Monday, January 4, 2016

Stevie Wright of The Easybeats Passes On

Stevie Wright, perhaps best known as the lead singer of Sixties Australian band The Easybeats, died on December 27 2015 at the age of 68. The cause was pneumonia.

Stevie Wright was born on December 20 1947 in  Leeds, West Yorkshire. It was in 1958 that his father moved the family to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In 1960 the family moved to Villawood, New South Wales. There Stevie Wright became the lead vocalist for the local band The Outlaws. By 1964 he had become a founding member of Chris Langdon & the Langdells. It was following a Langdells performance that he met  Johannes Hendrikus Jacob van den Berg, later better known as Harry Vanda, and Dingeman Adriaan Henry van der Sluijs, later better known as Dick Diamonde. The two of them convinced Stevie Wright to form a band with their friend George Young. It was then in 1964 that Stevie Wright, Henry Vanda, Dick Diamonde, George Young, and drummer Gordon "Snowy" Fleet formed The Easybeats.

The Easybeats became the resident band for the Beatle Village Club, where they were discovered by the music publisher and producer Ted Albert. Mr. Albert signed them to his own Albert Productions and secured a record deal with EMI/Parlophone. The Easybeats had success early, with their first single "She's a Woman" going to no. 33 on the Australian chart in 1965. That same year they would have major hits with "She's So Fine" and "Wedding Ring". Their first album, Easy, released in September 1965, went to no. 4 on the Australian chart.

The year 1966 saw the band move to London, England. It would also see even more success for The Easybeats.Their single "Women (Make Me Feel Alright)" went to no. 4 on the Australian chart. Their single "Come and See Her" went to no. 3. They had their first no. 1 with "Sorry". It would be "Friday on My Mind" that would be the biggest success of their career. "Friday on My Mind" not only went to no. 1 on the Australian chart, but proved to be their first international success. It went to no. 6 on the UK singles chart and no. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Their album It's 2 Easy went to no. 7 on the Australian chart.

Unfortunately The Easybeats were never able to repeat the success of "Friday on My Mind". Their highest charting single in 1967 was "Heaven and Hell", which went to no. 8 on the Australian chart. By 1968 The Easybeats, which had regularly seen their singles reach the top ten and top twenty of the Australian chart, only landed one single, "Land of Make Believe", in the top twenty. They did have some international success with "Hello, How are You", which went to no. 20 on the UK chart, and  "St. Louis", which peaked at no. 100 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While The Easybeats saw fewer major hits after 1968, their songs were often covered by other bands. , "Bring a Little Lovin'" was covered by Los Bravos and "Come In, You'll Get Pneumonia" was covered by Paul Revere & The Raiders. "Good Times", which saw some airplay in the United States and United Kingdom, would later be covered by Shocking Blue.

Despite this, by 1968 the band was in decline and its members increasingly drifted apart. Their last actual album, Vigil, was released in May 1968. A final album released under The Easybeats' name, Friends, was actually a compilation of demo tracks for other artists written by Harry Vanda and George Young save for the singles "St. Louis" and "Can't Find Love".  Their single "Peculiar Hole In The Sky" only went to no. 53 on the Australian chart in 1969. Their single "I Love Marie" did even worse, only going to no. 93. The Easybeats then broke up in 1969.

Once The Easybeats broke up Stevie Wright returned to Sydney, Australia. He produced the band Bootleg's first single, "Whole World Should Slow Down", in 1970.  For a time from 1971 to 1972 he was a member of the band Likefun. In 1972 he appeared as Simon Zealotes in an Australian stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar. That same year he was briefly a member of the band Black Tank.

In late 1973 Mr. Wright signed with Albert Productions as a solo artist. He released the single "Hard Road" which failed to chart. His second solo single, "Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)", hit no. 1 on the Australian singles chart. His third single, "Guitar Band", went to no. 13. His first solo album, Hard Road, went to no. 2 on the Australian chart. Unfortunately his career lost momentum rather quickly. His next single, "You" (from his album Black Eyed Bruiser). The single "Black Eyed Bruiser" (from the album of the same name) peaked at no. 99.

Unfortunately Stevie Wright's career would stall in the late Seventies due to heroin addiction and health concerns. In an attempt to overcome his heroin addiction he admitted himself to  Chelmsford Private Hospital. There psychiatrist Harry Bailey treated him with the highly controversial deep sleep therapy, by which patients are kept unconscious for days or even weeks. As a result of the therapy Stevie Wright suffered brain damage.

In 1982 he recorded vocals for Harry Vanda and George Young's studio band Flash and the Pan's album Headlines. There were talks of an Easybeats reunion, but it never came to be. In 1983 there was talk of another solo album, but it never emerged. Sadly, Stevie Wright's heroin addiction would keep his career stalled for literally years. He briefly appeared with The Easybeats in a reunion tour in 1986. In 2005 he and the other Easybeats were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame . In 2009 he was the headliner at the Legends of Rock festival in Byron Bay, New South Wales.

It is sad that Stevie Wright's demons prevented him from having a fuller career, as he was very talented. As a performer he ranked right up there with other Sixties icons, such as Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison. His performances as The Easybeats' lead vocalist were very energetic, complete with leaps and backflips. If The Easybeats' performances from the Sixties remain memorable, it is largely due to Stevie Wright.

But Stevie Wright was more than just a great performer. He was also a talented songwriter. With George Young he co-wrote the bulk of the songs on the band's first three albums, including the singles "She's So Fine", "Wedding Ring", and "Sorry". As The Easybeats' career progressed the writing would shift towards Harry Vanda and George Young (the team wrote the hit "Friday on My Mind"), but arguably it was Stevie Wright and George Young's songs that helped establish The Easybeats as Australia's first intentionally successful rock band. Indeed, while The Easybeats are best known for "Friday On My Mind" outside of Australia, they left behind a body of work that is easily as good, if not better, than many American and British bands. Stevie Wright had a large part in that body of work.

1 comment:

trala' said...

very fitting of Stevie he is well loved & remembered for the talent but also for the man ♡ never forgotten ♡ 27-12-2015