|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Groups & Solo Artists|
Danny's Word (UK, late 1967):
Johnny Young will always be best remembered as the gentle, ever-smiling host of Young Talent Time, but back in the Sixties he was a bona fide pop idol and TV star. Johnny spent three frantic years as one of Australia’s top beat performers but his pop career fizzled out after an unsuccessful attempt to break into the UK scene, so he branched out in several directions, becoming a radio DJ, TV presenter, songwriter and record and TV producer. At the end of the Sixties, while most of his contemporaries were fading from view, Johnny's song-writing career blossomed with a string of chart-topping hits. His songwriting is one of the least known of his many achievements, and certainly few of those who sat down every week to enjoy the wholesome performances of the Young Talent Team would have realized that the affable host was the composer of one of the classics of Australia acid rock. Moving into the Seventies, Johnny launched a hugely successful TV production house which created two of the most popular series of the day, the Happening 70s pop series and the long-running, award-winning Young Talent Time.
Like so many Aussie pop stars, Johnny was born overseas and came to Australia during the huge influx of migrants after WWII. He was born Johnny Benjamin deJong in Rotterdam on March 12, 1945, the youngest of four children. At the time of his birth his father Jan was stationed in Indonesia with the Netherlands armed forces, so Johnny did not meet his dad until he was two. In a special profile screened as part of the ABC's Australian Story in February 2000, Johnny revealed that the man he always thought was his dad, Jan de Jong, was in fact not his biological father. As an adult Johnny discovered that while his dad was stationed in the East, his mother had a brief affair with a young Dutch singer -- and he was the result of that romance.
Johnny: It wasn't until years later that I'd discovered an amazing story. That the man that I thought was dad, that I called Pa and knew I loved, wasn't really my father at all. During that two and half three years that Pa was in Indonesia, my mum fell in love -- guess what -- with a singer. With a band singer -- someone very much like me, you know -- a young seventeen, eighteen year old kid who was singing at the American Army bases and mum went along because she just absolutely loved and adored music and she met this young man and they fell in love and I was the product of that joyous union.
Johnny's parents migrated to Western Australia when he was three and he grew up on the family farm at Kalamunda, in the Perth Hills, east of the city. After he left school, Johnny began work as a trainee disc jockey on Perth radio, started singing at local dances, and spent eighteen months as lead vocalist with local group The Nomads, later known as The Strangers (no relation to the Melbourne group of the same name).
In 1965, Johnny got his first break into TV when he became host of a local Perth pop show Club 17. He also issued two singles, "Club 17" / "Hi Ho" (January) and "Go Johnny Go" (March) on the 7-Teen label. In 1966, Johnny signed to Martin Clarke's Clarion label, and formed a new backing band Kompany which consisted of John Eddy (guitar), Tony Sommers (guitar), Jim Griffiths (bass) and Warwick Findlay (drums; ex-Ray Hoff and the Off Beats).
The kick-start for his career as a pop star came in early 1966 when The Easybeats visited Perth. They gave Johnny the ultimate seal of approval by presenting him with one of their new songs. "Step Back", co-written by Stevie Wright and George Young and it was issued as a single in May 1966, backed by a foot-stomping cover of The Strangeloves' "Cara-lyn". Luckily for Johnny, Clarion had just signed a distribution deal with Sydney's Festival Records, and with Festival's added promotional clout and its national distribution network, the single became a double-sided #1 hit in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. It was so successful, according to Noel McGrath, that it became the second biggest-selling Australian single of the Sixties, surpassed only by Normie Rowe's double-sided mega-hit "Que Sera Sera" / "Shakin' All Over". Johnny's Let It Be Me EP also shot to #1 in Sydney and #4 in Melbourne in October.
Now a national star, Johnny and the band moved to Melbourne and their fortunes continued to rise:
Johnny: From the moment I was able to listen to records I wanted to be a singer. And by the time I was seventeen I had my first television show called Club 17 where I was the host and my band did all the backings and I sang songs on the show as well. From 1965 to 1970 that was my full-on pop star period. It was a fantastic experience. Touring, meeting my idols, hey I got to meet Bob Dylan, I toured with the Rolling Stones. I was focused on being a pop star and doing concerts and all of that stuff and wild and screaming. And you know all that it entails, and lots of girls and yes, lots of sex, and lots of everything. You know, it's fantastic. And it was the real pop star trip.
Mike Wade (guitar, organ; ex-Vibrants) joined Kompany at the end of 1966. The next single, a cover of the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved?" / "Kiss Me Now" (January 1967) provided another double-sided Top Ten hit, #3 in Melbourne and #10 in Sydney, but soon after that Johnny disbanded Kompany to go solo. Tony Sommers subsequently joined the shortlived 1967-68 lineup of The Master's Apprentices, replacing original lead guitarist Rick Morrison, who was forced to leave the band because of ill-health.
The first half of 1967 took Johnny to the peak of his pop career. He made his first major solo appearance on the “Big Show” tour on Australia Day 1967, supporting Roy Orbison, The Walker Bros and The Yardbirds at Melbourne Festival Hall, with The Mixtures. He ventured into TV hosting with a short-lived pop show Too Much, but soon after that show folded he scored a far more prestigious gig when he took over as compere of The Go!! Show, following the shock resignation of original host Ian `Turps' Turpie.
His stint on The Go!! Show forged an enduring link with Channel 0 in Melbourne and provided Johnny with valuable TV experience that would stand him in good stead in later years. His cheerful boy-next-door personality and good looks enabled him to take on the role of TV host with relative ease, although he later confessed that this had had developed his 'cute' persona very early in life:
Greg Mills (former young Talent Team member): "John's image on the show was always one of ... um ... sugary sweet, let's sing 'The Candy Man', all that kind of stuff, boy next door, having a great time, king of the kids and lots of smiles and lets sing 'All My Loving' at the end.
Johnny: I think I developed that persona when I was about 18 months old actually. I always managed to get myself out of trouble by being charming. After school my brother would get into trouble if he wasn't home at the dinner table by six o'clock and I'd walk in the kitchen and I'd say 'sorry mum' and you know put on the biggest, charmingest ‘sorry' in the world and I got away with it always. And that was the Johnny Young. That's where I created the Johnny Young. Johnny Young came out of that -- understanding that you win more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Johnny's third EP All My Lovin' reached the Top 10 in Sydney during April and this record is notable for his version of the Beatles classic, which would become his signature tune. The same month, Johnny headlined a package show at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, supported by Ronnie Burns, Donna Gaye and the newly formed Dave Miller Set. Johnny had made headlines in Go-Set in March when the Easter Show contract was announced -- it was at the time the largest fee yet paid to a local act, and Johnny walked away with a cool $5000 fee for the ten-day engagement.
Now at the pinnacle of his success, and no doubt encouraged by huge international success of his friends The Bee Gees, Johnny decided to heed the siren call of Swinging London. His rousing farewell concert at Sydney's Trocadero discotheque was supported by some of the top local acts of the day: Gus and the Nomads, Julian Jones, Jeff St John & The Id, Sebastian Hardie Blues Band, Phil Jones & The Unknown Blues and The Master's Apprentices. On June 6, 1967 Johnny set sail for the UK and to mark his departure Clarion released his new single, "Lady" (bakced by another Vanda-Wright original, "Good Evening Girl"), which reached #34 in July. The A-side, "Lady", was a Barry Gibb song, which Barry had written specially for him. The story behind this is typical of JOhnny's good nature -- while working in Brisbane, he ran into Barry Gibb, who was facing a long, arduous drive back to Sydney for a TV appearance. With typical generosity, Johnny paid Barry's airfare, enabling to fly back to Sydney, so Barry returned the favour by presenting Johnny with the song.
Arriving in London Johnny was reunited with the Gibbs and during his stay he cut three more Bee Gees tracks: "Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts" (backed by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry), "I Am The World" and "Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You". "Craise Finton Kirk" / "I am the World" was released as Johnny's next single in August 1967. It made the Australian national Top 30 (#14 in Melbourne and #29 in Sydney) during September and also gained considerable airplay on British radio, notably on the legendary pirate station Radio London. The single entered the Radio London Fab Forty at #31 on 30 July 1967, and rose the following week to #27, but regrettably it was at exactly that point that Radio London was forced off-air, a victim of the Maritime Offences Act, which was being rigidly enforced by the British government in order to shut pirate stations down.
Johnny's follow-up single "Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You" / "Wonderful World", failed to chart and he returned to Perth briefly during September. During this visit that he was interviewed by Perth DJ Keith McGowan, to whom he revealed that he had experimented with “a very small dose” of the controversial hallucinogen LSD just before he left London. He also mentioned that he had tried to bring back a copy of the banned book The Kama Sutra, which was predictably seized by Australian Customs. Remarkably, at least part of this interview has survived and has been included as a 'secret' track at the end of the bootleg compilation CD Datura Dreamtime.
Johnny returned to the UK with former MPD Ltd drummer Danny Findley. They assembled a new band, Danny's Word, with English musicians Rob Alexander on guitar, Mike Manners on organ and Pete Piper on bass. Mike Manners, who recently contacted Milesago, has fond recollections of his time working with Johnny:
"I was Johnny's UK keyboard player in 1967. As a London-based organist, at the time working for Carl Douglas ('Kung-Fu Fighting'), I was recruited by Johnny Young's London team to help his Australian drummer, Danny Finlay, form a backing band for John. This we did. Our base and rehearsal rooms were Polydor Records recording studios in Oxford Street, London."
"From this base, we made several promotional appearances, including a music slot on the famous national TV chat show (recorded at the BBC Television Centre, Manchester) 'Dee Time', hosted by Simon Dee. 'Dee Time' was THE show to be seen on during the United Kingdoms 'Flower Power' era ! On the show we performed 'Craise Finton Kirk' live, each of us wearing white embroided floor-length Carnaby Street kaftans(!) with me on harpsichord for this production."
"My memories of Johnny Young are very warm indeed. He was an absolute delight to work for, a kind and gentle friend, with a wonderful sense of humour. I often regret rejecting John's request for me to leave the UK and continue working for him when he and Danny returned to Perth in December 1967."
They made some notable TV appearances, including Simon Dee's popular Dee Time show, but Johnny failed to make a major impression on the UK scene, and he returned to Australia in January 1968, broke, exhausted and depressed. The same month, Clarion issued a new single, "Unconscientious Objector" / "Epitaph to Mr Simon, Sir", followed in the new year by his third album, Surprises ... which included the tracks he had recorded in the UK. Interviewed on GTK in 1970, Johnny looked back on his London experience:
Johnny: "Just before I went over to London I had all my television exposure and my gold records and everything and I thought I was ready to take on the world you know -- I really felt a big deal. So I arrived in London and really felt I was going to take the place by storm. Unfortunately it didn't happen that way. London being a very large place and full of aspiring talents, I sort of died on my feet as it were.
With his pop career faltering, Johnny fell back on his early training as a DJ and in April 1968 he joined Melbourne's 3XY as the drive-time host from 4-5pm on weekdays and on Sunday. His last hit single "It's a Sunny Day" / "My World" was released mid-year and reached #31 in Sydney during August. He recorded two more singles for Clarion, "Mrs Willoughby" / "123" and "Love Song" / "The Trip", in 1969, but neither charted, and "Love Song" marked the end of both his Clarion contract and his time as a chart star.
But Johnny's career was about to enter a whole new phase. While in London, encouraged and coached by his friend Barry Gibb, he had begun to compose songs and he now began writing in earnest, with exceptional results. Over the next two years he had tremendous success -- his credits include Russell Morris' "The Real Thing" and "Part Three Into Paper Walls", Ronnie Burns "Smiley" -- all national #1 singles -- Ross D. Wyllie's "The Star" (successfully covered as "Here Comes the Star" in UK by Herman's Hermits) and Lionel Rose's "I Thank You".
"The Real Thing" established Johnny Young as a major writer, although relatively few people would be aware that the Johnny Young who wrote the song was the same Johnny Young who hosted Young Talent Time. "The Real Thing" was conceived during his London visit; whilst obviously influenced by his experimentation with LSD it was specifically written in reaction to a current Coca Cola commercial which proclaimed “Coke is the real thing”. The famous story told about the song is that Johnny originally intended the song for his friend Ronnie Burns. He was playing it to Ronnie in the dressing room of the Channel 0 studios in Melbourne during the taping of an Uptight episode when producer-manager-journalist Ian "Molly" Meldrum chanced by and heard it. He fell in love with it and decided that he had to have it for his protégé Russell Morris, former lead singer of Somebody's Image. Legend has it that Meldrum was so determined to acquire the song that he turned up at Johnny's house in the early hours of the morning, armed with a tape recorder, and refused to leave until he had the demo.
Johnny apparently envisaged the production as a moody "Strawberry Fields" styled chamber piece with acoustic guitar and strings, but under Molly's guidance it escalated into the longest, most complex and most expensive single ever recorded in Australia up to that time. Molly and Armstrong's house engineer John Sayers cut the basic track in early 1969 using The Groop as the session band. They had intended it to be the 'standard' single length, around 3 minutes, but according to Sayers they fortuitously kept the tape rolling through the 10-minute jam that spun out after the recording of the basic track. This gave them inspiration to drastically rework the record into something far more ambitious.
With help from arranger John Farrar, lead guitarist of The Strangers, Meldrum and Sayers used the jam as the basis for the extended 'freak out' section that takes up the second half on the song. They brought in additional session players including Zoot lead guitarist Roger Hicks (who overdubbed the famous acoustic guitar intro) and singers Danny Robinson and Maureen Elkner, harnessed every studio technique available to them and threw a wild array of sound effects into the mix, including a recording of a Hitler Youth choir singing the "Horst Wessel Lied" and the climactic sound of an atomic explosion. The result was a kaleidoscopic, six-minute, wide-screen psychedelic extravaganza that broke all the rules of Australian recording. At one point it looked like the project would founder completely when Molly was actually sacked by EMI for spending so much money on it, but he doggedly refused to let it go. He took copies of the song to Sydney, where he convinced DJs there to give it a shot. Within weeks it had rocketed into the charts, reaching #1 in May 1969. It has since become one of the all-time classics of Australian rock; it has been remixed several times, adapted for advertisements, was commemorated with a special stamp by Australia Post, has been covered by both Olly Olsen and Midnight Oil, and in 2000 the original version enjoyed a major revival thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack of the hit Aussie comedy film The Dish.
From this point on success followed success for Johnny. Russell Morris' follow-up single "Part Three Into Paper Walls" (July 1969) went to #1 while "The Real Thing" was still charting. Johnny provided the beautiful B-side "The Girl That I Love", which he wrote specially for Russell, and it became a 'turntable' hit. In November Johnny scored his third chart-topper as a composer with Ronnie Burns' recording of his song "Smiley", one of the first Australian Singles released in stereo; Johnny later revealed that his poignant song had been inspired by the drafting of his friend and fellow former pop-idol Normie Rowe. Johnny also produced Ronnie's successful Smiley LP and contributed two other tracks to it, "Jodie" and "A Love Song, as well as writing two subsequent Singles for Ronnie, "The Prophet" (1971) and "If I Die" (1972). Johnny scored yet another #1 single during 1970 with the sentimental country ballad "I Thank You", recorded by former boxing champion Lionel Rose and arranged once again by the great John Farrar. This song has since taken on an unexpected life of its own thanks to its long-running use by Roy & HG as the substitute National Anthem during their annual calls of the State of Origin and NRL and AFL Grand Finals.
But Johnny was not content to rest on his song-writing laurels and he now took advantage of his considerable screen experience to establishing himself as a television producer. In 1970 he teamed up with Kevin Lewis (formerly of Festival Records) to form Lewis-Young Productions. Their first venture was the replacement for the 0-10 Network's Uptight, the fondly remembered Happening '70s series, which ran from 1970 to 1972.
But their greatest success came with Lewis-Young's next TV production, the children's talent quest cum variety show Young Talent Time, which premiered on the 0-10 Network in early 1971. It was a massive success -- like Bandstand, it was a genuine family show that appealed to everyone from eight to eighty; it was a perennial ratings winner and picked up a string of Logie awards over the next few years. It was at this time that he also married his first wife Cathy and began a family.
Johnny: For me the charm of it all was that I had been a pop star, travelled around the world and done all of that and when 'Young Talent Time' started in 1971-1972, I was ready to settle down. I married Cathy and we had our two daughters, my kids came on and you know my life, my private life was exactly the same as what was happening on scene. That's why it was so yummy. I believe family programming should be exactly that. It should be able to be watched by kids, grandparents, parents; you know the whole shebang.
The 'talent quest' aspect of YTT, which discovered many budding stars, was not new, but YTT differed from other talent quests in one crucial respect -- the best young performers they discovered were offered the chance to develop their craft and career by becoming permanent members of the cast, the so-called 'Young Talent Team'. Over the years, dozens of kids were selected as regular performers on the show and its enormous popularity made them household names. Some stayed only briefly in the limelight, but many went on to make lasting careers in entertainment and a few even became major stars; their success is a lasting tribute to Johnny's encouragement and guidance. Among the best known YTT discoveries are Tina Arena, Debra Byrne, Dannii Minogue, Jane Scali, Jamie Redfern, Rod Kirkham, Phillip Gould, Karen Knowles and Joey Perone.
YTT was by all accounts an intense experience for the kids. The hours were long, the work was very demanding. At the height of their popularity the Team were regularly subjected to the full effects of stardom and they were mobbed by fans wherever they appeared. In some respects the show proved to be something of a millstone, and for some of the Team it took a long time to shake off the YTT image, but there can be no doubt that it was an unequalled training ground for them:
Tina Arena: It's given me perspective on every part of the business -- we got to sing, we got to dance, we got to record -- you couldn't get a better grounding.
Johnny and the Young Talent Team, which included some forty-two regular members over its eighteen-year run, released a series of successful Young Talent Time Albums. He also recorded the solo album A Young Man And His Music and the single "Just Another Rock and Roller" / "Another One of These Songs" (April 1973) for Festival, and he went on to record several more albums of adult-contemporary and 'easy listening' pop favourites. For most of this golden period Johnny also ran a successful school of music in Melbourne.
For nearly twenty years, from 1969 to 1989, Johnny had enjoyed great success with his various enterprises, but in the late 80s and early 90s he faced a series of painful reversals that, for a while, looked like they might wreck his career and his life. The trouble began in 1989 when the Ten Network abruptly cancelled Young Talent Time, a decision that cost Johnny dearly. He had recently invested every cent he had to build his own TV studio facility to produce the show but the unexpected cancellation forced him to sell his family home to meet the debts. Then in turn Johnny lost his stepfather, his mother, and finally his marriage to Cathy fell apart.
There was however one bright spot in this gloomy time, although ironically it was the death of his 'legal' father Jan which created this special opportunity. In 1985 Johnny had finally decided to try and find his biological father in Holland, but it was not until after Jan's death that he finally felt able to contact him:
Johnny: I was 40 by
the time I got the courage to do something about it. And I called a
private detective agency in Amsterdam and I said this is the name of
the man and this is where he lived during World War Two and just after,
so see what you can find out. Four days later I get a phone call saying
yes he's still living in the same little village and here's his phone
number. And he's married and he's got 3 kids and I thought 'Wow, what
do I do with this?'.
"Then Pa died and I thought aw here's my opportunity, right. So I rang my mother and I said 'Mum I've met my biological father.' - 'You've what?' - 'Yeah, yeah I've met him and I want you to know.' I still remember saying it ... 'I want you to know that I love you anyway. You know there's no judgement from me. There's no sort of you know. I'm not condemning you. I just needed to know and I followed it up and I'm sorry if it hurts you.' And she said, 'No if you're happy, I'm happy.'
"So down the road we went to the local pub and I had an hour with my mum and my dad my biological mum and dad together and it was heaven. It was beautiful and I could feel all of those feelings that you feel you know with your biological parents. I could see why there was so much about my personality that I couldn't reflect in my stepfather.
That period was tough enough, but the next phase of Johnny's life was the most traumatic of all. In the early '90s his friend Terry Higgins, a former YTT studio director, became seriously ill after contracting HIV. Johnny gave Terry enormous help and support and in 1993, with typical generosity, he accompanied Terry to a Filipino clinic which was offering an alternative AIDS treatment known as 'Ozone Therapy'.
Garry Dunstan (former YTT director): "John Young when he gets a bond with a person, it's a strong bond. Terry Higgins contracted HIV and John and Terry became very good friends. Terry directed Young Talent Time for a period of time. It was a tragic situation. One minute Terry was extremely healthy and jovial and a fun person that he had always been. Within twelve months I saw Terry from a very, very strong confident person turn out to be this very frail person who didn't want to die. He didn't want to die, he didn't understand what was going on.
Craig Young (Johnny's son): "Part of that story was never really told ... there was a bunch of Australians there who were all very ill in the Philippines and my father was the only other person there, other than the doctor, who was actually assisting these dying people. I was really proud of my father and what he did. No one was interested in helping these people because they were doing an alternative thing. One of them needed a blood transfusion so he marched on down to the docks and found an Australian ship and walked on to the ship and they went 'Johnny Young what are you doing here?' and he said 'I need 'x' pints of blood for these Australian people'. And the sailors volunteered and he walked out with an Esky full of blood and went down and for the time being anyway these people were looked after."
It wasn't long before things went pear-shaped. The clinic turned out to be an illegal operation and it was raided by the Philippines authorities while Johnny, Terry and a group of other Australian patients were there. All the staff fled, leaving the unfortunate Johnny as the most visible target for the police. Partly because of his many efforts on behalf of the patients, Johnny was suspected of being involved in the running of the clinic. He was arrested, questioned, forced to undergo an AIDS test and threatened with deportation.
Johnny: "When the place got raided -- because it was an illegal clinic which nobody knew -- everybody at the clinic had done a bunk. All the nurses and doctors and the people who'd set it up.. They just all disappeared. And they said you'll do and they put me through the ringer without any logical reason whatsoever."
Adding to the nightmare, Johnny's predicament was eagerly picked up by the press and and splashed all over the Australian news media. Although had gone to the Philippines purely to support Terry, and despite the considerable help he gave to other patients at the clinic, Johnny was subjected to a humiliating trial-by-media, and his ordeal was made especially painful by the revival of vicious rumours about his sexuality.
Lisa Howes (former YTT music coordinator): "There were always rumours and stories about John because no one could ever believe that he was as sweet and as flawless as he appeared. And of course he wasn't. Of course he had flaws. And I know all the years that I worked with the show and afterwards there were lots of rumours about. 'Well any grown man that spends so much time with young children must have a problem there.' I think that 50% of the audience that regularly watched the show watched it because they loved him. I think 50% of the audience that regularly watched the show loved to watch it because they hated him.
Mary Reilly (mother of AIDS
patient Jody Reilly): "My daughter Jody, who was 22 at the
time, had contracted HIV around about the age of 18. Jody and I were
told that John was going to be with us when we were at the airport at
Cebu. So the first we saw of John was when he climbed onto the bus with
his guitar in hand and Jody and I went, nudged each other .. and
thought you know, 'This is amazing.' You know, 'What's this guy doing
"When he returned at the airport he had cameras shoved in his face and reporters screaming at him, you know, is John Young gay? Is he a paedophile? It just went into absolute hysteria. He was absolutely devastated by the way that the media had attacked him. He felt betrayed particularly because he'd given so much to the television industry and this same industry was stabbing him in the back."
"In the end all the charges were dropped. I saw a side to John Young that I never would have known and I feel privileged to have shared with him in an intimate situation with all of those people but particularly with Jody. He spent time with her, talking to her about dying. She was incredibly terrified about what was beyond and it was in that that John was able to meet Jody where she was at literally and help her in that to gain that peace of mind, and strength and courage."
Johnny was understandably stunned by the alacrity with which the media put the boot into him, and it obviously still distresses him deeply, but in his Australian Story interview, he spoke candidly about the controversy and the rumours:
" ... when I came back it even got worse. Because, and it didn't occur to me at the time... It's like 'Well, Johnny Young does this programme with children. What's he doing in an AIDS Clinic?' was the thought, right, and it raises thoughts in people's heads. 'What is he - gay? Why has he got a gay friend?' You know he was a friend. The fact that he was gay has nothing to do with it. I've got lots of gay friends and Irish friends, and Jewish friends and Catholic friends and all sorts of friends. But that was the toughest part."
If I've ever been inappropriate with a juvenile, with a younger person, don't you think they would have come out of the woodwork by now to get their lousy hundred thousand dollars off the media for the expose? But there's nothing to expose ... I'm not bent, I'm not queer. I'm not an abuser of children. I'm not those things ...
... In order to be a true entertainer in order to be able to communicate on the level that people can relate to, you have to have your heart open and opening your heart up to people makes you vulnerable. And then if someone kicks, it really hurts big time.
Twelve months after the Ozone Treatment fiasco, Terry Higgins died in hospital in Melbourne with his friend Johnny by his side. After Terry's death Johnny withdrew from the public eye for several years, numbed by his friend's death and still reeling from the Philippines controversy and the vicious, baseless attacks on his character.
Gradually, though, during the late 1990s, he began to pick himself up again and return to what he loved best -- entertaining. His personal life turned a corner on Xmas Eve 1999 when he married his second wife Rose McKimmie. They moved to a country cottage, Rosewood; set on 30 acres of land about 75 minutes out of Melbourne, it has no electricity and the Youngs run the house from batteries.
Johnny began to write, record and perform again. In 1999 he returned to TV production and revisited the most successful phase of his life when he repackaged some of the best Young Talent Time segments for his Cavalcade of Stars for the Foxtel cable network's TV-1 channel. With his usual generosity of spirit he used the program to showcase thirteen new Australian bands performing their own version of his signature tune All My Loving. One of the groups that caught Johnny's eye was Newcastle band Muzzy Pep.
Over the next couple of years Johnny performed regularly with three other Australian pop icons -- Buddy England, Normie Rowe and Marcie Jones -- in the successful touring show 'Legends of Sixties Rock'. He also returned to radio in his hometown of Perth in December 2000, taking over the breakfast shift on Curtin Radio 927. After a successful three-week stint, he took a break, during which time the slot was covered by none other than John Paul Young (who of course had added the 'Paul' to his name to avoid confusion with Johnny). Then from Jan 29 2001, Johnny became took over permanently on the show. Johnny also established a new talent school for young performers in Perth.
In 2001 the Ten Network commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of YTT by commissioning a special documentary called Young Talent Time Tells All, which was a big success. It reunited Johnny with the stars of the Young Talent Team, and on Sunday November 4 that year many YTT alumni attended a special reunion party in Melbourne instigated by Dannii Minogue and attended by Dannii, Karen Knowles, Greg Mills, Julie Ryles, Greg Poynton, Debbie Hancock, Tim Nelson, Lorena Novoa, Rikki Arnot, Mark McCormack, Vince Del Tito, Jodie Loebert, Beven Addinsall, John Bowles, Tina Arena, Johnny Rose Young, Johnny's daughter Anna Young, former YTT choreographer Laurel Veitch and actor Jeremy Kewley, the writer and co-producer of the documentary, who had been YTT's audience warm-up man.
To end this review of Johnny Young's extraordinary career, it's fitting to quote his own reflections on his past and future, taken from his Australian Story interview in 2000:
"I'm proud of my life. I'm proud of what
I've done with my career and continue to do. You know I'm still going
to drive everybody out there crazy for the next fifty years doing my
entertaining because I'm an artist that's what I want to do."
"After forty years of being an entertainer I still get nervous before any performance. My tummy still goes a little bit 'butterfly-ey' but I wouldn't miss it for the world. For me I feel like I had 'rockitis interruptis.' The best time of my life was when I was a kid playing in a rock and roll band."
I swore when I was doing 'Young Talent Time' that when I got a little older and I wasn't doing that any more then I'd get back to being with my band and being a singer-songwriter like I was in the beginning. Perhaps I'm a little wiser these days but I never want the adventure to stop. I want to keep going, keep going you know let's party! Cause life is there to be enjoyed isn't it?"
"Club 17" / "Hi Ho" (7 Teen)
"Oh Johnny Oh" / ? (7 Teen CST 001)
"Step Back" / "Cara-lyn"* (Clarion MCK 1359)
"Kiss Me Now" / "When Will I Be Loved" * (Clarion MCK 1546)
"When Will I Be Loved" / "Kiss Me Now" * (Clarion MCK 1546)
"Lady" / "Good Evening Girl" (Clarion MCK 1857)
"Craise Finton Kirk" / "I Am The World" (Clarion MCK 1954)
"Every Christian Lion Hearted Christian" / "Epitaph To Mr. Simon Sir" (Clarion MCK 2024)
"Every Christian Lion Hearted" / "Wonderful World" (Clarion MCK 2080)
"Unconcientious Objector" / "Epitaph To Mr. Simon Sir" (Clarion MCK 2124)
"It's A Sunny Day" / "My World" (Clarion MCK 2411)
"Mrs. Willoughby" / "123" (Clarion MCK 2579)
"Love Song" / "The Trip" (Clarion MCK 3113)
"Just Another Rock And Roller" / "Another One Of These Songs" (Festival FK 5082)
1966 with Kompany
Let It Be Me (Clarion MCX 11205)
1967 with Kompany
Kiss Me Now (Clarion MCX 11246)
All My Loving (Clarion MCX 11251)
Craise Finton Kirk (Clarion MCX 11379)
Young Johnny (Johnny Young & Kompany) (Festival)
Johnny Young's Golden LP (Clarion MCL 32124)
It's A Wonderful World (Clarion MCL 32234)
Surprises! (Clarion MCL 32752)
The Young Man And His Music (Festival L 34343)
A Musical Portrait (L&Y L 25071)
The Best Of Johnny Young (Calendar)
Gibb Songs website
Australian Story, ABC -TV
'The Young One', Thursday Feb. 10, 2000 (Producer/Researcher: Ben Cheshire)
Dreams, Fantasies & Nightmares: Australia (Borderline Books, 1999)
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999)
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock (Outback Press, 1978)
Songwriters Speak: Conversations About Creating Music (Limelight Press, 2005)
Johnny Young interview, pp.90-99
Johnny Young Talent School
Young Talent Time website
(includes a listing of YTT/JY recordings)
Legends of Sixties Rock
Radio London - Remembering The Sixties