Stevie Wright (Australian singer)

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Stevie Wright
Birth name Stephen Carlton Wright
Also known as Chris Langdon, Little Stevie
Born (1948-12-20) 20 December 1948 (age 66)
Origin Melbourne, Australia
Genres Rock n Roll, pop
Occupation(s) Rock singer
Years active 1963–current
Labels EMI/Parlophone, Albert
Associated acts The Outlaws
Chris Langdon & the Langdells
The Easybeats
Vanda & Young
Flash and the Pan

Stephen Carlton "Stevie" Wright[1] (born 20 December 1948),[2][3] formerly billed as Little Stevie,[2] is an Australian musician and songwriter who has been called Australia's first international pop star.[4] During 1964–1969 he was lead singer for Sydney-based rock and roll band The Easybeats, widely regarded as the greatest Australian pop band of the 1960s.[2][5][6][7]

Early hits for The Easybeats were co-written by Wright with bandmate George Young, including, "She's So Fine"[8] (No. 3, 1965), "Wedding Ring"[9] (No. 7, 1965), "Women (Make You Feel Alright)"[10] (No. 4, 1966), "Come and See Her"[11] (No. 3, 1966), "I'll Make You Happy"[12] (track on Easyfever EP, No. 1, 1966), and "Sorry" (No. 1, 1966).[5][13] He was lead vocalist on their only international hit "Friday on My Mind",[3][5] which peaked at No. 1 in Australia in 1966,[5][13] it made No. 6 in United Kingdom, the Top 10 in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, and Top 20 in United States in 1967.[2][5][6]

After The Easybeats disbanded in 1969, Wright fronted numerous groups including Stevie Wright Band and Stevie Wright & the Allstars;[2] his solo career included the 1974 single, "Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)", which peaked at No. 1 on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart.[14] Wright has had problems with alcohol and drug addictions,[3] by 1976 he was hospitalised and undertook methadone treatment, in the late 1970s he was treated at Chelmsford Private Hospital by Dr Harry Bailey who administered Deep Sleep Therapy with a combination of drug-induced coma and electroshock.[2][3]

His biography has been detailed in Sorry: The Wretched Tale of Little Stevie Wright by Jack Marx (1999) and Hard Road: The Life and Times of Stevie Wright by Glenn Goldsmith (2004).[4] On 14 July 2005, The Easybeats, with Stevie Wright as a member, were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame alongside Renée Geyer, Hunters & Collectors, Smoky Dawson, Split Enz and Normie Rowe.[15][16][17]

Early years: 1964–1969[edit]

Main article: The Easybeats

Wright was born in Leeds, England in 1948 and his family migrated to Melbourne, Australia when he was nine.[2] They moved to Sydney in 1960 and lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel.[2] He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells,[5][7] which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.[6]

After a Langdells performance, Wright met the Dutch-born, Hendricus Vandenburg (later Harry Vanda) who was staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel and his compatriot Dingeman van der Sluys (later Dick Diamonde).[2][6] The pair convinced Wright to form a band with Vandenburg's friend and fellow hostel resident Scottish-born George Young.[2][6] Together with another Englishman, Gordon "Snowy" Fleet, they formed The Easybeats in mid-1964.[2][6] Initial line-up of The Easybeats was Diamonde on bass guitar, Fleet on drums, Vanda on guitar, Wright on vocals and Young on guitar.[5]

During his time with The Easybeats, Wright was popularly and affectionately known as "Little Stevie".[2][3][6] Early hits for The Easybeats were co-written by Wright with bandmate Young,[5] including, "She's So Fine"[8] (No. 3, 1965), "Wedding Ring"[9] (No. 7, 1965), "Women (Make You Feel Alright)"[10] (No. 4, 1966), "Come and See Her"[11] (No. 3, 1966), "I'll Make You Happy"[12] (track on Easyfever EP, No. 1, 1966), and "Sorry" (No. 1, 1966).[13]

He was lead vocalist on their only international hit "Friday on My Mind",[3] which peaked at No. 1 in Australia in 1966,[13] it made No. 6 in UK, Top 10 in Germany, Holland, France and Italy and Top 20 in the US in 1967.[2][6] In 2001, the song was voted the Best Australian Song of All Time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association,[18] Wright was renowned for his energetic stage performance which included acrobatic back-flips and mod dance moves.[2][6] The Easybeats disbanded in UK in 1969 with Vanda & Young becoming freelance musicians, songwriters and producers.[2][6]

Aside from tracks for The Easybeats, Wright and George Young also wrote, "Step Back" for Johnny Young (no relation) and his band Kompany,[19] released in May 1966, which peaked at No. 1.[13]

Solo success: 1972–1975[edit]

After the break-up of The Easybeats in 1969, Wright returned to Sydney from UK, he formed a backing group, Rachette.[2][5] He produced the debut single for local band Bootleg, "Whole World Should Slow Down", in 1970.[2] By late 1971, he was in Perth and joined Likefun with Ray Hoff on vocals (ex-Off Beats), Morri Pierson on vocals, Shirley Reid on vocals, John Tucak on bass guitar and Alan Wilkes on organ.[2][6] He soon returned to Sydney and from mid-1972 took the role of Simon Zealotes in the Australian stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar.[2][6] Also in 1972, he joined Black Tank with Rory O'Donoghue on guitar and vocals (ex-The Pogs), Ken Firth on bass guitar (Tully) and Greg Henson on drums (Levi Smith Clefs).[2][6]

Wright signed with Albert Productions label in late 1973 which reunited him with former bandmates Vanda & Young who had returned from UK and were now staff producers and songwriters.[2][6] Wright formed Stevie Wright & the Allstars for live performances, the line-up included, Johnny Dick on drums (ex-Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs), Tim Gaze on lead guitar (Tamam Shud, Kahvas Jute, Ariel), and Warren Morgan on piano (Chain, Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs).[2] In April 1974 he released his debut solo LP, Hard Road, which featured the single "Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)" released in May.[2][6] The song was written and produced by Vanda & Young,[7][20] it became a hit—the only 11-minute song to chart at No. 1 anywhere in the world—[citation needed] and is now regarded as an Australian rock classic.[2][6] Part 1 is subtitled, "Let Your Hair Hang Down", and part 3 is "I'm Losing You".[20] Wright performed three concerts at the Sydney Opera House with backing by Vanda, Young and AC/DC's Malcolm Young (George Young's brother). Another Vanda & Young produced LP, Black-eyed Bruiser, followed in 1975, but it failed to chart in the Top 50.[6][14] By mid-1975, the Allstars had transferred to John Paul Young (no relation) and Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band with Tony Bolton on drums (Aesop's Fables, Country Radio), Larry Duryea on percussion (Tamam Shud), Russell Johnson on guitar (Mississippi, Country Radio), Billy Rylands on bass guitar (Lotus) and Peter White on keyboards.[2]

Later years[edit]

By 1976 Wright had developed drug addictions. He was hospitalised and undertook methadone treatment. His mental health was further exacerbated after his self-admission to the notorious Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney. Director Dr 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 ECT. Many patients, including Wright, suffered brain damage and lifelong after-effects. The scandal was later exposed and Dr Bailey committed suicide.

In 1982, Wright joined Vanda & Young in their studio band, Flash and the Pan to provide vocals on their album, Headlines and the related singles, "Where were You?" in July, and "Waiting for a Train" in December.[2] That same year there was talk of an Easybeats reunion. Stevie 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'."[21]

In 1983, there was a talk of a solo album with work done again with Vanda and Young. Stevie said the album would best be described as "classy rock 'n' roll" and the songs were about "a wide spectrum of all the experiences I've been through". He said the love songs he had were optimistic. This interview gives a good idea as to how Wright worked in the studio with Vanda and Young:[21]

"Well, it's a three way thing. They'll sit down and say 'we've got this sort of song' and we'll discuss how we'll approach it. Obviously after this long we do have a very strong bond. I've written a couple of songs but since they're far better at it than I am, I'll let them handle that."

According to the Juke Magazine article it was "due for release later that year"[21] however, this never happened.

In January 1984, Wright was charged with attempted housebreaking days after attending Westmount drug rehabilitation centre. He was arrested for heroin use later that month.[2] He had been using heroin since about 1973,[2] and, according to Wright, he remained an addict for 20 years.[22] The Easybeats reformed for a brief Australian tour in 1986, and Wright re-formed variations on the Stevie Wright Band in 1986–1988. Wright's substance abuse problems continued into the 1980s and 1990s and he came close to death on several occasions, but was supported by his partner Fay Walker. His meteoric rise and fall has made him a frequent media subject. In 1999 journalist Jack Marx published a much-anticipated biography, entitled Sorry - The Wretched Tale of Little Stevie Wright.[23] It was critically applauded by some reviewers—Australian music historian Clinton Walker called it "gonzo journalism at its best".[24] While The Bulletin later referred to Sorry as "one of the most harrowing rock books ever written".[25] Sorry was dismissed by Wright, his fans and other critics. Internet reviewer Ken Grady (Luna Kafé, 1999) described Marx as "a self serving hypocrite" and concluded his review by observing: "The only thing that Marx has achieved is to depict himself as a very unlikeable, morally bankrupt leech." [26]

Long Way to the Top was a 2001 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) six-part documentary on the history of Australian rock and roll from 1956 to the modern era.[27] Episode 2: Ten Pound Rocker, broadcast on 22 August, featured interviews with Harry Vanda and Johnny Young.[27] Vanda described meeting George Young; while Johnny Young (no relation) described how Wright wrote the lyrics for "Step Back".[27] During August 2002, promoters Michael Chugg and Kevin Jacobsen, organised a related concert tour, Long Way to the Top.[3] Wright had seriously injured his ankle in a fall and so concerts had him performing "Evie", with The Allstars, while seated on a stool. Performances at two Sydney concerts in September were recorded, broadcast on ABC-TV and subsequently released on DVD in December.[27] His authorised biography, Hard Road: The Life and Times of Stevie Wright, by Glenn Goldsmith was published in 2004.[28] As of 2001 Wright lived near Canberra with his partner Fay Walker. He has a son Nicholas born in 1972 or 1973.[22]

On 14 July 2005, The Easybeats, with Stevie Wright as a member, were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame alongside Renée Geyer, Hunters & Collectors, Smoky Dawson, Split Enz and Normie Rowe.[15][16][17]

On 31 January 2009, Wright headlined the Legends of Rock festival in Byron Bay Australia.[29] Songs played included "Sorry", "I'll Make You Happy", "Evie (part 2)", "Friday on My Mind", "She's So Fine" and "Wedding Ring". He was interviewed for the Macquarie Regional Radioworks program Sunday Groovies, by Kym Ferguson, on 11 February, he reported that 2009 was an exciting and busy year with new material and previously unreleased tracks expected.

Bibliography[edit]

Discography[edit]

The Easybeats

Flash and the Pan

Stevie Wright, Stevie Wright Band, Stevie Wright & the Allstars

Albums[edit]

  • Hard Road (May 1974) AUS No. 2[14]
  • Black-eyed Bruiser (August 1975) AUS No. 61[14]
  • Facing the Music (1986)
  • The Best from Down Under (1989)
  • Striking It Rich (1991)
  • Definitive Collection (2004)

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Album
AUS
KMR[14]
1974 "Hard Road" Hard Road
"Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)" 1
"Guitar Band" 13
1975 "You" 88 Black Eyed Bruiser
"Black Eyed Bruiser" 99
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.

References[edit]

  1. ^ ""Life Gets Better" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Stevie Wright'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Creswell, Toby; Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. North Melbourne, Vic: Pluto Press. p. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Donovan, Patrick (5 August 2004). "Reliving a wretched life on page and stage". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Easybeats'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Duncan Kimball (2004). "STEVIE WRIGHT". MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. ICE Productions. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c "Stevie Wright". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  8. ^ a b ""She's So Fine" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  9. ^ a b ""Wedding Ring" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  10. ^ a b ""Women Make You Feel Alright" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  11. ^ a b ""Come and See Her" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  12. ^ a b ""I'll Make You Happy" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book 1940–1969. Turramurra, NSW: Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.  NOTE: Chart positions back calculated by Kent in 2005.
  14. ^ a b c d e Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.  NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  15. ^ a b "ARIA 2008 Hall of Fame inductees listing". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 21 October 2009. [dead link]
  16. ^ a b "Winners by Award: Hall of Fame". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  17. ^ a b "Winners by Artist: The Easybeats". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  18. ^ "Setting the record straight". The Age (Fairfax Media). 8 April 2003. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  19. ^ ""Step Back" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Parts 1 2 3 ""Evie" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  21. ^ a b c Juke Magazine 8 October 1983. "The Faith Healing Powers of Stevie Wright" by Alan Ward, page 7.
  22. ^ a b Probyn, Andrew; Kimball, Duncan (29 May 2001). "Stevie Wright". MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. ICE Productions. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  23. ^ a b "Sorry : the wretched tale of little Stevie Wright / Jack Marx". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  24. ^ "It's Pretty Ugly In This Head", The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 1999.
  25. ^ Apter, Jeff (14 April 2004). "Stevie Wright's Wrong Way". The Bulletin (ACP Magazines). Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  26. ^ Grady, Ken (28 July 1999). "Book review - Low Marx". Luna Kafé. FuzzLogic. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  27. ^ a b c d "ABC Online - Long Way To The Top". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 22 November 2002. Retrieved 23 May 2009.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  28. ^ a b "Hard road : the life and times of Stevie Wright / Glenn Goldsmith". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 17 October 2009. 
  29. ^ "Legends of Rock Festival > Stevie Wright". Margin Media. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 

External links[edit]