Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Easybeats







Members :
Stevie Wright (vocals) (1964-1969, 1986)


George Young (guitar) (1964-1969, 1986)



Harry Vanda (guitar) (1964-1969, 1986)


Dick Diamonde (bass) (1964-1969, 1986)




Gordon "Snowy" Fleet (drums) (1964-1967, 1986)


Tony Cahill (drums) (1967-1969)



The Easybeats occupy a unique place in the pantheon of 1960s British rock acts. For starters, they were Australian, except that they really weren't -- they met in Sydney alright, and being based in Australia with the talent they had gave them a leg-up over any of the local competition. But lead singer Stevie Wright originally came from England (although he'd been in Australia for some years), and bassist Dick Diamonde hailed from the Netherlands, as did guitarist Harry Vanda, while the others, guitarists George Young and drummer Gordon "Snowy" Fleet, were recent arrivals from Scotland and England -- most significantly, Fleet was Liverpool born and raised, and had been a member of the Mojos, one of that city's more promising bands of 1963 and 1964. They all had talent, but he had a sense of style and an idea of what worked in rock & roll; it was Snowy Fleet who came up with the name "The Easybeats," and the sharp image for the early group, which made them a piece of authentic Brit-beat right in the heart of Sydney, 13,000 miles from Liverpool and as precious there as water on a desert.
After honing their sound and building a name locally around Sydney in late 1964, the group was signed to Albert Productions who, in turn, licensed their releases to Australian EMI's Parlophone label. Ted Albert, their producer, seemed to recognize what he had in a group of talented, newly-transplanted Englishmen and Europeans -- the real article, and a rare musical commodity in Australia. The band was signed up with 20 original songs already written, and as they sounded fresh, he simply let the band cut them, merely making sure the music came out right on vinyl. Working from originals primarily written by Stevie Wright, by himself or in collaboration with George Young, the group's early records (especially the albums) were highly derivative of the Liverpool sound, which was fine by all concerned. What made it special was the sheer energy that the quintet brought to the equation -- they were highly animated in the studio and on stage, they looked cool and rebellious, and they sang and played superbly.

"For My Woman," their debut single, issued in March of 1965, was an ominous garage punk bolero, featuring Stevie Wright in an agonized lament, accompanied by brittle, bluesy rhythm and lead guitar parts that called to mind the early Kinks. "She's So Fine," their second single, brought out two months later, shot to number one in Australia and was one of the great records of its era -- musically, it flew out of the gate like a rocket, a frantic, hook-laden celebration of female pulchritude from the point of view of an unrequited male admirer that grabbed the listener and wouldn't let go, across two minutes of raw excitement. Their debut album Easy, issued the following September, was a bit more influenced by the Hollies (and especially by Tony Hicks' playing) and, to a lesser degree, the Beatles and any number of lesser known Merseybeat acts, but whatever it lacked in originality, they made up for with an attack on their instruments that, coupled with Wright's searing, powerful lead vocals, made them one of the best British rock & roll acts of the period and Easy one of the best of all British Invasion albums (though it took more than 30 years for it to be released officially outside of Australia).

In Australia, they were the reigning kings of rock & roll from the summer of 1965 onward, assembling a string of eight Top Ten chart hits in a year and a half, including an EP that managed the unusual feat of making the singles chart. Their second album, It's 2 Easy, was a match for their first, a genuinely exciting collection of British Invasion-style rock & roll whose only fault -- assuming that this was a fault -- was that it seemed a year out-of-date in style when it was released in 1966. That, however, pointed to the fundamental bind that the band faced; they'd conquered Australia and could do no wrong by keeping their sound the same, as the changes taking place in rock music filtered only very slowly across the Pacific. By George Young's own account, the band could have gone on writing and playing the same kind of songs for years in Australia and nobody would have minded, but he had ideas for more complex and daring music. By mid-1966, the Wright/Young songwriting team had become history, but in its place Vanda and Young began writing songs together. Additionally, the group had become so successful, that it was inevitable that they'd try to expand their audience, and that didn't mean side trips to New Zealand. In the fall of 1966, The Easybeats were ready to make the jump that no Australian rock & roll act had yet done successfully, and headed for England.
In November of 1966, with legendary producer Shel Talmy (of Who and Kinks fame) managing their recordings, the group scored its first U.K. hit with "Friday on My Mind." A product of Vanda and Young's songwriting, the song embodied all of the fierce kinetic energy of their Australian hits but was written at a new level of sophistication, with an amazing number of musical "events" taking place in its three minutes: An opening two-note staccato figure (backed by a cymbal crash) blooms into a pseudo-Arabesque quotation on the guitar, rising higher while the singer intones a frantic tale of work, fun, and escape, covering the days of the work week (in a manner vaguely reminiscent of "Rock Around the Clock"'s trip around an idealized 24 hours in a teenager's life, and also declaring working class defiance in the manner of "Summertime Blues"); a chorus chimed in at an even higher register, notching up the tension even as the tempo quickens and also broadening the tonal palette, in a manner akin to the early psychedelia of the period. With all of that activity and excitement within the context of a three-minute pop song, and two catchy hooks, it was impossible to get tired of "Friday on My Mind," in any language. It rose to the Top Ten not only in England but across Europe and much of the rest of the world, and reached the Top 20 in the United States as well where, for the first time, Americans became aware of The Easybeats.
The group spent seven months in England, writing new, more ambitious songs and also performing before new audiences, most notably in Germany, where they were greeted with an enthusiasm rivaling their appearances in Australia, and left behind a notable series of live television appearances. The band's return to Australia in May of 1967 for a national tour marked the high point of their history. Unfortunately, it would be the last unbridled success that they would know -- the group moved their base of operations to London, where the Vanda/Young songwriting team began composing ever more complex songs, in keeping with the flourishing psychedelic era. Some of the songs were superb, but the same charmed existence that the group had led up to that point seemed to desert them in 1967-1968 -- their single "Heaven and Hell" was banned from the radio in England for one suggestive line, and a six-month lag for a follow-up cost them momentum that they never reclaimed. Additionally, they lost some cohesiveness in their sound as the members began indulging in the chemical and other diversions at hand in still swinging London -- they worked in the studio, making some extremely complex recordings during late 1967 and early 1968, and the songs, including "Falling Off the Edge of the World" and "Come in You'll Get Pneumonia," were as good as anything being written in rock at the time. The Easybeats, however, were no longer as exciting a group to listen to or see, when they actually did perform. By mid-1969, the band had receded to a mere shadow of itself, and their music had regressed to a form of good-time singalong music, similar to the work of the Tremeloes, pleasant enough but nothing like the kind of work they'd been generation just two years before. Their final grasp at international success came with the single "St. Louis," which managed to scrape the very bottom of the American Hot 100.

The band decided to call it quits following a return to Australia for one final tour, after which Harry Vanda and George Young became full-time songwriter/producers, helped organize AC/DC (featuring Young's siblings Angus Young and Malcolm Young), and generated the 1973 hit "Evie" for Stevie Wright. Their string of successes has stretched into the new century -- "Friday on My Mind" remains in print in dozens of editions throughout the world, as recorded by The Easybeats and others; and in 2001, their late '70s disco hit "Love Is in the Air" (primarily associated with John Paul Young), was licensed for use in two different commercials for two separate products (a car and a credit card) running simultaneously on American television. Meanwhile, The Easybeats' complete output has been issued on CD through the Repertoire label (making their 1965-1966 Australian sides widely available around the world for the first time), and anthologies of their work are in print in England and America. Such was the demand for their music in the late 1990s, that Australia's Raven Records has also issued Live, Studio and Stage, the first full-length collection of live recordings by the group, assembled from across their history.



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The Easybeats - Easy 1965

Their first album, not available outside Australia until the 1990s. The Vanda/Young songwriting partnership had yet to dominate the band in their early days, and most of the (entirely original) material here comes from the pens of George Young and singer Stevie Wright. It's more Merseybeatish and less oriented toward power-pop and staccato guitar attacks than their subsequent releases, which isn't really detrimental; it doesn't scale the peaks the band would shortly climb, but neither does it have the overdone good-time mania that made some of their efforts hard to take in more than limited doses. A fairly consistent, if not incredibly remarkable, relic from the Beat era, with some very Beatlesque tracks, including "It's So Easy," "I Wonder" (on which Harry Vanda sounds a lot like a young George Harrison circa "Do You Want to Know a Secret"), and cuts that could pass for the Searchers ("I'm Gonna Tell Everybody"), Gerry & the Pacemakers ("Hey Girl," "A Letter"), the Merseybeats ("Cry Cry Cry"), the Kinks ("You'll Come Back Again"), and Peter & Gordon ("Girl on My Mind"). Stuck in the middle of all of those delightfully derivative treasures is the most defiantly original track off the album, and (not coincidentally) their first big Australian hit, "She's So Fine," which doesn't sound like anything else here, pulsing with energy, a hot pumping bass part, and a ferocious guitar break. The Repertoire Records CD reissue enhances the original album significantly with the addition of eight bonus tracks, including five jewels from the Vanda/Young songwriting team.




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The Easybeats - It's 2 Easy 1966


The Easybeats' second album was an Australia-only release that only got out elsewhere 27 years later. It was vaguely similar in spots to the band's first -- many of the songs, particularly the hits "Women" and "Sad and Lonely and Blue," were heavily influenced by 1964-vintage Merseybeat groups. Those songs are somewhat deceptive, however, for the group was stretching out stylistically on much of It's 2 Easy. Sharing space with bright, heavily harmonized numbers like "Let Me Be" and "You Are the Light" is a string of songs integrating elements of blues, folk, and even a certain novelty feel, similar to the work of the Kinks. "Come and See Her" and "I'll Find Somebody to Take Your Place" abandon those Beatlesesque melodies in favor of dissonances and a punk attitude. Featuring some gloriously crisp and slashing lead guitar over pleasantly crunchy rhythm playing, "Easy as Can Be" is a catchy, loud, fiercely posturing declaration of lust that could almost pass for a piece of American garage rock.

Most of this album is a respectable piece of mainstream rock & roll, inspired and full of surprises. With the addition of 11 more songs, the original LP has been expanded to 25 tracks and 62 minutes' running time. The added tunes are an uneven lot, derived from various singles, B-sides, and other sources. Some of it is rather lugubrious, but none of it detracts from the value of the original album, which remains one of the best bodies of music in the late British invasion style ever produced.




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The Easybeats - Volume 3 1966

1966's Volume 3 was the last album the Easybeats recorded in Australia before heading to England in hopes of conquering the pop world; by this time they were firmly established as Australia's most popular group, and while Volume 3 doesn't quite sound like a band going through the motions, it also suggests they'd accomplished as much as they were likely to with producer Ted Albert and the songwriting team of Little Stevie Wright and George Young. (Significantly, Harry Vanda would come into the forefront as Young's songwriting partner on their next album, Friday on My Mind). But if Volume 3 doesn't capture the Easybeats at their very best, it hardly disappoints; opening with the tough, R&B flavored "Sorry," the album moves through expressive love songs ("Say You Want Me" and "Dance of the Lovers"), tough rockers ("You Said That" and "Not in Love with You"), Beatles-styled smart pop ("Promised Things" and "The Last Day of May") and hard-stomping dance tunes ("My My My") with confidence and aplomb over the course of its 13 tracks. Stevie Wright demonstrates his chops as one of the strongest and most versatile vocalists of the British Invasion era, and guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young cut through these songs with an aggressive strength that put most of their peers to shame. One could argue that Volume 3 is the Easybeats' relative equivalent to Beatles for Sale -- a few notches below their usual standards, but still great rock roll for anyone with a passion for the pre-psychedelic era. [Repertoire's 2006 reissue of Volume 3 adds an impressive eleven bonus tracks to the package. Five come from the Easybeats' first recording session and find them in stiff but engaging form, while most of the rest are odds and ends from their later session with Shel Talmy; "Do You Have a Soul" is outstanding, but the latter-day studio construction "The Easybeats Medley" is best avoided by anyone who cares about this group, or music in general.]



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The Easybeats - Friday on My Mind 1967

Friday on My Mind, produced by Shel Talmy and recorded in England, captures the Easybeats at just about their peak, combining all of the best elements in the evolution of their sound under one cover. The Easybeats were still one of the most energetic outfits in rock music, with a raw, highly animated guitar attack, but they were trying (and largely succeeding with) ever more complex vocal harmony parts and some staccato guitar harmony as well that was pretty impressive, and at this stage they were working with a brace of gorgeous Harry Vanda/George Young originals. The ubiquitous title track is in excellent company, surrounded by an array of mid- to late-60's British rock treasures: a killer garage punk rendition of "River Deep, Mountain High," with a superb performance by Stevie Wright and what sounds almost like a sitar buried somewhere in the midst of the crisp electric guitars; "Do You Have a Soul," with its abrupt tempo changes, cascading choruses, chiming guitars, and hooks that seem to flow into each other effortless; "Saturday Night," with more sitar-like sounds beneath the radiant choruses and rhythm guitar hooks; the dramatic, angst-ridden "You Me, We Love," on which Vanda's guitar playing becomes as intense as Wright's wrenching vocal performance; "Pretty Girl," with its crunchy rhythm guitar sound and catchy lyric hooks and choruses; and "Made My Bed Gonna Lie in It," a punk anthem nearly as catchy and well-played as "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." Not everything on this album is as successful as these cuts, but it is all good listening, even the eerie, original album finale, "See Line Woman." In fact, only the rendition of Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog" may be out of place, and even it works as a change of pace. The label of "Australia's Beatles" may have proved an overstatement to some, but one can get a good look at its basis on this album -- it's loaded with actual and potential hit singles, yet it doesn't come off as lightweight in any way.



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Best of The Easybeats + Pretty Girl 1967



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The Easybeats - Vigil 1968

Exactly what happened to the Easybeats between Friday on My Mind in 1967 and this release later in 1968 is something of a mystery. Vigil is as disjointed and lifeless for long stretches as Friday on My Mind was inspired, the group falling into routine pop/rock. There's a real sense of simply going through the motions of making music, and no originality to speak of on most of the songs -- two of the exceptions, "Falling Off the Edge of the World" and "Land of Make Believe," sound like leftovers from Friday on My Mind, which is a welcome relief, but don't justify the purchase of this album, except by the most hardcore fans. The third, "I Can't Stand It," is a solid straight-ahead rocker that could have come off of one of the group's first two Australian albums, except that they would have done it with a quicker tempo in those days; and "Good Times" is a pleasant throwback to the same era, and livelier than anything else on this album.


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The Easybeats - Falling off the Edge of The World 1968




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 The Easybeats - Best of The Easybeats - Volume 2 1969



SIDE ONE:

1. Peculiar Hole In The Sky
2. H.P. Man
3. My Old Man's Is A Groovy Old Man
4. Such A Lovely Day
5. Good Times
6. Down To The Last 500

SIDE TWO:

1. Hello How Are You
2. Heaven And Hell
3. Come In You'll Get Pneumonia
4. Lay Me Down And Die
5. Do You Have A Soul? 

First released the Album Best Of The Easybeats Volume 2 in October 1969.

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The Easybeats - Friends 1969

Originally released in 1969, Friends, The Easybeats' last album, was a curiously half-baked and deflated affair, despite some interesting moments. The Australian group's trademark peppiness gave way to a world-weary tone, perhaps as a result of their roller-coaster ride through near-Beatles-like fame in their native land and limited success elsewhere. Apparently much of this collection was actually half-finished demos, which accounts for the fairly sparse feel on several tracks. The least successful songs are the forced rock & roll boogies, with overwrought vocals from lead singer Stevie Wright. The more pensive tracks, like the title tune, have an oddly compelling, hollow feel of resignation bordering on gloom that starkly contrasts with their more well-known mid-'60s material. The Harry Vanda/George Young songwriting team wrote all of the album's songs, including the group's final single, "St. Louis."




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The Raven EP LP Easybeats -Vol. 2 (1965-69)




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The Easybeats ‎– Let's Dance With The Easybeats 1972



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The Easybeats - The Shame Just Drained 1977



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Definitive Anthology 1996

This two-CD, 56-song anthology is an excellent value even at an import price. It contains all their Australian hits, lots of album tracks, and some rarities that don't show up very often, like the 1965 B-side "The Old Oak Tree." It may be too lengthy an introduction or overview for some, though; some of their LP tracks weren't memorable, and one gets the feeling that some of the rarities and cover versions were put on here because they were rare, not because of their musical quality. In addition, all of the Easybeat rarities you could want have been placed on Repertoire's reissues of individual Easybeats albums as bonus tracks. The 48-page booklet does have interview material with Harry Vanda, including comments on each song in the set.

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 Singles A's & B'S 2005

There are some great songs here, starting with the early singles "For My Woman" and "She's So Fine," the classic "Friday on My Mind," and later, slightly more experimental tracks like "Heaven and Hell" and "Come In, You'll Get Pneumonia," but there is also a lot of stuff that unfortunately now sounds a bit dated and ordinary. Casual listeners may want to try one of the various single-disc best-of sets on the market instead, and truthfully, Repertoire's own double-disc, 56-track Definitive Collection from 1996 does a much better job of presenting the group's history in depth.



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The Easybeats - Absolute Anthology (1965 -1969)1986




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EP's




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Enjoy please, at its discretion

2 comments:

  1. Excellent. Many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the Easybeats share. Vigil a hard to come by album

    The Easybeats were such a force in the 60's so many songs on the radio

    Great share

    Regards

    ReplyDelete

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