December 27, 2015 – Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) was born Stephen Carlton Wright on December 20, 1947 in Leeds, England. When he was 9, his family moved to Melbourne, Australia and four years later to Sydney where they lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel. He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws, and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells, which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music, but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.
After a Langdells performance, Wright met the Dutch-born Johan van den Berg (later Harry Vanda), who was staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel, and his landsman Dingeman van der Sluys (later Dick Diamonde). This introduction was arranged by their first manager a man named Alan Kissick. The pair convinced Wright to form a band with Vandenberg’s friend and fellow hostel resident Scottish-born George Young. Together with another Englishman, Gordon “Snowy” Fleet, they formed the Easybeats in mid-1964. The initial line-up of the Easybeats was Diamonde on bass guitar, Fleet on drums, Vanda on guitar, Wright on vocals and Young on guitar.
During his time with the Easybeats, Wright was popularly and affectionately known as “Little Stevie”. Early hits for the Easybeats were co-written by Wright with bandmate Young, including, “She’s So Fine” (No. 3, 1965), “Wedding Ring” (No. 7, 1965), “Women (Make You Feel Alright)” (No. 4, 1966), “Come and See Her” (No. 3, 1966), “I’ll Make You Happy” (track on Easyfever EP, No. 1, 1966), and “Sorry” (No. 1, 1966).
He was lead vocalist on their international monster hit “Friday on My Mind”, which peaked at No. 1 in Australia in 1966 and it in to the top Ten in UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy and the US in 1967. In 2001, the song was voted the Best Australian Song of All Time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association. Wright was renowned for his energetic stage performance, which included acrobatic back-flips and mod dance moves.
“Stevie would hurl himself off stage he would catapult, he would somersault, it was an extraordinary thing to witness, he gave everything.”
They recorded several more hits including Sorry, She’s So Fine, Wedding Ring, and Good Times, which was covered in the late 1990s by INXS and Jimmy Barnes.
The Easybeats broke up in 1969 with Vanda & Young becoming freelance musicians, songwriters and producers and Wright became a top solo artist.
He formed the band Rachette and produced Bootleg’s debut single, “Whole World Should Slow Down.” He performed with Rachette at the Odyssey Music Festival in 1971, before briefly joining Likefun in Perth. He returned to Sydney to perform in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar and stayed with the production from 1971-1973. During 1972 he also performed with Black Tank and appeared on the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, released in 1973.
He then began work on his solo debut album Hard Road with Easybeats’ songwriters Harry Vanda and George Young, who had returned from the UK and were now staff producers and songwriters at Albert Productions. For his Live work he formed Stevie Wright & the Allstars.
In April 1974 his debut solo LP, Hard Road, was released which featured the single “Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” The song was written and produced by Vanda & Young and it became a hit—the only 11-minute song to chart at No. 1 anywhere in the world. and is now regarded as an Australian rock classic. Part 1 is subtitled, “Let Your Hair Hang Down”, and part 3 is “I’m Losing You”. Wright performed three concerts at the Sydney Opera House with backing by Vanda, Young and AC/DC’s Malcolm Young (George Young’s brother).
Long before MEATLOAF sang his Triple-Song Rock Anthem, PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS …..
Many years ahead of VANGELIS and his Multi-Themed, Storytelling narrative, FRIENDS OF MR. CAIRO …..
Australian Rocker STEVIE WRIGHT sped through our heads with his 1975 ….. 11 Minute,Triple-Songed, torch, love rock ballad EVIE. With it Stevie Wright became one of Australia’s biggest rock stars of the 70s and delivering one of the greatest rock songs of all-time, the epic ‘Evie’.
Wright fell on hard times after the follow-up ‘Black Eyed Bruiser’ album of 1975 failed to chart.
The All Stars left to back John Paul Young in 1975 so Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band but, by this time, Wright’s drug addiction had begun to curtail his career. By 1976 Wright was addicted to heroin, which he had reportedly begun using during his time in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
He was hospitalised and undertook methadone treatment. His mental health suffered further after his self-admission to the notorious Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney. A psychiatrist, Harry Bailey, administered a highly controversial treatment known as deep sleep therapy which was alleged to treat drug addiction by a combination of drug-induced coma and electroconvulsive therapy. Many patients, including Wright, suffered brain damage and lifelong after-effects. The scandal was later exposed and Bailey committed suicide.
He performed a few gigs with Sacha in 1976 and performed “Evie” alongside performances by the cream of Australian pop and rock at the Concert of the Decade in November 1979, captured on the double album Concert of the Decade (1980).
In 1982, Wright returned to the studio with his former Easybeats buddies Vanda & Young to record vocals for their project Flash & The Pan and the ‘Headlines’ album for the songs ‘Where Were You’ and ‘Waiting For A Train’. That same year there was talk of an Easybeats’ reunion. Wright told Juke Magazine in 1983 “we had our lawyers working out the deal” because there was a venue interested in having them “but at the last minute they tried to change the venue and we just said ‘forget it’.
His career, however, soon derailed again when Wright appeared in court charged with housebreaking in January 1984 while undergoing drug rehabilitation. Wright was arrested for heroin use in the same month after being found unconscious in a hotel toilet. The Easybeats reformed for a successful six-week national tour in October 1986. Wright formed the band Hard Rain in 1988 and released the album Striking It Rich in 1991. With his health declining, Wright gave his final performance with Hard Rain at Sydney’s Coogee Bay Hotel on April 4, 1992.
Wright went on to battle drug and alcohol addiction for another decade before settling on the Australia’s south coast.
In 2012 he appeared on the ABC’s Australian Story program, when he spoke about the devastation caused by his long-term drug addictions. He said if he had his time again, he “wouldn’t pick up any hard drugs”.
“It does destroy. Because it’s all inside anyway, all, all the things in the mind and the power that you think the drugs are going to add to, and they don’t at all, they take everything away,” he said.
“Never touch hard drugs. You blow your marriage, blow your jobs, blow your friends. You can’t do that you know. It just doesn’t work.”
In 2005 Wright was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame for his success with The Easybeats.
Wright’s last performance was at the Legends of Rock Festival at Byron Bay in 2009.
Wright contracted pneumonia on the second day of Christmas (Boxing Day) and perished a day later on December 27, 2015 at the age of 68.
• “Stevie will be sadly missed by all who knew him and countless more who did not know him but loved his music,” Mr Albert said in a statement. (Albert Productions)
“We have lost one of Australia’s greatest front men who has left an indelible mark on our musical landscape. He could take any audience and absolutely slay them with his energy.”
• Fellow Australian singer Normie Rowe remembered Wright as “an amazing performer”.
“The Easybeats were one of the most remarkable pop bands of their time, and I think probably recorded the definitive pop song of the era in Friday On My Mind,” he said.
• 1960s singer-songwriter and Young Talent Time host Johnny Young said Wright was “one of the greatest rock n’ roll stars” ever produced in Australia.
“Stevie was a wonderful musician, a great songwriter,” he said.
“He lived a pretty rugged life at the end of it.
“Everybody knew he had some serious addictions that he had huge problems with, but I like to remember Stevie as he was when he was younger.”
• Aside from tracks for the Easybeats, Wright and George Young also wrote “Step Back” for Johnny Young which peaked at No. 1.
Very unusual for 1967, when everything on TV was lip-synch, this video covers a live performance of the song Friday on my Mind in a German TV program called “BeatClub”.