The Easybeats - Biography
Although their billing as “Australia's Beatles” may be a bit of an overstatement, The Easybeats were the most popular band in Australia for much of their five year career. Instead of “Beatlemania,” the screaming Oz hordes were gripped by “Easyfever.”
The Easybeats formed in Sydney, Australia in 1964. None of the members were Australian natives. The band's line-up exemplified the influence of post-war migration on Australian society with lead singer Stevie Wright (Stephen Carlton "Stevie" Wright) originally hailing from Leeds, bassist Dick Diamonde (Dingeman Ariaan Henry van der Sluijs) and guitarist Harry Vanda (Johannes Hendricus Jacob Vandenberg) coming from Hilversum, Netherlands and The Hague, respectively; and guitarists George Young and drummer Gordon "Snowy" Fleet, were recent arrivals from Cranhill, Scotland and Liverpool, respectively. Fleet had been a member of The Mojos, a popular beat combo in 1963 and 1964 whose "Everything's Alright" reached the UK Top Ten. It was Snowy Fleet who came up with the name "The Easybeats," carrying on the practice of sticking “beat” in ones name as had been done with The Merseybeats, The Beat Brothers and The Beatles. After honing their sound and building a name locally around Sydney in late 1964, the group was signed to Albert Productions who, in turn, licensed their releases to Australian EMI's Parlophone label. One thing that set them apart, however, from most of their beat combo peers was their near complete reliance on original material, most penned by Wright and Young.
The debut, Easy (1965 Albert) featured nary a cover. It wasn’t released overseas for more than thirty years afterward but by the summer, The Easybeats were the biggest band in their homeland. Their manager, Mike Vaughan, was able to convince United Artists to sign the band for American releases. It's 2 Easy (1966 Albert) which, keeping with the beat sound, was fine but a bit unfashionable by then. On the eve of relocating to London, the band performed a farewell to Australia on The Coca Cola Special. Tragically, when Vanda returned home, he discovered his wife Pam had taken her life on an overdose of sleeping pills. Nonetheless, they moved to the UK in the fall and released Volume 3 (1966 Albert) - the last of the Wright-Young albums. From that point on, Vanda began co-writing most of the new material with Young.
In November, they met with Shel Talmy and subsequently revamped their sound in a more Modish direction. They scored their first UK hit with, “Friday on My Mind,” which appeared on Friday on My Mind (1967 United Artists). Over the next seven months, they wrote and played in the UK and Germany. They opened for The Rolling Stones in the US. They returned to Australia in May, 1967 for a national tour. After which, they returned to their base in London. “Heaven and Hell” was a proper follow-up to “Friday on My Mind” but was banned from BBC airplay for the line “discovering someone else in your bed.”
Fleet quit the band to allow him to spend more time with his family. They cut several numbers with Glaswegian drummer Freddie Smith (including “Good Times) before settling on Tony Cahill, formerly of the Purple Hearts. They recorded a set of complex psychedelic songs produced by Glyn Johns but at the last minute the planned album (Good Times) was shelved. A couple of the songs, including “Falling Off the Edge of the World,” “Good Times,” Land of Make Believe” and “Come in You'll Get Pneumonia,” appeared on Vigil (1968 United Artists). It was release in the US as Falling off the Edge of the World. By this point the band were increasingly indifferent to live performance and Wright struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Their final album, Friends (1969 Polydor), was in actuality a series of unfinished demos that Vanda and Young had intended to sell to other artists. Their final single, “St. Louis” was released and the band embarked on a final European and then Australian tour. Their final performances were the ATN-7 Easybeats Special in October, and two Sydney performances at the Trocadero and Caesar's Disco. The last time they got together was in early 1970, for Dick Diamonde's wedding.
After their break-up, Vanda and Young became full-time songwriter/producers. In 1972, Vanda and Young formed a band, Marcus Hook Roll Band, which included Young's younger brother, Angus. They also helped organize AC/DC with Angus and another brother, Malcolm. They also provided their former singer with “Evie,” which was an Australian hit in 1973. In 1975, Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band. Vanda and Young returned in 1976 with their new wave band, Flash and the Pan, who went on to record several albums. That year Wright was hospitalized for his drug addiction and treated at Chelmsford Private Hospital. His doctor, Dr Harry Bailey, administered Deep Sleep Therapy with a combination of methadone-induced coma and electroshock. In 1979, he performed “Evie” as part of Australia’s Concert of the Decade. In 1982, he reteamed with his old bandmates to sing on Flash and the Pan's album of that year, Headlines. The same year, an old Easybeats live recording saw the light of day, Live - Studio and Stage (1982). However, by 1984, Wright had fallen off the wagon again and was arrested for breaking and entering and in the same month found unconscious after a heroin addiction in a hotel bathroom.
The Easybeats re-formed for a six-week tour in 1986. In 1987, a cover of “Good Times” by INXS and Jimmy Barnes was recorded for The Lost Boys soundtrack and reached #47 in the US and #2 in Australia. The following year, Wright formed a new band, Hard Rain. In 1998, The Easybeats were honored by Australia Post, who issued an edition set of twelve stamps celebrating the early years of Australian Rock. Sadly, lead singer Stevie Wright passed away December 26, 2015.