GETTING BACK TO WHERE IT BEGAN
A new mini-series looks at the fascinating story behind the rise of The Easybeats, who went from struggling migrants to international stars
Their songs have stood the test of time, and now the story behind the music of The Easybeats is coming to the small screen. The two-part miniseries Friday On My Mind tells the story of five young, newly arrived immigrants who met in a Sydney migrant hostel in the 1960s and formed the band that would take Australian rock ’n’ roll to the world.
“Obviously it’s a story of camaraderie and mateship, but a lot of people forget it’s an immigrant story,” Mackenzie Fearnley tells Play magazine.
“These were five guys from different parts of the world to Australia being persecuted before being accepted as Australia’s biggest rock ’n’ roll band. It’s a celebration of Australia’s migrant history.”
Gold Coast native Fearnley makes his TV debut as legendary guitarist and song writer Johannes Van Den Berg, aka Harry Vanda.
“I was back home on the Coast with Mum and Dad and told them about how they’re making a TV show about a band called The Easybeats and they both went ‘wow, that’s from back in our time’,” he says.
“They pulled out all the old DVDs and we went through the history of the band.
“From that point on I decided I was the only person in Australia who was going to get this role. I wasn’t going to let anyone else get it.”
The miniseries traces the band’s formation, partnership with Australian music industry pioneer and record producer Ted Albert (played by Ashley Zuckerman), international success and eventual break-up.
“Harry was the peacekeeper of the group,” Fearnley says. “He just loved playing and writing music.
“He didn’t so much get involved in the politics or drama surrounding that.
“I study Shakespeare so I put him as the Benvolio to Romeo.
“He was just trying to keep everyone on track.”
Harry and George would go on to have a much longer songwriting partnership after the breakup of The Easybeats as Vanda & Young, which supplied hits for AC/DC, John Paul Young, Stevie Wright, Rose Tattoo and The Angels.
“Apart from the dynamic of a great rhythm guitarist and a great lead guitarist, (their partnership) also taps into the psychology of the both of them,” Fearnley says. “George was the driver of the music creation. He was the one throwing out most of the ideas and Harry had the chisel and the hammer, crafting things from what George had given him … They both had that shared goal of wanting to do music.” Friday On My Mind debuts November 26 at 8.40pm on ABC
Gold Coast native Mackenzie Fearnley stars in Friday On My Mind on the ABC on Sunday.