The Easybeats – the “Australian Beatles”


Get to know the Easybeats

The Easybeats were an Australian rock and pop band, formed in Sydney in 1964. The original members were Stevie Wright, Gordon Fleet, George Young, Harry Vanda and Dick Diamonde. They are often referred to as the “Australian Beatles,” as they experienced the same frenzied reaction from their fans every time they performed on stage. The group’s manager Mike Vaughn managed to secure an astounding five-year recording contract from the US label United Artists.

Soon the band flew to London, England to record for their newer material, that included the song “Friday On My Mind”. The song soon became a global hit apart from Australia; it also went big on Europe and the USA as well, breaking into the Billboard Top 20 in 1966. But following singles became minor hits especially in the US. The group broke up in 1969, with several members pursuing other musical interests. Vanda and Young established themselves as a producing/songwriting act, and Stevie Wright launched a solo career, their most successful achievement being their composition “Love Is In The Air” (sung by John Paul Young, who is not related to George Young) becoming a global hit in 1978.

The band’s early days

The members of the pop/beat group Easybeats may be from Australia, but in truth they were actually a few of the thousands of Europeans who had recently emigrated to Down Under following World War II. Lead singer Stevie Wright and drummer Gordon “Snowy” Fleet came from England (Fleet being born and raised in Liverpool, which is also the Beatles’ birthplace); rhythm guitarist George Young hailed from Scotland, while lead guitarist Harry Vanda and bassist Dick Diamonde were from the Netherlands.

After honing their sound and musical style, the young group rapidly rose as one of Sydney’s popular groups. Real estate agent Mike Vaughn started to manage the Easybeats, and eventually found Ted Albert, the founder and owner of Albert Productions which went on to become Australia’s longest independent record production companies. Producer Albert then took on the Easybeats, and signed the band to Australian EMI’s Parlophone label.

The Easybeats’ meteoric rise to fame in Australia

From there the Easybeats quickly ascended to stardom. The Easybeats’ first single was “For My Woman,” which debuted at #33 on the Australian chart. From there the band was to enjoy a string of homeland hits, including “She’s So Fine,” “Wedding Ring,” “Sad and Lonely and Blue,” “Women (Make You Feel Alright),” “Come and See Her” and their two chart-toppers “I’ll Make You Happy” and “Sorry.” Most of the group’s highly original songs were composed by either Wright or his collaboration with Young, but as times passed Vanda and Young eventually would begin to write songs together as Vanda had acquired a stronger mastery of English.

By 1965 the Easybeats became one of the most successful and popular groups in Australia, and they were considered as the “Australian Beatles” for they attracted frenzied mayhem from the fans wherever they went or performed, just like the Beatles (at least in their early days) did.

International hit with “Friday on My Mind”

Having attained national fame, the Easybeats sought to expand their audience. And the Easybeats did that no Australian band had dared to do before — to set their sights on the international market.

In 1966 the Easybeats relocated to London, England to record what would be their first international hit, “Friday on My Mind.” It was written by Vanda and Young, and produced by their new producer Shel Talmy, who had also helmed the records of the Kinks and the Who. “Friday on My Mind” reached #6 on the UK charts later that year.

In the United States, “Friday on My Mind” was released on United Artists label. It became a hit there too, at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966.

The Easybeats’ gradual decline

The Easybeats had a triumphant homecoming in Australia in 1967. The band then moved their base of operations to London, hoping to follow up the success of “Friday on My Mind.” But what happened next would be the first in their series of declines. First, Snowy Fleet left the band (to be replaced by Tony Cahill, and then by Freddie Smith).

Eventually, the band’s career was hampered due to problems with management and lack of support from their record label. By now Vanda and Young had begun composing complex songs (such as “Bring a Little Lovin'” and “Come In, You’ll Get Pneumonia”) to keep up with the psychedelic era, but it was clear that their appeal and popularity had begun to ebb. One of their songs, “Heaven and Hell,” was banned in the UK and the US for its suggestive content. However, there were favorable minor Stateside hits such as “Good Times” and “Falling off the Edge of the World.” “Hello, How Are You” became their second and last UK hit at #20, in 1968.

By that same year, the band had begun to disintegrate. Drugs, as well as the growing autonomy of the Vanda-Young songwriting partnership created a deeper chasm in the group. The group’s last charting hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 was “St. Louis,” (#100) in 1969.

The Easybeats’ split, and individual members’ careers after the band

After the Easybeats’ final Australian tour, the band broke up sometime in 1970. In the post-Easybeats career, Harry Vanda and George Young became full-time songwriters and producers. They were instrumental in the formation of the would-be heavy metal greats AC/DC, which included George’s brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. They also penned a song “Evie” which would become a hit for ex-bandmate Stevie Wright in 1973. The songwriting pair saw their greatest achievement when they wrote the international disco hit “Love Is in the Air” for John Paul Young (no relation to George), which first appeared in 1975 but became a US top ten hit in 1978. The Vanda-Young songs, including the Easybeats material, have been covered by other artists such as the Bay City Rollers, Flash and the Pan, Gary Moore, INXS, Meat Loaf, etc.

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