WHEN Michael Gudinski made a pitch to manage Australian blues band Chain in 1970, he vowed to make them the biggest band in Melbourne – but they didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity.
“The guys initially needed quite a lot of convincing because he was an 18-year-old kid at the time,” Chain frontman Matt Taylor said of the late legendary music promoter.
“About a month later, he became our manager and if you ever see the 10-year anniversary of Mushroom Records, Michael introduces Chain and says there would be no Mushroom Records had it not been for the band.”
The 72-year-old, now of Bedford, is reminiscing about the early years of his five-decades-long career following the release of the Matt Taylor: I Remember When I Was Young biography, named after his eponymous hit single.
Described in Gudinski’s foreword as the “king of blues in Australia”, Taylor recalled when Oz was a blues-free zone until British R&B exploded on the music scene, headed by the Rolling Stones, in the early ’60s.
He saw the blues undeservedly gain a reputation for emptying dance floors in ’67/’68, then promoters swung into action when Australia’s legal drinking age was lowered to 18 in ’71.
“Gudinski and the others went to pub owners and said, ‘if you want to get young people to go to your pub, here are the bands we can give you: Chain, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, and Max Merritt and the Meteors’,” Taylor said.
“And that was the start of what’s known as pub rock.”
Best known for his work with now Perth-based Chain, whose hits include Black and Blue and Judgement, Taylor has written about 400 songs, infusing the Deep South musical style with a distinctly Australian feel.
His experiences with Aussie bands including Melbourne’s Genesis, Bay City Union and Western Flyer, the world’s greatest blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Albert Collins, and even 1970s commune living are extensively chronicled in the book.
It also showcases blues’ evolution into stylistic variations Oz Blues and Oz Indigo, and Taylor’s philosophy that the genre is the basis of all modern music.
“I used to say that if you took blues out of modern music, only Barry Manilow would be left, until the guys bought me a book about him and in it, he says ‘my first great love of music was rhythm and blues’, so it’s even in Barry,” Taylor laughed.
“You know, you’re probably safer to say you’d be left with Doris Day.”
He will perform a solo gig at The Charles Hotel in North Perth on April 27 to officially launch the book.
Matt Taylor: I Remember When I Was Young is available at High Voltage Publishing’s website.