The migrant hostels of the major Australian cities were the breeding grounds for a number of rock bands that would dominate popular culture in the early 1960s. At first they simply emulated the groups they had left behind in England, but in time they developed their own styles and played a significant role in the development of Australia's rock music industry. It all started in the early 1960s when Australia's immigration campaign, which attracted families to Australia via its Ten Pound assisted passage scheme, was at its zenith. People from all over Europe were being invited to come and make a new life for themselves. They were arriving constantly by the shipload, living for a while in migrant hostels before finding their feet and moving on into the general community.
Around the time that Beatlemania hit, hundred of families were arriving in Australia from Britain with teenagers who had been swept up in the euphoria of 'beat music' - black music for white teenagers - but suddenly found themselves thousands of miles from the new centre of their world. Eager to recreate the new music they had left behind, the more musical ones among them armed themselves with guitars, amps and drum kits, formed bands and recreated the music as they remembered it. New migrants kept arriving with more budding musicians and more records that were as yet unavailable in Australia from which to source their repertoires. The other youths at the migrant hostels provided a ready audience for these bands whose popularity soon spread into the general Australian community.
Over at the Villawood migrant hostel in suburban Sydney, a group of talented teen migrants formed The Easybeats. Meanwhile in Adelaide and its northern suburb of Elizabeth, other groups of young migrants were creating music of their own. It was out of these two localities that some of the major movers and shakers of Australia's entertainment industry got their start and created the soundtrack of the teenage years of Australia's Baby Boomers. Others, like John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John, did not come through the migrant hostels but nevertheless made just as indelible a mark. Over the years, their paths would often intertwine with each other's and those of the many Australian and New Zealand-born artists to create the fabric of popular music culture of the latter half of the 20th century. These are their stories.
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Australia's first supergroup of the 1960s, The Easybeats made music history in being the first Australian rock 'n' roll act to really break into the American market and make the world sit up and take notice of Australia and its popular music. They were also the only Australian rock band of that era up composed totally of migrant teenagers. During their five years together as a band, there would be only one change to the original lineup of migrant kids that got together initially to relieve the boredom of life at the hostel.
Living at the Villawood migrant hostel in suburban Sydney was Johannas "Harry" Vandenberg from Le Hague, who, back in Holland, had played in The Starfighters which did mainly instrumental covers of The Shadows' tunes. Harry came across another Dutch musician living in the area, Dingernam "Dick" Vandersluys, who'd migrated to Australia from Le Hague with his family when he was four.
Steven Wright, born 20th December 1948 in Leeds, England and his family came to Australia as assisted migrants when Stevie was nine and lived in Melbourne for a few years before moving to Sydney in 1960. They settled in Villawood close to the Villawood Migrant Hostel. Stevie was into rock'n'roll and soon fronted a local band, The Outlaws, then another band, Chris Langdon & The Langdells. Like many bands of that time, The Langdells started out as a Shadows-style surf band but changed their image overnight after being introduced to The Beatles' music by their friends; a teenage vocal group named The Bee Gees.
Stevie was performing under the name of Chris Wright with The Langdells at Suzie Wong's Disco in Sydney in mid-1964 where he was heard by Vandenberg and Vandersluys. They had also seen the possibilities opened up by the emergence of The Beatles and were in the process of putting a new band together. Stevie auditioned for lead singer and was snapped up on the spot. "It wasn't just us at the first, it was about nineteen guys," recalls Harry. "Everybody was becoming part of it. Then, one day we heard about this little Scottish guy who was an incredible guitarist, whose name was George. So, we thought 'let's go and see him'. He was sitting with some guy in one of those huts and that's where we first laid eyes on George. He was sort of going 'um, oh, or, um, (sort of humming)...alright I'll give it a shot' and it just grew from there." George was the son of William and Margaret Young, who emigrated to Australia from Scotland with their six children in 1963.
On a train ride into Sydney, they chanced to meet Gordon "Snowy" Fleet, a drummer from Liverpool who'd played with the Mojos, and the group was complete. The band's line-up was George Young, born 6th November 1947, rhythm guitar; Gordon "Snowy" Fleet, born 16th August 1945, drummer; Dick Diamonde (Dingernam Vandersluys), born 28th December 1947, lead guitar; Harry Vanda (Johannas Vandenberg), born 22nd March 1947, guitar; Stevie Wright, born 20th December 1948, lead singer.
Older than the rest, Snowy took on the role of manager as well as drummer, came up with the name The Easybeats, and began looking for work for the band. By the end of 1963, the Easybeats had won residency at the newly formed Beatles Village Club in Sydney. One day a real estate agent called Mike Vaughan took the advice of a lady friend and went to see the new group in action. He offered to take up the band's management, and once this was agreed upon, things happened relatively quickly. Vaughan knew a young publisher and wanna-be producer Ted Albert who landed the group a record contract with Parlophone (the same label as The Beatles). Released in March 1965 the first single, '"For My Woman/ Say That You're Mine", sold well for an unknown group. These two songs plus "The Bells" and "I (Who Have Nothing)" were recorded at the 2UW Theatre in George Street, Sydney. The second song would later be recorded by Norma Rowe and became a No. 1 hit for him.
The band's second single, "She's So Fine/ The Old Oak Tree " was a number one selling hit in the Aussie charts, a remarkable achievement for a band that had been together for only six months! Released in June 1965, it too was recorded at the 2UW Theatre. Incredibly prolific songwriters, the Easybeats quickly released two albums filled with their own songs and wrote a No. 1 hit called "Step Back" for Perth's Johnny Young. The band's string of hits included "Wedding Ring", "Sorry", "Sad And Lonely And Blue", "Woman" and "Come And See Her".
Within a year, they could seemingly do no wrong and their lead singer, who had been dubbed Little Stevie Wright by the fan magazines, was becoming something of a teen heartthrob. The Young family had now moved to a simple dwelling at 4 Burleigh Street in the Sydney suburb of Burwood and it was there, in the bedroom of George, that the creative genius of the band's two songwriters, Vanda and Young, was developed. Such was the group's popularity that when a fan magazine foolishly published the Burwood address, the Police had to be called in to disperse a group of 300 screaming teenage girls who had swarmed the house and grabbed whatever they could get their hands on, including George and his younger brother, Angus.
In an attempt to crack the European and US markets, The Easybeats recorded their biggest and most memorable hit, the anthem to the working man, "Friday On My Mind". Recorded in London by Shel Talmy who produced numerous albums for British rock bands like The Kinks and The Who, it had a rare urgency in comparison to the mellow sounds of its time, making No. 16 in the US, No 6 in Britain and, of course, No 1 in Australia. In 2001 it was voted by APRA, The Australian Performing Rights Association, as Best Australian Song of All Time. Legend has it that the Beatles' Paul McCartney was driving along a road when he heard the Easybeats' song on the radio and just had to stop and ring up the station to find out whose record it was. The single was supported by a tour of the US and UK, where they supported big bands of those countries on national tours. Before leaving for their US tour, Fleet left the band to concentrate on family life and was replaced by Tony Cahill, previously the drummer with Purple Hearts.
Drug and management problems had an effect on The Easybeats at that time in a similar way that the sudden death of their manager, Brian Epstein, affected The Beatles. The Easybeat's began to be overpowered and dragged under by two strong forces, Stevie Wright's drift into drug dependency, and their manager Mike Vaughan finding himself out of his depth. At one stage no less than five US record companies claimed they had the Easybeats under contract. As the red tape choked their career Harry Vanda and George Young kept writing and recording, as the Easybeats and under other names such as Band of Hope, Marcus Hook and Paintbox.
These problems caused a delay in the release of The Easybeats follow-up single to "Friday On My Mind", called "Who'll Be The One", which eventually flopped, having been released too long after the group had returned to Australia. Their next single, a Tom Jones-styled ballad called "Hello How Are You" was a radical, new direction for the band to take. Its relative success (it was their second and last hit in the UK, reaching No 20 in 1968) led them to continue down a road that alienated them from their fan based and brought about the band's sudden demise. Their 1968 LP, Vigil, included unlikely covers such as "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Hit The Road Jack" and failed to sell. Their follow-up and final single, "Good Times", released in 1969 with Steve Marriott on backing vocals, was written and produced in the style of "Friday On My Mind", but the reversal to the successful formula that had brought them success was too late.
The band had already drifted apart, leaving Harry and George carrying the responsibility of a huge debt. The pair stuck together, producing the 1975 debut solo LP, Hard Road, for Stevie Wright and assisted Young's brothers Angus and Malcolm in starting AC/DC, which became Australia's most successful group in terms of the international popular music market. Alcohol problems dogged Wright and his music career for decades and Vanda and Young had mixed fortunes initially, recording as Flash And The Pan: the latter having a No. 7 UK hit with "Waiting For A Train' in 1983. On a positive note, they did however enjoy incredible success songwriting and producing for others.
After the split, Harry and George had moved to Britain but in 1973, they returned to Australia and renewed their partnership with their former mentor, producer and publisher Ted Albert. During the early days of The Easybeats, they had wisely opted to accept a share in Albert Productions instead of a cash payment, which meant the door was open for them to walk back in. As Albert's house producers, they began assembling a stable of acts that brought the pair back to the forefront, establishing them as the dominant force in Australian rock and pop for the rest of the '70s and beyond. They masterminded numerous hit albums and singles for Stevie Wright, William Shakespeare, AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Cheetah, and John Paul Young.
Malcolm Young, Angus Young AC/DC
Malcolm Young, born 8th January 1953, and brother Angus, born 2nd April 1955 (for years it was claimed he was born in 1959 to support his schoolboy image), had come out as migrants with their family from Glasgow in 1963. Both had grown up with the sound of rock music all around them, as their lounge room was the place where most of The Easybeat's songwriting and rehearsals took place. The impact of fame on their older brother, Easybeats' George Young, was enough to propel the pair down a similar path to fame and fortune in the world of rock music. Angus' first encounter with what was to come occurred at the young's family home in the Sydney suburb of Burwood. At the height of the Easybeat's fame and popularity, a fan magazine had foolishly published the address of the house, which triggered an invasion after school on day of around 300 girls from four neighbouring schools. Eager to get their hands on anything vaguely associated with the Easybeats, the girls swarmed the house, trampling the young 2nd-grader Angus in the process. It took a visit by the local constabulary to restore peace or order to the Young household.
Taking up the guitar as soon as their fingers were big enough to get around the frets, the younger brothers practiced long and hard and by 1973 were playing with a variety of musicians. AC/DC was formed in April 1974 by Malcolm Young after his earlier band, The Velvet Underground, collapsed. With his younger brother Angus as lead guitarist, the band played gigs around Sydney.
Influenced by Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, they developed an aggressive image of hard drinking and hard living in which Angus strutted the stage as a temperamental schoolboy. The band's publicity erroneously claimed that Angus was only 15 years old at the time and still at school (he had left school at the age of 15 but was 19 when AC/DC formed). Angus and Malcolm wanted to have a visual focal point to go along with their music, and their sister Margaret suggested Angus wear a schoolboy getup. It was something Angus had tried in one of his previous bands, but only once. Early AC/DC performances saw Angus in a variety of costumes, including a gorilla suit (where he'd break out of a cage), Zorro, Spiderman (with a huge rope spider's web at the back of the stage), and Superman (with a phone booth on stage where he could change outfits). During rehearsals at the Young's home, Margaret would sit up until all hours sewing Angus's stage "schoolboy" shorts on the family treadle sewing machine which had been converted to electric power. It had a small steel warning plate attached to it that read, "Warning - AC/DC". At that time they were developing an "electrifying" sound that they hoped would "set the world on fire", so when Margaret saw the label she suggested that there was no more appropriate name for them than AC/DC, which they adopted. Contrary to rumours, it had nothing to do with their sexuality.
AC/DC moved to Melbourne the following year, where drummer Phil Rudd (formerly of Coloured Balls) and bassist Mark Evans joined the band. The band's chauffeur, Bon Scott, became their lead vocalist when their singer, Dave Evans, refused to go on stage. Ronald Belford 'Bon' Scott formerly with The Valentines and Fraternity, a band which had supported Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs at a notorious concert at Queanbeyan, NSW, where the crowd rioted and Bon and other performers barely got away with their lives. Like the Youngs, Bon Scott was also a Scottish-born immigrant with a larrikin bad-boy image that perfectly suited the band's irreverent hard-rock sound. Bon personified the hard drinking rocker until his death in 1980.
After the Easybeats broke up, older brother George Young had moved to Britain with Harry Vanda. In 1973, they returned to Australia and renewed their partnership with their former mentor, producer and publisher Ted Albert and moved into production and promotion. The first group they supported was George Young's brothers' new band, AC/DC. In keeping with their name and intended image, their first album was called High Voltage. The band played their first gig at the Chequers Club in Sydney on New Years eave, 1973. Their first singles "High Voltage" and "It's A Long Way To The Top" became instant hits and paved the way for a highly successful but somewhat controversial tour of Britain. Angus' stage antics, involving an one stage strip culminating in a full nude rear view almost got him gaoled but got the band the attention and reputation they wanted.
More successful singles and albums followed and their success overseas led them to be the first Australian band to successfully base themselves overseas. They broke into the American market in a big way with their 1979 album Highway to Hell. Bon Scott's death in 1980 did not hinder their progress; with Brian Johnson stepping into his shoes, the band released Back in Black, which sold twelve million copies worldwide. The band has continued to record and perform to sell-out concerts to become one of the "old-timers" of the popular music industry. Up to the year 2000, AC/DC had sold about 85 million albums worldwide. An amusing footnote, credited to Les Gock, ex-member of Hush, scotches the myth that it's all sex, drugs and rock and roll. Angus doesn't drink. All he ever drank back then when Hush were touring with AC/DC was milk. When Bon and some of the others who liked a drink went out partying, Angus stayed back with Les drinking milk while playing cards.
Bon Scott The Spektors; Fraternity; The Valentines; AC/DC
Bon Scott was the lead singer in AC/DC until his death in 1980. Born Ronald Belford Scott on 9th July 1946 in Kirriemuir, Scotland, Bon's parents hailed from musical families; his father, Charles, played drums in the Kirriemuir Pipe Band and performed with the local light-opera company. In 1952, the Scott family relocated to Australia, settling in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine. In 1956, Bon's brother Graeme was diagnosed with asthma and the Scott family relocated to Fremantle. He took on the name 'Bon" after being nicknamed "Bonnie Scott" because he was Scottish.
As early as grade school, Bon had shown an affinity for music, first playing recorder in school; he would subsequently have brief flirtations with piano and accordion, before settling on drums. Bon took his first tentative steps as a performer at the age of twelve, playing a recorder duet with a classmate at a school concert. He would often play the drums alongside his father in the local Caledonian Society's Scottish pipe band and was an under-17 Pipe band drum champion.
Bon's lifelong distaste for authority led him to quit school at the age of 15. He held a series of odd jobs, driving a tractor, laboring on fishing boats and working as an apprentice weighing-machine mechanic. In 1966 he joined the Perth band, The Spektors, doubling on drums and vocals. By 1967 he had joined the Melbourne-based group The Valentines and made his recording debut singing lead on their single "Everyday I Have to Cry". He also performed on their hit "My Old Man's A Groovy Old Man". By mid 1969, The Valentines were one of the most popular bands in the country but a drug bust destroyed on 20th September 1969 shot their clean-cut public image to pieces. As a result, the band split four months after their last single, "Juliette" became a top 40 hit.
Scott helped form the Adelaide-based blues-rock band called Fraternity, which released two LP albums. By now, Scott's life reflected the new macho, hard-living image adopted by Billy Thorpe in the early 1970s so it was natural that their two bands would end up playing together. After one rowdy concert at Queanbeyan, NSW, a fight erupted and the bands were forced to escape by car. They were chased down the highway towards Canberra, pursued by hooligans at speeds in excess of 160km/hr and firing shots at them. The Aztecs sought refuge in their hotel, but the fight continued in the hotel foyer, which was demolished in the melee. Several band members and those of Fraternity, who came to their aid, including Scott, were badly injured. This incident inspired many the sentiments expressed in the AC/DC hit, "It's A Long way To The Top (If You Want To Rock'n'roll)" when Scott sings about getting robbed, beat up and broken bones. Though they went on to win the 1972 Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds competition, Fraternity was unable to crack the top 40. For the most of 1973 they toured the Europe, principally Britain and Germany. The European trip was largely fruitless for Fraternity and like so many Australian bands would do, they returned to Australia somewhat disillusioned. Not long after arriving home, Bon was involved in a motorbike accident that left him in a coma for three days and in hospital for several months, during which time Fraternity disbanded.
After recovering he applied to join the Australian Army but was rejected because he had several convictions on minor criminal offenses, had done time in gaol and was therefore deemed "socially maladjusted." He worked a series of odd jobs before recording a demo as a member of the short-lived Adelaide band Mount Lofty Rangers. Bon was reduced to taking on casual work until the day he was offered the chance to drive a new band called AC/DC around. He lost no time in telling the band he could play drums, and before long he'd successfully auditioned as the band's drummer, but harbored ambitions to front it. When Dave Evans failed to turn up for a show, Bon seized his chance.
AC/DC's Angus Young recalls their caution when Bon first volunteered for the job. "He had lined up a couple of bottles of bourbon, some dope, somebody put speed somewhere. I said to Malcolm 'if this guy can walk let alone sing it's going to be something!'" It soon became clear his "socially maladjusted" character fitted right in with the image AC/DC was portraying and it was his charisma that would bring the band into sharp focus. He fine-tuned the crude double entendres and violent imagery spiked with a mischievous sense of fun that would characterise their stage act. The audacity of the band to feature the bagpipes &endash; thereby tipping their hats to their Scottish roots &endash; as a lead instrument in "It's A Long way To The Top (If You Want To Rock'n'roll)" is an example of that sense of fun.
Bon used to walk the streets with his pet Boa constrictor hanging round his neck. On 19th February 1980, he died in a Renault 5 parked outside a friend's flat at 67 Overhill Road, Dulwich, London in the wake of an all-night drinking binge. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Kings College Hospital. Bon Scott lies in the Fremantle Cemetery's Memorial Garden. The surviving members of the band replaced him with Brian Johnson.
Billy Thorpe Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs
From the day he and his family arrived in Melbourne in the 1950s, Manchester born William Richard Thorpe has been a performer. As a kid he was never short of a song to entertain family and friends. After his family moved to Brisbane, the precocious Billy began entering amateur talent quests as a yodeller and singer. Even before he started high school, he had adapted the pseudonym 'Little Rock Allen' and become a regular in local dances. At the age of 10 he was performing on Brisbane television. By his early teens, he had gained such notoriety that he was the supporting act of big name acts like Johnny O'Keefe, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent when they performed in Brisbane.
Born on 29th March, 1946, Thorpe was already a seasoned performer when he moved to Sydney in 1963 at the age of 16 and auditioned with his new backing band, The Aztecs, to work at the leading beat music venue of the day, Surf City in Kings Cross. Billy's characteristic appeal and on-stage presence projected them into one of the leading bands of the beat-dance circuit Sydney of the time. By the end of the year, Billy and his group had a recording contract and released their first single. "Blue Day", written by rhythm guitarist Tony Barber (not to be confused with the TV game-show host). It enjoyed greater success later upon its re-release when the band was well known than on its first outing in April 1964. It's follow up, a cover of the Coasters hit, "Poison Ivy", reached number one and is recognised as the Aussie beat era's first hit and a rock classic. Its success led to the band being signed up with Albert Productions whose stable of recording artists would include The Easybeats, The Missing Links and The Throb.
More hits followed throughout the year - the rather silly "Mashed Potato", a cover of The Searchers' "Sick and Tired", which were in direct contrast to the beautifully sung ballads "Twilight Time" and Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" (from The Wizard of Oz), on which his yodelling background is evident. The Beatles made their historic tour of Australia in June 1964 and during their stay at The Sheraton, Kings Cross, John Lennon summoned "this Billy Thorpe character" for a chat to find out who it was whose records were keeping there's from making No. 1 on the charts!
Due to the inadequacy of their sound equipment and the hysteria and noise generated by the crowds at their shows, they were rarely heard, but few in the audience seemed to mind. Throughout 1965 they made numerous TV appearances on shows like Bandstand, they continued to pack concert halls wherever they went, supporting big overseas artists like Tony Sheridan and (the late) Screaming Lord Sutch and attracted a record 63,000 people to a concert at Melbourne's Sydney Myer Music Bowl.
In the middle of all the euphoria, Thorpe dumped his band. His new single, "I Told The Brook", continued Thorpe's dabble into middle-of-the-road balladeering, though its flip side, "Funny Face", was an assurance to anyone who was in doubt that he was still the same old rocker he always was. In March 1967, Billy launched his own TV show on Channel 7, "It's All happening", a one-hour live-to-air show featuring Billy with appearances by weekly guest stars from locals The Easybeats, Ray Brown and Normie Rowe, to overseas acts including Helen Shapiro, Neil Sedaka and Bobby Rydell. At the end of the year, Billy took a well-earned rest in Queensland and disbanded The Aztecs a second time.
Early in 1967, Billy began his own show on ABC radio before re-forming The Aztecs with a new line-up. Numerous songs were recorded and released, the band sported a new look - uniforms and moustaches a-la-Sgt. Pepper - but with little success. From it developed the image of the macho, bearded, longhaired, blues-wailing rocker that he used to re-launch his career. Billy assumed the lead guitar role in The Aztecs, and with a new aggressive style, he unleashed himself and his band on an unsuspecting but enthusiastic public in 1969. Thorpe, dressed in tight jeans and sporting a plaited ponytail, laid to rest his clean-cut 1960s pop image for a new blues-based look that would keep him as a dominant force in Australian rock music throughout the 1970s.
Not everyone was thrilled by Thorpe's new direction. The raw, aggressive new sound stirred up plenty of emotions, like the time a fight erupted after a show in Queanbeyan, NSW. The band was forced to escape by car, but were chased down the highway towards Canberra by a group of hooligans, who pursued them at speeds in excess of 160km/hr, firing shots at them. The Aztecs sought refuge in their hotel, but the fight continued in the hotel foyer, which was demolished in the melee. Several band members were badly injured. Next morning, Thorpe and his band were escorted out of town by the police who warned them not to return - for their own safety. Their 1972 hit, "Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy)", first played in a legendary appearance at the 1972 Sunbury Music Festival, seemed to sum up everything that Thorpe and his band was and stood for during those heady days. The Aztec's swansong before breaking up was the controversial album, "More Arse Than Class", which shocked in every way, from its disgusting cover to the in-your-face lyrics of the songs. It remains the Aztecs most successful studio album.
Throughout the 1970s, Billy mellowed somewhat, turning to songwriting and producing tracks for a number of artists, including Jeff St John, Ronnie Charles, The Wild Cherries, Angry Anderson and Wendy Saddington. He also appeared in the Australian stage production of Pete Townshend's rock opera, "Tommy". He then moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he established a highly successful toy wholesaling business. Billy kept a hand in the music business, releasing a series of concept albums and appearing occasionally in live and recorded performances with and for other people. He returned to Australia in the early 1990s and since that time has authored two autobiographical books, done some concerts with the Sunbury Aztecs line-up, some recording and involved himself in advertising promotion. He died of a heart attack on 28th February 2007, age 60.
Mike Furber Mike Furber and The Bowery Boys
The story of Mike Furber is one of the saddest chapters in the story of Australian music. He was a star that shone briefly, but brightly, his fall into oblivion bringing a tragic end to the life of a shy, sensitive and at times naive young man. Mike was born on 26th September 1948 in London, England, and migrated to Australia with his family who were assisted passage migrants. They settled in Brisbane and Mike grew up in relative obscurity. In mid-1965 at around the age of 16, he had a chance meeting with Paul Wade and Neville Peard on a suburban train and learnt that they had formed a garage band called The Bowery Boys with Greg Walker and Robbie Van Delft. Consequently he became their lead singer.
The grouped originally worked in Surfers Paradise but moved to Sydney in May 1965. They found regular work at a club named The Bowl and it was here that the flamboyant promoter Ivan Dayman first heard Mike sing. He saw Mike's potential and planned to establish Mike as a pop idol in his own right along the lines of Normie Rowe, with whom Dayman had already achieved enormous national success. Within a short time Mike and the band stormed national stages to in a wave of screaming hysteria. They became regulars on the TV pop shows Kommotion and GO! but Dayman gradually squeezed The Bowery Boys so far out of the picture, they decided to call it a day in August 1966.
Three solo singles, with musical backing provided by the Brisbane band, The Escorts, were released in succession and all three bombed. Feeling lost and alone without his friends from the Bowery Boys, Mike retreated within himself and in November 1966 suffered a nervous breakdown. Eleven months later, a major promotional campaign was thrown behind his next single, "Bring Your Love Back Home", but it also failed to chart, and Mike suffered another breakdown. He then disappeared from public view for nearly two years, returning in January 1968 with the single, "There's No Love Left", that was released on a new record label (EMI) and minus Ivan Dayman. The single failed to sell and its follow-up, which had been especially composed for Mike by The Easybeats' Harry Vanda and George Young, "I'm On Fire"/"Watch Me Burn" was quickly pulled before its release.
In June 1970, Mike was taken on the road with The Sect and Doug Parkinson In Focus as support acts on The Four Tops' National Tour. A scathing review of Mike's performance by a Go-Set magazine reporter sent Mike further into his shell. His next step was decided for him when he was called up for National service. Being still in a state of depression, the experience was apparently quite traumatic and it is believed Mike threatened to take his life on more than one occasion. He returned to performing in the early 1970s, receiving good reviews for his part in the stage production of Godspell. Mike then went after and won a role in the musical Nuclear, only to be unceremoniously dropped at the last minute. This plunged him into a deeper depression from which he would never return. Tragically, on 10th May 1973, Mike was found hanged in a garage at the inner Sydney block of flats where he was living, age 25. Many aspects surrounding his death remain unclear to this day.
Clive Shakespeare Sherbet
Clive Richard Shakespeare was born on 3rd June 1947 in Southampton, England. His family migrated to Sydney in 1969. He began playing guitar at the age of 15 and worked with the Downtown Roll Band. Clive formed Sherbet in early 1969 with members drawn from three Sydney bands: Sammy See (organ), from Clapham Junction, Dennis Laughlin (vocals) from Sebastian Hardie Blues Band (the earlier blues/R&B incarnation of Mario Millo's progressive outfit Sebastian Hardie) and Shakespeare, Rae and Danny Taylor (drums) from soul/funk outfit Downtown Roll Band, one of the few Sydney bands who were performing Motown, Stax and James Brown material. Sherbet's first live performance was at the New 2UW Spectacular held at Brookvale Oval in Sydney on 19th March 1969, and their first mention in the music press was in Go-Set's coverage of the event. The lineup then changed almost immediately, with Rae replaced by Bruce Worrall (bass), previously a member of Bright Lights, House of Bricks and Samuel Lilith. Danny left and was replaced by Alan Sandow in June 1969. Dennis departed the band a short time later. Bruce, who had played with Daryl Braithwaite in earlier bands, introduced him to the band as lead singer, and within a short time, began a grueling seven hours a night, four nights a week residency at Jonathan's disco in Sydney.
With this line-up Sherbet recorded its first single (Crimson Ships/Everything), which failed and it was not until 17 months later, after Sammy left the group in October 1970 to join Flying Circus and was replaced by Garth Porter, that the band would have a record that made it into the charts. The band then entered a phenomenal period of success with numerous number one hit songs and top selling albums. As well as playing Hammond organ & electric piano, New Zealand born Garth Porter co-wrote the band's songs with Clive Shakespeare.
In January 1976, Clive, who by then was the only original member, announced he was leaving Sherbet because of personal and musical differences. "I couldn't even go out the front of my house because there were all these girls just hanging on the fence," he told the media at the time. "There was always a deadline for Garth and me - another album, another tour. When it did finally end, I was relieved more than anything because I had had enough. I left the band early in 1976 for reasons I don't want to discuss fully, but let's just say I wasn't happy about where all the money went."
Shakespeare set up and ran the successful Sydney-located Silverwood Studios, where Paul Kelly's 1984 classic solo album "Post" was recorded. He was replaced initially by Gunther Norman and in March 1976 by Harvey James, formerly with Mississippi, which had gone to England seeking success there. James returned to Australia to join Sherbet, the other band members followed soon after, with the key members forming the Little River Band. Harvey James' first recording with the band was 'Howzat', their fifteenth hit, and first Number 1. The album of the same name also reached the top. On 17th September 1976, the album 'Howzat' was being released around the world. Sherbet boarded a plane bound for London, where 'Howzat' was becoming a major hit. Ironically, also on that plane, and also headed overseas for the first time, was Little River Band.
Sherbet's decline began during their ill-fated US tour in 1978. A switch to Robert Stigwood's record label and a change of name to Highway in 1969 failed to re-ignite the band's former success. The band split later that year. After 14 years apart, Sherbet (minus drummer Alan Sandow, who wasn't available) reunited on New Year's Eve, 31st December 1998, for an ABC-TV special, hosted by satirist Elle McFeast (aka Libby Gorr). Sherbet opened and closed the show, performing their two biggest hits, "Howzat" and "Summer Love". The event was the first and only time that guitarists Clive Shakespeare and Harvey James have played together in the group, as one had replaced the other but both had made significant contributions towards its success.
Clive Shakespeare died on 15 February 2012, aged 64, from prostate cancer.
Colin Hay Men At Work
As the singer, guitarist, and main songwriter of Australia's Men at Work, Colin Hay was responsible for penning several of the quirkiest pop hits of the early '80s. He and his former band will forever be associated with 'the land "down under,"' Hay originally hailed from Scotland, where he was born in the town of Kilwinning on 29th June, 1953. During 1967, Hay had migrated to Australia, by which time he had begun playing guitar and singing. Hay sought to form a band that was in line with the burgeoning new wave genre, but that also embraced pop. Shortly after joining up with guitarist Ron Strykert in 1978, Men at Work was formed. Rounding out the band was saxophonist/flutist Greg Ham, bassist John Rees, and drummer Jerry Speiser.
In 1982 they issued their debut album, Business as Usual. Earning quite a few comparisons to then-reigning chart kings the Police, Men at Work quickly became MTV favorites (during the station's early days). Since he was the group's main singer and songwriter, Hay quickly became the focal point of the band, as such humorous videos for "Who Can It Be Now" and "Down Under" pushed the debut album to the top of the U.S. charts. Men at Work became an overnight sensation. Perhaps sensing that they should strike again while the iron was hot, Men at Work went directly back in the studio to work on another album. Issued in 1983, Cargo was another sizeable hit, but did not fare nearly as well as its predecessor - commercially or artistically. Taking an extended break, Hay and company did not resurface again until 1985's Two Hearts, an unfocused recording that saw almost half of the band replaced.
With the album's disappointing showing, Men at Work split up shortly thereafter. Hay embarked on a solo career, debuting in 1987 with Looking for Jack (the title of which supposedly referred to a brief encounter Hay had with actor Jack Nicholson), which once more failed to match the success of his early work with Men at Work. Hay continued to release solo material with regularity throughout the '90s, including such titles as 1990's Wayfaring Sons, 1992's Peaks and Valleys, 1994's Topanga, and 1998's Transcendental Highway. The same decade, Hay also launched his own record label, Lazy Eye Records, and sporadically acted in cult movies (which he had began doing the previous decade) and TV shows, including parts on such series as JAG, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Mick Molloy Show, among others. Hay, who these days is based in Santa Monica, California, continues to release albums and tour to this day.
Johnny (John) Farnham Solo/Little River Band
Acknowledged by just about everyone as one of the nicest, most decent people in the Australian music business, John Farnham is one of its most successful achievers. He has always been popular, but after initial success he went through a number of years in the music wilderness before finding his true voice, redefining himself and fighting his way back to the top to achieve a level of ongoing success that few others have enjoyed.
Born John Peter Farnham on 1st July 1949 at Millend Hospital, London, within the sound of the famous Bow Bells, he was the eldest of four children. When he was a toddler, his family had moved from London to a terrace house in Waldegrave Road in the town of Dagenham. It was at Ford's motor assembly plant assembling Ford Prefects and Zephyrs that John's father was employed. One of John's first recollections, and an early musical influence, was a record player given to him by his nephew when the six-year old was confined to bed after a bout of pneumonia. His first musical instrument was a plastic four-string guitar, which he got for Christmas that year. Over the next two years he became a regular performer on charity shows staged by his uncle throughout Essex County.
It was two Australians who worked at the Ford plant with John's father that first got the family thinking about migrating to Australia. During the 1950s, the two elder sisters of John's father would migrate to Australia with their husbands and settled in Melbourne. Moving to Australia grew from an idea to a reality for the Farnhams over a four-year period. They lived with John's grandparents during those years prior to the family becoming Ten Pound Tourists, which was the affectionate name given at the time to Australia's assisted passage migrant scheme.
John, his parents, his grandparents, his uncles Alf and Chris and his sisters Jean and Jackie, set sail from Southampton aboard P&O Line's Orsova in June1959. His younger brother, Steven, would be born later in Australia. Though John has little memory of the voyage, he does recall being caught in a toilet smoking, a habit he started back in Dagenham as an 8-year old that he was able to successfully hide from his parents until he was caught at his Aunt Mary's house in Melbourne. It was to her house in Yarraman Park that the Farnhams went to live upon arrival four days after John's 10th birthday. Not long after their arrival, the Farnham family was given a lottery ticket and they won £10,000 which they used to build two brick veneer houses, one for the Farnhams and another nearby for John's grand parents.
John's first school was Yarraman Park State School but he was only there for a day. John's version of the reason for the move is that, on his first day, he had a prank played on him that resulted in him getting the cane. In response to the unfairness of his treatment, John refused to return to the school and was put into another, Lyndale State School. Another version is that getting to the school from his aunt's home entailed crossing the busy Dandenong Road. Either way, John changed schools but experienced difficulty fitting into his new school also, not only having to put up with the taunts of his classmates teasing him for being a Pommie, he used to be called "fat' because his small stature made him look pudgy. His attempts to win their favour at a school talent quest, which was his first performance in front of an audience, was a disaster. He performed Elvis Presley's 'Wooden Heart' but was booed off the stage before he had finished as the guitar he borrowed from his uncle went further out of tune as he strummed it.
Things began to look up when he graduated to Lyndale High School. Playing air guitar and using a broomstick as a microphone stand, he regularly stood in the family's bathroom and imagined himself up front with a band backing him. His dream came true when he and two other students formed an amateur band, The Mavericks. Their first concert took him by surprise. The prettiest girl in the school had been put in charge of organising the entertainment for the school fete. She put up notices around the school saying "He's Coming". Normie Rowe was very popular at the time and John presumed she had booked him. On the night of the dance, she told John he was going to be the singer. "No, Normie Rowe is," he protested. "No", she replied, "it really is you". Mortified by the ragging the school's short fat kid would get when he got up to sing, he shut himself in the art department storeroom until the others dragged him out on stage. He sang his song and much to his surprise, the band received applause. His music career was on its way.
Upon leaving school, John did not pursue a career in music but took up a plumber's apprenticeship at Dandenong Technical College and got a part-time job in the trade with a family friend. He maintained his position in The Mavericks, performing regularly at dances at the Dandenong Town Hall. It was at one of their gigs in late 1965, at a 21st birthday party that John, now 16, was approached by Nick Fernander from the Melbourne beat group Strings Unlimited to audition to be their new lead singer. After a couple of months of indecision, John finally agreed and sang what he recalls as being a mediocre rendition of "House of the Rising Sun". It was good enough to win him the position. During the group's period of residency at the Hampton Hotel on the beachfront at St Kilda, he was paid $5 for each bracket of songs and made his first known recording, a cover of The Beatles' song, "I Feel Fine".
18 months later, at a Strings Unlimited gig at Cohuna in rural Victoria, John was heard by Darryl Sambell, the South Australian based manager of Adelaide singer Bev Harrell whom his band had backed that night. Sambell persuaded John to leave Strings Unlimited and embark on a series of gigs throughout Victoria and South Australia designed to establish himself as a solo artist. Around that time, an EP recorded by John fronting Strings Unlimited came to the attention of EMI's David Mackay who contacted John and offered him a job singing the lead on a commercial jingle that he was producing for TAA (later Australian Airlines). The jingle, about a young woman named Susan Jones, had been written by future film composer Peter Best (Barry McKenzie, Crocodile Dundee). The ad. was very popular and everyone began asking who the singer was. Its success led to John being signed to a contract with the prestigious EMI label.
Mackay selected a novelty song written in America called "Sadie, The Cleaning Lady" for John's first single. Neither John or Daryll were happy about it and objected strenuously, as it fitted into the novelty/vaudeville/bubblegum trend that was emerging at the time (e.g. the New Vaudeville Orchestra's 1920s style hit, Winchester Cathedral) which John and Daryll did not see John fitting into. Mackay pressured them into recording the song, and in spite of some stations refusing to play it at first because it was so corny, the record buying public loved it and it was an instant hit when released in November 1967. Part of its success was the clever way Daryll marketed it to the media. He convinced the ABC to do a segment on how a record company promoted an unknown singer (guess who?). Then he got an old friend, Melbourne DJ Stan 'The Man' Rofe, to rubbish the song every time it was played on air. When they repeated it during John's appearance on the TV pop show UpTight, on which Stan was a regular guest, the reverse psychology worked and the station's switchboards were flooded with calls sticking up for John and requesting that the song be repeated.
John's early career was helped along by his boy-next-door good looks and winning personality, which was promoted, to great effect by Daryll. John became a hugely popular concert attraction, and his rapidly developing ability on stage as a performer enabled him to branch out into TV series, TV specials and stage musicals like Charlie Girl and Pippin. In April 1973 John married Jillian Billham, a dancer he had met during the run of Charlie Girl, but by then popular music tastes were changing rapidly. Heavy rock and progressive styles gaining in popularity, glam rock ruled the airwaves and disco was about to sweep the world. Sambell doggedly promoted John as an 'all-round' variety entertainer to the adult market, not realising that the pop culture would be ongoing and his teen fans of his early days would not follow him when he became an 'adult' entertainer because their musical tastes would not change significantly. Novelty songs like Sadie failed to excite anyone anymore and the audience to which John was now catering for was unprepared to accept John as a performer in the mould of Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Junior and their ilk.
Pigeonholed as a "middle of the road" entertainer, his former popularity gradually faded as teen fans grew up and moved on to new sounds. In hindsight, this decline seems to have been part of a cycle, which saw many formerly popular male singers like John, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones fall out of favour and ignored by the rock scene for years. Even a spell as lead singer of Little River Band failed to ignite his or their fortunes. It earned him no income for all the time and effort he put in and left him deeper in debt when he finally quit.
John maintained his visibility and popularity with regular TV and club performances, but as the 1970s came to a close he ran into a major financial crisis. In 1978 he was hit with a huge bill for unpaid tax from the previous nine years, followed by a near disaster when he and others in the entertainment industry lost heavily on an ill-fated Melbourne restaurant venture. John and Jillian were forced to sell their holiday farm near Lake Eildon and it almost cost them their home in Melbourne as well.
In 1979, John took the biggest gamble of his music career by putting his faith in a new manager, Glenn Wheatley, the former bassist with The Masters Apprentices, who had helped Little River Band crack the American market. He was re-groomed as John and was no longer the diminutive boy-next-door Johnny. He refused to perform any of his old material, especially Sadie that he had come to despise and view as a millstone around his neck. The turning point in John's fortunes occurred during an Australian Royal Command Performance in 1980. John stunned the national TV audience when he gave an impassioned performance of The Beatles' song, "Help!" The nation jumped to attention as its former teen idol demonstrated the extraordinary strength, range and emotive power of his voice that thus far had remained concealed. Later that year, with the help of former LRB lead Graeham Goble at the production desk, John recorded a new album Uncovered that included "Help!" Released as a single, it gave him his first Top Ten hit in more than five years.
Enthused by its success, John set to work with a few close friends including soundman Ross Fraser preparing material for a "make or break" album that would do him justice and demonstrate what he was really capable of. Whispering Jack was the album, and "You're The Voice", which was discovered by Ross, would be the single that re-launched Farnham to paved the way for him to become the successful entertainer he is today. Unable to get any major record label interested in it, Glenn Wheatley, in his unwavering belief in John and the album they were putting together, mortgaged his house to help pay for the recording.
John's incredible comeback was topped off when he was named Australian Of The Year in 1988, although there was panic just before the event when it was discovered that John had never been naturalised! Album and single sales were beyond even their expectations and were followed up by a series of successful albums, singles and concert tours, culminating in a grueling, nationwide Farewell Concert tour in 2003, appropriately called 'The Last Time'. He declared it to be his last full-scale national tour, but made it clear that he was not retiring from the music business entirely and promised to play the occasional live show in future years, as well as making more recordings.
Linda migrated to Australia at the age of 15 with her parents. Settling in Adelaide, she finished school and began a career in hairdressing, but ultimately wanted to be a singer. At the age of 18, she packed her bags and moved to Melbourne where she joined the band, Nova Express. Three years later, she left the band to perform for Australian troops in Vietnam with the ABC Show Band. She returned to Australia to lean times until 1973 when she was signed up by Image Records and released a string of soul influenced hits such as "Mamma's Little Girl, "Our Day will Come" and "Neither One of Us". These led to live and TV appearances and singing in a variety of TV commercial. In the mid 1970s she went into session work and in recent years has taught Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts.
For three frantic years between 1965 and 1968 pint-sized Lynne Randell was Australia's most popular female performer, earning herself the title of Australia's "Little Miss Mod". Her trendy clothes and hairstyle, good looks and innocent image, backed up by a string of solid pop hits brought her relatively short-lived fame.
Born Lynne Randall in Liverpool, England in 1950, she migrated with her family at the age of 5 and settled in the Melbourne suburb of Murrumbeena. As a teenager attending Mordialloc High School, she dreamed of becoming famous - but not as a singer, as a hairdresser. She dreamed of winning awards and going to work for Alexander of Paris. At 14 she began working as an assistant in the Melbourne hair salon where she was eventually discovered by a customer, rock manager Carol West, who managed several Melbourne bands including The Spinning Wheels. Her career took off after singing at a gig in Lorne where she met a longhaired university student who would become a life-long friend - Ian "Molly" Meldrum. While performing at a birthday party, she was heard by Melbourne DJ Stan Rofe, a tireless promoter of talent on the local music scene, who helped her get a recording contract with EMI.
She enjoyed a string of hits, went to London and the US on a promotional tour in October 1966. In her home town of Liverpool she performed at the Cavern and then struck up an acquaintance with Monkees lead singer Davy Jones while in New York. In July 1987 she toured Australia with The Monkees and was voted Top Female Vocalist in Go Set magazine's Pop Poll for the second year in a row. She went to the US with The Monkees when they returned home and opened for The Monkees at three of their early American concerts. She was very well received, so she was engaged as support act for their now-legendary first American tour.
On her return to Australia she was criticised on a local TV show for wearing a particular dress because it made her look fat. Uncomfortable about the weight she had put on whilst overseas, Lynne resorted to using diet pills and soon developed an addiction that was to plague her for decades. In 1967, she had become so run down that she contracted severe glandular fever, followed by a bout of peritonitis. She returned to the US where she revelled in the anonymity and thrived on the glamour and excitement of the life in Los Angeles. In those years she worked as Go Set's American correspondent during 1970 and 1971, interviewing musicians. Lynne became a famous hostess, throwing parties for the stars, but under the added strain of her addiction, she was dovorced in the late 1970s, returning to Melbourne in 1980 where she became Ian Meldrum's assistant. After a few years in the US, she returned to Australia in the 1990s.
With ten Mo Awards for Best Male Vocalist and nine albums to his credit, Tony Pantano (right) is one of Australia's most enduring cabaret singers. Born in Italy, he migrated to Australia with his family as a young child. He started singer with a group in the late 1960s and in 1969 he went solo, spending time in Asia gaining experience. He returned to Melbourne a few years later and gained popularity as a cabaret singer, making regular appearances on a new series of Bandstand. He still performs regularly around Australia.
The Moir Sisters
Born in Scotland, Jean, Margot and Lesley Moir migrated to Australia with their parents in the early 1960s. In 1969, they returned to Scotland briefly where Jean was given a guitar as a gift. She took up the instrument and quickly developed a talent for writing songs. Margo and Lesley were encouraged to form a trio with her, and developed a tight, three-part harmony style in 1970 that would become their trademark sound. They performed on the TV talent show New Faces in Melbourne and won a series of "Showcase".
Brought to the attention of EMI executives, they recorded Good Morning How Are You?/We Will Never Change in May 1974. On 17th August, it reached No. 6 on the record charts and remained in the charts for 16 weeks. The trio was signed to Elton John's Rocket label and released an album in 1975, "Lost - Somewhere Beyond Harmony", produced by the late Ivan Hutchinson. Back in the UK as The Moirs, they released State of Shock in 1978.
In the early 1980s, they signed with WEA and issued two singles, So Excited/You Won't Get Me (1982) and Running Scared /See You Coming (1983) which failed to sell as well as their first hit. The sisters continued to perform, and Margot Moir issued a solo single, Scarlet Skies /Tightrope in 1989, and an album, Loving You in 1996. Margot, based in Melbourne, continues to perform with her daughter, Rae-Emma, in the Pop/ Rock Band from Melbourne, Celtic Spirit. The band plays a blend of original music and traditional jigs/ songs and music from artists such as Van Morrison, The Corrs, U2, The Commitments, The Waterboys, etc.
Born on 9th April 1957 in Liverpool, England, at the age of three year Jamie received ice creams as a reward for singing to neighbours in the streets of Liverpool. He migrated with his family to Melbourne at the age of seven and quickly achieved almost every accolade imaginable. Jamie's first stage appearance was in the production of Oliver at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne. His first television experience came with his membership in Brian and the Juniors at the tender age of seven, which he chose in preference to a major role in the stage musical Mame. He bagan making appearances in Happening '70 and Happening '71. In April 1971 he became one of the founding members of Young Talent Time.
Jamie's career took off soon after starting Young Talent Time so he was only with the show for around 10 months. He released a single "The Little White Cloud That Cried" in July 1971 that reached the Top 20 charts nationally. In August of 1971 Jamie was crowned King of Pop for 'best newcomer'. At these awards Jamie met Liberace, who took Jamie back to the USA to tour extensively for two years as his protege. He made appearances on top TV shows there including the Johnny Carson Show and David Fronst's programme. He then headed back to Australia where he was crowned King Of Pop for 1973. Jamie has remained in showbusiness and currently shares his time between running his singing studio and entertainment agency and performing in a weekly cabaret show.
Redfern's third studio album, Hitch a Ride on a Smile (1974), provided the title track as its lead single in March, which reached the top 30. Also that year he was dubbed the King of Pop at the TV Week King of Pop Awards for 1974. In the following year he provided a compilation album, Jamie Redfern's Golden Hits. According to Australian music historian, Ian McFarlane, Redfern "slipped from view" during that year. Redfern is today a singing teacher.
Red Symons Skyhooks
Born in the seaside resort of Brighton in Britain on 13th June 1949, Redmond Symons migrated with his family to Australia in August 1958 aboard the Fairsea. In many ways its passenger list for that voyage had shades of a who's who to be of the Australian music industry, for besides Redmond, the children aboard included Pete Watson, who would become the bass player of MPD Limited, and the three Gibb Brothers, Barry, age 11, and twins Maurice and Robin, age 8. Barry played guitar and sang with his three brothers to the other two boys in the prow of the Fairsea. Symons has memories of water pistol fights with the twins.
The Gibb Brothers stayed on board and travelled on to Brisbane. Red and Pete disembarked at Melbourne. Red's family settled in Emerald on the outskirts of Melbourne. As he passed through high school, Red became proficient on guitar and keyboards and began playing music part time. After graduating in computer programming and pure maths, Red continued to gravitate towards performing, first in Moloch & the Molecules and Scumbag before attaining fame and notoriety as a member of the leading 1970s superband, Skyhooks.
His time with Skyhooks was followed by forays into a variety of aspect of the performing arts, including a stint as musical director with the Pram Factory, The Melbourne Theatre Company, The Edgley Organisation and Grahame Bond's Boy Own McBeth in Australia. In Los Angles he was a cast member of the successful Rocky Horror Show and chanced his arm as an actor for the South Australian Film Corporation, Crawford Productions and Grundy. Red played the prettier of the Ugly Sisters in Hey Hey It's Cinderella and performed in the Larry Hart/Michael Jackson production of Sisterella. He has worked as a record producer for numerous bands and artists, and as a composer for film and TV with credits such as Women of the Sun, The Empty Beach and Blue Heelers, the latter's theme music being his most instantly recognisable composition. Red is also a Facts award winning jingle writer and gained further notoriety as the comic hatchet man on the Nine Networks long running Hey Hey It's Saturday. Paradoxically, as the heartless judge on the show's Red Faces talent segment, he became one of the most endearing people in television, with a quick wit which has helped establish him as one of Australia's most popular media personalities. Red was a logical choice as a Presenter with the Channel Nine Computer show dot.com.tv which aired in 2000. His humorous thoughts on the absurdities of everyday existence are heard on the ABC 774 morning radio in Melbourne and read in The Age newspaper where he writes a weekly column.
Pete Watson The Phantoms; MPD Ltd
Pete Watson, who was born in 1950, migrated to Australia in August 1958 on the Fairsea and went on to become the bass player of MPD Limited. On board the Fairsea was a handful of other children who, in later life, would also make their mark on the Australian music scene. During the voyage, Pete and a 9-year old Red Symons (later of the 1970s band Skyhooks and TV's Hey! Hey! It's Saturday) were entertained by Barry Gibb who played guitar and sang with his twin brothers Maurice and Robin to the other two boys in the prow of the Fairsea. Eight years later, Pete was to return the favour and play bass with his fellow MPD Ltd band members Mike Brady (guitar) and Danny Finley (drums). They providing vocal and instrumental accompaniment to The Bee Gees during their mid 1960s recording sessions at Ossy Byrne's studio in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville.
Pete's family, like Red's, left the Fairsea in Melbourne, where they settled. Strongly influenced by the inpromptu concerts of the brothers Gibb on board Fairsea and their subsequent rise to fame, Pete became a member of a Melbourne instrumental band, The Phantoms, during high school playing Shadows numbers. At the time, a precocious 15- year old amateur named Mike Brady, who was also a British immigrant, was playing with a high-school band called The Hearsemen. He answered The Phantoms' ad for the position of guitarist. Pete and Mike hit it off immediately and two months later, disenchanted by the somewhat dated approach of their parent band, they both agreed, in early 1965, to pursue a more contemporary 'beat' style. In May 1965 they met Danny Finley from the Melbourne suburb of Springvale, who was also in a similarly dated Melbourne-based instrumental band, The Saxons. The trio took the first letters of their initials to create the name of their new band, MPD Ltd.
The band enjoyed a short but sensational time in the spotlight. Their career was boosted and fostered in the early stages by the influential 3UZ Melbourne DJ, Stan "The Man" Rofe. The band developed a dynamic, gymnastic stage routine and were the spearhead act for the legendary Go!! label. Apart from showing off the dynamic interplay between the three musicians (including Danny's famous drumstick twirling), the relatively small collection of MPD's recorded material is among the best-sounding full-bodied sound productions from that era. With only their fellow migrant friends, The Easybeats, as serious rivals, MPD Ltd played a dominant role which would continue until exciting and innovative new bands like The Twilights, Zoot and The Masters Apprentices began appearing on the Australian music scene. Pete and Danny wrote the band's material and challenged only The Easybeats' Vanda and Young and the Gibb brothers as Australia's most promising songwriters.
What heralded the beginning of the end for MPD Ltd was the perceived career constrictions in Australia that affected so many Australian bands of that time. Like The Easybeats, The Twilights, Normie Rowe & The Playboys and The Bee Gees, MPD Ltd made a disastrous decision to crack the UK charts by moving to Britain. They sailed on the Achille Lauro in August 1966 from Fremantle and received a frantic send-off by 5,000 screaming fans. Two clouds overshadowed the band during the voyage; they had spent more than they should have on new musical instruments and were flat broke, and Pete faced "carnal knowledge" accusations which were all over the newspaper headlines when they left.
Nothing was organised for their band on arrival in London and the jolt back to earth by being unknowns in a foreign land with no money and limited opportunities to earn any hit them hard. The fact that The Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind" was doing huge business but all they could rustle up were two small gigs left them feeling jealous, sad and disillusioned. After four months and the coming on winter they just wanted to go home but by now, internal tension and bickering was coming to the surface and the writing was well and truly on the wall. Their financial position meant they had to go on the road and perform immediately on their return. By then, they couldn't stand the sight of each other and within a short time had called it a day.
Pete was the first to form a new band, launching Pete Watson's Rockhouse in early 1967. This was the band that introduced Australia to Rick Springfield, a young singer-guitarist from the Sydney suburb of Merrylands who Pete pulled straight out of high school. Springfield went on to front the Adelaide-based band Zoot with Beep Birtles. After a stint with Johnny Young & Kompany, Danny Finley joined the band in late 1968, and it became a "Mark II" version of MPD that lasted long enough to do a hair-raising tour of South Vietnam, entertaining Aussie troops, before it folded. By this time, Pete was ill and made no efforts to form another band or perform in any way. He died in Perth on 30th April 1972.
Mike Brady The Phantoms; MPD Ltd; The Two Man Band
A migrant from England, the 15-year old Mike Brady was playing in a Melbourne high school band named The Phantoms that going nowhere in particular when he first met the "P" of what was to become the 1960s band, MPD Ltd, Pete Watson. (Mike was the "M" and drummer Danny Finley was to become the "D"). Mike and Pete were both disenchanted members of the types of bands that played instrumentals similar to those recorded by The Shadows. After Mike joined Pete in The Phantoms, it wasn't long before they agreed to pursue a more contemporary 'beat' style.
As Mike remembered later: "We were into The Beatles and The Stones but [The Phantoms] were all into all gold lame suits. It was based on The Shadows. We didn't think that that sort of music would last much longer and so we rang Danny Finley from The Saxons, who was a sensational drummer. He accepted right away. I could sing reasonably well and Pete wasn't too bad but we needed something with a bit of a show, which is why we approached Danny." The show they created was MPD Ltd (see Pete Watson above).
Within three weeks of forming, MPD scored national exposure and wide acclaim when they joined Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays on the 1965 Dave Clark Five package tour. They were soon sharing the bill with The Easybeats, Bobby & Laurie, and The Rondells. Their songs, stylish outfits and on-stage antics during their short set nearly stole the show. Years later, Mike Brady tellingly reflected: "Whatever we aimed to achieve, we achieved 400% ahead of schedule and it really spun our heads around. We were babes in the woods then. We were young kids in a new industry. Nobody really knew what they were doing - not the bands, not the managers. I guess we got paid at most gigs, quite often cash on the night. It usually wasn't much but we felt it was a privilege, a big deal to be involved with a pop band. There was no way that any of us wanted to be something really important, like a Prime Minister!"
Mike looks back on those times with awe, knowing they'd never get away with half od what they got away with today. "It was very exciting. But there was no emphasis on music at all - we didn't even care if it was in tune. It was totally visual, there was no staging at all. We didn't have our own lights, we didn't have our own PA, we didn't have our own road crew. All we had was one roadie and a station wagon. For 110,000 people at the Myer Music Bowl we had one 4-speaker Fender concert amplifier with no mic on it!"
The recording of their biggest hit, "Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder", the release of which coincided with their departure to England, reflected the mateship that existed in the music industry back then. Just as MPD Ltd had provided the backing for many of the Bee Gees early records, the Bee Gees had returned the favour on this song, which was recorded in the Hurstville studio of producer-engineer Ossie Byrne. Mike recalls that all the Bee Gees were in the studio during the recording and contributed in one way or another. Maurice Gibb apparently plucked the strings of an open piano, like a guitar.
Brady recalls the weeks in England before returning home as one of the lowest times of his life and that the group began disintegrating when they were in fact at their performing zenith: "It was only psychologically horrific. We still had our act, in fact it was the best we'd ever had. We put so much rehearsal into it in England. We had costumes and props, the whole thing was absolutely amazing. We got better money than before we left - for one 20-minute spot in Wagga one night we picked up about $3800, which was big bread for a band in 1966, particularly a band that had virtually no overheads. But we'd only been home in Melbourne for about two days when we had to leave our families again and go on the road. It would have been better if we'd kept out of each others sight for a few weeks."
After the band's demise, Mike had a stint in Kompany and then went to perform for the Australian troops in Vietnam with The Down Under Trio which featured Wayne Duncan, formerly of The Rondells, later of Daddy Cool, and Gary Howard, formerly of The Mixtures and MPD Mk II. In 1969 Mike formed the short-lived Mike Brady Group before embarking on a highly lucrative and successful career in songwriting, session playing and production work. Along with Peter Sullivan as The Two Man Band, he notched up the biggest-selling Australian single ever released to date in the 1970s, the football anthem "Up There Cazaly". It was to be eclipsed by another Mike Brady prodiction, Joe Dolce's satirical single, "Shaddup You Face". These days he is a prolific writer, producer and singer of advertising jingles as well as talk back radio host in Melbourne.
Glenn Shorrock The Twilights; Axiom; Little River Band; Birtles Shorrock Goble
One of Australia's gifted and best known singer/songwriters, Glenn Shorrock hails from Rochester in Kent, where he was born in 1944. He inherited the good humour of his Yorkshire father and the streetwise sense of his Cockney (Londoner) mother. A decade later he arrived in Australia with his family from England as assisted passage migrants. They were originally scheduled to go to Melbourne but went to Adelaide after the authorities called for volunteers to change from one destination to the other.
There first impressions of Adelaide were negative, Glenn recalling Port Adelaide's passenger terminal as being little more than a tin shed in a mangrove swamp. The family likened life at the Elder Park Migrant Hostel (it occupied the site of Adelaide's Festival Theatre) where they were first billeted as being akin to Changi Prison. Adelaide was flat and hot and such a disappointment, Glenn's mother cried herself to sleep many a night. Eventually she could take it no more and returned home with her son and daughter to England. Her husband stuck it out and when he got a job at the Weapons research Establishment in the Adelaide suburb of Salisbury and a house close by in Elizabeth, he persuaded her to return and re-join him.
During his nine months back in Britain, Glenn had begun listening to the likes of Johnnie Ray and Frankie Lane on his auntie's radiogram, but it was the first time he heard Elvis Presley singing "Heartbreak Hotel" on his bunk after returning to Adelaide that gave him his passion for rock & roll. According to legend, Glenn began performing at local youth clubs in Elizabeth where he used to strum a cardboard guitar and mime to a record player. When the record player broke down he had to rely on his own talents and the audience loved it!
After leaving school, Glenn got a job with the South Australian Mines department. A fellow work mate who sang in a vocal quartet called The Four Tones told him that one of the group had dropped out and that Glenn should audition for his place. Glenn did this and was accepted, but the other singer changed his mind, leaving Glenn thinking that maybe he ought to start his own group. He got together with some mates he used to go out with and formed the vocal quartet, the Checkmates. They performed at parties and dances singing a-cappella or using the resident band to back them. Glenn realised he needed a band.
"It was a warm summer evening in Elizabeth, South Australia, ten miles north of Adelaide," recalls Glenn. " Paddy McCartney, Mike Sykes and myself had been singing in The Checkmates but had decided to trim down to a more efficient trio. Looking into the changing colours of the evening skyline, I suggested we call ourselves The Twilights. We performed as a trio for a year or so around Adelaide, sometimes with various bands, sometimes a capella. We sang songs like "Runaround Sue", "Surfin' Safari", "At The Hop", "Blowin' In The Wind" and "Tom Dooley" &endash; sort of a cross between Jan & Dean and The Kingston Trio! Then, in mid-'63, Please Please Me hit our ears and things changed quickly. Adelaide went Beatle crazy and The Twilights rode the wave eagerly. We won a Beatles Soundalike competition and appeared on the Adelaide Tonight television show. Things were getting serious.
"It was becoming obvious that our hobby had the potential to become a career and it was commitment time. From being just part of a "package" show of band, vocalist and vocal trio, The Twilights reorganised into a complete rock 'n' roll band. At that time there were a lot of young bands emerging in Adelaide, such as Bobby Bright & the Beaumen, Johnny B Goode & Penny Rockets, Pat Aulton & the Clefs and The Hurricans. We sort of merged with The Hurricans. This meant losing my friend Mike Sykes, my first bitter taste of ruthlessness. Into the fold came lead guitarist Terry Britten, bassist John Bywaters, rhythm guitarist Peter Brideoake and drummer Frank Barnard. Two other Hurricans members went on to other Adelaide bands &endash; Kevin Peek to Johnny Broome & the Handles and John Rupert Perry to The Vibrants."
Between 1964 and 1969, The Twilights achieved national fame, at first singing eerily accurate replications of British bands like The Beatles, The Searchers, The Hollies and The Who, before writing and singing their own material. They recorded 13 singles and two albums, had eight consecutive hits and won the 1966 Hoadleys National Battle of the Sounds which won them a trip to England and recording session at EMI's Abbey Road studios in London, then the Mecca for would be rock superstars. Here they met The Beatles who were recording "Strawberry Fields Forever"/ "Penny Lane" and The Twilights were invited to sit in a recording session. They then played for a week at Liverpool's The Cavern Club. Like other Australian bands who headed for Britain around that time to break into the international market, they found the quality and diversity of bands in Britain at the time was so high, there was no room of them. They came home sporting all the latest Carnaby Street gear with a head full of new ideas but somewhat disillusioned by the whole exercise.
They released a number of hit singles from their Abbey Road sessions, the first being "What's Wrong With The Way I Live?" Composed especially for the group by The Hollies' Graham Nash, Tony Hicks and Alan Clarke, the recording earned plaudits from the composers themselves ("Much better than we did it!" recalled Nash). The lacklustre reception to The Twilights' second album and the Always single in early 1968 began to beg the question: how much longer could they sustain the momentum? The group toured extensively during 1968. They released a single "Tell Me Goodbye"/"Comin' On Down" in August that failed to sell or get airplay and did a pilot for a Monkees-style TV show that was canned. In January 1969, disappointed at their recent lack of progress and perceived declining public response, the group dropped plans to return to England and instead decided to cut its losses and disband. Glenn recalls his time with The Twilights most fondly, stating they were very close then during a very exciting period in Australian pop music.
After the break up, Glenn spent three months managing the Australian group, the Avengers. In May 1969, he met singer/songwriter Brian Cadd at a party in Brisbane and commenced a friendship that lasts until this day, and formed the supergroup Axiom. In its relatively short life, Axiom produced some of the best recordings of the time, including the excellent album, Fool's Gold, and singles "Arkansas Grass"; "Ford's Bridge", "A Little Ray of Sunshine" and "My Baby's Gone".
Within 18 months, they too had gone to Britain but again, the doors remained closed and when the band decided to head back to Australia in 1971, Glenn decided to stay in England and Axiom disbanded. During his time in England, Glenn signed a solo deal with the MAM record label and released three singles. In 1972, Glenn joined the 12-piece international rock orchestra Esperanto. The band had little success and Glenn left to sing backup vocals for Cliff Richard.
In October 1975, before returning to Australia to get involved in management work, he got a phone call from former Zoot guitarist Beeb Birtles who offered him a role in a new group that he was forming with Graeham Goble. Their plan was to establish a band with a sound based on tight, intricate harmonies. Glenn initially declined, but was eventually persuaded to meet up with the pair in Melbourne early in 1975. The trio got together and formed Little River Band which attained a level of success both in Australia and in the US, UK and Europe, that no other band apart from AC/DC has come close to achieving. Within eight months under the management of Glenn Wheatley, Little River Band had three top 20 singles, Curiosity, Emma, Every Day Of My Life. They also had two top 10 albums, Little River Band, and After Hours. Glenn's composition "Help Is on It's Way" broke into the US top 20 charts in 1977 and the band's third album, Diamantina Cocktail, earned LRB their first gold record, the first to be awarded to an Australian-based band or performer. LRB and Olivia Newton-John, both from Australia, held the honour in 1982 of being the only acts to have an American top ten hit every year consecutively for five years.
Needing a break after a long run of success, Glenn decided to take leave from the band in February 1982, to be replaced by another Australian stalwart, John Farnham. Since LRB, Glenn has released a series of solo albums and singles, toured with The Rocky Horror Show nationally, compared ABC-TV's Rock Arena in 1986 and rejoined the Little River Band for three years commencing in 1988. In 1990, Goble, who had also rejoined LRB with Glenn, left the band as a touring member, and LRB as we'd known it finally called it a day in 1991. For a while drummer Derek Pellicci mounted Little River Band tours with Glenn as lead singer. When Glenn was unable meet one particular schedule due to other commitments, he was sacked, resulting in unpleasant legal action. In that same year, Glenn was inducted into the Australian Record Industry (ARIA) Hall of Fame. In 1993, Glenn formed the Blazing Salads with Brian Cadd and they released a self-titled album in the same year. He has now re-teamed with the little River Band originals Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble who are enjoying international acclaim and success as Birtles Shorrock Goble.
Beeb Birtles Zoot; Little River Band; Birtles Shorrock Goble
Gerard Bertelkamp was a typical Dutch boy before he migrated with his family to Australia aboard the Willem Ruys in 1957. The gift of a radio for his 12th birthday awakened his passion for music and within a few short years, he was playing bass guitar and had changed his name to Beeb Birtles. His first band, Zoot, had moved to Melbourne and hit the big time but its success would soon be eclipsed when Little River Band, of which he was a founding member, became the first Australia band to conquer the lucrative American and International music markets.
Born on 28th November, 1948 in Amsterdam, Gerard grew up like any other typical Dutch boy. Socialism in Holland was cramping his father's style and he decided that he would gamble on a brighter future somewhere else for his family. After viewing films on South Africa, Rhodesia, Canada, America and New Zealand, my parents chose to migrate to Australia in 1957. Taking very few belongings with us, the family boarded the Willem Ruys in Rotterdam and sailed into the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, around the southern tip of Africa, stopping briefly in Singapore before sailing on around the west coast of Australia before reaching our final destination of Melbourne. An overnight train trip took them to Adelaide, South Australia, they had decided to settle.
They moved from Woodside to Finsbury Migrant Hostel on Grand Junction Road at Pennington, not far from Port Adelaide. Struggling with the language barrier, Gerard was held back a year at the newly built Netley Primary School. In 1960, for his twelfth birthday, Gerard's parents bought him a second hand combination radio and record player from one of the other Dutch migrants who had sailed to Australia on the same boat. He decided life in Australia was not for him and wanted to migrate to the United States. Not only was Gerard given the radio/record player, but at the same time he inherited his record collection. It was this radio that awakened his passion for music! Every week the local paper printed 5DN's Big Sixty chart and he would cut it out and keep it on a clipboard, eager to see which songs dropped out of the chart and which new ones entered.
When he went on to Plympton High, he meta John D'arcy, a recent arrival from Manchester, England, worshipped his hometown heroes, The Hollies. He and his family were living in Glenelg Migrant Hostel. Many of the English migrants brought with them the latest clothing and music that was popular in England. They followed suit with letting their hair grow long and would come to school in their mod shirts, super thin leather ties and Beatle boots, often to be reprimanded by teachers and headmasters alike. It was at this time that Gerard received his unusual name - Beeb. "Back in the sixties when we were all growing up as kids, there was a cartoon series on television called The Dick Tracy Show with various characters in it such as Mumbles and B-B Eyes, as well as a funny little Chinese detective. For some reason, my friends at Plympton High School started calling me B-B Eyes which was soon after abbreviated to B-B. All through my high school years the name stuck and it wasn't until Darryl Cotton joined my first band, Zoot, that he abbreviated my name even further to "Beeb". Then, I took the first part of my legal last name, "Bertelkamp" and Anglicized the spelling to become "Birtles", thereby creating my professional name of Beeb Birtles."
John D'arcy's family moved out of Glenelg Migrant Hostel to Christies Beach which was about twenty miles from Adelaide. By now Beeb was so hooked on the music thing that he started hitchhiking to Christies Beach on weekends, spending the nights at John's place or with whoever would have him. Eventually they formed a band called Times Unlimited. They bought a cheap pickup to make his guitar electric and I got a loan to buy a Goldentone bass amp and away he went learning how to play bass and sing at the same time. Sitting in front of his beloved record player, he spent hours picking out the bass parts of the songs we were rehearsing.
Beeb played in numerous bands and along the way was joined by Daryl Cotton. Their band was named Zoot. Zoot worked their way up and became one of the most popular bands on the Adelaide music scene between 1966 and 1968. Music became the love of Beeb's life.. For the last six months he lived in Adelaide, he worked at the Chrysler plant in Christies Beach, tooling parts for car doors. Zoot turned professional and moved to Melbourne in August 1968 to seek the big time. They became a very popular teenybopper band throughout Australia from 1969 until 1971 when the band broke up. The band ended its three-year run with a disastrous trip to England where we disbanded. The nucleus of Mississippi, Graeham Goble, Derek Pellicci and Been, whilst still living in England, decided to reform a new group, and we recruited the services of Glenn Shorrock as lead singer and Glenn Wheatley as manager.
They changed their name to Little River Band in early 1975 and recorded its first album. What followed was an eight-year wave of worldwide success ending with his departure in October 1983. In the late eighties, Beeb felt he was stagnating by staying in Australia. He had achieved everything there was to be achieved and had reached the pinnacle of my career with Little River Band and moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1991. Now based in Nashvilled, he continue to write, produce and promote other artists through his label and re-teamed with his LRB mates, Glenn Sholrrock and Graeham Goble in March 2002 to form the part time band, Birtles Shorrock Goble.
Jimmy Barnes Solo/Cold Chisel
Back in Jimmy Barnes' hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, his father, Jim Swan, was a hard-drinking featherweight boxing champion. When his career finished, it was a major let down for him and he turned increasingly to alcohol. By giving himself, his wife Dorothy and their six children a new start, Jim Snr. believed he could overcome his demons if they moved from Scotland to Australia. They migrated to South Australia, arriving in Adelaide in January 1961. The family settled in the tough migrant working-class suburb of Elizabeth, but the change of location did nothing to fix Jim Snr's problems. His increased drinking and violence eventually led Dorothy to leave her husband. The children remained with their father, who by this time had fallen apart.
The authorities gave Dorothy six months to become settled and have a home for them, otherwise they would move in and make the children wards of the state. Dorothy had moved in with the cousins of one Reg Barnes, with whom she worked. One night, Reg, who was a clerk at the local Kelvinator factory, came over for dinner and hearing of her plight, offered to marry her on the spot because he didn't want her kids going into homes. Young Jimmy himself recalls, "One minute this guy's gonna be a priest and he's a teetotaler, and next minute he's got six juvenile delinquents, all in rock bands, moving into his house. He was a great bloke." When his younger sister Lisa was taunted at school about being adopted, Dorothy and Reg put it to the children that they might change their surname. All but the oldest son, John Swan, decided to become Barnes.
Born James Dixon Swan on 28th April 1956 in Glasgow, Scotland, Jimmy Barnes was to inherit his father's tendency towards substance addictions. He had migrated at the age of five, and had mixed memories of growing up in Elizabeth. He remembers the old Nissin huts of the Gepps Cross migrant hostel where the family first stayed, and the advertisements that his parents had responded to which said, "Come to sunny South Australia." He recalls that, on his family's arrival in Adelaide, it rained for six weeks and he wondered what had happened to the promised sunshine. Though it took his parents five years to stop wanting to catch the next boat back to Scotland, he remembers the drabness of Glasgow and how much better it was to be surrounded by fields and animals and places to play football, in spite of the primitive accommodation afforded them.
Brothers John Swan and Jim Barnes developed a love for rock 'n' roll music and hung out together listening to bands. Jim Keays of the rock band Masters Apprentices recalls them being regulars at their gigs in the late 1960s. John joined a band named Tarkus, and soon found a place for his 17-year old brother Jim, too. John Swan had just replaced Bon Scott (who joined AC/DC) as lead singer in the school band Fraternity when he was approached to join a new band named Orange that was just forming. John recommended his brother Jim instead and thus began Jimmy Barnes' association with the band that would change its name to Cold Chisel the following year.
More than anything, Barnes saw Cold Chisel as a ticket out of Elizabeth. He had found Elizabeth to be a great place to grow up as a child, but by the time he began high school, he wanted out. The gangs and street fighting that he was being drawn into only added to the pressures he was already fighting forces within him, and this pushed him towards music as his means of escape. "Larg's Pier Hotel was a really rough pub," Jimmy recalls. "I used to go there when I lived in Elizabeth, when I was a bit younger, and we'd take acid and go there and watch the bouncers kill people, you know, just for entertainment. It was, like, frightening."
When Jimmy joined Cold Chisel, he knew what sort of audience he wanted to play to and what sort of music they wanted to hear. It was blues based, loud and in your face - it was known as pub rock, the sort of music that hard-drinking working class Aussie males drank beer to. Jimmy's tenure with Cold Chisel was uneasy as the frantic lifestyle of excess he fell into drove him deep into drug and alcohol dependency. He quit the band a number of times, first hoping to join his brother in Swanee and later in 1978 to join John in his new group, Feather. On this occasion he found his farewell performance with Cold Chisel such a moving experience, he decided to stay. The end came five years later in the wake of the band failing to make it internationally. Returning from a German tour, the band had to go straight into a grueling series of Australian gigs to pay the bills. Barnes, who was struggling to make ends meet because he now had a family as well as his addictions to feed, asked for an advance. The request led the band members to take a good look at their situation. They decided to call it a day with a farewell tour and album.
Jimmy immediately launched his solo career. His first album, 'Bodyswerve' sounded just like a Cold Chisel album and went to Number 1 in Australia. Turning his attention to the international market, he added a few extra tracks for the American version, using American musicians. One of the new tracks was the Jonathan Caine composition, "Working Class Man", which was rush released in Australia and also shot to Number 1. Over the next 10 years, Barnes divided his time between Australia and America, and recorded six albums, all of which became Number 1 sellers in Australia but major success overseas continued to elude him. During the next nine years, Barnes recorded eight albums and toured almost constantly to bankroll his live-now pay-later lifestyle. In 1994 it all caught up with him. He was forced to sell his vast property, home and studio to help pay unpaid taxes and took his family to live in France, where he recorded his 1995 album, 'Psyclone'.
In 1997 he joined the re-formed Cold Chisel for a disappointing reunion tour and followed it with two more solo albums. When Barnes' friend and former manager Michael Gudinski left Mushroom Records, Barnes made a fresh start with Cold Chisel's record company, Warner, travelling to Memphis to record the album, 'Soul Deep' and its follow-up, 'Soul Deeper'.
During the 1990s, Barnes realised that his life was seriously out of control and that he had a major drug and drinking problem. He recalls having been given whiskey to drink on New Years Eve at the age of five by his father and believes that the problem began way back then. It was reflected in his drive to be liked and gain acceptance from people, which was the underlying reason for him becoming a performer. His onstage drinking antics with Cold Chisel had been legendary, but Jimmy finally saw that his addictions to alcohol and cocaine had become so serious he describes it as a form of "suicide".
To get straightened out, Jimmy placed himself into a clinic in America for a month. He believed this could not have happened in Australia as he had a way of wrapping people around his little finger and could get away with murder in Australia. Part of the clinic's process involved taking his wife and family to the clinic and do a family treatment with him. Jimmy found the hardest part was dealing with the things that drove him to drink two bottles of vodka a day, or, as he puts it, "drives you to take so much cocaine that you could finance a Bolivian revolution".
On his way back to Australia after the treatment, with a tour awaiting, Barnes recalled the amount of drugs and alcohol he used to consume on tour, and asked himself, "How in the hell am I gonna do this? What do I do now?" To his amazement, he found his voice had actually improved, that he had a control that he never dreamt was possible and after three or four shows, was completely in his stride. He has remained clean for a number of years.
Olivia Newton-John was Born in Cambridge, England on 26th September 1948. She was the youngest child of Welsh Professor Brinley Newton-John and German Irene Born, daughter of Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born who translated letters between her father and his friend, Albert Einstein. Despite her academic background, Olivia only had an interest for music and singing. She migrated with her parents and older brother Hugh (he became a doctor) and sister Rona (she became an actress) left London on 16 October 1954 for Melbourne when she was 6, travelling on the Strathaird. Her father, Brin Newton-John, a distinguished professor of German at King's College, University of Cambridge, was taking up a position as Dean at Ormond College. In 1959 Brinley & Irene divorced and at the age of 10, Olivia and her mother moved into an apartment Melbourne. It was soon afterwards that she won a Hayley Mills lookalike contest, her sister Rona having sent in Olivia's photo without telling her.
From 1960-1962 Olivia would receive an acoustic guitar from her mother and with the help of her then boyfriend Ian Turpie, she would learn to play and sing folk music. Olivia also went on to her first appearance in "Green Pastures" at a Melbourne Theatre at age 12. Other TV spots in the 60's included "The Boomery and "Tarax Happy Show". By the age of fourteen, she had formed an all girl group with three school friends called the Sol Four but was forced to disband because her parents claimed that it interfered with schoolwork. Later that year she was encouraged by customers who heard her sing solo at her brother-in-law's coffee bar to enter a talent quest tv show called "Sing, Sing, Sing" hosted by Johnny O'Keefe. In winning this contest with her rendition of "Everything's Coming Up Roses", she earned herself a trip to London. By 1963, Olivia was appearing on her own children's TV show called 'Lovely Livvy' and weekly pop programs in Australia.
Olivia met her lifelong friends, Melbourne born Pat Carroll and John Farrar on the "Go Show". The following year she went to London (below), where she was joined by her friend Pat (who later married John Farrar). They toured Europe as a duo act, they appeared on BBC television and the cabaret circuit and played in nightclubs and American service bases until Pat's visa ran out so she had to return to Australia. Breaking the duo up and leaving Olivia to make her first single with Decca Records in 1966, a version of Jackie DeShannon's "Till You Say You'll Be Mine." In 1971, Bruce Welch of The Shadows co-produced her cover of Bob Dylan's "If Not For You," with her Australian friend, producer/songwriter, John Farrar, who she continues to collaborate with today.
Olivia left England for America in 1975 to promote her next album "Have You Never Been Mellow". The title song charted at #1 and her next single from the album, "Please Mr Please", reached #3. This was the start of a long list of hits which continued throughout the 70s. Olivia became a regular on the TV show "Midnight Special", and in 1976 she had her own TV special on ABC called "A Very Special Olivia Newton -John". Soft ballads were Olivia's strong suit, and she rattled off a string of albums, including, "Clearly Love", "Come On Over", "Don't Stop Believin", and "Making A Good Thing Better". She toured Japan in 1976 and a concert was recorded as a live album titled "Love Performance".
This proved to be only the beginning of a very exciting career. Her countless successes include three more Grammys, numerous Country Music Awards, American Music Awards and Peoples Choice Awards, five #1 hits including "Physical," which topped the charts for ten consecutive weeks, and 15 top 10 singles. In 1978, her co-starring role with John Travolta in "Grease" catapulted Olivia into super-stardom. This film led to the production of the most successful movie musical soundtrack in history, featuring the duets "You're The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights," with Travolta, as well as her mega-hit, "Hopelessly Devoted To You."
Olivia's public appeal has proved to be equally timeless. Her career has spanned more than three decades and she is still a vibrant, creative individual that is adored by fans across the world. Throughout her career, the much-loved star, who danced with Gene Kelly in "Xanadu," hosted the popular internationally syndicated "Wild Life" television show, was bestowed an O.B.E. (Order Of The British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth in 1979, has held many humanitarian causes close to her heart, particularly since the birth of her daughter Chloe in 1986. She served as Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme and in 1991, the Colette Chuda Environmental Fund/CHEC (Children's Health Environ-mental Coalition) was founded after the tragic death of Chloe's best friend from a rare childhood cancer, with Olivia serving as National Spokesperson for ten years. Her steadfast devotion and shared commitment to CHEC's mission and goals enabled the organization to receive worldwide attention and support. In 1999, with the release of her album, "Back With A Heart," Olivia garnered an Emmy Award for her songwriting and returned to work as a performer touring extensively in the United States for the first time in seventeen years.
Jon is one of few Australian performers who has successfully combined careers in music, television and stage. Born in Hampstead, London on 26th March 1949, Jon spent his 12th birthday on board SS Orion during his family's migratory voyage to Australia, settlling in Sydney. At the age of 16, he joined a high school band named Zenith, playing rhythm guitar and singing. A year later he switched to another Cabramatta-based band, Sebastian Hardie, in which he also played rhythm guitar and sang. This band performed regularly at Cabramatta High School where he was studying and from which he graduated in 1967.
Jon's first brush with fame came a year later when Sebastian Hardie was employed as Johnny O' Keefe's backing band, but his big break came with a successful audition in Harry M Miller's first production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971 in the key role of Judas. He claims to have taken the audition just see what an audition was like. During the show's five year run, Jon recorded four albums and had hits with "Handbags and Gladrags", "Turn the Page" and "Hollywood Seven". He also had guest roles in numerous TV shows including No. 96, Matlock Police and the Homicide telemoivie, Stopover, for which he received a Penguin best actor award nomination.
Throughout the 1970s he was kept busy recording in between touring with Bryan Ferry and Thin Lizzy and playing his own shows. He appeared as Jonathan Garrett in the acclaimed Australian television mini-series, "Against the Wind', co-writing its music and writing the theme song, Six Ribbons, which became a number one hit in more than six countries. For his role in the miniseries he won the year's Logie Award for Best Actor and a TV Week/Countdown award for Best Male Vocalist.
In the 1980s, he continued recording and performing, in between touring with the American band, Chicago, and appearing as the Pirate King alongside Marina Prior, Simon Gallaher and June Bronhill in the Victorian State Opera's production of Pirates of Penzance. Later in the decade he played the mad monk Rasputin in the show of the same name. It led him to fulfil his ambition to write his own show, Paris, based on the Trojan wars. His recording of Paris became the largest selling box set CD in Australia and the largest selling original Australian musical, winning an ARIA award for the best cast album. The artists featured on it included The London Symphony Orchestra, Barry Humphries, Doc Neeson, John Waters, Demis Roussos, Francis Rossi, Phillip Quast, Terry Donovan, John Parr and Harry Nilsson.
Around the turn of the 1990s, he played a faded 1970s rock star named Bobby Rivers in the Australian TV sitcom, All Together Now, which ran for three years with over 100 episodes. Jon also wrote the theme song and was musical director for the series. In 1994 he reprised his role as the Pirate king in an updated version Pirates of Penzance opposite Simon Gallaher which he followed up with follow appearances in two another two Gilbert and Sullivan classics - The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. They were followed by a tour in 1997 and a string of stage performances which ended with the Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum in June 1999.
After a break he went back on the road again and kept himself busy ever since with concerts and stage performances until his death in March 2016. English was hospitalised due to "unexpected health problems" and he was forced to cancel several scheduled performances due to planned surgery for an aortic aneurysm. He died following post-operative complications late in the evening of 9 March 2016. A public memorial service commemorating his life was held at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney on the evening of Monday 4 April 2016. The memorial took the form of a tribute concert and included performances by the Foster Brothers, John Paul Young, Simon Gallaher and John Waters, among others.
Jim Keays Masters Apprentices
Born in Scotland on 9th September 1946, Jim came to Australia with his parents as a four year old and settled in Adelaide. His British roots ensured Jim would develop an interest in England's popular music scene from an early age, which grew into a love for rock 'n' roll. When the Beatles toured Australia in 1964, Jim was 18. Inspired by their visit and the success of other English bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones, Keays decided that his future was in music and set about joining a band. At that time, there were many instrumental bands in Adelaide playing Shadows and Ventures covers. One such a band was The Mustangs, a dance band formed by four Adelaide teenagers: Mick Bower, Brian Vaughton, Gavin Webb and Rick Morrison.
Realising that The Beatles and their ilk had almost rendered these bands and the surf/instrumental music they played obsolete overnight, they decided to change their style to incorporate the new 'beat' music, and placed a "singer wanted" ad on the noticeboard at a local music centre. Would-be bass player Keays was at the time taking lessons from musician and guitar teacher John Bywaters, who was a member of one of Adelaide's most popular and accomplished beat groups. Jim responded to the ad. and was signed up by The Mustangs who began to establish themselves on the dance circuit around Adelaide, in suburban halls and migrant hostels. Their audience was predominantly migrant teenagers fresh from Britain who had seen or had been listening to the latest British pop bands before moving to Australia. Their presence in the audience became a major influence on what Keays and the band played.
"They just brought shipload after shipload of British migrants out and filled up the whole town," Jim recalls. "So, when we started, most of our crowds were British migrants who'd seen the Who and the Kinks and the Beatles and the Stones only weeks before and knew what they looked like and what they sounded like and they influenced us in a big way".
The band's change in the type of music it played brought about a change in their name. Seeing themselves as apprentices to those blues 'masters' like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, Mick Bower suggested the name Masters Apprentices to pay homage to these heroes. They decided early on to dispense with the apostrophe. Along with the name change, they grew their hair long and began writing songs appropriate to their new, old rocker image. They became to Australia what the Rolling Stones had become to Britain, just as the Easybeats became Australia's Beatles. The Masters enjoyed immense popularity throughout Australia, releasing hit after hit in their seven-year ride from 1965 to 1972 as one of Australia's most unique sounding bands and best live and recording acts. Surviving numerous lineup changes, founder and vocalist Jim Keays remained the Masters' only constant.
Having been formed during the Vietnam conflict, which touched the lives of many Australians because of the controversial introduction of compulsory military service in 1965, the Masters were just getting started when 20-year old Keays was picked in one of the 1966 ballots for national service. Fortunately, he was able to legally avoid the draft by signing on for a term with the Citizens' Military Force. He managed to avoid the compulsory short-back-and-sides hair cut by craftily pinning his long hair up under his slouch hat! By the end of 1965 The Masters became the home band of an Adelaide club named The Beat Basement. They regularly packed out the club and soon moved into The Twilight's home territory, becoming a major attraction at the Octagon Ballroom in the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth which had a strong migrant-based following. Keays recalled that two young Scots migrant boys, John "Swanee" Swan and his brother Jimmy Barnes, were among the regulars. The band also played at a dance in Salisbury, promoted by a young Doc Neeson, who would later become the lead singer of The Angels.
During their first trip to Melbourne, Keays met Ian "Molly" Meldrum and they became lifelong friends. Molly promoted the band through Go-Set and the Masters gained more exposure with appearances on TV on Kommotion, the Go! show, and played at top Melbourne venues alongside leading groups like The Purple Hearts, The Loved Ones and Brian Cadd's The Groop. In February 1967 the Masters relocated to Melbourne permanently. By December 1968 Glenn Wheatley was signed up and the classic lineup of The Masters Apprentices was in place.
In July 2007 Jim Keays was diagnosed with myeloma, which caused his kidneys to fail. He was put on dialysis and chemotherapy, then he had stem-cell transplants and returned to performing with Cotton Keays and Morris. As of February 2009, he had been in remission. However, he died on 13 June 2014 - his mother's birthday - age 68, from pneumonia due to complications resulting from his cancer, at a Melbourne hospital.
Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb The Bee Gees
Though Australia likes to claim them as their own, the brothers Gibb, who are better known as The Bee Gees, were actually born in England and migrated to Australia with their parents in 1958. They left Southampton, England, on 5th August 1958 aboard Fairsea. Barry was 11, twins Maurice and Robin were 8. Fellow passengers were migrants Redmond Symons and Pete Watson, the same age as the Gibb twins, who were later to play their part in Australian rock music history. Symons recalls Barry played guitar and sang with his three brothers to the other two boys in the prow of the Fairsea and has memories of water pistol fights with the twins.
The Gibb family settled in Brisbane but it was not long before their father had got them a regular spot on Brisbane television, which at that time was a relatively new medium. To further the careers of the trio became young men, the Gibb family moved to Sydney in January 1963. The family moved around a lot, their first home being at 23 Colin Street, Lakemba. They called it The Swinging House as they set up a reheasal room and mock TV-studio under the house in which they did home movies like TV shows. It wasn't long before they had a regular spot performing at the Three Swallows Hotel, Bankstown. The Bee Gees' first recording session took place at Festival Records' Pyrmont studio in January 1963. Their first single ("The Battle of the Blue and the Grey") was released on 22nd March 1963 and was the first occasion they used the name The Bee Gees.
In January 1964, the family had moved to Lane Cove and six months later were living at 8 Kent Street, Bronte. In September of the same year they lived in Middle Cove and a few months later they moved again, this time to neighbouring Castlecrag. By now the Gibb brothers, still waiting for their big break, were casual workers at the Automagic Carwash on New South Head Road, Edgecliff, next to Abe Saffron's Lodge 44 Motel. Over the next year they lived at 14 Fenton Street, Maroubra and then for a short while at Strathfield not far from their first Sydney home in Lakemba. During their time at Maroubra, Barry and his first wife, Maureen Bates, were married at the Holy Trinity Church, Kingsford, on 22nd August 1966.
By now, the Gibb family had come to the conclusion that the future of the Bees Gees was limited were they to stay in Australia, and decided to move back to Britain and develop their career on an international level from there. Following the lead of The Seekers who had paid for their passage to England by performing for the passengers of the Fairsky, Hugh Gibb approached Sitmar lines and negotiated a similar deal for his family. They Bee Gees left for England with their Australian producer, Ossie Byrne on 3rd January, 1967, aboard Fairsky. The Bee Gees never returned to Australia to live, though they have been back numerous times as part of their concert tour itineries.
Maurice, who had been the musical director of the Bee Gees during their final years as a group, died unexpectedly on 12 January 2003, at age 53, from a heart attack, while awaiting emergency surgery to repair a strangulated intestine. Initially, his surviving brothers announced that they intended to carry on the name "Bee Gees" in his memory, but as time passed they decided to retire the group's name, leaving it to represent the three brothers together.
On 20 November 2011 it was announced that Robin Gibb had been diagnosed with liver cancer, a condition he had become aware of several months earlier. In April 2012, it was reported that Robin had contracted pneumonia in a Chelsea hospital and was in a coma. Although he came out of his coma on 20 April 2012, his condition deteriorated rapidly, and he died on 20 May 2012 of liver and kidney failure. With Robin's death, Barry became the last surviving Gibb brother, and the Bee Gees dissolved as a musical group.