OCTOBER 23 2017 - 7:03PM A message from George Young: 'Avoid over-hype'
George Young wasn't a big talker. But he did eventually get around to his emails, writes Michael Dwyer. Michael Dwyer George Young was not talking. Not for an Easybeats tribute album. Not for a Rolling Stone cover story. "George is interested in other things now," his songwriting partner Harry Vanda told me. Oh, other musical things? "No."
The cover story of November 2008 went to print without him, though obviously he loomed large anyway. You can't tell the story of Australian rock 'n' roll without deference to George Young, let alone tell the story of the Easybeats.
For me, George always loomed larger precisely because he'd turned his back on it all. The enigma of the backroom hitmaker whose credits spanned the hard rock of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and the Angels to the glittering Countdown pop of John Paul Young, Cheetah and the Ted Mulry Gang was irresistible.
As late as 2000, he was still sitting in the producer's chair for AC/DC, the band he'd helped to launch into the world with his brothers Malcolm and Angus and the lessons he'd learned from the Easybeats' rise and fall.
But he left the public duties to Harry: like when Friday On My Mind was named the best Australian song of all time at the 2001 APRA Awards. Or when the Easybeats were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in Melbourne in 2005. It was always Harry who turned up smiling.
So imagine my surprise when an email arrived — sadly, some days past my Rolling Stone deadline — from the guy who had made an artform of dignified silence since Flash and the Pan had their last hits in the early 1980s.
"I just don't have the passion for music that I once had," George explained. "I never play, but I occasionally get an idea for a song which I'll try and lodge in my memory. More often than not I forget the idea, which makes me think the idea couldn't have been much good in the first place."
I asked him if anything at all about the industry remained unchanged since the glory days of Albert Studios in the '70s. "The clash between the creative types and the number crunchers," he replied. "But that'll always exist."
Likewise, his advice to young bands following in his peerless footsteps rings sort of eternal, even in the lines of a nine-year-old email. "Avoid over-hype," he said. "Too many very talented Australian acts have been ruined by being on the receiving end of it.
"Focus on what you do best. Stick to your guns and don't compromise your music to get airplay. Compromising is usually the kiss of death.
"If you do your own thing and bomb, then at least you go down on your own terms, not someone else's."
Then again, he added, "if all you want to do is get rich and shag as many girls as you can, give the audience what they want to hear and have a ball doing it.
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