Monday, 16 May 2016
I Can Hear The Raindrops/ Why Me/She Said/To Know You Is To Love You
Alongside their Adelaide contemporaries Zoot, Perth pop group The Valentines was, for a brief period, one of the most popular bands in the country. Although they started out a energetic soul/R&B band, their best known image was associated with the so-called "bubblegum pop" phenomenon of 1968-70. But there was a wild side to the band which was evident in their live performances (and their off-stage carousing). These days, of course, they're best known by reference to the fact that one of the singers ended up in a little band called AC/DC -- although the enormous interest in them has resulted in many previously unreleased tracks becoming available in recent years.
The Valentines formed in Perth in mid-1966, bringing together members of three leading local beat groups: Scott and Milson were from The Spektors, Lovegrove, Ward and Cooksey from The Winztons, and Findlay from top WA band Ray Hoff & The Off Beats. Playing a mixture of soul, R&B and mod covers, by the start of 1967 they were already Perth's top group. A major drawcard was the double-vocal attack of dynamic frontmen Bon Scott and Vince Lovegrove, and within a few weeks of their live debut they were packing in crowds at their shows at venues like Canterbury Court and the Swanbourne Surf Livesaving Club (known locally as the Swanbourne Stomp).
The second single was a Beatlesque Vanda & Young composition, "She Said", released in August '67. It didn't do quite as well but still made the lower reaches of the Perth Top 40. The song came their way because The Valentines had become friends with The Easybeats, whom they supported when they toured Western Australia. Vanda and Young went on to write two more Singles specially for them.
In early 1967 they won the Perth heats of the Hoadleys Battle Of The Sounds, and in July they flew to Melbourne to compete in the national finals, where they came in runners-up to The Groop. In October '67, encouraged by their reception there, they made the inevitable they moved to Australia's pop Mecca and they soon became a popular attraction on the booming local disco circuit.
Despite press reports in April 1968 that the Valentines would join Ivan Dayman's Sunshine label, this never eventuated. In July they released their fourth and last single for Clarion; the A-side was a faithful cover of The Easybeats' 1967 psychedelic nugget "Peculiar Hole In The Sky". The flip side was a cover of the only single ever released by avant-guarde British outfit Soft Machine, "Love Makes Sweet Music", a track which had been brought to their attention by top Melbourne DJ Stan "The Man" Rofe. Both tracks were produced on Martin Clarke's behalf by the great Pat Aulton (Normie Rowe, Dave Miller Set, Kahvas Jute), and they're both fine recordings, but regrettably the single never made it into the charts. The original Easybeats version was not released in Australia until 1969, much to the chagrin of the band, who had only ever intended it as a demo for The Valentines, and they saw it's released as a cynical attempt to cash in on their reluctant Australian tour. It sank without trace.)
In the same vein, The Valentines completely overhauled their stage act to include matching scarlet outfits, co-ordinated stage moves, exploding coloured smoke bombs and sparklers. On Valentines Day (February 14) they released their next single through Philips, "My Old Man's A Groovy Old Man" / "Ebeneezer" (another Vanda/ Young composition); the formula seemed to be working -- at first -- and it went on to become their first Australia-wide Top 40 hit. The single launch was reported by Go-Set who excitedly related the tales of fan frenzy which resulted in Bon's clothes being almost completely torn off during the show!
In July '69 The Valentines had their second stab at the Hoadleys, but again they were runners-up, this time to Doug Parkinson In Focus. In September they released their next single, which was an updated version of "Nick Nack Paddy Wack", and then took part in the historic Operation Starlift tour, which featured most of the leading acts of the day - Russell Morris, Johnny Farnham, Ronnie Burns, Johnny Young, Doug Parkinson In Focus, Zoot, and The Masters Apprentices. Needless to say The Valentines led the way in after-hours hijinks, with points being awarded for the most depsicable acts. Some of the more outrageous incidents have since passed into Aussie rock legend (one in particular which involved the daughter of the mayor of a country town). For those who are interested, the incident is recounted in detail Jim Keays' memoir His Master's Voice.
After The Valentines ...
- Bon Scott went to Sydney where he joined Fraternity (1970-73) who enjoyed moderate success. After recuperating from a near-fatal motorbike accident in Adelaide he was invited to replace original AC/DC lead singer Dave Evans in late 1974. The band shot to national and then international fame making Bon a bona-fide rock legend. Bon fronted the band from Spetember 1974 until his untimely death in 1980.
- Wyn Milson became a live sound engineer and pioneered the use of large-scale sound systems in Australia
- John Lockery later joined Rock Revival.
- Paddy Beach joined Wholly Black and later moved to South Africa
- Doug Lavery moved to America after the split of Axiom, and at last report he was teaching drums in Los Angeles