For every pop music fan old enough to take it all in, 1967 was an unforgettable year. Great new bands everywhere, new clothes, new sounds, new technology. There was even a new way of hearing music – stereo.
And what songs on the radio – Light My Fire by The Doors, Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, Respect by Aretha Franklin, I Can See For Miles by The Who, Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks.
Towering above it all were The Beatles. Like every other musician making their mark in that year, Glenn Shorrock knows exactly what he was doing.
“January 6, 1967, London’s first snowfall of winter, and I was in Studio 1 at Abbey Road studios with my band The Twilights.
“A bloke there said, ‘You’ve picked a good time to be here, there’s another band in the other studio...’
“We went weak at the knees. We were recording What’s Wrong With the Way I Live and next door The Beatles were doing Penny Lane.
“We didn’t have the courage to go and introduce ourselves but George Martin called into our session to give us some encouragement.”
The Beatles were hugely important to musicians all over the world who eagerly awaited new releases to see what advances had been made. This was one band that broke all the rules, progressing at what now seems a frantic rate, from rowdy leather-clad rock’n’rollers to smartly attired teen sensations to colourful avant-pop adventurers in just a few years.
In Australia, The Twilights, originally from Adelaide, established themselves in Melbourne as a band that could play note-perfect covers of Beatles songs, often before the songs had even been released.
“It was a different time then and we had a huge repertoire, not just doing The Beatles but The Kinks, The Who, The Hollies, Hendrix,” Shorrock says.
“The Beatles weren’t touring but if you wanted to know what they were doing you could always go and see The Twilights.”
By 1966 The Beatles had quit playing live altogether, partly because the sound systems of the day couldn’t compete with the screams of their fans and partly because it was almost impossible to replicate the increasing sophistication of the music they were recording on stage.
Back in Australia after their UK sojourn, The Twilights even took on The Beatles’ album opus of that year, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“In those days music could take months to arrive in Australia and we hooked up with a fan who could get the albums early so we would be able to play Beatles material that wasn’t on the radio yet.
“I remember an all-night session when we got hold of Pepper. Stereo headphones were all the rage and there were six of us in The Twilights, dragging the headphones off each other.’’
It was a great way to learn about songwriting from the best in the business and it set Shorrock up for a career in three of Australia’s best-loved bands, The Twilights, Axiom and Little River Band.
“In The Twilights we had Terry Britten, Axiom had Brian Cadd and LRB had three writers (Shorrock, Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble). Terry has had a great career as songwriter and still has a studio in Richmond in London with a lot of the old analog gear out of Abbey Road. Of course, with The Beatles the depth of the songwriting was enormous. The other staggering thing when you look back at it is that they did 12 albums in seven years.”
Shorrock is delighted to be back where it all began for him, playing the songs of The Beatles in the Let It Be concert with Doug Parkinson, John Paul Young and Jack Jones. “The Beatles introduced sophisticated chords to rock’n’roll. Before they came along, rock’n’roll was dwindling away, it was about screaming teenagers and really trite lyrics,” he says.
“They took us to the top of Everest. They had the wherewithal and the vision and I don’t think anyone has come near it with a body of work since.’’ Let It Be: The Beatles’ songs of Lennon and McCartney, Festival Theatre, September 5. Tickets through BASS.
John Paul Young
The Twilights rock band were Laurie Pryor, Glenn Shorrock, Terry Britten, Paddy McCartney,, John Bywaters and Peter Brideoake