Who or the Kinks. Surely the Easybeats were on their way.
With a tight, fresh songwriting team and a cocky, energetic front man to sell the songs the band seemed to have the right ingredients. It just did not happen for them. The follow-up single “Who’ll Be The One” did not consolidate the success of “Friday” and the band were never quite able to find their own place in a rapidly changing music scene. They fell between two stools. They were very good at that R&B garage pop but Vanda & Young, like everybody else, had heard “Sergeant Pepper” and wanted to extend themselves.
That first clip of “Good Times” shows that they still had a contribution to make to high energy rock. Despite the lip-synch it is one of my favourite clips on the Y-tube. Those guitar chords are perfect, Steve’s enthusiasm makes me smile (Steve Marriott’s backing vocals are good too) and the knee-drop at the end makes me laugh. This single is one that got away and the LP “Vigil” swung between these lively rockers and more orchestrated psych-pop. The more experimental tracks are pretty good but you just didn’t know where you stood with the Easybeats.
Vanda and Young spent more time on their recording studio and did not want to tour. The band were in debt & had contractual problems and a third LP was largely filled with demos. In 1969 it was done. Stevie Wright went back to Australia where he had a big hit with an 11 minute epic “Evie”. Unfortunately his personal problems with addiction, a controversial and drastic treatment kept him in the spotlight. Man, I do not want to read a book titled “Sorry – The Wretched Tale of Little Stevie Wright”.
Vanda & Young had a hit as Flash & the Pan before hooking up with George Young’s little brothers, Angus & Malcolm, producing the first 6 LPs for their group AC/DC.
“Friday On My Mind” has been much covered, most notably by David Bowie on his “Pin Ups” LP, Richard Thompson and Earthquake on one of the gospels of Powerpop “Beserkley Chartbusters, Volume 1” (an essential record). “Good Times” turned up in “The Lost Boys” by Aussie song manglers INXS … a joke surely. The more I hear of the Easybeats, I always liked the singles, the more I enjoy both sides of their music. When I need a little musical pick-me-up then it’s the rocking “Good Times” that does the trick.