Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

22 March 2012

A Little Rock n Roll History

Two things got me thinking about the music of the 1960s: the recent death of Davy Jones of the Monkees; and a conversation with my brother Bill when I was up in New York a couple of months ago. So I punched up YouTube and started noodling. I’ll tell ya, YouTube can be addicting, especially if you like watching music videos as much as I do. There's a treasure trove!

Okay, look at this guy…

Cute kid, no? You probably don't recognize him; cute kids were a dime a dozen in rock bands back in the '60s. But this one's name is Stevie Wright and he was the lead singer of a band called The Easybeats. He could have - and should have been the Justin Bieber of his day. The Easybeats were pretty popular overseas (Australia, where they were from, and the UK), but as fate would have it they had only one big hit here in the States in 1966. It was an incredible anthem called, “Friday On My Mind.” Wright was seventeen. Below is a video in which they’re performing the song live. It's 2:45 of musical heaven.

It’s an awesome pop song, and it’s nice to see how accurately they reproduced the way it sounded on the record. What’s surprising about the video is the young Stevie’s manic dancing; he was getting down! And yet he still managed to belt out the song without the benefit of lip-synching or employing the dreaded AutoTune. It's fun watching him - he's clearly having fun despite having performed the song perhaps a bazillion times by then.

Had they stayed together, The Easybeats could have been huge. But they broke up in 1969. Stevie Wright went solo. Unfortunately, by 1973 he was giving in to the allure of drugs and alcohol, which probably short-stopped his career. By 1976 he was in rehab. In an effort to get clean, he hooked up with a quack who may or may not have been a psychiatrist by the name of Dr.
Harry Bailey who used a controversial combination of deliberately-induced comas and electroshock therapy to help his patients. Often this “treatment” did more harm than good, and Stevie (among others) suffered permanent brain damage from it. Some died. While being investigated about the deaths of 85 of his patients, "Dr." Bailey committed suicide.

Fortunately, Stevie Wright is still with us...damaged. It is sad to see what has become of him. The best we can say is, "At least he's alive..."

Also in the Easybeats were two guys who would go on to become extremely noteworthy behind the scenes in the music industry: Harry Vanda and George Young. Young was from a musical family. His two younger brothers, Malcolm and Angus were in a band that in 1973 became AC/DC, which you've heard of, I'm sure. Vanda and Young have produced many of their records.

Vanda and Young were not only producers but also recording artists in their own right. In the late 1970s they formed a group called Flash and the Pan. They weren't what you'd call insanely popular here in the U.S., but in 1977 they did have one fairly big hit called, "Hey, St. Peter." I present it to you below. But I warn you! It is perhaps even cheesier than the Survivor/"Eye Of The Tiger" video I so gleefully made fun of a couple of posts ago.

The fun thing to watch for in this almost-unwatchable video is, just past the middle where George Young dresses up in a schoolboy uniform. He is spoofing his younger brother, Angus, who has forever appeared onstage with AC/DC in a similar getup. Enjoy! ...Or not.

Ouch! Well that was awful. In spite of the horrible video, "Hey, St. Peter" is a wonderful song. Vanda and Young have put out some great music in the '70s and '80s. Unbelievably, AC/DC is still around and reportedly working on a new album. As for The Easybeats...well...it's still fun to go back and listen to their big hit, because as sentiments go that one is as relevant as it is timeless.

Monday, I'll have Friday on my mind..


Mike Morris said...

Thanks for the sharing the videos. They were interesting. You have to watch out on Youtube. It can become a black hole if you aren't careful. I like watching the AC/DC videos. Angus goes crazy on stage and makes for a good performance. Dr. Harry Bailey sounds as bad as psychiatrist Dr. Freeman who performed frontal lobotomies (with an ice pick)as the operation of choice for mental disorders.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Yeah, that Freeman sure was a monster. Interesting that we get the word "lobotomy" from him. But me, as has been famously said, I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

...Which is what I feel like I've had after a night of watching successive YouTube videos. You're right, Mike, it's a black hole. I click on one video and the next thing I know it's four a.m. and I'm thinking, "Gee I really only need two hours of sleep anyways."

P.S. Saw AC/DC in New Orleans back in the 1990s. One of the most awesome concerts I've ever attended.