Sunday, 21 July 2013

SINGLE: Easybeats - Sorry (1966)

Australia - Parlophone/Albert Productions A8224 (October 1966) 
UK - not released

 "To describe The Easybeats as "Australia's Beatles" is not to damn them with faint praise. They were without question the best and most important Australian rock band of the 1960s, and their string of classic hit singles set the benchmarks for Australian popular music. They established a unique musical identity, and they became our first homegrown rock superstars, and for quality, inventiveness and originality their work is arguably unmatched by any other Australian band of the period."

                                                                    - Duncan Kimball,

The Easybeats hold a place in rock and roll folklore for their classic single Friday On My Mind alone. However, if that is all you know of their work then there's an incredible catalogue of music waiting for your discovery, not least of all this stormer.

Although legends of Australian popular music, The Easybeats actually consisted of a Yorkshireman (Stevie Wright - vocals), a Liverpudlian (Snowy Fleet - drums), two Dutchmen (Harry Vanda - guitar/vocals, Dick Diamonde - bass/vocals) and a Scotsman (George Young - guitar/vocals/keyboards).

To cut a long story very short, the group came together when Vanda and Young were both staying at a hostel for newly emigrated families in the Sydney suburb of Villawood, and they met up with Wright and Diamonde, whose families had already settled locally. They met Fleet purely by chance on a train - he had recently left The Mojos to go to Australia and, although initially agreeing to lead and manage the group, he was soon firmly on the drum stool.

A chance meeting with estate agent Mike Vaughan led to him introducing the band to his friend, rising music publisher and producer Ted Albert, who liked what he heard and signed the group. Within a week he had secured a deal with the Australian arm of EMI on the Parlophone label. Their first single, For My Woman, got plenty of local notice but it was the follow up, She's So Fine, which really hit the mark, roaring to number one in Sydney before sweeping the nation.

The band's rise was rapid and they were soon Australia's hottest act. Wedding Ring, Sad Lonely And Blue, Woman (Make You Feel Alright) and Come And See Her all followed in quick succession (the latter, according to Vanda, may have been helped by an alternative, risque lyric chanted by their audience at shows, but that's another story). All of which leads us to Sorry...

Opening with the percussive scratching of his guitar strings by George driving things along, Sorry is a textbook exercise in crafting a perfect rock record in 2:37. Harry's raga like guitar solo seems to be looking forward to the psychedelic excursions which would swamp music in the next couple of years, but here it's used economically. A mantra-like "ay-yi-yi" chant towards the end is almost mesmerising.

It seems astonishing now, but back then the big record companies seem to have had very little interest in what their Australasian subsidiaries were releasing, considering their product only important for the local market. The Easybeats had gone as far as they could in Australia and looked overseas to expand their horizons. Securing an international deal with United Artists, they made their way to England, but not before recording a "farewell" TV special, from which the clip below is taken.

Released as a single just as they were leaving, Sorry was an Australian number 1 for The Easybeats in November 1966. Just weeks later, their first UK recorded single, Friday On My Mind, would top the Christmas chart, and spread like wildfire around the world. It wouldn't be a perfect story going forward, but the lessons learnt by The Easybeats would help all the Aussie bands that followed, starting with an act produced by Vanda and Young, and featuring Young's little brothers, Malcolm and Angus: AC/DC.

With grateful acknowledgement to, an amazing resource covering Australasian popular music, culture and social history from 1964-1975 - I thoroughly recommend a visit.


The Easybeats: Singles A's & B's (Repertoire CD 2005)
Nuggets II (Rhino 2001)

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