Flash and the Pan

Tracks are by Flash and the Pan unless otherwise stated (in brackets).

TrackSingle / Album
Down Among The Dead MenAlbert AP 11755 / Flash & The Pan CD
Hey, St. PeterAlbert AP 11224 / Flash & The Pan
Walking In The RainAlbert AP 11224 / Flash & The Pan
Midnight ManAlbert AP 1373 / Early Morning...
AylaAlbert AP 1986 / Nights In France
Early Morning Wake Up CallAlbert AP 1514 / Early Morning...
Where Were YouAlbert AP 784 / Headlines
Jetsetters BallHeadlines
Pasadena (John Paul Young)Albert AP-9765 / Hero
Evie (Pts 1, 2, 3) (Stevie Wright)Albert AP-10468 / Hard Road

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Flash and the Pan photo

Flash and the Pan (l to r): George Young and Harry Vanda

 

Contributor: David Lewis

Author’s note: OK, I cheated a little – not all of these tracks were recorded by the rock group Flash and the Pan, but they do feature the writing and playing of the duo, Harry Vanda and the late George Young. Thanks to our editor for letting me get away with it by suggesting this approach.

Flash and the Pan were a recording duo who later performed, made up of Harry Vanda and George Young. Vanda and Young were founding members of Australian rock band The Easybeats and, on their dissolution, became Australia’s premier songwriting team and wrote for and managed AC/DC, plus many others. They worked for Albert Music in Sydney where so many songs for many acts (some one- or two-hit wonders) were written. In 1976, they formed Flash and the Pan and produced some of the finest pop and most experimental stuff they ever did.

Down Among The Dead Men (1978) is a song about the Titanic. It was renamed And The Band Played On in the UK. The piano riff, driving the song beautifully, is a great hook. As is the chorus.

The next one, Hey, St. Peter, is a superb example of the style – half spoken, half song lyrics, with the voice filtered down a telephone line, a massive chorus, and lyrics that don’t quite take themselves seriously. A great song.

From 1979, perhaps the most unusual song the pair wrote; Walking In The Rain is an unresolved ballad. It’s a grower – it reminds me of Wonderful by the Beach Boys, or perhaps Philip Glass. Grace Jones covered it to some success as well. A gorgeous production.

Midnight Man and Ayla, from Early Morning Wake Up Call (1984) and Nights In France (1987) respectively, are influenced by European dance beats. Both are excellent examples of the form – Vanda and Young had some success in Europe, and always kept an eye on their European audience.

Returning to rock, the title track of that 1984 album, Early Morning Wake Up Call, sees a very familiar trick of a great riff, clever lyrics and an extremely well structured song. It pumps too.

Where Were You brings Stevie Wright (Easybeats lead vocalist) back into the fold. Another great rocker, Stevie’s vocal is terrific, and it shows the mastery of pop songwriting from Harry Vanda and George Young.

The last Flash and the Pan song I’ll briefly introduce you to is Jetsetters Ball, the opener on the 1982 album Headlines. Starting with a funky riff, eventually augmented by drums and keys, George eventually talk-sings over the top. Pure brilliance.

 

These last two tracks aren’t Flash and the Pan, but were written and performed by Vanda and Young as part of other ensembles.

Pasadena by John Paul Young. He was another ‘Ten Pound Pom’ who was essentially discovered by Albert Music, and the then new (later stalwart) Countdown wondered if they could make a star. JPY had had some success (including a part in the extremely important Australian cast of Jesus Christ Superstar [1]) but his career had stalled. He was given Pasadena by Vanda and Young, who’d sent a demo from New York which John sang over the top of. It’s a catchy fun piece which was an important step in JPY becoming King of Pop in the Australian Countdown awards several times. The interested reader should check out Yesterday’s Hero, Where The Action Is and the international hit Love Is In The Air, all Vanda/Young compositions.

Evie (Parts 1, 2 and 3) with vocals by Stevie Wright. Another contender for greatest Australian rock song, this is actually three separate songs. Part 1 is a blistering rocker. Part 2 is a gentle ballad and Part 3 is another rocker. The story is of a young man and woman who meet, she falls pregnant, and then she (nearly?) dies in childbirth. Great drama and an incredible performance by Wright. Malcolm Young – probably the world’s greatest rhythm guitarist, brother of George and leader of AC/DC – plays lead guitar, brilliantly.

 

FOOTNOTE

[1]. Not only did the cast album become the international official album, but it featured Stevie Wright as Jesus, Jon English as Judas (another Ten Pound Pom who had an extremely successful music career in Australia), Marcia Hines (six times TV Week Queen of Pop), an American singer who came to Australia as a 16-year-old to perform in Hair in 1969, but made her name as Mary Magdalene. She later reminded Australians how much they loved her by her judgements on the first few seasons of Australian Idol.) Finally, Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock met as members of the orchestra. They formed Air Supply at the conclusion of the run.

 

David Lewis writes: The death of George Young this week, as unexpected and shocking as it is, gives the opportunity to further scratch the surface of the astonishingly rich vein of music produced by Vanda and Young. I thoroughly recommend chasing up any of the work of all acts mentioned in this post. Vale George Young.

George Young (1946-2017)

 

Vanda & Young (Wikipedia)

The Easybeats to AC/DC: The Story of Aussie Rock

“Vanda & Young. Inside Australia’s Hit Factory” by John Tait (University NSW Press, 2010)

Flash and the Pan biography (iTunes)

The Easybeats (Toppermost #669)

David Lewis has written several posts for Toppermost. He lives in Sydney and lectures in Popular Culture and Contemporary and Roots Music at the Australian Institute of Music. A guitarist, mandolinist, banjoist and bassist, he plays everything from funk to country. He writes on music here.

TopperPost #670

3 Comments

  1. Andrew Shields
    Oct 28, 2017

    David, thanks for another excellent piece. Might put in a word as well for this one. Also wondered if you think that ‘Evie’ and this one served to lay the template for AC/DC.

  2. David Lewis
    Oct 29, 2017

    Thanks Andrew: so many great songs that missed out. I’m still not sure how ‘Waiting for a Train’ didn’t get through, but with so much great choice, I’m going to pretend I left it out because ‘Train’ was Flash and the Pan’s biggest hit. But I could have picked another 10 songs easily.
    Definitely those two are the seeds of AC/DC. One of the things that started to appeal to Vanda and Young apparently was that they felt that bands needed a solid musical foundation – no experimental wanderings. So AC/DC was formed and has more or less stuck to the same formula for nearly 50 years.

  3. Glenn Smith
    Oct 31, 2017

    Bold and beautiful, just thinking of doing George and Harry is pretty impressive. Andrew picked two I’d have plumped for and I’d add in Ted Mulry’s superb Falling in Love Again, Harry’s lyrics almost Hal David like, great pop. And at the other end of the spectrum I’d chuck in the bookend to Stevie’s Bruiser the fabulous Guitar Man. Evie is their masterpiece, it’s hard to explain to non Australians just how much that suite means to us, it’s still a conversation stopper when it comes on the radio.
    No George and Harry no Acca Dacca. I think it was Frenzal Rhomb who put it best when they said we’d drink paint for Acca Dacca…
    One final comment: from St Louis on Stevie adopts a vocal style that sets an Alberts template for Bon and JPY. Listen to say Pasadena, Guitar Man and say Dirty Deeds and you’ll hear what I mean. Cheers Dave, nice work.

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