At one point during the 1960s, `Little' Stevie Wright (b. 1948) was the hottest teen sensation in the country. As frontman for the chart-busting Easybeats, Wright helped ignite scenes of fan hysteria the likes of which Australia had never witnessed before. He got a second bite of the apple in 1974 when the dramatic, 11-minute Vanda and Young-penned epic `Evie Parts I, II and III' took him to the top of the charts. Yet Wright always seemed to be his own worst enemy, and when his much-publicised drug addiction got the better of him, he disappeared from view.
Wright was born on 20 December 1948 in Leeds, England. He migrated to Australia with his family at the age of nine. The Wright family settled in Melbourne before moving to Sydney in 1960. Before joining The Easybeats in 1964, Wright sang with local combos The Outlaws and Chris Langdon and the Langdells. The Easybeats went on to become one of Australia's most celebrated 1960s rock bands, enjoying international success with the working-class anthem `Friday on My Mind'. While Harry Vanda and George Young came to prominence as The Easybeats' hit-making, songwriting team, it was the Wright/Young combination which fashioned the band's earliest hits. They included `For My Woman', `She's So Fine', `Women (Make You Feel Alright)', `Come and See Her' and `Sorry'. The Easybeats broke up in late 1969 following an Australian tour.
When Vanda and Young returned to the UK to further their production and songwriting work, Wright remained in Australia. He formed backing band Rachette, helped set up Sydney label Musical Expression and produced local band Bootleg's debut single for that label, `Whole World Should Slow Down'. Stevie Wright and Rachette made an appearance at the Odyssey Music Festival (Wallacia, NSW) in January 1971. In late 1971, Wright travelled to Perth, Western Australia where he joined an ambitious rock'n'roll revue band called Likefun. The line-up included Wright, Ray Hoff (vocals; ex-Off Beats), Shirley Reid (vocals), Morri Pierson (vocals), John Tucak (bass) and Alan Wilkes (organ). Wright worked with Likefun only briefly, before returning to Sydney where he took the part of Simon Zealotes in the Australian production of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar (directed by Jim Sharman). Wright stayed with the production for two years and he appeared on the Original Australian Cast album which came out on MCA Records in 1973. During 1972, Wright also sang with a band called Black Tank with Rory O'Donoghue (guitar; ex-Pogs), Ken Firth (bass; ex-Tully) and Greg Henson (drums; ex-Levi Smith Clefs).
At the end of 1973, Wright signed to the Albert label and commenced work on his debut solo album, Hard Road, with producers Vanda and Young. Hard Road (April 1974) proved to be an excellent rock album with Wright in fine form. The Vanda and Young-penned tracks `Hard Road', `Didn't I Take You Higher?' and `Evie' saw Wright in full-blooded rock mode, while his own compositions like `Movin' On Up', `Commando Line', `Life Gets Better' and `Dancing in the Limelight' were cut from a slightly less frantic blues mould. The single `Evie' (May 1974) peaked at #2 on the national chart during July. It did even better in Melbourne, where it remained at #1 for seven weeks. Hard Road also peaked at #5 nationally and #1 in Melbourne. Suzi Quatro later covered `Evie', while Rod Stewart included his version of `Hard Road' on the Smiler album. Hard Road also came out on Atlantic in the USA and Polydor in the UK.
Wright hit the road with The All Stars, which contained such well-known local rock luminaries as Warren Morgan (piano; ex-Chain, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs), Tim Gaze (lead guitar; ex-Tamam Shud, Kahvas Jute, Ariel) and Johnny Dick (drums; ex-Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs). Wright headed back into the studio with Vanda and Young for his second solo album, Black Eyed Bruiser, which produced the singles `Guitar Band'/`Hard Road' (November 1974), `You'/`My Kind of Music' (March 1975) and `Black Eyed Bruiser'/`Help Help' (May). `Guitar Band' reached #8 in Melbourne, and #8 nationally during December 1974. Wright ended the year by performing three concerts at the Sydney Opera House with backing produced by Vanda, Young and AC/DC's Malcolm Young. Black Eyed Bruiser was a punchy album of blues-rock, soul and country-tinged material, but it failed to chart. While Wright had dominated the charts in 1974, he disappeared from view in 1975.
By May 1975, The All Stars had departed to back John Paul Young and Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band with Russell Johnson (guitar; ex-Mississippi, Country Radio), Peter White (keyboards), Billy Rylands (bass; ex-Lotus, Wolfe), Larry Duryea (percussion; ex-Heart 'n' Soul, Tamam Shud) and Tony Bolton (drums; ex-Aesop's Fables, Luke's Walnut, Traine, Freshwater, Country Radio). Wright played a few gigs around Sydney during mid-1976 with a band called Sacha, but over the ensuing years he sought treatment for his drug addiction.
On 4 November 1979, Wright performed `Evie' at the Concert of the Decade in front of 100000 people on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Other acts who appeared that day included Cheetah, Russell Morris, Jim Keays, Doug Parkinson, Hush, Stars, Marcia Hines, Max Merritt, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Norman Gunston, Split Enz, Richard Clapton, Skyhooks, Jon English and Sherbet. Mushroom issued the double live album of the event, Concert of the Decade, in 1980.
In 1982, Wright joined Vanda and Young's studio band Flash and the Pan for the album Headlines and its singles `Where were You?'/`Hey Jimmy' (July 1982) and `Waiting for a Train'/`Don't Vote' (December 1982). When issued overseas during April 1983, `Waiting for a Train'/``A'' became a smash hit, reaching #7 in the UK. Headlines was Flash and The Pan's third #1 album in Scandinavia. In 1983, Wright worked with backing band The Street Beat Band, but nothing came out of the project. In January 1984, Wright appeared in Penrith Court charged with attempted housebreaking. He had signed himself out of Westmount drug rehabilitation centre only days before he attempted to break into the house. Wright was also arrested for heroin use that same month, after being found unconscious in a hotel toilet. He had been using heroin since 1973.
In October 1986, The Easybeats re-formed for a six-week national tour. That same month, Albert re- issued the `You' single with a new B-side, `20 Dollar Bill'. In 1988, Wright formed Hard Rain which comprised Peter Northcote (sax), Bruno Renzella (guitar), Vic Young (bass) and Paul DeMarco (drums; ex-Scattered Aces). Hard Rain became the Stevie Wright Band, and Glenn Goldsmith replaced Renzella on guitar. To celebrate 25 years in music, Wright issued a new album, Striking It Rich, on the Laser label in 1991. It featured seven new songs, a new version of `Evie' and six re-workings of old Easybeats material. In April 1992, Wright performed a concert at Selina's in Sydney. By that stage, Wright's health had deteriorated to such a degree that he disappeared from view again.