A to Z of Making It, Music, Unsung Heroes

Stevie Wright

“I’m self-destructive if left to my own devices.”

Stevie Wright passed away on December 27, 2015. He’s not as big as David Bowie, or legendary like Lemmy or a pop culture icon like Glenn Frey. But he is important to Australia and the music scene within Australia.

And he his life is one of those stories you need to tell.

Stevie was born in England and came to Australia when he was nine. He became the lead singer in a band called “The Easybeats” in 1964. The band had George Young (another migrant to Australia from Scotland, who is also the older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young) on guitar and Harry Vanda (another migrant to Australia from Holland) also on guitar.

The Easybeats were signed to Albert Music. Anyone who is Australian is aware of Albert’s contribution to finding the “Australian sound” in the Sixties and in the Seventies. The Easybeats were the first big act from Alberts paving the way for other artists like Billy Thorpe, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Angels and The Choirboys.

“She’s So Fine” was an early hit for “The Easybeats” from the first album “Easy” released in 1965. Stevie Wright co-write it with George Young.

The intro riff from George Young grabs you straight away. It’s just a few chords (that Nikki Sixx used for “Kick Start My Heart” in the verses), but the break in between the chrods for the singing is genius. That is what AC/DC built their career on.

“Sorry” is another riff heavy song for the era. The beauty of the Australian sound is an amalgamation of US Pop and Rock Music, US Delta Blues and UK Rock, Blues and Pop. “Funny Feelin’” and “You Said That” fall into the amalgamation of US and UK sounds.

When The Easybeats first went to the UK, their label United Artists told the guys that they will not be releasing any of the early songs as they didn’t feel that the lyrics were good enough. All of those lyrics were written by Stevie Wright and from that point on, he never wrote another lyric for The Easybeats.

And of course, the big international song from The Easybeats, is “Friday on My Mind” written by Vanda And Young. Everyone knows it, and a lot of artists have covered it. Gary Moore even had a hit with it in the Eighties. It was actually Gary Moore’s version that made me do some research into the song. Bon Scott admitted in the late Seventies that “The Easybeats” were the last rock band that he liked and that AC/DC is taking over where they left off.

But it’s hard to follow-up a hit song and by 1969, The Easybeats had broken up. Vanda and Young returned to England and started their song writing/production career in an attempt to pay off the debts they had accumulated in the UK during the last two years of The Easybeats existence. Stevie stayed in Australia and tried to form other bands, but it didn’t work. He had to start over again, but he wanted the adulation he had with The Easybeats. By 1971, Wright found himself without a job, a home or any real inspiration.

Fast forward to 1972, Stevie Wright is cast in the Australian stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar and introduced to more rock and roll excesses, this time, heroin. Drugs were the norm. A lot of bios I have read mentioned that most musicians turned to drugs because they just didn’t know how to deal with fame. They’d go on stage, play to the audience, experience the high and then they had the endless travel and the comedown from the gig. Drugs and the party lifestyle filled in the gaps between shows.

“It was fabulous piano playing that was out of this world. And I couldn’t believe it. And I said, ‘What’s with him?’ And somebody said (whispering) ‘He’s on heroin’. So that’s it, I got into it and it made me violently ill. My illness lasted for nearly three days. And I still got up and thought ‘I’ll have another go at this’, you know, ‘I’ll win, I’ll beat it’. And by the time I’d beaten it, it had me.”

It was “Superstar” that re-established Stevie Wright in the eyes of the public. Fast forward towards the end of 1973 and Wright was signed with Albert Productions. Ted Albert invited Wright to listen to some songs and the Harry Vanda and George Young penned “ Hard Road” that told the story of a teenager leaving home to follow his dream of being a rock and roll star stood out immediately.

In April 1974, he released his debut solo LP, “Hard Road”, which featured the Harry Vanda and George Young 11 minute penned single “Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)”. The song became a hit. And what a song it is.

The three-part movement covers so many different musical styles, it became impossible to not like. Part 1 is all Blues/Rock. Part 2 is ballad folk rock. Part 3 is Soul/Funk/R&B. Brilliant.

Lyrically, the three parts tell the following story;

Part 1: Evie (Let Your Hair Hang Down) captures the initial courting phase of a relationship
Part 2: Evie: describing a wonderful life together
Part 3: Evie (I’m Losing You): the emotional loss during childbirth

No one forecasted or predicted the response “Evie” got. It remained at number 1 in the charts for half a year.

But the album did have some other nasty rock cuts and “Hard Road” is one such song that deserves some attention. If you want to compare it to something, it is basically an AC/DC song that AC/DC didn’t write. The song also features Malcolm Young on guitar.

Well my Mum and Pop they told me boy you know you’re just a fool yes they did.
When I told them I was leaving home and I was leaving school, yes I was.
So in a couple of hours I found myself heading’ down a south-bound road.
With everything I own upon my back, I carry such a heavy load.

Ooow, well it’s a hard, long road that I travel.
Yeah, it’s a hard, hard road that I travel.

Kids today don’t understand that once upon a time in order to pursue your rock and roll dreams you needed to pack up and leave the comfort of your home.

“Movin’ On Up” and “Commando Line” are both written by Stevie Wright and even though the songs pale compared to “Evie”, they are important as it showed that Stevie Wright can still write songs.

The personnel on the album is a supergroup of musicians. Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) is on vocals, George Young (The Easybeats) is on bass, Harry Vanda (The Easybeats) and Malcolm Young (AC/DC) are on guitar, John Proud (contributed uncredited drums to AC/DC’s “High Voltage” album) is on drums and Warren Morgan (Chain, Sherbet, Billy Thorpe, etc) is on piano. And you can hear the power that this supergroup produces on the recording.

But the star of the album was and still is, the full 11 minutes of “Evie”.

Another Vanda & Young produced LP, “Black-eyed Bruiser”, followed in 1975, but it failed to do anything, which is a shame because “Black-Eyed Bruiser” is one helluva of a song. Of course it’s also written by Harry Vanda and George Young.

The riff to “Black-Eyed Bruiser” is a recycled version of “You Really Got Me” from The Kinks. Vocally, Stevie Wright is basically Bon Scott.

“You” is another classic song, in the vein of “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” with a big “Hey Jude” ending written by Vanda and Young. How can you not love the ending, when the female gospel choir takes over with “All I Want Is You”.

Atlantic Records in the U.S had a plan worked out to market Stevie Wright, but that monkey on Stevie’s back was not letting go. He overdosed and he made some attempts to get clean. A visit to Chelmsford Hospital would affect him forever. Chelmsford was notorious for a treatment known as deep sleep therapy, which led to the deaths of patients during treatment and many more killed themselves within a year after treatment. Stevie had fourteen electric shock treatments and his mental health suffered further. The psychiatrist, Harry Bailey, committed suicide when his therapy was exposed as a fraud.

There was the Concert of the Decade on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 1979 and a reunion of The Easybeats in 1986. In between it was all craziness. Addictions merged with crazy people. There was a time when Stevie lived with an underworld drug lord/murderer. He became an alcoholic. He was caught by the police attempting a robbery. He had drug charges against him when he was caught. He was in a nursing home close to two years, stamped to never come out.

But he did get out, because that is what Stevie Wright does. He gets knocked down and he gets back up again. A tablet prescribed from a neurologist got him back to reality. It’s worth noting, there is no Stevie Wright story from the 80’s onwards without Fay Walker, the woman who stuck by him all the way to the end.

But there is no denying, that his Easybeats friends, Vanda and Young went on to become rock and roll royalty in Australia and honoured by the industry while Stevie’s fortunes, hit rock bottom. But without Stevie Wright, there would be no Easybeats and the Australian Rock Sound.

Rest in peace, your hard road has come to an end. And thanks for the memories and those emotive performances.

A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

One Thing Cannot Be Disputed; Those Artists Who “Steal, Copy, Imitate” Are The Most Successful

So you are one of those artists that has a song or a few songs in the list of 4 million that haven’t been streamed yet on Spotify.

Then you hear a song that sounds very similar to your song.

Do you scream “theft” and lawyer up, preparing for a court case that you don’t have the funds for?
Do you just shrug your shoulders and move on?
Do you send the artist an email and ask him to acknowledge you as a songwriter to their song?
Do you use the fame of the current song to bring attention to your song?

I am sure in 90% of the cases, everyone will do the first part. Everyone will scream theft and then they will start a long and expensive court process. If the publisher controls the copyright, then this will happen 100% of the time.

Since the Copyright industries have grown into Corporate monoliths, it is suddenly uncool for an artist to use previous works as influences for further works. Even the audience of certain bands weigh in on the argument, calling certain bands rip offs and so forth.

However, one thing cannot be disputed, those artists who “steal” are the most successful. Those who “imitate” are the most successful. Those who “copy” are the most successful.

Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards.

Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others.

Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”.

The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards.

Coldplay has built a career on the “progress is derivative” model.

Bon Jovi has built a career on re-writing their hits. Seriously, if you look at their catalogue, “Living On A Prayer” has been rewritten for every album that came after “Slippery When Wet.” New Jersey had “Born To Be My Baby”. Keep The Faith had the title track. Crush had “It’s My Life”.

In the rock and metal worlds let’s look at the songs burning up the rock charts.

Five Finger Death Punch – “Lift Me Up” has a vocal melody in the verses similar to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. A lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery. The song is getting the plays. People are paying attention and that is what artists want.

It is not about sales anymore, it is about listening. Are people listening to your music?

Avenged Sevenfold – the whole “Hail To The King” album copies from other artists who of course copied from other artists for their own music. Again, a lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery.

Megadeth paid homage to Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave” in their new song “Kingmaker”.

Alter Bridge also paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Revelation Mother Earth” in the solo section of their song “Fortress”.

Continuing on with Alter Bridge, the song “The Uninvited” has a strong resemblance to Tool’s “Schism”. Do these odes to their influences make them unoriginal? No chance. The “Fortress” album is a great showpiece in technical riffage and great melodies.

Airbourne is making a career referencing AC/DC.

Motley Crue borrowed from Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Stevie Wright’s “Eve” for their song “Sex”.

Black Sabbath copied from their own past to create ’13’. “The End Of The Beginning” is basically the song “Black Sabbath” re-written again in 2012

Call it the Rick Rubin effect. He even convinced Metallica to rewrite their earlier albums for 2008’s “Death Magnetic.”

Dream Theater even borrowed from the Rick Rubin effect. They got some flack on “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, as the songs followed a similar structure to songs from “Images and Words”. Dream Theater did do a great job at masking it, as the songs do come across as independent “stand on their own” compositions, however the hard core fans will pick up the references to their earlier material.

The next time a person is creating their little masterpiece and it sounds like something that is known before, don’t abandon it. Chances are it will connect with millions.

It is a shame that we have a generation of people that have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward. When Balance Sheets are affected, these industries will do anything to hold on or maintain their profits.


Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 1

Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

The little guy with the big SG is unconcerned with current guitar hero fashions.  His stock in trade has always been the hard rock shuffle to a boogie beat.  Before you drop the needle on any new AC/DC album, you know what to expect. Rarely has a band maintained such a consistent sound as AC/DC, they’ve been pretty much making the same album for the past ten years. Fly On The Wall, the group’s eleventh release, is no exception.

“I’ve heard people say all our music sounds the same,” says soft-spoken lead guitarist Angus Young, “but it’s usually just the people who don’t like us who say it.”

Not true. It’s just that ever since the band’s High Voltage debut back in 76, AC/DC has been playing the same relentlessly raw and straightforward style on every succeeding album. And that’s the way their fans like it.

I like AC/DC.  They are a talisman to consistency.  Each album is the same, however that doesn’t mean that each album was successful.  You need great songs, and that is what AC/DC delivered on High Voltage, Highway To Hell, Let There Be Rock, Back In Black and on The Razors Edge.  Credit both Mutt Lange for Back In Black and Bruce Fairbairn for The Razors Edge.  Actually, The Razors Edge album is the most crucial album AC/DC ever did.  After a steady decline in fortunes and sales since Back In Black, they kicked off the 1990’s with a bang.  It made them relevant again.  The Razors Edge album sustained them throughout the 90’s and into the now.

“We never go overboard and above people’s heads,” says Angus, who took some rare time out from his recent American tour to discuss musical and other matters.

“We strive to retain that energy, that spirit we’ve always had. We feel the more simple and original something is, the better it is. It doesn’t take much for anyone to pick up anything I play, it’s quite simple. I go for a good song. And if you hear a good song, you don’t dissect it, you just listen and every bit seems right.”

For any guitarist that is starting off, AC/DC wrote the book on beginners guitar.  In the process, they also created songs that are timeless and a soundtrack to a whole generation of people in the seventies, eighties and nineties.  I am just teaching my kids to play guitar and the first song i showed them was Long Way To The Top from AC/DC.

Although this stripped-to-the-bone approach has made AC/DC internationally successful, thirty million albums sold worldwide ain’t bad!, Angus is more concerned with having a  good time than with album sales.

“We don’t go around the world counting ticket and record sales,” he says, “nor do we glue our ears to the radio to hear what’s trendy at the moment; we’re not that type of band. We do run our own careers, but we leave the marketing stuff to the record company. We make music for what we know it as, and we definitely have our own style.”

AC/DC defined a style and in the process spawned a million imitators.  What a lot of people don’t understand, especially the international fans, is that Australia rock bands where all playing the same style.  Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Daddy Cool, Stevie Wright all had that pub rock vibe.  AC/DC just stood out a bit more.  Credit Bon Scott and Angus Young.  Brian Johnson walked into the house built by Bon and Angus.

Is there anything Angus considers special about his playing style?

“In some ways, yeah.” he says. “I know what guitar sound I want right away. And if I put my mind to it, I can come up with a few tricks. I mean, I just don’t hit the strings that my
fingers are nearest to. But the most important thing, to me, is I don’t like to bore people. Whenever I play a solo in a song, I make sure that the audience gets off on it as much as I do.”

Angus exerts more energy in the course of one song than most guitarists do in an entire show.

“I’m always very nervy when I play.” he says. I usually settle down after the first few songs, but it’s hard for me to stand still. I suddenly realize where I am, onstage in front of thousands of people; so the energy from the crowd makes me go wild.  I’m always very careful, though. If you bump an arm or twist an ankle, there s no time for healing on the road. You can t tell the crowd. Hey, people, I can t run around tonight I have a twisted ankle.”

I have mentioned before about bands writing great songs and how that is very different to bands that write great songs that go down great live.  AC/DC is another band, that has that foresight.  The songs are all meant for the arena.  To be honest, i don’t really remember a recorded song fading out, i am sure some do, however it is testament to the band that they write a start and an end.

Malcolm Young, AC/DC s rhythm guitarist and Angus older brother, would rather just stand in one spot and bang out the beat with thuddingly repetitive chord structures.  

“Malcolm makes the band sound so full”, says Angus, “and it’s hard to get a big ego if you play in a band with your brother, it keeps your head on the earth. Malcolm is like me, he just wants the two of us to connect. Although he lets me take all the lead breaks, Malcolm’s still a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen certainly knows his scales, but I don’t enjoy listening to very technical guitarists who cram all the notes they know into one song.  I mean, Van Halen can do what he does very well, but he’s really just doing finger exercises. If a guitarist wants to practice all the notes he can play, he should do it at home. There’s definitely a place for that type of playing, but it’s not in front of me.”

Big call by Angus.  Dishing on King Eddie.  Back then, I was like WTF?  How dare he?  Eddie was king back in 1986.  He was untouchable.

I didn’t even like AC/DC back in 1986 and I am Australian.  I was so into the U.S. Glam/Hard rock scene, I failed to see the talent that was AC/DC.  I am glad I made up for it in the nineties, when Grunge allowed me to drop out of the mainstream and go searching for classic rock bands.

These days, no one speaks their mind.  They all want to be loved.  No one wants to be hated.  Guess what people, we can see right through it.  We can tell the fakes from the real dealers.  (Nice lyric line by the way, I will keep it)

Angus would much rather listen to old time players like Chuck Berry or B B King. 

“Those guys have great feel, ” says Angus. “They hit the notes in the right spot and they know when not to play. Chuck Berry was never a caring person. He didn’t care whether he was playing his tune, out of tune or someone else’s tune. Whenever he plays guitar, he has a big grin from ear to ear. Everyone always used to rave about Clapton when I was growing up, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well even on a bad night Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.  Clapton just sticks licks together that he has taken from other people – like B B King and the other old blues players—and puts them together in some mish-mashed fashion. The only great album he ever made was the Blues Breaker album he did with John Mayal and maybe a couple of good songs he did with Cream. The guy more or less built his reputation on that. I never saw what the big fuss was about Clapton to begin with.”

That is what made Angus a legend, he always spoke his mind.  The world we have today is all about yes people and making sure that we don’t offend.  We all want to be loved, hence the reason why one person has 5000 Facebook friends.  Yeah Right.  5000 Friends.  What a load of B.S?  No one speaks their mind these days.  The kids grow up these days, being told by mum and dad what a great game they had in football, and how great they are at reading and how great they are at this, when all they did was touch the ball once and play with the grass most of the time.

It’s easy to get lost in those comments against Clapton and Van Halen.  If you do, you miss the point Angus is trying to make.  He has no time for technical players, but he has time for Chuck Berry.  In relation to Eric Clapton, he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, he believed that others where better, like Jeff Beck.

“There are guys out there who can play real good without boring people.  Jeff Beck is one of them.  He’s more of a technical guy, but when he wants to rock and roll he sure knows how to do it with guts.  I really like the early albums he did with Rod Stewart.”

There is that name again Jeff Beck.  When I was reading this magazine, Jeff Beck’s name came up a few times.  I had to check him out.  This is 1986.  No internet to Google Jeff Beck.  No YouTube or Spotify to sample him.  I had to walk down to the local record shop and look for it.  Good times.  I am glad I lived them and I am glad they are not coming back.