Vanda & Young – The Musical Masterminds Of The Music Industry and Memories from The Old Stomping Grounds, Villawood, Back In The Day.

Jon English told me that he was at Villawood at the same time and that he would jam with Harry & George with Angus riding around on his big wheeler and they’d say to Angus “hey look out kid, we’re trying to play guitar

Steve Flack

I’ve always been fascinated by what goes into making a great recording…

First of all it’s essential that there’s a quality song, if the song isn’t good then the recording process can only achieve so much. But a good song can be turned into a real masterpiece, a work of art with creative arrangement and clever production.

It’s curious that many of the successful British bands of the 60’s had a musical mastermind behind them that was often classically trained.

The Beatles had George Martin, The Who had Kit Lambert (son of the composer Constant Lambert) and The Rolling Stones had Andrew Loog Oldham (his mother was Australian so he has to be half genius).

They would devise creative arrangements that bring the most out in the song.

Think of “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles and the orchestral contribution by George Martin or “The Real Thing” by Russell Morris and that collage of sounds at the end of the recording.

What’s That Instrument?

Adding an unusual instrument on the recording can also create interest like the recorder in “Stairway To Heaven” (it was actually a mellotron that sounded like a recorder but nonetheless)

Bon Scott on the pipes

…or the bagpipes in AC/DC’s “Long Way To The Top” which brings a very different and unique colour and timbre to the song.

Our Very Own Homegrown Musical Masterminds…Vanda & Young.

Speaking of AC/DC, here in Australia we had our own musical masterminds in Vanda & Young.

George Young was the older brother of AC/DC’s powerhouse guitar duo Angus and Malcom Young.

Dire Straits paid tribute to them in their song “Sultans Of Swing” with the lines “check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords” and then “Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene”, it was Harry Vanda that had the day time job who Mark Knopfler was referring to.

Vanda and Young met as teenagers at the Villawood Migrant Centre in the early 60’s where they formed The Easybeats with Stevie Wright singing and Harry & George on guitar. They were to form a formidable songwriting combination knocking up songs like “Friday On My Mind”, “Evie” & “Love Is In The Air” which was a worldwide hit for John Paul Young.

Vanda and Young

Vanda & Young would become the powerhouse producers at Alberts the Label that recorded and promoted bands like Rose Tattoo, The Choirboys, Ted Mulry Gang, John Paul Young and of course George’s younger brothers’ band AC/DC.

Alberts was Australia’s hit factory and it was Vanda & Young that was its engine room and driving force. They’d learnt so much during their time in The Easybeats having gained so much experience hence the acts that they produced benefited enormously from that experience.

The Angels were introduced to Alberts & Vanda & Young after meeting & befriending AC/DC.

They were so excited about working with Harry & George that the band, with their families, uprooted and moved to Sydney to be close to them and ready to work.

John Brewster recognised that working with Vanda & Young was what got the ball rolling for the Angels.

The Angels, Vanda & Young

In Bob Yates book “The Angels” he gives accounts of George & Harry’s involvement, input and contributions to some of the songs.

Wouldn’t it be something if we could go back in time and watch those songs being recorded to observe the process!

John Brewster mentioned at one point that George Young said “I think it’s time for you guys to produce yourselves” and the thought of working without Vanda & Young scared him at first but that it turned out to be the best thing for The Angels.

This is because they had to become more self reliant, they’d certainly had the perfect apprenticeship and were well prepared by their time with Harry & George for what lay ahead.

Villawood – John English, John Paul Young, Harry & George and ACDC

I feel something of a connection with Harry & George because I grew up at Lansvale, a neighbouring suburb to Villawood which is where it all started.

Jon English told me that he was at Villawood at the same time and that he would jam with Harry & George with Angus riding around on his big wheeler and they’d say to Angus “hey look out kid, we’re trying to play guitar”. Ironic huh?

John Paul Young was also in the area, he went to Liverpool Boys High . There must have been something in the air because there were a lot of people putting bands together at the time.

In my “Guitar Heroes” show I got to play with a lot of great musicians and one was Brad Carr who had been the guitar player in the Choirboys.

We became good friends, we’d hang out and talk & when the conversation would come around to his time working with Vanda & Young he always had interesting stories.

Steve.