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The Stevie Wright Interview
by DON GILLESPIE

Stevie Wright had just become a Christian. He had come out of a very heavy drug scene and was in the process of putting his life back together.

Unfortunately Stevie has been on the roller coaster of life. It is sad what a life of drug abuse can do to you. He was a lovely guy, a little shy and exploded on stage. Nice to see that he has been recodnised for his achievements in Australia. This interview reflects the times and it's here as it was printed in 1980. Sadly he passed away December 2015.

 

Don: You've been at the very top in the music scene with a series of smash hits in Australia, which have also been a big international success. Being so successful with the Easybeats, looking back what are your thoughts of that time?

Stevie Wright: It's been an incredible ~ life. It's had its ups and downs. I don't 1 really regret any part of it, but I do regret the effects some parts had on people close to me. All in all, it's turned out for the better though and I can see some kind of purpose in my life today.

The earlier Easybeat things, I don't think much about to tell you the truth. When I talk with Harry Vanda and George Young, we don't really talk about the old times. It's a rare occasion when we dig up anything from the past and have a laugh about it - usually some sort of situation we were all in, usually getting drunk or fighting in Hamburg, or some kind of exciting, out of the ordinary situation. Very rarely do we talk about how our music evolved or glory in it at all. I don't know, that early period with the Easybeats was a time of discipline in a way, as far as keeping your head on your shoulders.

The group was an institution, and from what I can remember, we were always pretty good with our fans and that kind of thing. We always tried to do the right kind of thing and communicate with them. It's easy for a person who gets the kind of popularity the Easybeats got to get big-headed, but the group was earthy enough. The foundation members came from pretty earthy spots such as Liverpool, Holland and Glasgow. I came from the North of England, so we kept each other in check. So there it was basically, we were all very young and we had a manager who we put our total faith in - he was great; being instrumental in taking the artists to the streets. He knew the right people, in fact he was a great father image and in that early period, I could see how much of an advantage and how necessary that was.

Now, looking at it from a bird's eye view, I can see how dangerous it really was for me, because I didn't grow up under normal circumstances. He took a lot of the responsibility away and I found it very hard when all of a sudden `the family' broke up. I didn't know how to look after myself and had no confidence or expertise as far as a normal person grows up. I had a big gap or hole in my life and I can see how that led into more destructive times.

How old were you when you started with the Easybeats?

Seventeen when it was all happening, and just to summarise what happened, there were ten number ones, two of those being extended players, all in a period of 18 months, and if you add another six months onto that, then you've got an international record that went to number one in most places in the world too. It was very short and concentrated and there was a lot packed into it. We went very big, in a very fast time, but then it blew out just as quickly.

Basically, I look at the Easybeats and all of it as an apprenticeship to tell you the truth. That might be hard for you to understand, people who have observed it all would say "What? The Easybeats an apprenticeship?" It's such a big part of my life that they would find it hard to understand. This is looking at the people who have observed everything from the other side of the transistor speaker, but to me, I was seventeen, growing and it was like an apprenticeship.

What would you say was the greatest influence on your life at that time?

In my own personal development, musically, I started buying songsters before I was ten, so I guess I was heading that way - into music I mean. When I was eight years old I was once on a bus. I used to like emotional things, you know like songs you can sing to girls, and all of a sudden this guy who had been to see "Rock Around The Clock" started to sing `Long Tall Sally'. I couldn't believe the words that I heard and the way they were sung - he could obviously imitate Little Richard very well and it just freaked me out. I guess that was when I turned and started to go towards rock 'n roll.

Coming out to Australia, I saw Johnny O'Keefe. It was '58 and I was hanging around juke boxes and J. O'K' would be making it with songs like "So Tough". He'd come out with all these hard rock 'n roll type things with that kind of wildness on stage. There was Little Richard and then there were the Beatles. I said to someone the other day, "Did you have Beatlemania?" and they looked at me and said, "Are you kidding, who didn't?" Then there were heavy influences like Proby, (we got the chance to tour with him), then I saw a singer that I thought was really just so different on stage and that was Eric Burden. I immediately thought, "That's the way a person should look on stage", and I took as much of his style as far as standing, as I thought was safe. I think, in the early days, to be influenced by this is not a harmful thing.

Getting into the more recent stuff - the media coverage a couple of years ago - about you O.D.ing and you supposedly being carted off to hospital. What was the real story behind that?

The real story was that I'd been addicted for a couple of years and was on the Government methadone programme. It was only then that I realised that what I was doing was something strange. Until then, I had just thought that drugs were a normal part of life. The fact that they weren't legal wasn't my fault, it was probably just the naivety of the Government, that was my way of thinking at the time. But when I had to go down to the chemist every day to get a glass of methadone, to avoid getting sick, I thought, "this is not the way that I was born to be". It was then that I decided to try and stop.

I tried the sleep treatment, and drying out in different ways, thinking it was just a physical thing. Then a social worker took me to a Salvation Army Institution. I sat there through one group and I saw God on the wall and a lot of alkies around the place and I freaked. I thought, "Oh no, this is it." And the doctor was really heavy, he really had a go at me for where I was at and what I was about and it really frightened me, but I knew it was the truth. I got my clothes and was about to leave and on the way out the doctor said to me, "Man, if you ever really want to get it together, you come back." Twelve months later, after trying all the softer ways, I realised that I was burned out spiritually, I had no Spirit - I was dead inside. I felt drawn back there and it was funny because someone had evidently tipped off the papers, by which time I'd withdrawn and was right into the therapy programme.

They give you jobs to do, and I remember I was cleaning out the toilets the same day that I got the front page in the paper, and I thought "What a fine contrast." But they'd sensationalised the story, I didn't O.D. at all. There was no foundation to that story. But they sold a lot of papers. I rang the record company who contacted the radio networks, who then gave the proper story.

D.G.: How did you come to terms with the whole Christian thing?

I was at a loss for a way to stop. I had kept an open mind and the framework of the programme was the Word. I came to believe that a power greater than myself had kept my sanity. I tried an experimental relationship with God. It was like blind faith - I prayed day and night and after about three months I looked back and could see that a change had happened.

It didn't take too long for me to realise the subtle influences in the programmes, positive things such as love for your fellow man, caring and sharing, compassion, these things I traced right back to Jesus. I was able to put aside prejudices, I had heavy prejudices, like most people do, but I think my complaint lies with people and what man has done with the meat of the thing. So that's it - I guess I came to realise that the God I was dealing with had a personality, I was actually getting feedback from communicating with Him. D.G.: What's basically your role with the Salvation Army now? S.W.: fm a counsellor, I point people in the direction. I show daily by my example that the programme can work. I take groups, do a lot of basic hospital work, I became a member of the church.

All my life I've had a lot to do with churches, I guess I've always been searching. I had a faith in the Easybeats, I didn't use drugs then, I thought, "I'm being looked after and I'm being blessed." Something I always really wanted to be was a star, whether it was music, films or whatever, which I know now not to be such a healthy thing. But I got it, and I thought, "I'm really being looked after."

O.K., here's a good one: Some people in the Newsong audience thought that what you did there was too heavy- too rock 'n roll for a Christian audience.

Well, what am I? I'm a rock'n’roll singer, I'm not a minister. I guess my being in the show was just a person whose life had changed by accepting Christ as my saviour. That's all I am! Whether people like my music or not, well I mean to say, I don't like all kinds of music either.

Naturally, you can't win all the people all the time. That's it, my function was just to show that I'd been saved. Like I said before, "I've cleaned up my act a lot."

What's happening as far as your future goes with recording and tours?

I don't plan to do any secular engagements for a while. I definitely don't plan to go back on the road doing pub gigs and country tours; at the moment anyway. Like, I'm staying straight one day at a time, and to do that would be dangerous - I can just sense it. Recording-wise, well that's in my blood. I'm writing, I've got songs which have built up over the years and have finished some.

At the moment I'm in the process of a recording project with Harry Vanda and George Young. I plan to do some Christian. jobs, because I've been asked to do them and they're well-organised and easily done. Right now, I'm auditioning Christian musicians for the band.

A lot of the Christian musicians that I've seen seem to lack something - an earthiness that street musicians have and I'd like to be able to find the potential of that or that and some Christian musicians to take to these gigs. So if any of your readers are Christian musicians and think they can cut it, they might like to get in touch with you, I definitely need musicians of that calibre.