Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vanda & Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory by John Tait

Vanda & Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory by John Tait

At last a well-deserved book on the near-genius of Harry Vanda and George Young . Apart from the great Bomp article in the Power Pop issue (1978!) there hasn’t been any worthy recognition in print of the dynamic duo. From the beginnings in rough immigrant hostels, through blossoming friendships to the formation of the Easybeats, the early days are very well documented. You are there, following all the twists and turns, the move to the UK in 1966 and the unleashing of the global hit Friday On My Mind. There is a good amount of insightful detail on studio sessions but the lack of direction required to follow up such a hit, is painfully apparent. You are left with a lot of what ifs… If only Heaven and Hell wasn’t banned, if only Good Times had followed Friday etc… Still 66-68 was a creative golden age and they wrote and recorded so many classic 3 minute operettas with most remaining unreleased. Vanda and Young covered a variety of styles during this period and a lot of their output was in fact recorded by other artists. As the Easybeats disintegrated, Vanda & Young released a whole slew of singles during their “four year binge “under assumed names such as Haffy’s Whiskey Sour, Paintbox (with brother Alexander Young/George Alexander), Tramp and The Marcus Hook Roll Band with the perfect Natural Man (thanks to the book for pointing out that there are two versions, the Regal Zonophone UK version and the Demo Australian one). Although chart action eluded them during this period, success returned upon their relocation in Australia with hits by William Shakespeare (RIP), John Paul Young and later with Flash & The Pan. The book is an “easy” read and will appeal to wider audiences as well as the record collecting geek. George Young didn’t participate in any interviews, but Harry Vanda contributed along with other key players, and there are plenty of quotes from George throughout, so the book doesn’t come across as second hand information. You are there witnessing the creation of these pop jewels as well living through all the trials and tribulations. There’s a good appendix and discography, but there is still a gap to be filled… Vanda & Young deserve a full excavation of their entire songbook and of every recording session from their golden age, but this would be more the remit of a fanzine-like publication (If the Beatles and Beach Boys got this treatment, then so should Vanda & Young!)

John Tait was kind enough to answer some questions to clarify a few points and to keep us in the loop on the latest developments:

With so much unreleased material recorded during their golden period are there any plans afoot to get more of this material released?

Philip Mortlock from Alberts is in Germany currently try to do some deals to release their back catalogue. A fellow from UK was also keen to talk to Repertoire regarding a CD of lost Easybeats songs from the London years and my mate Mike Griffiths is trying to get a CD of the Four Year binge material up.
There is a song I Know It listed as part of the running order of their lost LP, which the book stated is on the Steady On bootleg (Tendolar), but it isn’t on my copy

I have the Steady On CD, but apparently there exists a Steady On bootleg LP that contains Í Know It

The book ends with tantalising information on the long lost Easybeats film Somewhere Between Hell and Woolworths AKA Easy Come, Easy Go, how are plans advancing regarding a release?

Peter Clifton (Director) has the funding now to restore and release the film. He was going to fly me up to Sydney in October but I haven't got the call yet.

You can purchase signed copies of the book from John’s shop website


vani said...

you wrote this post is about 1,5 years ago, and unfortunately i haven't heard anything about a cd or dvd release. do you know anything further about those by now?

Robin Wills said...

no news has reached me as yet...