Sunday, October 29, 2017

MIGHTY GEORGE YOUNG - The Easybeats & the Offbeat FLASH & THE PAN


Sad to say, the death of George Young was not exactly big news. There wasn't much "awww," or awe except on websites ending with AU…Australia. Even then, as you see from NEWS.COM.AU above, George’s legacy is considered The Easybeats. Second, the trivia of George being a brother to that troll-git Angus who spent most of his life dressing up in a schoolboy outfit to play headbanger shit. A distant third in most obits was George's songwriting (with Harry Vanda) and production for a variety of acts this blog will never cover, including AC/DC, Stevie Wright, John Paul Young.

    Here at the blog of less renown, the headline involves his 80's group that made a lot of obscure albums including one called "Headlines." It's FLASH AND THE PAN. Your download sample below, from that album, is "Where Were You." I think this song neatly captures all aspects of the band's (strangely limited) appeal. Foremost, there's the distorted Dylanesque talk-singing and often acidic wordplay. A close second, and a legacy from all those years of easy beats, is the melodic chorus with its sing-along hook. Straddling the worlds of new wave and synth, there's also the added whistle (Ian Dury was fond of that game) and an uneasy beat that might suggest (as some of Ian's songs did) that it could be danced to. 

    I was in my first tenure as a mere rock mag staff writer when a peculiar album arrived, simply titled FLASH AND THE PAN. I always gravitated toward odd new releases, while everyone else in the office fought each other for anything by a star. Most wanted the ego boost of writing about a star's new album. I was more interested in giving whatever paragraph space I could, to new artists that could use the break of a quotable review.

    The odd cover art on the first album was not that different from the odd cover art on dozens of other progrock albums of the time. An irony was that if anyone knew one of their songs, it was via a cover version: "Walking in the Rain" from Grace Jones. Intended as a one-off, the album got enough attention ("Hey St. Peter," and the peculiarly un-PC "African Shuffle") to warrant several more. Some seemed to only get an Oz release and were hard to find. An irony is that I completed my collection by finding "Nights in France" in a Paris record shop.

    FLASH did make some bizarre rock videos which didn't seem to get that much play on MTV, and with few interviews and limited touring, stayed a mystery and enigma. They did, ironically enough, put out more albums than The Easybeats did, and lasted maybe a little bit longer. The Easybeats, a mix of guys born in the UK, Australia and Holland, formed in 1964.  Their big hit, "Friday On My Mind," was #1 in Australia, but only made the Top 10 in England and Top 20 in America, and without a follow-up hit, in the UK or USA, the band split in 1969.

    Starting the 70's George Young and Harry Vanda struggled along with offbeat projects like Grapefruit, Haffy’s Whisky Sour and Marcus Hook Roll Band, the latter, released circa 1973, included Angus and Malcolm Young. As producers/songwriters they did better behind the scenes, giving hit songs to Stevie Wright, Rose Tattoo, and others (there's a 2 CD set of their popular songs that made the Aussie charts from a variety of singers). They began the 80's with the experimental FLASH AND THE PAN, which I suppose remains more of a "critics choice" than a rival to AC/DC. The article above declares Young “...stands peerless in his contributions to this country’s most essential era of songwriting and production, and leaves an untouchable legacy behind in the form of AD/DC, The Easybeats, and the countless Australian classics he ushered to the top of the charts.” 

    Very well, let FLASH AND THE PAN remain an obscure pleasure for a small circle of friends. You're invited to join the circle. Unlike Dylan, there doesn't seem to be a FLASH cult that dissects every lyric, in-joke or reference ("Norwegian Wood" turns up in "Where Were You") but maybe that's just as well. Fan groups tend to degenerate quickly into one-upmanship and bickering, and besides, even George Young had better things to do. As the above article mentions, George in his last two decades turned down most interviews, “preferring travel to music.” Hopefully his enjoyment of travel, to quote two more FLASH songs, didn't involve "Waiting for a Train" or "Psychos On the Street."

 FLASH AND THE PAN - WHERE WERE YOU (Download or listen online)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When you have invented and created some of the most Immortal chapters in Music, it doesn't really matter if you're dying ignored. But in your own country --- Australia here as we all know --- you can always go to sunday's church and sing phoney songs and awful sermons. At least, that's what Nick Drake and Sandy Denny told me the other day and.... Maybe it's true!! If it hadn't been for YouTube, I would have never heard about the passing of George Young.....
Enough said.
Serge Zéni