John Paul Young celebrates a music career spanning 40 years with a series of gigs around the country.Touring with the Allstar Band and dropping in at Port Panthers on April 19,this is not a show you want to miss!
Forty years is a long time to be involved with the entertainment industry. What do you think has kept your music alive and popular for such an extended period of time?
It’s a willingness to not get stuck in a rut, in a way. Australia has a population of not much more than 20 million, and I think people could get very tired of you if you keep doing the same thing over and over. In a way, too, I think it was having a bit of faith in myself … because when the recording all finished and there was nothing much happening, I decided to pursue one of my other entertainment loves – which is radio. I was lucky enough to work on radio in Newcastle for about 4 years, and it was great – I really enjoyed it. It kind of took me away from my normal life for a while …
And of course, I’ve been very lucky. There’s no doubting that at all! I was very lucky indeed that Strictly Ballroom came along and that Baz Luhrmann wanted to use Love is in the Air. That kicked it all off again for me. It’s undeniable that you need talent to get there, but it’s also undeniable that you need luck – and plenty of it − to survive in the entertainment industry.
Are you travelling with your full band on this tour? Who are some of the members, as you have quite a few colleagues that have been with you for a long time …
Yes, we are. It’s a 2-hour show, and we kind of take it a little but easy in the first half, but in the second half we bring out all of the hits from the ’70s.
Warren Morgan – affectionately known as ‘the Pig’ − has had a very long career with both me and the late Billy Thorpe. Pig and Ronnie Peel (who some people would know as Rockwell T. James, from the Countdown days) have both been with me since about 1975. That’s 38 years!
The other boys have been with me since the mid ‘80s, so I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to hang on to the regulars for so long. We don’t work all the time, and sometimes we may not see each other for months, but it’s a lovely feeling when we do get back together again. It’s only a matter of half an hour, and we’re back to where we were!
You mentioned Countdown in your last answer. Take me back to those days, for a bit … a lot of our readers would remember growing up with that show!
Luckily for me, I’d known Molly [Meldrum] for some years before. It was a more relaxed atmosphere for me, as I knew Molly quite well. They were very adventurous on Countdown – they were adventurous enough to let people like me, Daryl Braithwaite or Glenn Shorrock host the show every now and again, which was very generous and gave us a bit of TV background in facing the cameras …
It was a loose kind of a show … but the kids loved it! It’s very hard to think back and remember what the world was like then, but if you think really hard about it, I suppose it was a black and white world, and Countdown was there when colour TV came. There wasn’t a lot of youth-oriented stuff on the TV … Countdown came along, and I think it was a bit of a saviour for the youth.
There was always that eternal argument on a Sunday as to whether Dad wanted to watch the news or you were allowed to watch Countdown!
I distinctly remember that argument myself! And of course, one of the other facets of entertainment you’ve been involved with is stage musicals. You had a huge run with Jesus Christ Superstar … Have you been involved with any stage productions recently?
I have – I just finished one. It was a much smaller production called Van Park. I suppose you guys living up in that area would know quite a bit about caravanning and camping … this show is very left of centre, with lots of swearing, and it’s a bit rough around the edges. It’s very entertaining – a comedy – and the music was lovely. I fell in love with the music! It stars me and Steve Kilbey from The Church.
I play a washed up Rock and Roller, my wife is an ex-Burlesque dancer, and we run the caravan park … Steve plays a hippy in the caravan park; he used to be a Folk guitarist, and he’s kind of my nemesis … it was a lot of fun.
Of the songs you’re asked to play regularly, is there one in particular that’s special to you?
Yeah, Pasadena, my first one, means a lot to me. Again – here’s the luck factor! I was working with my band, Elm Tree, back in the late ‘60s. In the early ‘70s, there was another band we used to work with called Pyramid, and they used to sing Pasadena on stage. I loved the song, and I could never understand why they hadn’t recorded it.
And blow me down, if not some months later, Simon Napier Bell − who was responsible for The Yardbirds and Dusty Springfield etc − was out here on holidays and was the given the task of finding a singer for that song. He went and asked my very good friend, Andy, if he wanted to sing it, but Andy had just joined a new band and didn’t want to do it. Andy sent him to me, and Simon had never even heard me sing. I nearly fainted when he sat behind the piano and started playing the song – I couldn’t believe it, but it was going to me recording the song. It was like a dream come true!
What else would you like to share with us about the show you’re presenting in Port Macquarie?
It’s a little bit of a travelogue from throughout my career, and I do lean heavily on the fact that George Young and Harry Vanda are the ones who made my career as successful as it is; we do a tribute to them – the hit they had in the ‘70s, Down Among the Dead Men (about the sinking of the Titanic). It’s a real tribute to them both, and I’m the vehicle … and I’m also just very grateful for the time I’ve had.
Thanks John. Interview by Jo Atkins.
See John Paul Young at Port Panthers on April 19 at 8pm.
Tickets: Members $32; non members $35.
Contact the Club on 6580 2300 for tickets and details.
This article can be found in issue 89 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus