From “Friday on My Mind,” 50 years ago, to producing his brothers’ band AC/DC in the next decade, we look back at the life of George Young, including memories from drummer Ken Evans, of the Fifth Estate, from their tour together in 1967.
By Warren Kurtz
On October 22, we lost George Young, who was born in Glascow, Scotland. Other than his eldest brother Alex Young, who remained in the UK, his family migrated to Australia in 1963 and soon, the band the Easybeats, were formed. Their early singles included the Australian Top 10 hits “She’s So Fine” and “Wedding Bells.” Frustrated by their success being only limited to that region, the group moved to England. Shel Talmy, who produced early recordings for the Who and the Kinks, and served as the executive producer on the Fifth Estate’s “Time Tunnel” and “Take the Fifth” albums this decade, became their producer of their international hit “Friday On My Mind.”
Flip side: Made My Bed: Gonna Lie in It
A side: Friday On My Mind
Top 100 debut: March 18, 1967
Peak position: 16
United Artists UA 50106
While “Friday on My Mind” was co-written with fellow bandmate and lead guitarist, Harry Vanda, its flip side, “Made My Bed: Gonna Lie in It” was written solely by George Young. The opening lines were sung with harmony, “Tried so hard to be a man,” followed by electric guitars and high vocal notes in the chorus, fitting for the British mid-‘60s sound. The song was one of a dozen songs on the “Friday on My Mind” album in 1967, with most songs written by Vanda & Young. The band was ready to tour the U.S.
In Tony Renzoni’s 2017 book “Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll,” there is an interview with the Fifth Estate’s drummer Ken Evans on his time with George Young and Harry Vanda on the 1967 tour called the Gene Pitney Show. Connecticut’s Fifth Estate had "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" in the Top 40. The Easybeats and the Fifth Estate toured, along with the Buckinghams, the Music Explosion, the Happenings and Connecticut’s Gene Pitney as the headliner. Ken Evans became friends with George Young on the tour and told Goldmine, "I played George a demo of our song 'Do Drop Inn' and that version had bagpipes on it. George was from Scotland originally and he liked that sound. It was such a fun tour and I have many fond memories of George as a very dedicated, hard-working musician and songwriter and a very decent person."
Courtesy of Ken Evans and Tony Renzoni
The singles which followed “Friday On My Mind” did not chart in the U.S. In 1968, George Young’s eldest brother Alex, using the name George Alexander, charted in the U.S. as a member of the British band Grapefruit, with two songs he wrote, “Dear Delilah” and “Elevator.” In 1969, the Easybeats left the United Artists label. Motown had created a new label to add white artists to their roster. Initially they signed acts from other countries to try in the U.S. including R. Dean Taylor from Canada, the Pretty Things from England and the Easybeats, who became the first charting act for the label with the bagpipe and brass driven song, “St. Louis,” which spent one week in the Top 100 at number 100 in November of that year. The group Rare Earth gave the new label their first Top 40 hit the following year with their cover of the Temptations’ “Get Ready.”
In 1973, David Bowie released an album of cover songs from British bands including the Pretty Things, the Kinks, the Who and others. His version of the Easybeats’ “Friday on my Mind” kicked off side two.
By this time, Vanda & Young were back in Australia, with a desire to help George Young’s younger brother’s musical interests. That year, the hard rock band AC/DC was formed, which included guitarists Malcolm and Angus Young. Vanda & Young produced the band’s first five albums, “High Voltage,” “T.N.T.,” which included the song “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna to Rock ‘n’ Roll)” with bagpipes, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Let There Be Rock” and “Powerage.”
In 1979, AC/DC moved on to producer Mutt Lange with the album “Highway to Hell.” That year Vanda & Young were the leaders of the avant garde band Flash and the Pan. They reached the U.S. Top 100 for a final time with the up-tempo single from the album “Hey, St. Peter.” The verses were narrated and the chorus had a Kinks-like catchiness. The orchestrated instrumental break was in line with the dramatic style Meat Loaf was bringing to FM rock. The flip side, also from the album, was “Walking in the Rain,” which was an eerie narrated recording, with a similar moodiness found on David Bowie’s “Low” album from the era.
In the mid-‘90s, Meat Loaf was in the Top 100 for a final time with the singles “I’d Lie For You (And That’s the Truth)” and “Not a Dry Eye in the House” from the album “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” That album included the rocker “Runnin’ for the Red Light (I Gotta Life)” with co-writers including Vanda & Young.
George Young produced AC/DC for a final time with their early 2000 album “Stiff Upper Lip.” The Easybeats’ “Friday on my Mind” continues to be a popular oldie.
George Young on the far right
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR radio as part of “Moments to Remember.”