No serious rock and roll collection can be complete without at least one record by the Easybeats. I was born long after all the fuss had been made, but between 1965 and 1967 they were the most popular pop-rock act in Australia, whose fans were about as rabid as they come, to the extent that their following gave even Beatlemania a run for its money. But as a child growing up in the ‘70’s, their music was still ever-present, and a joy to hear on the radio. David Bowie was a fan, covering one of their songs on his 1973 Pin Ups album, the perennial “Friday on My Mind”. Mott The Hoople, Savoy Brown and Rod Stewart also covered their tunes, so while there was a good deal of admiration getting around, none of it was translating into record sales nor the necessary accolades the group required months after they removed to London in order to further their fortunes.
Recorded in England and produced by Shel Talmy (who also produced records by The Who, The Kinks and Roy Harper) Friday on My Mind is a document which captures the Easybeats at the near summit of their musical and creative peak.
“River Deep Mountain High” gets things going in fine garage rock fashion. Wright was no Tina Turner, but he still manages to deliver a convincing vocal, and the rest of the band is in excellent form as well. It is also the longest track on the album, 3.55, quite a length in those days. Apparently the lads’ relationship with Shel Talmy was fraught with difficulties, and “Do You Have A Soul?” was written specially with him in mind. It is an upbeat, guitar driven number, and a chorus that grows on you over the course of the song. The quality continues with “Saturday Night”, “You Me, We Love”, and “Pretty Girl”, all of which are notable for their guitar hooks and finely crafted choruses. Next is the song The Easybeats are best remembered for, the immortal “Friday on My Mind”. Even if it had have been the only tune they wrote and recorded, it wouldn’t matter, because it is an absolute classic from the first to the last. It is a timeless youth anthem and probably the best composition of the band’s career.
Unfortunately after such a high, the rest of the album has trouble sustaining the listener’s interest. “Happy Is the Man”, “Hound Dog”, “Who’ll Be the One You’ll Love” and “Made My Bed (Gonna Lie In It)” are all well-played, more than competent pop-rock numbers, but with “Purple Haze” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” on everyone’s playlist, one gets the feeling that the band was just a couple of years too late. The same goes with the last two tracks, “Remember Sam” and “See Line Woman”. Both are, once again, more than proficient little pop ditties in their own right (especially the latter with its mesmerizing jungle beats and almost chant-like vocals), but just not the sort of thing the hipsters in London were spinning on their turntables (while their heads were also spinning round no doubt). So while there is nothing really bad on this record, I guess it all came down to timing, something which in the end can work both ways.
Like the majority of Australian acts trying to make it in the U.K., The Easybeats experienced both a mixture of elation as well as frustration. While the single “Friday on My Mind” sold well, the album itself had failed to crack the top 40, due in no small part to poor promotion, dodgy management, and legal issues, not to mention the enormous amount of competition happening in England itself. And so by 1967 with the likes of The Kinks, The Who, Beatles and The Rolling Stones reshaping the popular musical landscape, the band’s style was already beginning to sound a little out of date. Lack of commercial success and mounting debt would eventually take their toll, resulting in the group disbanding in 1969, with most members returning to Australia to pick up the pieces, while Vanda and Young remained in London for a few more years, writing, producing, and stock piling songs which they would use to kick start their solo careers later in the decade, including recording and producing AC/DC, John Paul Young, Stevie Wright and Rose Tattoo amongst others. Friday on My Mind may not be a great album by any means, but it is a seriously enjoyable one. And as ancient as it may seem to modern ears, to a lot of teenagers in the ‘60’s, this was pretty exciting stuff, guaranteed to get the hormonal juices flowing.
Now for anyone who may be tempted to rush out and buy the cd, let me recommend The Complete Easybeats, a boxed set containing all six of their LPs (excluding Friends, which was released after the band broke up), each of which come with a plethora of bonus tracks, plus an informative booklet. That way, you’ll have every essential song they recorded in the one package.