Stevie Wright Sang On Hit Records 16 Years Apart

Stevie Wright, best known as the lead singer for the 1960s band The Easybeats, passed away Monday at the age of 68. Little Stevie, as he was affectionately known, was one of Australia’s biggest and best known Rock stars, but like many others who shared the “Rock star” job title, he suffered deeply throughout his adult life as a result of substance abuse issues.

But it wasn’t all bad. He did manage to experience a brief second chance near the top of the charts, which is all any fallen artist can really ask for.

Wright formed The Easybeats in Sydney in 1964, partnering with songwriters and guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young. Young is the older brother of the AC/DC Young brothers. The band collected hit after hit in Australia, but finally made the global big time in 1966 with “Friday On My Mind”.

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“Friday On My Mind” is an essential mid-sixties rocker. It’s got that garage rock feel, but there’s some real sophistication in the chord sequencing and structure, I dare say reminiscent of Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys. There’s a genuine energy and a cheeky irreverence that would influence punk and proto-punk musicians many years down the line.

But just like the Zombies and the Small Faces, the lack of follow-up successes slowly tore the band apart. And it’s not as if any of these bands were putting out crap, they just kind of fell through the cracks in the late sixties. The Easybeats released a song in 1969 called “Good Times”, which showed the band really becoming a force, but it never went anywhere. It somehow figures that INXS would cover the song relatively successfully in 1987.

Wright went on to have some solo success in Europe and Australia in the early seventies, but soon afterwards began his descent into addiction. He was supposedly the first choice to be lead singer of AC/DC, but he was rejected because his personal issues made him unreliable.

Meanwhile, his bandmates from The Easybeats, Harry Vanda and George Young, went on to achieve success as studio writers and producers, becoming the driving force behind the success of John Paul Young, and also producing the first six albums for AC/DC. They were also the guys behind the studio band Flash And The Pan, which burst onto the scene in 1977 with their trademark “voice on a phone” vocals on songs like “Hey St. Peter” and “Walking In The Rain”.

For the third Flash And The Pan album, 1982’s Headlines, Vanda and Young recruited their troubled old friend Wright to lay down some vocals, and that’s him on the band’s biggest hit, “Waiting For A Train”. It’s a groovy little number that brought Wright back to the top of the charts, sixteen years after his previous visit there, and it would be the last highlight of his career.

And here’s where the circle gets completed: “Waiting For A Train” was heavily sampled on Drake’s smash summer hit this year, “Hotline Bling”, thereby keeping Stevie Wright’s influence alive for yet another generation. That’s Rock & Roll for ya, a flame that somehow never goes out. Here’s to you, Stevie.

Photo: “The Easybeats” by United Artists Records – Billboard, page 16, May 6, 1967. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – (Wright pictured bottom center)

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2 comments to “Stevie Wright Sang On Hit Records 16 Years Apart”
  1. Pingback: Rocknuts Insider: Music fans mourn death of two stars | Rocknuts

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