It Ain't All Easy - Some Other Great Aussie Bands Of The 60s - Part One

It Ain't All Easy - Some Other Great Aussie Bands Of The 60s - Part One


It's been fantastic to see the resurgence of interest in the Easybeats in recent months thanks to the two-part biopic Friday On My Mind and the Easyfever Tour featuring more recent rock types like Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers and Phil Jamieson. But here at ILYOS we're always keen to fly the flag for great Aussie artists, so here is Part One of a two-part feature highlighting some our other favorites from the '60s. Let us know your favourites by commenting on our Facebook page. 


The pre-Easybeats supergroup from Melbourne, the Seekers are often overlooked by the rock fraternity due primarily to the fact that they didn't actually rock! And it's despite the fact that they were one of the biggest groups in the world at the time, and record breakers here at home. But their music has stood the test of time and has resonated somewhat with fans of folk and older forms; indeed Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds showed their taste with a great cover of "The Carnival Is Over" back in the '80s. The Seekers were very much part of the early '60s folk scene of course - something like our own version of Peter Paul & Mary. Whilst they did record the odd Bob Dylan tune like PP&M, it's a little-known fact that some of the Seekers' most enduring material came from English writer Tom Springfield - Dusty Springfield's brother. (Tom and Dusty had been in the folk outfit the Springfields prior to Dusty's solo career.) Springfield wrote many of their major hits, including "I'll Never Find Another You", "A World of Our Own" and the aforementioned "The Carnival is Over".

BILLY THORPE & THE AZTECS (pictured above)

Thorpie was a rare artist who achieved massive success in both the '60s and '70s; that's why he's one of our most iconic musicians. The '60's Aztecs were known for their snappy R&B covers and were perhaps the biggest Sydney band before the Easy's came along. Their popularity was also such that guitarist Tony Barber (NOT the TV host chap) was able to spin off into a very successful solo career. "Sick & Tired' was one of those R&B covers that was a hit for Thorpie in '64 and then revisited in a louder and heavier form with his new Aztecs early in the new decade.


They only released one LP, but what an album! The legend of the Loved Ones and Magic Box endured for decades and peaked in the '80s, prompting a reformation of the band and covers of classic singles like "The Loved One" by INXS and "Sad Dark Eyes" by both Nick Cave and Ed Kuepper. The Loved Ones oddly enough formed out of Melbourne's early '60s trad jazz scene - it was no doubt the jazz influence inherent in their great originals and in the outrageously great voice of Gerry Humphrys that made them so unique.



Sydney's great surf instrumental combo had an international hit with "Bombora" - a track to rival the Surfaris' "Wipeout" and the Chantays' "Pipeline" - in '63 before catching the British bug in the mid-'60s. With the addition of former '50s rocker Johnny Rebb up front, the Atlantics became Australia's first great hard rock group. It wasn't the teeny sounds of the early Beatles or Stones that these guys went for; it was the more adult and hard-edged blue collar sounds of Eric Burden & The Animals that gave them their lead. The likes of "Come On" and "It's A Hard Life" didn't trouble the charts too much at the time, but these days they're revered internationally and it's not hard to hear why! Let's check out their two distinct incarnations


Perhaps second only to the Easybeats in regards to enduring popularity and influence on Australian rock, Adelaide's Masters started out as a super tough blues & R&B outfit before moving adeptly into psychedelia and hard rock. The late great Jim Keays was a brilliant focal point and one of our true rockstars, but it was the songwriting of original guitarist Mick Bower that was the basis for their initial breakthrough. Their first single "Undecided" is as vital an Oz rock precursor as any of the early Easybeats' tunes. 


Oddly enough the early '60s Melbourne scene showed a strong C&W influence. Pre-Beatles, Sydney had JO'K and then the surf scene; Melbourne had instrumental combos, folkies, jazzers and weekend cowboys! Perhaps it was the influence of radio in Melbourne that kept country to the fore - perhaps it was the influence of older rockers like Johnny Chester who brought a love of country down from Brisbane. Bobby Bright and Laurie Allen were two other country lovers who got swept up by rock (and Bobby was another transplant, having arrived from Adelaide around '63); they became a beat sensation to rival the early Easybeats, and ended up being pinched by Alberts from Melbourne's legendary Go!! label. Although their best tracks were stomping ravers like "I Belong With You" and "You'll Come Around", they're perhaps best remembered by the brooding country 1966  hit "Hitch Hiker".



It wasn't all country music in Melbourne in the early '60s of course: rock music at the time didn't come much more primal or electric than Normie Rowe's version of "Shakin' All Over". Normie was the first and biggest male solo star of Australian pop in the 1960s. He was one of our greatest singers, and by the time he turned 20 in 1967, after two years of recording, he'd become one of the greatest blue-eyed soul singers in the world. A stint in London didn't bring the international success he deserved, but it did produce some great records like "Ooh La La".

Stay tuned for Part Two of Great Aussie Bands of The 60s.

- Dave Laing 


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