Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28: The Easybeats, "Friday On My Mind"

Artist: The Easybeats
Album: Friday On My Mind
Year: 1967
Label: United Artists

There are a number of songs throughout history that are instantly identifiable by nearly everyone, and these songs have earned the title of "timeless." Whether it is due to the musical aspect, the lyrics, or some trivial fact about the song, one can make the case that these songs have been so thoroughly ingrained into society, that they will never die away. High atop this list is a song that features one of the most universally common themes, an amazing guitar riff, and some of the purest and most enjoyable energy ever captured in a recording studio. Though nearly everyone knows the song as well as the title, very few know the name of the band, as well as the rather interesting history of the band members. The song is one of the great "working man" anthems of all time, "Friday On My Mind," by Aussie-rockers, The Easybeats. While The Easybeats were often labeled as "the Australian Beatles," and they do share many musical similarities, The Easybeats have their own wildly eclectic sound, and their music is truly phenomenal. Though it would signal the beginning of the end for the band, unquestionably their finest and most successful album, 1967's Friday On My Mind remains one of the greatest, yet relatively unknown pop-rock records of the 1960's.

Though it is a rather common last name around the world, one must do a double take when you see a last name of "Young" in a music related sense, especially hailing from Australia. The truth of the matter is, Easybeats guitarist, George Young, is in fact the other brother of Malcolm and Angus Young, who are part of a very small Aussie rock band known as AC/DC. After listening to Friday On My Mind, one can clearly hear many of the building blocks of AC/DC's music, and the almost sinister sounding vocals throughout the album are eerily reminiscent of the later vocals of Bon Scott. This harder edge is what separated the sound of The Easybeats from contemporaries like The Beatles, and often times, they are more reminiscent of early songs from The Who. The music of the band perfectly encapsulates everything that was great about both early-60's pop-rock and late 60's hard-rock, and the fusion the band presents laid the groundwork for everyone from The Scientists to Aerosmith. The speed with which the band plays, as well as the manner with which Stevie Wright sings also clearly have elements of punk, an it is yet another aspect that makes the music of The Easybeats to unique. This ability to fuse together so many styles and create a fantastic new sound is a testament to the amazing, visionary talent within the members of the band.

While all five members of the band lived in and met in Australia, the truth of the matter is, none of them were born there, as they were all rather recent immigrants. The fact that most of them were from England and the surrounding area gives great insight into why their music has such similarities to the English rock bands of the time. In fact, drummer Gordon "Snowy" Fleet was from Liverpool, and before moving to Australia, he had been a member of one of the more well known bands of the city, The Mojos. His varied approaches to percussion, beyond simple drumming, gives the songs much of their unique moods, and it often gives the songs a bit of a psychedelic mood. The bouncy, meandering basslines of Dick Diamonde often make the songs swing, and the riff that he and the guitarists create on "River Deep, Mountain High" is one of the funkiest, and most fun riffs ever written. Along with George Young, Harry Vanda creates fantastic guitar progressions and quick hitting solos. The duo work perfectly with one another, switching lead and rhythm parts, and the tone the two share is absolutely magnificent. All of the band members also join in on the group harmonies, which are as good as you'll find anywhere in music. These harmonies are where the group gains even more likeness to The Who, and it is another element that makes Friday On My Mind so extraordinary.

Though the group harmonies are superb, there are few singers that can compare to the vocal work of Stevie Wright. With an uncanny ability to be sweet and sincere as easily and convincingly as he can pull off the menacing, "bad boy" sound, there are few vocalists with as captivating a delivery as Wright. Easily one of his finest performances comes on the soulful, crying singing he presents on "Pretty Girl." By far one of the most heartfelt tales of frustration, few vocal performances can compare in terms of raw emotion. The other side of Wright's character, the sinister, almost unsettling side is brought to light on the song, "Happy Is The Man." Seemingly a tale of a man who indulges in everything and anything he wants, the way in which Wright sings forces the question of the true meaning behind the song. However, these simple, universal song themes are the true power behind the bands' music, and it is no more clear than on their worldwide hit, "Friday On My Mind." The song itself, which was a top ten hit in Australia and England, as well as a top twenty hit in the U.S. and countless over countries, brilliantly depicts the monotony and frustration of "working men" across the globe. The song remains a staple on radio across the world and has been covered by countless artists, most notably David Bowie on his 1973 album, Pin-Ups. The fact that the song endures is unquestionably due to the perfect song structure and precise musicianship from all of the band members, topped off by the fantastic vocal performance of Stevie Wright.

Though many may be tempted to classify The Easybeats as a "one hit wonder," the truth of the matter is, they had a string of top ten hits in Australia in the years before the success of "Friday On My Mind." Upon moving to Australia, the five band members each brought with them a thorough knowledge of the sounds and styles of the blossoming U.K. pop-rock scene, and this helped to give them a leg up on other bands in the area. With top notch songwriting and musicianship, few bands anywhere in the world played such blissfully perfect rock music. Friday On My Mind truly displays the bands' wide range of influences, from the harder edged "Do You Have A Soul" to the more mellow "Who'll Be the One You Love," to a swinging, distinctive cover of the classic, "Hound Dog." Led by the dual guitars of Young and Vanda, The Easybeats push into a musical sound that can clearly be defined as an early rumbling of the hard-rock sound that would dominate throughout the next two decades. Their sonic and stylistic approach was obviously a massive influence on Young's brothers, as there is unquestionably a great deal of Easybeats tone, swagger, and sound within the music of AC/DC. Combining all of these elements together in amazing fashion, The Easybeats 1967 album, Friday On My Mind is far and away one of the most perfect pop-rock records ever recorded, and though the album is far superior to the more well known hit records of the time, the album remains tragically overlooked to this day.

Standout tracks: "Friday On My Mind," "River Deep, Mountain High," and "Pretty Girl."

1 comment:

K Massey said...

I absolutely love the Easybeats! Whata pioneer of a band. Keep up the good work Joel!