18 December 2007

Rock epic of the month: "Evie" (Stevie Wright) 1974

Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

This month, I've got a special Decemberween present for you, and it's another three-parter.

Yes. Stevie Wright. "Evie". Parts I, II and III.

You know, we're now in a period where Australian rock icons from the sixties and seventies are dropping off the twig at an alarming rate. Every time you hear of another Australian rocker biting the dust, someone will always meet your gaze with a grim look on their face that only ever means one thing: "I know what you're thinking, because I'm thinking it too. Stevie Wright is next."

It's testament to this guy's general fortitude that he hasn't died, because he should have. Jack Marx once wrote a rather indulgent biography of Wright where the pair of them holed up in Wright's home in Narooma, NSW and did lots of smack together.

Depending on who you believe, Marx either wrote one of the greatest pieces of gonzo journalism in the history of rock and roll, or a self-serving tome that would have been better titled, An Autobiography of Jack Marx.

I haven't read it, so we'll leave it there.

Anyway, Wright was the lead singer in the sixties with a band that took Australian guitar pop-rock to the world, The Easybeats. The Easybeats were hyperbolically described as 'The Australian Beatles", but their sound had more in common with bands like The Searchers and The Hollies than the Fab Four.

The Easybeats broke up in the early seventies when it became clear that the songwriting and producing savvy of guitarists Harry Vanda and George Young were being stifled by the band's - and in particular Wright's - serious drug problems.

Young, incidentally, had two younger brothers, Malcolm and Angus, who would go on to form the nucleus of Australia's most internationally successful band, AC/DC.

Wright, undeterred by his own demons, went on to start a patchy solo career, with some assistance from Vanda and Young who penned and produced this tune, which is a monster at 11:08.

"Evie (Parts I, II and III)" is apparently the longest tune to chart as a single anywhere, although, I would hazard a guess that there are others.

The first part is a full-on rocker where the narrator longs to take the object of his desire, who I suppose is named Evie, out on a date to see a band, and longs for her to let her hair hang down. Obviously, Wright, Vanda and Young were clearly influenced by the new emerging sound coming out of the pubs in Australia which was louder and riffier than what was going on during The Easybeats' heyday in the sixties.

The tune then segues into the second part which is, for all intents and purposes, a piano-driven love ballad. Our narrator is clearly lovestruck by the object of his desire who he can now call his lady. It would almost be called "gut-wrenching", except that love ballads are usually cheesy schlock. Still, "Evie Part II" is not as bad as some.

The last part shows Vanda and Young's gift for a lethal hook in the chorus, with a twist. The narrator is now singing about losing Evie, and over blaring guitars playing a rising chord progression, he sings "Before I know it I'm losing you," enough to make it clear that this is no ordinary tale of love gone wrong. Oh no, Evie is buying the farm, after losing a child in childbirth.

Recently, a band of all-star musicians covered not one, not two, but all three parts of Evie as part of a "supergroup" who called themselves The Wrights. This outfit was made up of the following musicians:

Nic Cester (Jet) - vocals, Evie Part I
Mark "Kram" Maher (Spiderbait) - drums
Chris Cheney (The Living End) - guitar
Davey Lane (You Am I/The Pictures) - guitar
Pat Bourke (Dallas Crane) - bass
Daniel Vandenberg (son of Harry Vanda) - piano, Evie Part I
Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger) - vocals, Evie Part II
Warren "Pig" Morgan (Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs) - piano, Evie Part II
Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) - vocals, Evie Part III
Dan Knight (Boof) - Hammond organ, Evie Part III

Vanda himself assists with production, backing vocals and string arrangements on Part II. The Wrights did a very faithful job.

But anyway, here's a couple of vids for you.

The first one is Wright himself performing Evie Part I live from the Opera House forecourt some time in the seventies:

The second (you'll have to turn the volume up as it is quite low) is Wright singing parts II and III from the same gig, however Part III is cut off halfway through, but you'll get the idea. Enjoy:


Plonka said...

Nice one Dikkii.

The original "American Pie" comes in at around 8:32 which isn't quite as long, but it does have the advantage of only being one song where Evie is three.

Great clips too. Oh for the good old days when groupies could hang off the front of the stage without being beaten up mercilessly by security. In those days, if you didn't all rush down to the front of the stage to dance and smoke copious quantities of dope, the band would ask what the problem was.

Romulus Crowe said...

Hollies or Searchers, maybe, but they sound rather closer to the Kinks or maybe even the Sweet (without glitter) to me.

Hey, what do I know? My record collection includes all of the above, alongside Black Sabbath, Kraftwerk (early, pre-'pop' stuff), Captain Beefheart, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Beethoven, Rossini and Bach. I also have a copy of 'South Pacific' but only use it to remove visitors.

I'll just listen to anything, as long as the tune is good. And this tune is very good. I'll look out for this band on Amazon.

By the way, when the icons of nmy youth are dying off, I worry less about which of them will be next than how close it's getting to my turn. Although I don't fill myself with chemicals other than alcohol, caffeine and nicotine which everyone knows are good for you so I should outlast most of them.

Dikkii said...

Hi folks.

Plonka - I knew that American Pie was long, but I didn't know it was that long.

I kinda wish for the old days. Being a Big Day Out veteran, I have been there the years that the front of the crowd slowly went from good natured slamming to a seething moshpit of crammed and sweaty bodies. It was OK when I was younger, but I'll bore people shitless when I go on ad infinitum about how we all got out of the way if someone fell over so we could help them up again. Doesn't happen now. Someone will get trampled to death.

Romulus - the Kinks, maybe. The Sweet? This looks like a job for Soundpedia, cause I'm not familiar with their earlier work.

It's good to see you have taste, Romulus. My knowledge of Beefheart really only extends to Trout Mask Replica but I can dig it.

Although I don't fill myself with chemicals other than alcohol, caffeine and nicotine which everyone knows are good for you so I should outlast most of them.

Heh heh heh. Did you know that Beefheart and Zappa didn't even touch these? Scary, hey?

Romulus Crowe said...

No, Beefheart and Zappa had better stuff than nicotine. Probably less carcinogenic, in the long run.

If anyone wants to try out Captain Beefheart, I wouldn't start with Trout Mask Replica. 'Electricity' is a less challenging one, and 'Bluejeans and Moonbeams' even has a couple of tracks that might be considered normal.

I agree on the 'old days'. People now seem to regard all other people as just something in their way. I doubt they can ever imagine a time when it wasn't like that.

People have always been stupid, but at least they used to be nice to each other. Now, if someone asks the time, they're just checking you have a watch before they steal it.

Dikkii said...

Thanks for that, Romulus. Looks like I'll be visiting Soundpedia to check these out.