Hello there! This week we discuss a fine rock ‘n roll song called Friday On My Mind. We will first review the original song by the Australian rock group The Easybeats. Next we feature covers of this song by David Bowie and by Bruce Springsteen.
The Easybeats and Friday On My Mind:
The Easybeats were an Australian rock band with the distinction that they were the first Aussie rock group ever to score an international hit record.
The musicians in The Easybeats were all born in Europe, and their families emigrated to Australia. In fact, the members of the band met while they were being interned at Sydney’s Villawood Migrant Hostel, where families were housed while they waited to achieve permanent immigrant status in Australia.
The Easybeats were comprised of lead singer Stevie Wright and drummer Snowy Fleet (emigrants from England), rhythm guitarist George Young from Scotland, and lead guitarist Harry Vanda and bassist Dick Diamonde from the Netherlands.
George Young was also famous as he was the older brother of Angus and Malcolm Young, who became the lead and rhythm guitarist, respectively, for the Aussie heavy-metal group AC/DC. Thus the Youngs could be considered the “first family” of Aussie rock ‘n roll.
Below is a photo of The Easybeats in a publicity photo, riding bicycles during a tour of England.Embed from Getty Images
The Easybeats formed in 1964 and began performing in venues around Sydney. The group became extremely popular, especially after their first Aussie hit record in 1965, She’s So Fine.
That tune reached #3 on the Australian pop charts. As a result, the group achieved the Aussie equivalent of “Beatlemania;” the adulation from their fans was referred to as “Easyfever.”
The song Friday On My Mind was written by the band’s main songwriting duo George Young and Harry Vanda. It describes the life of a young man who thoroughly dislikes his job. Throughout the week, he simply marks time until Friday evening, when he will enjoy a good time with his girlfriend.
Monday mornin’ feels so bad
Ev’rybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wed’sday just don’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind
[CHORUS] Gonna have fun in the city
Be with my girl, she’s so pretty
She looks fine tonight
She is out of sight to me
Tonight I’ll spend my bread, tonight
I’ll lose my head, tonight
I’ve got to get to night
Monday I’ll have Friday on my mind
Here are the Easybeats in a live performance of Friday On My Mind.
This is a really enjoyable performance of this song, the biggest hit for the Easybeats. The tune begins with a rapid-fire guitar solo by Harry Vanda.
Apparently the guitar bit was inspired by a French pop group called the Swingle Singers. The group saw a filmed concert of that ensemble and were amused by a guitar solo from their performance. Harry Vanda began to imitate the guitar part, and he incorporated a modified version into the intro to Friday On My Mind.
Lead singer Stevie Wright has a really fine voice that he shows off on this tune. Friday On My Mind became the first big international hit from an Australian rock group (the Easybeats beat out The Bee Gees by a few months).
Friday On My Mind was released in the UK in October 1966, and climbed up to #6 on the UK charts. It reached only #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was a #1 hit in Australia and reached the top ten in Germany, France and the Netherlands. The record sold over a million copies.
As a result of their first big hit, and their status as the first rockers from Oz to hit the big time, the Easybeats have long been Australian favorites. In 2001,
the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs of all time, as decided by a 100 strong industry panel, with “Friday on My Mind” being selected as the number one song on the list.
Following the success of Friday On My Mind, the band’s fortunes peaked. The group went on a European tour where they opened for The Rolling Stones. They also began working with A-list producers, in the hopes of assembling a dynamite album.
Alas, further hits never materialized. The group’s next few singles and albums flopped. Lead songwriters George Young and Harry Vanda continued to write, and their songs found success with other bands, but not with The Easybeats.
At this point, addiction issues played a role in the band’s lack of success. In particular, Stevie Wright’s drug and alcohol dependency was so severe that he eventually checked himself into Sydney’s Chelmsford Private Hospital for rehab.
Unfortunately for Wright, he was treated by Dr. Harry Bailey, who was practicing a controversial form of treatment called “deep sleep therapy,” which involved a combination of drug-induced coma and electroshock therapy.
The good news is that Wright survived the treatment, which is more than can be said for several of Bailey’s patients. The bad news is that Wright suffered permanent brain damage, and other health issues that persisted until his death in Dec. 2015 at the age of 68.
The Easybeats officially disbanded in October 1969. Although the band had achieved a fair amount of commercial success and had undertaken major international tours, George Young and Harry Vanda ended up with substantial debts at the end of the Easybeats’ history as a group.
Despite their parlous financial state, George Young and Harry Vanda continued to write and produce songs for other groups for some time.
Young and Vanda also wrote and recorded under the pseudonym Flash and the Pan. As the pair had tired of the rigors of touring, Flash and the Pan released only studio cuts and did not perform in concert. That band had a number of hits in Australia and Europe, but to the best of my knowledge they found no success in the States.
The greatest achievements by Young and Vanda were as producers. For example, they produced the first six albums for the Aussie hard-rock group AC/DC. However, Young and Vanda had an “in” here — as mentioned previously George Young’s younger brothers Malcolm and Angus were guitarists for AC/DC.
George Young died in October 2017.
The song Friday On My Mind enjoyed something of a resurgence in 2016, when it was featured on an episode of the Showtime cable series Ray Donovan. That show featured Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) as a “fixer” who carries out shady activities for a powerhouse LA law firm.
On that series Hank Azaria played Ed Cochran, a criminal who acts as somewhat of a nemesis to Donovan. At the beginning of Episode 7 from season 4 of Ray Donovan, Cochran sings a few verses from Friday On My Mind; and at the conclusion of the episode, the Easybeats’ original version plays as the credits roll.
The Easybeats were Australian rock trail-blazers. They were the first Aussie rock group to have an international hit record. As a result, they have achieved the status of rock ‘n roll royalty in Oz.
In addition to their one big hit Friday On My Mind, I also enjoy their singles She’s So Fine and Sorry. So we salute the Easybeats – good on ya, mates!
David Bowie and Friday On My Mind:
David Bowie was one of the greatest pop singer-songwriters of our time. We previously reviewed his cover of Dancing In The Street with Mick Jagger; we also discussed his cover of John Lennon’s Imagine, and the Simon & Garfunkel song America.
So here we will briefly review the life and career of David Bowie. He was born David Robert Jones in 1947, and took the stage name David Bowie to avoid confusion with Monkees’ singer Davy Jones.
David Bowie burst on the pop scene in 1969 with his stunningly original single Space Oddity (“ground control to Major Tom”).
In 1972, Bowie re-surfaced as the glam-rock character Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy featured flaming red hair together with flamboyant rainbow-hued gender-bending costumes.
Below is a photo of a memorial to David Bowie following his death in Jan. 2016. Tributes of flowers are scattered beneath a photo of Bowie from the early 70s.Embed from Getty Images
Portraying his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Bowie and his band The Spiders From Mars rapidly gained notoriety for their highly theatrical live performances. Apparently Bowie/Ziggy was positively mesmerizing on stage, and he developed a cult following.
Bowie’s subsequent career contained many abrupt changes in style. Bowie often changed band members and producers at the same time he adopted a new musical direction. Bowie was constantly pushing the envelope in musical genres, performing style, and fashion.
In 1973 David Bowie released a single of Friday On My Mind. This was part of his album Pin-Ups, a series of covers of famous songs from other groups. Here is the audio of Bowie’s cover of Friday On My Mind.
This is a relatively straight-up copy of the Easybeats song. Apparently this was quite popular with the Easybeats, who considered Bowie’s version to be far and away the best cover of their hit.
Because we weren’t able to locate live video of Bowie singing Friday On My Mind, here we have a clip of Bowie in a live performance of his song Young Americans.
This was a performance from The Dick Cavett Show in Dec. 1974. Here Bowie shows off his wonderful and terrifically versatile voice. He is accompanied by a tight backing band featuring the great saxophonist David Sanborn, and an impressive chorus.
Young Americans was the title song of Bowie’s 1975 album. This album featured Bowie singing R&B, backed by artists such as Luther Vandross. Bowie called the style of this record as “plastic soul,” which he described as
“the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak, written and sung by a white Limey.”
Just a bit more about David Bowie’s life and career. We had mentioned how Bowie created alternate personas at various points in his career. These characters became deeply ingrained in his behavior, so much that it was difficult for him to separate his own personality from that of his alter ego.
This psychological problem was exacerbated by serious issues with drug addiction, particularly cocaine. As a result, Bowie suffered from paranoia and psychosis before he finally become sober in the 1980s.
David Bowie enjoyed a spectacular career in pop music. In recognition of his creativity and versatility, Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
David Bowie was apparently a mesmerizing performer. I remain disappointed that I never caught him in live performance, as his live shows were notable for their creative theatrical elements.
This is not surprising, since Bowie was trained as an actor before he set out on a musical career. He appeared in a number of highly-regarded films, including Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Christopher Nolan’s 2006 movie The Prestige.
David Bowie was a true cultural icon. He pushed way beyond the boundaries of current fashion, and he made a tremendous impact on pop music. His contributions to music, fashion and modern culture will be missed deeply.
Bruce Springsteen and Friday On My Mind:
Bruce Springsteen is one of the greatest rock and rollers of the modern era. We discussed Bruce and his career in an earlier blog post on the song Brown-Eyed Girl, and we later reviewed his cover of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, and also the Chuck Berry tune You Never Can Tell.
So here we will provide a short bio of Bruce Springsteen’s life and career.
Springsteen grew up in New Jersey in the 1950s, where his father was largely unemployed and his mother worked as a legal secretary. Springsteen’s maternal grandfather had emigrated to the U.S. from Naples, Italy.
Springsteen was raised Catholic and attended a parochial school through middle school. Although he rebelled against both the religious doctrine and the discipline enforced by the nuns, this upbringing made a lasting impression on him.
Below is a photo of Bruce Springsteen in concert in 1975, early in his career.Embed from Getty Images
After graduating from high school, Springsteen participated in a number of different groups. He gathered a following along the Jersey coast, and assembled an ensemble that would eventually become the E Street Band.
Bruce Springsteen’s first big break came in 1972, when legendary producer John Hammond signed him to a contract with Columbia Records, just as Hammond had signed Bob Dylan a decade earlier.
Springsteen’s songs tend to focus on social issues such as the plight of middle class Americans, veterans, and the poor. Early in his career, Springsteen was the recipient of much critical praise. The energy and exuberance of his live performances made him a cult figure.
This led to Springsteen’s nickname “The Boss,” even before he achieved any notable commercial success. However, in his early career Springsteen’s record sales were disappointing, and matched neither the promise of his reviews nor the enthusiasm of his fans.
His first big single was Born To Run, the title cut of Springsteen’s 1975 third album. Although the song only made it to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and performed poorly outside the U.S.), it established Springsteen as a young artist to watch.
I was conflicted over Springsteen’s early work. While the lyrics were truly memorable, the production values were third-rate, and I was pessimistic whether Bruce would live up to his hype.
Well, Springsteen succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. The 1984 album Born in the U.S.A. established him as one of the great rockers of his generation. That album was chock-full of hits – seven songs on this album made the Billboard Top 10, and the album sold over 30 million units worldwide.
So here is Bruce Springsteen in a live performance of Friday On My Mind.
This is from a performance in Sydney, Australia in Feb. 2014. This has become typical of a Bruce Springsteen concert – if he is performing in Australia, he will throw in a classic tune or two from that country. This same tour included a cover of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.
Here Bruce brings the Aussies his version of the hit from their first big rock group. This is a reasonably straightforward cover of the Easybeats’ tune. The only significant difference is that in Bruce’s version, the song has a gritty edge to it.
I could go either way on this tune. While Stevie Wright of the Easybeats gave the song a more happy, upbeat attitude, the lyrics are certainly consistent with Springsteen’s more combative take. After the song has apparently ended, Bruce resurrects it and gets the audience to join in on the chorus.
At this point, Bruce Springsteen is a living American treasure. He continues to release albums, varying between hard-rocking records backed by the E Street Band, and folk records inspired by artists such as Woody Guthrie.
Springsteen’s concerts tend to be epic events. He generally appears in stadiums or major venues, and his concerts last up to three hours or more.
The musicianship is first-rate, and Springsteen’s energy does not flag – he still produces the dynamic live show that was his calling-card from the earliest stages of his career. Bruce, we hope your “Glory Days” continue for a long time!