The Easybeats were Australia’s first real rockstars, and singer Stevie Wright was the archetypal frontman before their were archetypes.
Scott McRae spoke with The Echo about ‘The Life and Music of Stevie Wright and the Easybeats’ his tribute to an Aussie Musical Hero.
Why have you chosen to create a tribute show for Stevie Wright and the Easybeats?
Well it is a tribute in many facts but it is so not your standard pub tribute type show. This show is a full blown ‘rockumentary’ like no other out there.
There are many reasons I guess, but the main one is the story is one that had been overlooked to a certain degree. The Easybeats and Stevie paved the way for Australian music internationally. They achieved what many had attempted in a very short time.
But the bottom line is the story has a the perfect elements. Success, failure, worship, tragedy, struggle and lost loves… add to that some of the greatest songs ever written and it was to me something really special that I wanted to share with everyone, young and old.
Were you always an Easybeats fan? Did researching the story change your view of Stevie and the band?
I grew up with the second coming of Stevie, so it was more the rock era with songs like Evie, Hard Road and Black Eyed Bruiser. It wasn’t until I got into the research stage that I discovered all the brilliance that was The Easybeats. Of course I knew of some of their songs, like She’s So Fine and Friday on My Mind, but when you listen to many others you get an understanding for how far ahead of their time they were. I wouldn’t say the researching changed my view so much in that it verified a lot of what I had been told about them.
As far as Stevie goes personally, well that’s another story!
What were their greatest challenges?
Trying to keep Stevie’s story upbeat was difficult sometimes. What to include and what to leave out. There are some pretty heavy periods in his life that just should be left alone. I spent a lot of time with Stevie while writing the story and those periods had their moments too. Stevie had good and bad days, physically and mentally, and that made my job a little more difficult, that’s for sure.
What was it about their music and their energy as a band that hit the pulse that it did at the time?
The beat wave was massive in Britain and with the influx of migrants coming to Australia it was to me a time of freedom and fun. Stevie’s energy particularly was massive; his charisma and cheek resonated with a whole generation. To the masses it was also, I believe, a chance for Australia to have its ‘own’ Beatles.
No not really. Well of course that particular road gave him the means. Stevie was very young when it all began and that didn’t help in guidance and keeping him on the straight and narrow. But Stevie made his own choices and nobody ever forced him to do the drugs and the drink. He admits he made some bad choices but they were his. Maybe if he had a little more life experience at the time those decisions may have been different, but unfortunately that was not the case. Life on the road made those choices more available I guess.
Is it just a personal pain or do you think that creative people have a connection to a darker side – or a more intuitive side? Do you think this is the place where great artists create from?
Wow, a good question. I don’t believe that all great creative genius comes from a dark side, but history does show that some of the greats sure have a tendency to dabble. Personally I believe we are all blessed with certain talents, it is just how or when or if you actually ever unearth them. I think sometimes it is seen as the ‘thing’ to do to be seen as having that connection to darker feelings. I believe it©s more a case of understanding what oneself has to give or express and then being able to do just that.
What did you want to achieve telling the story of the Easybeats?
I wanted to combine all my loves into one show. I wanted to act, sing, produce and write. But the most important thing for me was to share a story that resonated with everyone. I wanted people to embrace a story they may not have known much about or to relive one that was part of who they already were. I wanted Stevie and the boys to be seen for who they were in the music landscape of Australia and the world and for their music to be heard again by a new generation. The other thing that was very important was I wanted to create a show that made people want to get out of their seats and sing at the top of their lungs, and dance like no-one was watching! I want people to come and be entertained.
What should we expect for the Byron show?
Going by the reviews and the feedback we get after the show and on social media, one of the best nights out you will have in a long time. We have had 100 per cent standing ovations since our first show; that speaks for itself really. This will be our only time in Byron and I know you have just had Bluesfest, but this show has to be seen. Besides if you come and don’t have a good night, come see me in the foyer afterwards and I will give you your money back! You don’t get that with any other show that I know of!
Friday and Saturday at the Byron Theatre at the Community Centre. 8pm.
Tix at the venue.