The Easybeats

The members of The Easybeats first met as they were being accommodated in a hostel for migrants, at Villawood, a western suburb of Sydney.

Leading guitarist, Harry Vanda (22nd of March, 1947) and bassist, Dick Diamonde (28th of December, 1947) were Dutch, while vocalist, ‘Little Stevie’ Wright (20th of December, 1948), rhythm guitarist, George Young (6th of November, 1947) and drummer, Gordon ‘Snowy’ Fleet (16th of August, 1945) were British.

George Young, a Scot, is the older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young.

The Easybeats formed in 1965 and tasted immediate success when “She’s So Fine” went to No.1 on the Australian pop charts. Before year’s end “Wedding Ring” (No.6) and “Sad And Lonely And Blue”/”Easy As Can Be” (No.9) had followed it into the Top Ten.

http://youtu.be/JqvRxmjDy_E

Nineteen Sixty-Six was even more sensational for the group, for in the first six months it had racked up three consecutive number one hits: “Women (Make You Feel Alright)”, “Come And See Her” and the 45 r.p.m. EP (extended play), “Easyfever”, which included “Too Much” and “I’ll Make You Happy (Just Like Your Mama Wants)”.

http://youtu.be/KgDM3PfPP_s

Understandably, The Easybeats decided that it was time to spread its wings and the band was soon en route to England. Meanwhile, “Sorry” reached No.4 on the Australian charts.

It did not take long for The Easybeats to realise that it had gone from being a big fish in a small ocean to being a small fish in a big one. Nonetheless, Harry Vanda and George Young managed to pen “Friday On My Mind”, which symbolised the thoughts of many teenagers in the rebellious ‘Swinging Sixties’.

Recorded in London, the single occupied six weeks at No.1 back in Australia, and entered the British charts, peaking at No.6. It even received airplay across the Atlantic, where its zenith was to be No.16.

However, the excesses that could become available to those who achieved success were starting to take their toll on at least one of the group’s members. Homesickness for Australia, and the fame that that country had represented, also became a factor in the unease that had developed within the group, and it was eventually decided that the five should return.

Even there, things were not as they had been and the best result the group achieved, during its remaining three years as an entity, was that of taking the double A-sided compositions of Vanda and Young, “Heaven And Hell”/”Pretty Girl”, to a height of of No.11, in mid-1967.

Harry Vanda and George Young formed their own group, Band Of Hope, and, in 1972, Marcus-Hook Roll Band. Neither was noticeably successful, however, the pair was to become notable as producers of records. In 1974 and 1975 they produced the first two albums by AC/DC: ‘High Voltage’ and ‘TNT’.

They formed and wrote for another Australian group, Flash And The Pan. It experienced two hits in Australia, “Hey St. Peter” (No.2, in 1977) and “Down Among The Dead Men” (No.8, in 1978). Then, quite out of the blue, the band found success in the United Kingdom, when, in 1983, “Waiting For A Train”, reached No. 7.

http://youtu.be/tz48dyXTFpQ

http://youtu.be/bKMAaiJWvTw

In 1974, Vanda and Young resurrected Stevie Wright’s recording career when, as a solo artist, he took “Evie (Part 1)” to No.1 and “Guitar Band” to No.16. In fact, the pair’s compositions were recorded by many Australian artists; with one further example being that of John Paul Young’s international hit, “Love Is In The Air”, which climbed as high as No.7, in the United States, in 1978.

http://youtu.be/f6L0D0SSmKU

You will find “She’s So Fine” on my list of favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists. I remember turning the volume on my radio up, to make the single’s introduction as loud as possible.

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Bo Diddley

Ellas Otha Bates — also known as Ellas McDaniel — was born in McComb, Mississippi, in 1926. However, he was to spend his formative years in Chicago.

Ellas became a classically trained violinist. He could also design and construct guitars. These included his trademark rectangular models. As a musician he drew inspiration from gospel, blues, rhythm and blues and whatever else took his fancy.

Popular music was in a state of turmoil in 1955, as rock and roll was erupting. Because no one really knew where the future of music lay, record companies were willing to take a chance on someone with a unique style and sound.

‘Bo Diddley’, as Ellas was now calling himself, cut the self-penned tracks, “Bo Diddley” and “I’m A Man”, in his first session at Chess Records, in March of that year and, in June this double A-sided single rose to No.1 on the rhythm and blues charts. ”

http://youtu.be/ewwe89dtEyE

Bo wrote most of the songs he recorded. He is probably more famous for the influence his music had upon artists to come, as opposed to the sales his own recordings generated. In this way his music also influenced future generations.

Musical luminaries such as Buddy Holly (“Mona” and”Bo Diddley”), The Animals (“Road Runner”), The Rolling Stones (“Mona”) and The Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix (“I’m A Man”), and The Doors (“Who Do You Love?”) are included amongst these artists. As too, is Australian Craig McLachlan and his group, Check 1-2, who also covered “Mona”, in 1990, taking it to No.3 ‘Down Under’ and No.2 in the United Kingdom, where his role in the television series, “Neighbours”, had already made him popular.

Bo suffered from a stroke, in 2007, which was followed by a heart attack. His heart failed him in June of 2008.

I regard “Who Do You Love?” to be a classic example of early rock. Therefore, I am including it in the list of my favourite recordings. This can be found in the suggested playlists.

Barry Ryan

As Barry Sapherson, Barry Ryan was born in Leeds, England, in October of 1948. His career as a singer began in partnership with his twin brother, Paul, at the age of sixteen.

In 1965, the pair was signed to record on Decca Records as the duo, Paul & Barry Ryan. Paul learned that he could not cope with the stress associated with this and, consequently, it was decided that he would write compositions for Barry to record. One such composition was the brilliantly arranged “Eloise”, released in 1968.

“Eloise”, deservedly, sold more than a million copies. However, subsequent singles could not replicate anything like its success. That is, until “Love Is Love”, released in 1969, became warmly accepted in certain European nations. This meant that it , too, sold similarly to “Eloise”.

Due to his popularity in Europe, Barry decided to record songs in German. He ceased to record in the early 1970s but made a comeback in the late 1990s, when compact discs were released of he and his brother’s original recordings.

Whether “Eloise” appeals to one or not, I believe it is yet a further example of just how the standard of popular music has sunk, to find itself wallowing in the mire of mediocrity that it is in today. I was sitting in my new dentist’s waiting room just the other day having to endure what was being fed to me by the radio station that was playing. In the end I felt compelled to exclaim to the similarly aged gentleman seated opposite, “I don’t believe the dentistry that we are about to receive could be as excruciating as listening to this!” He laughed and concurred.

Buck Owens

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr., in conjunction with his band The Buckaroos, from the late 1950s until the late 1960s took country music to a wider audience. This was, in part, due to the fact that they were based in California. Their sound was to make the town of Bakersfield famous.

http://youtu.be/BaNX55olkxw

A child of the Great Depression, poverty and smothering dust storms had forced his family out of sharecropping in Texas, and to head westwards. “Buck” sang in honky tonks, in Bakersfield, drawing upon a style of hillbilly that had once been at the root of country music.

Whereas the likes of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell had drawn inspiration for their creativity from their lives of indulgence, Buck Owens was a man of principle who set high standards of professionalism. His love of rock and roll also influenced his music and made it stand out from what was being emitted from Nashville.

Buck visited Billboard’s country music charts for thirty years from 1959, racking up twenty-one No.1 hits. Recordings that contain the same vitality as when they were released.

The death of his leading guitarist, Don Rich, as the result of a motorcycle accident, in 1974, so affected Buck that he gradually drifted into semi-retirement, just as the film, ‘Urban Cowboy’, was being popularly received and bringing country music to the fore, in 1980. In 1987 he met Dwight Yoakam, a devotee of Buck’s music, and the pair recorded Buck’s recording from 1972, “The Streets Of Bakersfield”. The duet gave Buck his first No.1 since his original recording of the song.

I was firstly introduced to the music of Buck Owens in the 1970s when what was then radio station, 2KY, in Sydney, decided to play country music for a couple of years. His only hits, in Australia, coincided with that. These were “Made In Japan”, which reached a peak of No.7, in 1972, and “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday” (No.4, in 1974); on the pop charts here.

Buck wrote or had a hand in writing many of his recordings. “Crying Time”, which he also wrote, rose as high as No.6 on Billboard’s singles pop chart, in early 1966, for Ray Charles, and No.5 on its rhythm and blues chart.

Coming from abject poverty made Buck determined to create wealth from other means than selling records. Thereby, he became a diverse and astute businessman. Buck died in March of 2006, at the age of seventy-six.

The names of more recordings by Buck Owens can be found in the suggested playlists.

Bobby Rydell

Robert Louis Ridarelli was born in Philadelphia, in April of 1942. He wanted to be an entertainer from an early age and took to playing the drums, having become a fan of Gene Krupa, a legendary drummer in the era of jazz. In fact, it was an early pioneer of jazz, orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, who first noticed his potential.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09J1iEAWcsg

Nevertheless, it was as a singer, and bearing the new name of Bobby Rydell, that ‘Robert’ was to make his mark. At a time when teenage heart-throbs were selected as much for their looks, as their ability to sing, Bobby began a long series of entries to the charts, in 1959, that was to last until the middle of the 1960s. He would appear quite regularly on Dick Clark’s televised dance show, ‘American Bandstand’, and was to make his debut in a major film when he appeared as Hugo Peabody in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, the musical which stars Ann-Margret.

Bobby’s last sizeable hit was “Forget Him”, which was written by Briton Tony Hatch. Ironically, it was the British Invasion, led by The Beatles, that was to bring an end to the recording careers of many American artists, and Bobby Rydell’s was no exception.

When the producers of the overwhelmingly popular musical, ‘Grease’, wanted to pay tribute to the era of the clean-cut teenage idol, they named the high school, in the film, after none other than Bobby Rydell.

The titles of more hits by Bobby Rydell can be located in the suggested playlists. Whilst there, why don’t you peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be adding to it from time to time.

Del Shannon

Charles Weedon Westover was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in December of 1934. In 1954, he was drafted into the army and deployed to serve in Germany. There, in his spare time, he played the guitar in a band.

Once his military service had expired he returned to Michigan, where he worked as a truck driver. In the evenings he played rhythm guitar in a group, of which, in 1958, he was to become its leader and singer, under the name of Charlie Johnson.

Recordings of this group, The Big Little Show Band, were sent to Detroit, and, in 1960, Charles was signed to a contract. Under the name of Del Shannon he was assigned not only to record, but to write songs as well.

Del’s rise was meteoric, as his single, “Runaway”, went to No.1 on Billboard’s chart in April of 1961. “Hats Off To Larry” was to perform almost as well.

His success in America waned after that, however, across the Atlantic the opposite was the case. In Britain, between 1961 and 1965, Del had eight singles enter the Top 10 on the British charts. He became the first American to cover a recording by The Beatles, “From Me To You”. The British duo, Peter and Gordon, recorded “I Go To Pieces”, a song written by Del, in 1964. Although it did not chart in America or Britain, it did in Australia.

Unfortunately, depression and alcoholism punctuated Del’s later life and in February of 1990, at the age of fifty-five, he used a rifle to suicide at his home in Santa Clarita, California.

The names of more tracks by Del Shannon can be found in the suggested playlists.

The Lovin’ Spoonful

John Sebastian was introduced to Zal Yanovsky, who was from Toronto, by ‘Mama’ Cass Elliott of The Mamas and The Papas. When the pair was joined by drummer, Joe Butler and bass guitarist, Steve Boone, The Lovin’ Spoonful was complete.

John, a native of New York City, presented the band with a number of original songs he had written. He and Zal were devotees of folk music, whereas Joe and Steve had come to the band from playing rock and roll in the bars of Long Island. Consequently, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s creation was to meld folk music with that of rock.

“Do You Believe In Magic”, which sounds as fresh today as it did then, was released in August of 1965. It was to introduce a succession of masterly singles, each considerably different to the one or ones that preceded it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GNg5nyeeD4

During its relatively brief time together, the quartet also released seven albums: ‘Do you Believe In Magic’ (1965), ‘Daydream’ (1966), ‘Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful’ (1966), ‘What’s Up Tiger Lily?’ (1966), ‘You’re A Big Boy Now’ (1967), ‘Everything Playing’ (1968) and ‘Revelation: Revolution ’69’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWXcjYNZais

As a solo artist John Sebastian’s indisputable talents were to provide us with the No.1 hit, “Welcome Back”, in 1976, the theme to the television series, ‘Welcome Back Kotter’, which heralded the rise of a young John Travolta as an actor.

The names of more singles by The Lovin’ Spoonful can be found in the suggested playlists.

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America

Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek rose to both national and international prominence as the trio, America, in 1972. This was achieved via the release of their single, “A Horse With No Name”. For much of the 1970s America’s popularity endured as hit after hit entered the charts.

Despite its name, America was actually formed in Britain, as its members were the sons of servicemen in the United States Air Force who were stationed near London. Veteran producer Ian Samwell, who had worked with Cliff Richard in the early part of his long career, secured the trio a contract to record for Warner Bros. “A Horse With No Name”, “I Need You”, “Sandman” and “Everyone I Meet Is From California” were all recorded in London.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRY361U3A5Y

The group moved to Los Angeles and produced its own album, ‘Homecoming’, which contains the single, “Ventura Highway”. In March of 1973 America won a Grammy for being the Best New Artist of 1972.

The band’s next album, ‘Hat Trick’, did not do as well as had been expected and so it was decided to turn to another producer, none other than the legendary George Martin who had worked so splendidly with The Beatles. The album, ‘Holiday’, was recorded at Sir George’s Air Studios in London, and from it came the singles, “Tin Man” and Lonely People”.

America’s second collaboration with Martin took place in Sausilito, California. The resultant album, ‘Hearts’, released in 1975, contains “Sister Golden Hair” which, when released as a single, gave the band its first No.1 hit since “A Horse With No Name”.

Dan Peek left the group, in 1977, to pursue a career as a Christian artist.

Badfinger

Badfinger firstly recorded, without notable success, under its original name, The Iveys, in the late 1960s. The Beatles signed Badfinger to its record label, Apple, and was responsible for producing some of the group’s early records. However, it was the band’s leader, Pete Ham, who wrote “No Matter What”, one of the quartet’s initial hits. Its first, “Come And Get It”, had been written by Paul McCartney. Ham also wrote the third single to enter the charts, “Day After Day”, as well as the fourth, and last prominent entry, “Baby Blue”; written for a girl he had met when the band toured the United States, in 1971.

It was Badfinger, via Pete Ham and fellow member, Tom Evans, who composed the classic, “Without You”. American singer/songwriter, Harry Nilsson, just so happened to be visiting Britain and heard the band performing it on one of its albums. Whilst the song has been, in turn, covered since, most notably, in 1993, by Mariah Carey, Nilsson’s cover remains the definitive version.

The original members of Badfinger were: Pete Ham on guitar, keyboards and vocals; Joey Molland: guitar, keyboards and vocals; Tom Evans: bass, guitar and vocals, and Mike Gibbins: drums. Peter Ham committed suicide, in 1975, at the age of twenty-seven.

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