Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Memory, Billy Thorpe, 1946 - 2007.

....................... Photo courtesy of William Thorpe

Billy Thorpe was one of the true legends of Australian rock'n'roll.
Thorpie (as he was known) was born in Manchester, England in 1946
He immigrated to Australia with his family when he was nine, and his
family settled in Brisbane, Queensland. By the time he was ten years old,
Thorpie was performing on Brisbane television. By the time he was 15,
Billy had worked in stage shows, variety television, clubs and even
vaudeville at Brisbane's Theatre Royal.
He also toured with the likes of Johnny O'Keefe (called The Wild One)
and Col Joye. In late 1963, as a seasoned 17-year-old, Thorpie moved
to Sydney and created his first band The Aztecs.

.................Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs.

Two days before The Aztecs were to record two more of his songs for the
next single, Tony Barber (who played guitar and sung vocals) received
The Rolling Stones first British EP, sent over by his brother from England.
The Aztecs heard The Stones' version of "Poison Ivy" and decided to record
it themselves. "Poison Ivy' became The Aztecs' first #1 hit single in June 1964.
The single heralded the arrival of beat music in Australia, and Billy Thorpe
and the Aztecs (as the band was now known) became the country's biggest pop sensations.

Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs first album.

In Melbourne, where The Beatles had played to 52000 screaming kids,
Thorpie and The Aztecs drew 63000 at the Myer Music Bowl. The band
recorded its debut album Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, and ended a successful
1964 with the release of the ballad "Over the Rainbow" taken from the film
The Wizard of Oz. "Over the Rainbow" reached #1 in Sydney during
December 1964. In early 1972 the Aztecs released what became their biggest
hit, the song which became Thorpe's signature tune -- "Most People I Know
(Think That I'm Crazy)", a song now widely regarded as one of the classics
of Australian rock. It was a huge national hit for the new Aztecs, going to the
top of the charts in all cities.

click on above link to watch "Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy"

With thanks to Adam Dean who took this at the Crown
Showroom in Melbourne in March 2005.

In 1977 Billy went to the USA, and in 1979 released the epic rock song
"Children of the Sun". Thorpie returned to Australia in July 1996 for a
national tour with his new band. In November 1996 Thorpie's first book,
"Sex and Thugs and Rock'n'Roll: A Year in Kings Cross 1963-1964" was
published. Its release also coincided with a profile of Thorpie's life and career
on the television show "This is Your Life". Thorpie was back in Australia
during 1997 for a tour, and to write his second book, "Most People I Know
(Think that I'm Crazy)". Billy Thorpe’s first book, "Sex and Thugs and
Rock’n’Roll", went on to sell over 150 000 copies. In October 1998 saw his
second book, "Most People I Know (Think that I’m Crazy)", hit the shelves
and once again it swiftly became the #1 selling book in Australia.
I bought both of these books some time ago and they were both very interesting
on Billy's life in the music industry. They were both a great read and I
recommend them as a insight into the rock and roll music industry in the 1960's and 70's.

Billy Thorpe died this morning after suffering a major heart attack overnight.
Thorpe died in the early hours of the morning after he was rushed to Sydney's
St Vincent's Public Hospital. Ambulance crews were called to Thorpe's Sydney
home shortly after midnight after the star began suffering chest pains. He was
taken to hospital in a serious condition but then went into cardiac arrest and
could not be revived.
He is survived by his wife Lynne of 30 years, and daughters Rusty and Lauren.

I saw Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs three times during the 1960's. Twice at Festival
Hall (where I also saw The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbinson,
Neil Diamond and many others). Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs concerts really
rocked and whenever one of their shows came to town the concerts were always
quickly sold out.

Billy Thorpe was still performing and had just completed a new album.
Both Johnny O'Keefe and Billy Thorpe were the fore runners of rock and roll
in Australia and both will be surely missed.


Peter said...

Hi Wazza, the legends continue to fall around us!!!
Thorpies version of "Somewhere over the rainbow" is my all time favourite version of this much recorded song,
I heard someone... Glen Sharrock maybe on radio yesterday say that they once asked Billie if it was true that "if you can't be good, be loud" Billies reply was , no...
Be good and loud!!! and he was.

Jim said...

You do good with these celebrity write-ups. I'm not sure I know his singing, but surely I've heard some without paying attention to the credits.
I would like to hear his rendition of "Cigarettes and Whiskey," I hope it continues with "and wild, wild, women. They'll drive you crazy, they'll drive you insane!"

Lee said...

I was at that Neil Diamond concert at Festival Hall, too, Wazza. It was great concert.

Sad and very sudden, the death of Billy grandmother thought he was wonderful when he first started out with his cherub face and blonde hair. :) Not sure what she though about him when he changed his image, somewhat. It's shame...he was one of the legends of Aussie rock.

lee said...

hi wazza, I envy you the fact that you got to see these great artists in concert -particularly the beatles :).

Merle said...

Hi Warren ~~ Great post on Billy Thorpe. He was a great artist, and was too young to die. Thank you for your good wishes for my stone problem
Sorry you have had some too. This one
seems to be stuck, But should be OK
Take care, Cheers, Merle.

Meow said...

What a great post, Warren. I was terribly saddened by the death of Billy Thorpe. Even though I had never actually seen him live, I loved his music, and thought he was amazing. All the good ones are leaving us too soon.
Take care, Meow

Raggedy said...

I am sorry for your loss.
Your post was a very nice tribute to him.
RIP Billy Thorpe.

Margaret said...

Hi Warren, great tribute to a great rock legend, I have read the first book but not the second one, will have to try and catch up with it. I had a shock when I saw that repeat of this is your life, I had not realised he had died as I was at work and usually don't hear what goes on on the outside right away.The "happy wanderer" is doing well, covering the ground quickly.
Cheers Margaret

LZ Blogger said...

Wazza ~ I guess Billie and the boys didn't really make it in the States. But he sounds like I would have been 1 of those 63000 would saw him there. Sounds way too young to die... but then who doesn't at our age? ~ jb///