It's All Happening -25 Original Hits '64-'75 - 1981
1.Poison Ivy (Leiber/Stoller) 3:08
2.Mashed Potato (Rozier) 2:31
3.That I love you (T. Barber) 2:49
4.Sick n tired (Kenner/Bartholomew) 3:08
5.Don't you know (T. Barber) 2:31
6.High heeled sneakers (R. Higgenbatham) 2:40
7.What I say (Ray Charles) 4:26
8.I got a woman (Ray Charles) 3:24
9.Don't you dig this kind of beat (C. Andrews) 1:54
10.Funny face (T. Crane) 2:34
11.Talkin' bout you (Chuck Berry) 2:26
12.Dancing in the street (Marvin Gaye/W. Stevenson) 2:32
13.Baby hold me close (Tubert/Lewis/Singleton) 3:19
14.Twilight time (Ram/Nevins/Dunn) 3:31
15.Love letters (E. Heyman/V. Young) 3:14
16.I told the brook (Marty Robbins) 3:13
17.Over the rainbow (E.Y. Harburg/H. Arlen) 4:35
18.I've been wrong before (Randy Newman) 3:11
19.The new breed (J. Easter) 2:46
20.Wee bit more of your lovin' (J. Aken) 2:42
21.The word for today (M. Seigel) 2:06
22.Most People I Know (Billy Thorpe) 4:17
23.It's almost summer (Billy Thorpe) 2:59
left to right Col, Tony, Billy, Vince, Bluey
Pop television really was an art form in itself. Those shows which didn't castrate the seething power of the beat explosion gave rock a new dimension. When we saw artists on the glass tube we were able to mimic their apparel & mannerisms and more accurately determine our 'faves'. Radio was great but it couldn't completely convey the full rebellious impact of the, often crude, visual medium.
Until the mid-60's, Australia and America were beset by the sedate form of their respective Bandstand shows while England was throbbing to a different beat. In 1957 BBC producer Jack Good introduced the legendary 6.5 Special to British TV screens. It was raw, alive and enormously popular. So popular that Good was wooed over to a commercial network a year later to produce the frantic "Oh Boy!" This was mirrored in Australia by Johnny O'Keefe's "Six O’clock Rock", a bold attempt at showcasing all aspects of rock 'n' roll,
Rock TV lay dormant for the first years of the 60’s to be revived in 1963 by the classic Jack Good special "Around The Beatles". While "Ready Steady Go!" was stealing his ideas, Good departed for the US, where he created "Shindig". This in turn was duplicated by "Hullabaloo", "Hollywood Au-Go-Go", "Where The Action Is" and many others of similar ilk.
Australia was not slow in throwing up its own telerock shows. Melbourne led in 1964 with the “Go !! Show”, followed by Sydney's "Saturday Date" a year later. 1966 gave us "Kommotion" out of Melbourne and "It's All Happening" from Sydney.
Commenced on March 27 1966 and axed before the end of the year, "It's All Happening", on the National 7 network, was as close to the superior UK shows as we ever got. It was hosted by the enigmatic, effervescent Billy Thorpe who, like Johnny O'Keefe, was able to charm the knickers off sis and the corsets off mum. The cocky Thorpe would chortle away at any song handed to him; feet firmly planted, head thrust forward and hands clasped behind his back. From the blues of Ray Charles to the ballads of Marty Robbins, Billy's compelling whine mastered all.
Produced by Franz Conde, directed by Tony Culliton and choreographed by the beaming 16-year-old imp Ross Coleman, "It's All Happening" was sent out at five. A rowdy 400 strong studio audience pulled out cables and stood in front of the cameras but somehow it managed to make it to air for a whole hour each week, highlighted by such 'special guests' as The Easybeats, Ray Brown & The Whispers and Normie Rowe & The Playboys. The show occasionally snared visiting acts the likes of Bobby Rydell, Helen Shapiro and Neil Sedaka but it was the (second) Aztecs (augmented by Tony Buchanan & Rocky Thomas on brass) who carried the musical weight, playing 16 of the show's 20 numbers. Allowed only two days rehearsal each week, the Aztecs read from charts on their elevated scaffold position; somehow maintaining concentration amid hordes of jiggling go-go dancers. From opening to closing credit, the music never stopped, even when Billy was introducing the next act.
Manchester-born Thorpe had tried his hand at yodelling in Queensland before arriving in Sydney in 1963. During an audition at Surf City he was backed by a crack instrumental outfit known as The Aztecs (formerly The Vibratones and The Sierras) who were impressed enough to offer him a permanent position in their illustrious line up.
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs' second single on the tiny Linda Lee label - Poison Ivy - is rightfully honoured as Australia's first ever 'beatboom' recording/hit. In the first half of 1964 it became a massive national number 1 hit, the first Sydney record to break the imbecilic Melbourne/Sydney cultural war. Melbourne DJ's thought it was by an American group and by the time they realised the truth it was too late to stop it.
The act was a phenomena without equal at the time. The Beatles drew 52,000 to Melbourne's Festival Hall, The Aztecs drew 63,000 to the Myer Music Bowl. They toured to sold-out houses in every town and collected an armfull of gold records. Screaming Lord Sutch and Tony Sheridan chose them to support their downunder tours. Overseas tours were in the offering, and Ed Sullivan wanted them on his show in New York.
After just two Linda Lee singles, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs signed with Albert Productions, becoming the frontrunners of a quality rock stable that would later include The Easybeats, The Throb and The Missing Links. They hit immediately with a version of Nat Kendrick & The Swan's "Mashed Potato". Tony Barber, the young Englishman who had been responsible for unearthing the early pressing of the Stones' 'Poison Ivy', emerged as a fine inventive songwriter and with his creative input the act went from strength to strength.
After one album for Alberts, the Aztecs fell into dispute over renumeration and were replaced overnight by a brand new act. Maloney & Barber recorded briefly as "Vince & Tony's Two" before Maloney formed his own Vince Maloney Sect and was summoned to England to become a Bee Gee.
Having filched two of Max Merritt's Meteors (Toi & Dick) and two of Ray Hoff's Offbeats (Downes & Risby), Thorpe was back in business and went on to cut a second Alberts album - Don't You Dig This Kind Of Beat? (a UK non-hit for Chris Ravel & The Ravers). Inevitably this second lesspersonable batch of Aztecs slipped into the background, as Thorpe hit the ballad trail with such weepers as "I Told The Brook", "Love Letters", "Over The Rainbow" and "Twilight Time" - all sizeable hits. Indeed, at one point late in 1965 Billy occupied three positions on the top 40 for some weeks.
By the time 1966 and "It's All Happening" rolled around, Billy was near the end of his hit run. Throughout 1966 he charted but one record, the powerful "Word For Today". Inevitably, the onslaught of psychedelia took its toll and Billy went down the chute along with his magic TV show.
After a one-off 1967 single for Festival (Dream Baby), Billy crawled away to lick his wounds. By 1972 he was back to the summit position of Australian rock, this time as a thunderous, macho heavy metal hero.
This album is a tribute to "It's All Happening", rather than a soundtrack. Being the cream of Billy's Albert's output (9 singles, 6 EP's and 2 albums), it includes a great many of the songs he featured on the show. As with all other Australian rock recording of the period, the actual production quality leaves a little to be desired; though honest enthusiasm is in abundent evidence.
And, after all, that's what really matters.
GLENN A. BAKER
Back to Billy Thorpe Albums