Sadly seven days after his 68th birthday and two days after Christmas day we lost Stevie Wright, one of the great Pop stars of the sixties. Mostly remembered as lead vocalist of Australian Beat group, The Easybeats and their smash hit single Friday On My Mind, Wright had a troubled life that took him from stardom to drug and alcohol addiction. Originally from Leeds in the north of England his family emigrated to Melbourne when he was nine years old. When he was nineteen he moved to Sydney and after stints as lead vocalist with The Outlaws and Chris Langdon and The Langdells he formed The Easybeats in 1964 as lead singer and lyricist with two Dutch men, Harry Vanda (aka Johannes Hendrikus Jacob van den Berg) on lead guitar and backing vocals, Dick Diamonde (aka Dingeman Adriaan Henry van der Sluijs) on bass, another English man Snowy Fleet on drums and Scot, George Young on rhythm guitar and backing vocals – The Easybeats were born.
Much success followed including eight Australian Top Ten singles between 1965 and 1967 including three No.1 singles in 1966 with the Easyfever EP, featuring I’ll Make You Happy, Sorry and Friday On My Mind (No.6 in the UK) but they broke up in 1969. Friday On My Mind written by Vanda and Young had signalled the end of the early Wright/Young songwriting partnership as Vanda had managed a better grasp of English, this developed into a prolific songwriting partnership and Vanda and Young moved to England in the early seventies. By 1973 they were back in Australia as staff writers /producers for Albert’s studios/productions in Sydney. Wright had joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar but in 1974 a reunion with Vanda and Young saw the release of Hard Road with guitar work from George Young’s younger brother and AC/DC founder Malcolm Young. (Vanda and Young went on to produce the first six AC/DC albums as well as popular Australian Rock and Roll bands Rose Tattoo and The Angels). I’ve included the whole Hard Road album here because at times its like a Pop or at least non-hard Rock AC/DC with Malcolm’s trade mark sound and rhythm feel. The title track could absolutely be an AC/DC song, it was recorded by Rod Stewart on his 1974 album Smile.
Hard Road reached No.2 in the Australian charts and the Vanda and Young penned single Evie Parts 1-3 hit the No.1 spot – at over eleven minutes long , it’s the longest song to reach No.1 anywhere in the world. Sometime after this it all went wrong for Stevie Wright as he struggled with heroin addiction, finding himself at the controversial Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney where he was given Deep Sleep Therapy and electric shock treatment under the direction of psychiatrist Dr Harry Bailey. Bailey’s methods have been held responsible for the death of 85 patients, the hospital was eventually closed down with Bailey committing suicide whilst under investigation. What effect this treatment had on Wright is difficult to gauge, but it can’t have been good.
Back flips, sparkling eyes, jerking limbs and the visible delight on Stevie Wright’s face in the sixties clips are a joy to watch. With two clips from French TV – Friday On My Mind (note George Young playing a 12 string) and one of my favourite Easybeats’ tracks, the lesser known Heaven And Hell. This clip on a Russian site doesn’t allow the video to be shown as a picture link, you just have to click on the link and it will take you there. David Bowie recorded Friday On My Mind on his 1973 covers album Pin Ups. London featuring future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, recorded Friday On My Mind on a 1977 12 inch EP, produced by Simon Napier-Bell – believe it or not I have the record in the archive.
Rest in peace Stevie Wright, condolences to friends and family.
“Hard Road” (Harry Vanda – George Young) – 3:02
“Life Gets Better” (Stevie Wright) – 3:10
“The Other Side” (Stevie Wright) – 2:32
“I Got You Good” (Stevie Wright) – 3:16
“Dancing in the Limelight” (Stevie Wright) – 2:36
“Didn’t I Take You Higher” (Harry Vanda, George Young) – 5:57
“Evie” – 11:01
Part 1 (Let Your Hair Down) (Harry Vanda, George Young)
Part 2 (Evie) (Harry Vanda, George Young)
Part 3 (I’m Losing You) (Harry Vanda, George Young)
“Movin’ On Up” (Stevie Wright) – 3:16
“Commando Line” (Stevie Wright) – 3:58
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