Monday, October 27, 2008


Billy Thorpe was Australia ’s musical chameleon. There was pop star pin up Billy, heavy rocking, long haired Billy, space travelling Billy, popular author Billy and revivalist rock Billy just to name a few. Such was the man’s contribution to the Australian music scene. No wonder his sudden death left so many music fans shattered. Everyone felt they knew him, and his music provided the soundtrack to so many Australian lives. No words can really sum up what he meant to Australian rock’n’roll, other than to say that the outpouring of grief and shock at his death was genuine and heartfelt. Australians simply loved Billy Thorpe.

Aztec Music have become the saviours of Australian rock music, consistently preserving a period when Oz rock had emerged as a genuinely original and powerful voice of a nation that was emerging confidently, shaking of the torpor of 23 years of Liberal Party dominance.

The excellent sleeve notes here utilise interviews with Billy Thorpe and Lobby Loyde, which make them all the more valuable, as well as Gil Matthews, Warren Morgan and Paul Wheeler. Conducted in February 2007, they emphasise just how important it is to get these stories recorded. They now serve to give us the definitive last word on this wonderfully colourful time in Australian music.

The music here captures one of those rare moments in rock history. For those who can remember, we can only drool at the lineup this Aztec performance was part of. A bill at Melbourne Town Hall on June 13 1971 also featured Chain, Daddy Cool, the Wild Cherries, La De Das, Healing Force and Lotus! Knowing what a barnstorming show it would be, the Aztecs opted to record their set for an album and TV show. The result is the first half of this powerful disc. Six tracks that capture the Thorpe, Morgan, Matthews and Wheeler as they really sounded, powerful and passionate.

The opening “Somebody Left Me Crying” features Morgan playing the Melbourne Town Hall pipe organ. Morgan had created a special piece to showcase the organ, and the song that emerged has a special place in Aztec history. In the sleeve notes Thorpe claims to have made the song up on the spot as a result of being overwhelmed at the huge sound of the organ as he walked on stage. Matthews disputes this, pointing to the fact that the band knew the chords to play along. Whatever the truth, it’s testament to a sound that was rapidly emerging, and sounds even more impressive on today’s digital sound equipment.

It’s easy to forget that the Aztecs didn’t emerge as instant heroes of the youth movement. Thorpie wasn’t initially a guitarist, and the lineup seesawed as it searched for “the sound”. This concert is seven months before Sunbury, but shows how important the brief Lobby Loyde Aztec period was in allowing Thorpe to move on from his pop star image.

“Time To Live” captures the band emerging as a rock powerhouse, and “Be Bop A Lula” is the link between Thorpe’s late fifties Brisbane rock’n’roll origins and the soon to be iconic Sunbury Aztecs. “Momma” is excitement personified, and features a Gil Matthews (“I’d like to introduce our new drummer”) drum solo to remind you that it was 1971. This is a time capsule, but it stands today as a loud, joyous celebration of rock music. Really, it is the sound of a generation preparing to blow 23 years of conservative dominance away, the Aztecs as the voice of change.

If the CD only contained the Melbourne Town Hall concert it would be easily worth its price, but here the bonus tracks more than double its value. You get the complete A and B sides of the three Havoc singles the band recorded. Although never a singles band, “The Dawn Song”, “Most People I Know” and “Believe It Just Like Me" retain a special place in the hearts of early seventies radio devotees. The B sides also capture the jamming side of the band. The studio version of “Time To Live” presents an opportunity to compare the live and studio sounds of the band directly.

Rounding out the collection is another rarity, a previously unreleased version of “Long Live Rock’n’Roll” recorded live at the Rosebud outdoor festival in 1972. It features the Sunbury Aztecs lineup with Bruce Howard replacing Warren Morgan on keyboards. It’s a fitting end to this unique collection, leading neatly into the Live! At Sunbury release.

This is a fitting requiem for Thorpie – a disc that captures the sound of the band that crystallised what it meant to be young for a generation of Australians. Just one final word: make sure that if you really want to pay tribute to Billy Thorpe, put this on somewhere that you can play it very loud!

Tracks :

Somebody left me crying
Time to live
Be -bop- a-lula

Link : @

Ripped by : evermoreblues

Artwork included


  1. Saw Thorpie and the Aztecs on a double bill with Lobby LLoyd and the Coloured Balls, at the Armidale Town Hall(Armidale has the University of New England, in northern New South Wales), they were so loud you could feel every note vibrating through your body, Crazy Show, both bands were pretty deafening, hahaha. Was a good time in the early seventies for touring bands, getting outside of the main cities.


tracker tracker