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Albert Productions, the recording division of the 120 year old independent music publishing company J. Albert & Son, is a record label unlike any other in Australia and probably the world. It came into being as a result of one man's love of rock 'n' roll, and has continued for four decades for the very same reason.

During that period it has discovered and or elevated performers who have to be synonymous with the term Oz Rock. Domestic and international hitmakers of such calibre as AC/DC, Stevie Wright, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, The Easybeats, Ted Mulry, John Paul Young, The Angels, Rose Tattoo and Choirboys.

That man was Ted Albert, the great-grandson of the company's founder.
He readily confessed to having always been preoccupied with the desire to build a worthy Australian catalogue to complement the Albert's international repertoire. When Beatlemania engulfed the world late in 1963 he and A&R man Tony Geary decided that a record label of exclusively Australian talent was the way to go.

 

Albert Productions' first signing was a popular act which was soon to draw 63,000 fans to Melbourne's Music Bowl, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs set the new company off to a stirring start with an Australian top ten hit in August 1964. The Aztecs' gloriously inane version of Mashed Potato began an 11 hit run for the group, with Sick & Tired reaching No.2 in Australia, and the melodramatic Over The Rainbow No. 1 before years end.

If the first act selection was fortunate, the second was positively inspired. At a private performance of a group called The Easybeats, Ted was bowled over by the group's vibrant originality. Just as the Beatles ushered in a new era for British music, the incredible Easys gave Australian music a new identity and confidence, setting it on the road to global acceptance. Not only refreshingly original, they were blessed with the same rare charisma as the Fab Four or Rolling Stones.
They radiated an aura of raw, rebellious excitement which proved irresistible to a generation intoxicated by its own youth, and with the songwriting skills of George Young, first with vocalist Stevie Wright and later guitarist Harry Vanda, the results were devastating. After debuting with For My Woman, the group stormed to No. 1 in the charts with the howling She's So Fine, the first of eight consecutive Australian top ten hits in just 18 months. Rock's ultimate working class anthem, Friday On My Mind, not only topped the Australian charts late in 1966 but also made no 6 in the U.K and no 16 in the US (and has since been recorded by David Bowie, Peter Frampton, Gary Moore and many others).

In 1969, just as they disbanded, The Easybeats enjoyed a final American hit with St. Louis. The powerhouse Good Times may not have been a hit for the group but it was for INXS and Jimmy Barnes who combined to take it to No. 2 at the end of 1986. The 2001 APRA awards saw Friday On My Mind named as the most influential Australian song of the past 75 years.

 

Ragged, primitive rhythm and blues rock reigned supreme as Alberts sought out and recorded such legendary Australian acts as The Missing Links and The Throb - acts that other companies would never sign.
The latter unit was fronted by original Easybeats singer John Bell and artfully cultivated a dirty, ugly, dark image managing to out chart the Rolling Stones with a mighty mean version of Fortune Teller.
The label continued its run with Melbourne duo Bobby And Laurie who had pioneered 'Beat' style recording in Australia in 1964. Seen to be past their hit prime they came to Alberts and after a top twenty with Sweet & Tender Romance, surged to No.1 with Hitchhiker.

 

Until 1970 the recordings had been on the Parlophone Label, but when full scale production resumed the company launched its own label, the first release being Ted Mulry's top ten version of Vanda & Young's Falling In Love Again.
Ted Mulry, a bulldozer driver and part-time songwriter, had already scored a top five hit with his self penned track, Julia, earlier that same year. Later Herm Kovac, Ted, Les Hall and Gary Dixon joined forces to form TMG, the Ted Mulry Gang.

Written by Ted Mulry Jump In My Car became an Australian national No.1 hit in 1975, while a remake of the 1917 Darktown Strutters Ball took them to No.2 in 1976. These hits were the first of many more in a long and successful career.

 

In 1972 Simon Napier-Bell went into the studio with a promising lad who had fronted suburban Sydney band Elmtree. He had in hand a song, sent from England, written by Vanda & Young, with lyrics co-written by actor David Hemmings. By March 1972, John Young had a top ten with Pasadena, the first of many hits.
Napier-Bell was also responsible for producing Excuse Me, a 1975 hit for gutsy vocalist Alison MacCallum who first made the Australian charts with the Harry Vanda and George Young composition, Superman.

The momentum generated by Ted Mulry and John Young was not allowed to fade. In 1973, Harry & George returned to Australia and brought their production talents to the new Albert Production label, kicking off yet another boom period.

 

From 1974 to 1976 the Australian charts were saturated with Vanda & Young productions - from John Paul Young, Stevie Wright, William Shakespeare and AC/DC. It was the most formidable hit machine Australia had ever seen.

 

One of George & Harry's projects had been with old comrade Stevie Wright.
For Stevie they created a staggering 11 minute, three part opus called Evie. The track was taken from the debut album Hard Road. Evie became not only a No 1 single for Stevie it was also named the 1974 Song Of The Year.
At a Sydney Opera House concert, where Stevie was backed by George, Harry and Malcolm Young, nearly 10,000 people had to be turned away.

While Vanda & Young were resurrecting Stevie Wright, they were also helping to launch the careers of George's two younger brothers, Angus and Malcolm, who had first entered a recording studio to play guitar on the album Tales Of Old Granddaddy, by an Vanda & Young alter-ego band known as The Marcus Hook Roll Band. In 1974, AC/DC, with Malcolm, Angus and Bon Scott on board, set about turning the world upside down with their rib crushing, blood curdling, brain damaging, skin blistering, no bullshit rock 'n' roll.

AC/DC debuted on the local charts early in 1975 with the bluesy Baby Please Don't Go but it was their self penned fist shaking top ten hit High Voltage later that same year which let loose the juggernaut. They then unleashed It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) which shot straight into the top five followed by the thunderous Australian No. 1 TNT.
By 1977, AC/DC had a British top twenty album with Let There Be Rock and were well on their way to the tally of 95 million album sales which they currently enjoy. The tragic death of Bon Scott in February 1980 introduced vocalist Brian Johnson, whose debut album, Back In Black, gave AC/DC their biggest single to date with You Shook Me All Night Long.


In 1986 AC/DC turned full circle reuniting with producers Vanda & Young for the single Who Made Who, continuing the association in 1988 with the Blow Up Your Video album and the 2000 album, Stiff Upper Lip being produced by George.

AC/DC were recently named by RIAA
as the fifth highest selling recording
act in American Music history.



During the 1970's the versatile Vanda & Young were also turning their hands to well crafted pop. One of their pop artists was William Shakespeare, known as Billy Shake in some European markets. This sweet-voiced light pop singer racked up two consecutive number one hits in 1974 with Can't Stop Myself From Loving You and My Little Angel.

 

In a tougher vein than his Pasadena days was John Paul Young. In 1975 the Vanda & Young song Yesterday's Hero (also recorded by The Bay City Rollers) was an Australian No.1 and had established the diminutive warbler as a teen idol.
After numerous Australian and South African hits including The Love Game and I Hate The Music, 'squeak' entered the European charts for the first time with Standing In The Rain. In 1978, the seductive pop samba Love Is In The Air reached No. 3 in Australia, No. 5 in the U.K and No. 7 in the U.S. It has become the most covered Vanda & Young composition of all time.
Not all of Vanda & Young's creative genius was bestowed upon other artists. During spare studio moments they recorded Hey St. Peter and issued it under the name Flash & The Pan. This exhilarating piece of studio craft reached No. 2 in January 1977.

A top ten follow-up Down Among The Dead Men reached the British charts under the title And The Band Played On. Not only attaining numerous Top Forty European hits Flash & The Pan cracked the U.K top ten in 1983 with Waiting For A Train.

 


Once the frenzy of chart hits subsided, Alberts began to employ a much more ambitious, long-range strategy in the development of talent. Signings such as The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Heroes, Cheetah and Choirboys were directed toward sustained, international appeal rather than automatic local hits.

They began life in the South Australian capital of Adelaide as The Moonshine Jug & String Band before becoming Keystone Angels but it was as The Angels that this hard rocking band earned their place in Australian music history.
They so exemplified the long term approach that Albert's had adopted that The Angels are still a vital force many years after their first Alberts release, the 1976 classic single Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again. Although a massively popular track this song has missed charting in three different forms over the years. Another Angels standard, Coming Down, also missed the charts.
1978 finally saw the band crack the Australian charts with Take A Long Line. They found success throughout Europe and continue to thrive in Australia.

 

Cheetah, sisters Chrissie and Lyndsay Hammond,
found themselves sweating and grinding for all they were worth with Spend The Night from the album Rock And Roll Women. The single was an Australian top twenty in 1980 and enjoyed European success.

Rose Tattoo leader and Throat, Gary (Angry) Anderson, made his first impact on Australian music with Melbourne based raw blues-rock band Buster Brown which also included later AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, while guitarist Peter Wells had come from Buffalo and bassist Ian Rilen from Band Of Light.
The Tatts played their first gig on New Year's Eve 1976 and by the end of 1977 had been captured on tape for Albert Productions by Harry and George.
The pulverising Bad Boy For Love reached No. 10 and commenced a relationship with Alberts which gave Rose Tattoo 5 Top Forty hits, including the 1983 classic We Can't Be Beaten

1998 saw Rose Tattoo reform for the All Hell Breaks Loose tour, the title of an unreleased 1981 song which was as a bonus track on the Nice Boys Don't Play Rock 'n' Roll album. The band are currently touring Germany and the UK.

Choirboys used their time at Alberts to formulate a distinctive sound which has also carried them on to sustained success.
Formed in 1979 they became a major draw at Sydney's Royal Antler Hotel and in 1983 went into the studio with producer Jim Manzie to record an eponymously titled album which featured the optimistic single Never Gonna Die.


Mark Williams and Vanda & Young had been aware of each other since Mark shot to number one in his native New Zealand with the pair's 1970's track Yesterday Was Just The Beginning. A studio collaboration was inevitable and it eventually came in 1990 when Mark was signed by Alberts and triumphantly sang one of the most powerful Vanda & Young compositions of the decade.
This track was Show No Mercy an Australian top 5 hit which you can expect to hear on sporting broadcasting for most of the rest of your life! This was followed by the ZNZ album and a second album Mind Over Matter which featured not only tracks written by Mark but also the Vanda / Young composition We Can Dream.


Given the vast array of Australian and international success, it would be fair to say that the vision of that one young man with a passion for rock 'n' roll has been realised well beyond his or anybody else's wildest dreams. In 1989 Ted Albert decided it was time to move into films. He formed M&A Productions (Miall & Albert) and commissioned a young theatrical director, Baz Luhrman, to script and direct their first film 'Strictly Ballroom'.

Sadly, and unexpectedly, Ted Albert passed away in 1990 before realising the completion of his new project. Fortunately, his vision was carried on by Antoinette, his wife, and a wonderful team of dedicated colleagues who put their body and soul into ensuring the film's completion.

The movie achieved 8 AFI Awards as well as the coveted 'Priz De La Jeunesse' at the Cannes film festival. From the film the first Alberts movie soundtrack was born, with the centrepiece being the remake of the John Paul Young hit Love Is In The Air. The movie was the No.1 box office hit in Australia in 1992 and the single reached No.2 on the Australian charts, and went on to enjoy considerable worldwide success.


The end of the millennium saw a fresh light of talent with Aleesha Rome, a bright spunky 18 year old singer signed to Albert's AMC label.
Her first single One Of Us Has Changed has led the charge while Search My Heaven, her second release, was an Australian Top Twenty hit and is poised to unleash a new decade of superb Australian talent on the international music scene.
 

The contribution of Harry Vanda and George Young - as songwriters, recording artists and producers - has spanned four decades, produced countless hits (for themselves and others) and earned them the coveted Ted Albert Memorial Award for The Most Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music presented by the Australasian Performing Right Association.


This contribution was further recognised with the awarding of Friday On My Mind as the number one Australian Song of the past 75 years at the 2001 Australasian Performing Right Association awards.

The journey to become an "overnight sensation" began when a group of carpet cleaners and friends managed to put down the vacs for long enough to begin what would in time become one of Australia's best rock acts.

Through constant gigging Dallas Crane managed to gather up enough of their own money to record their first full length album - "Lent". After touring to the point of exhaustion the band again hit the studio. This recording was beyond the expectations of even the most admiring fans. Bluesy romps like "Sit On My Knee" and "Sweet FA" became instant live favourites while "Sold Me" showcased their sublime songwriting skills.

With the buzz now a constant the band embarked on another east coast tour capping off 2003 with their appearance at Australia's premier Oz only music festival - Homebake. Not long after their blistering set at The Big Day Out, the band signed a recording and publishing deal with Albert's and headed straight to the studio. With a brand new single "Dirty Hearts" already hitting the airways the Dallas Crane story has only just begun.


GLENN A. BAKER
(edited by Fifa Riccobono, 2004)

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