Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #49

Australians Harry Vanda and George Young have an interesting musical pedigree. In the '60s, Vanda played lead guitar and Young rhythm guitar (and both provided backing vocals) for The Easybeats, best known for their one-hit wonder "Friday On My Mind."

When that band broke up in 1970, Vanda and Young continued writing songs and recording under various pseudonyms including Paintbox and Grapefruit, and also got involved in writing and producing for other performers. Most notably, they produced several early albums for a band you may have heard of that George Young's brothers Angus and Malcolm put together called AC/DC (from 1975's High Voltage to 1978's If You Want Blood You've Got It). They also had a worldwide hit in the mellow soft-rock genre, writing and producing "Love Is In The Air" for the unrelated John Paul Young in 1978.

With successes in '60s pop, and '70s hard rock and soft rock, why not dabble in early New Wave as well? Vanda and Young began a side-project studio collaboration that soon blossomed into a nearly ten-year run as the wonderfully named Flash 'n' the Pan.

Beginning with the outstanding "Hey St. Peter" in 1977, Flash 'n' the Pan released a steady stream of inventive, enjoyable records that were heartily embraced both in their Australian homeland and throughout most of Europe. Their sound, a keyboard-propelled loping melody beneath heavily compressed spoken-sung vocals, was easily identifiable, and their ability to write catchy tunes saw them score overseas hits with "Media Man," "Welcome To The Universe," and "Waiting For A Train."

By the mid-80s, Vanda and Young had slowed down drastically, although they have never completely stopped working together. Occasional albums sporadically appeared under the Flash 'n' the Pan moniker up through the mid-90s, although many were repackaged "hits" collections. They are one of those bands that just might have been different enough to catch on in the US had they been given a even chance here (of course, conservative radio programmers wouldn't play their records back then - they sounded too "weird"). Most people I introduce to Flash 'n' the Pan find that, once they get used to the vocals, they really enjoy them. You might too.

This week's NW4NW entry is the clip for that first single, "Hey St. Peter." It remains one of my favorite songs of the era. Enjoy!

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