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From Melbourne Herald Sun, Wednesday 30 May 2001
NO WRIGHT ROYAL WELCOME
By ANDREW PROBYN
Stevie Wright, the reclusive singer of Australia's greatest ever song Friday On My Mind, remembers arriving in London to be treated like a second-class citizen. After three years' whirlwind success as Australia's premier beat group, the Easybeats arrived in England in 1966 to be just another band in the long queue of hopefuls.
``We were treated with the contempt they usually reserve for those from a European country. They just didn't want to know,'' Wright remembers.
``They thought the stuff that went to number one in Australia was second-rate, but when we came up with Friday On My Mind they ate crow.''
The song's timeless sentiment, its riff and its catchy lyrics took them to the top of the Australian charts for the fifth time, #6 on the British charts and #16 on the US charts.
Voted the best Australian song by 100 music industry experts, Friday On My Mind's success made the Easybeats groundbreakers.
``No other Australian group, except perhaps Frank Ifield and the Seekers, had had a go in England, especially not with a pop song,'' Wright says.
``We went over there and faced all the hassles we had originally faced in Australia and we had to face it all over again in London: distribution, getting PR going, getting on the right television show. Oh blimey.''
The song's writers, Harry Vanda and George Young, went on to write a catalogue of Australian pop classics such as Love Is In The Air and the 11-minute Evie, which Wright took to #1 in 1974.
Wright, 52, admits his 20-year heroin addiction and his legendary struggle with alcohol have overshadowed his contribution to the Australian music scene -- few realise he co-wrote the Easybeats hits She's So Fine, Women and Sorry.
``Yes I'm clean, I'm proud to tell you that,'' Wright tells the Herald Sun.
``I haven't had any `stuff', if you know what I mean, for 10 years and I haven't had a drink for three years.
``I have an allergy with alcohol. It makes me break out, it makes me break out of bar room windows, so I've knocked the alcohol on the head too!
``It's a blessing all right. Freedom.''
Barely seen since an Easybeats reunion tour in 1986, Wright's life in self-imposed exile on the south coast of New South Wales has taken on legendary status. True to form, he refused to be photographed for this story.
Stories of his fallen star, his ill-health, poverty and drug-addled later life have made many unflattering headlines and inspired him to write his autobiography.
``I'm trying to scribble down all the foolish things I've done in my life ... I just wanted to put these things down because it's a mad story, sometimes tragic, sometimes very funny in its tragedy,'' he says.
Apart from a troublesome ankle which he broke falling three storeys when the drainpipe he was scaling collapsed (he had forgotten his keys and was trying to get through the bathroom window), he has no complaints.
``My health's very good, except for the ankle. I'm very well, I'm able to get up and treat writing the book like a job.
``I've finished four chapters of it that I'm happy with. I've gone over and over editing it myself, before I even take it to an editor.''
So how does Stevie Wright want to be remembered?
``For being a top rock 'n' roll performer of the 60s and 70s.''
And will there ever be a time when Australia will see Stevie Wright on stage again?
``I'm still fit. I'll see how the ankle does and who knows?''
© 2001 Andrew Probyn / Herald and Weekly Times
Reproduced by permission of the author
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