The Easybeats were Australia’s Beatles. Easyfever was Australia’s Beatlemaina. And Stevie Wright was John Lennon downunder. After the group fell apart, Stevie enjoyed a solo career that took in the same highs and lows that he’d experienced with the Easybeats, but once drugs and alcohol took over, they took over with a vengeance, turning the once diminutive, good-looking singer into a bloated caricature of a faded rock star. Last year’s semi warts-and-all biography, Hard Road, by Glenn Goldsmith, shows Stevie these days as a quiet man, living at home with a woman who loves him – Australia’s Syd Barrett. He will almost certainly never sing again. But, thanks to Nic Cester from Australia’s newest international success, Jet, Stevie Wright is back on the charts. Big-time. “Evie”, Wright’s 1974 mega-hit, has been given a new lease of life via the supergroup The Wrights, assembled by Cester after he’d attended the launch of the Glenn Goldsmith biography. The single was released in February, and has been selling up a storm around the country. Proceeds will be directed towards the Salvation Army’s drug and alcohol rehab program, the Red Cross Tsunami appeal, and to Stevie Wright himself. The Wrights’ members are Cester, Kram from Spiderbait, Dave Lane (You Am I and The Pictures), Pat Bourke (Dallas Crane), with Cester providing the vocals on Part I, Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning (Part II) and Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson (Part III). Chris Cheney, who contributes some sizzling guitar on Part I, takes time out from his day job with The Living End to talk about the supergroup that just can’t seem to find the time to play together.
Have The Wrights done anything else besides “Evie”?
“No, no, that’s all we’ve done. There’s been a few rehearsal room jam-sessions, but other than that we are a one-hit-wonder (laughs). And we’ve only done three gigs – they just happened to have been really high profile ones. We’d all like to do more, but Nic just had the idea to do the song, and I guess he didn’t know how it was gonna turn out at all, so there wasn’t any long-term thought whatsoever. But the minute we got together we all enjoyed playing together, and after we did the recording we sat back and thought ‘Sounds pretty good, too!’ So it’s something that none of us particularly want to let go, but it seems like it’s a crucial time for everybody at the moment – The Pictures have just done a recording, Jet are, well you know, Jet, Spiderbait are kind of riding high at the moment, and we’re trying to write another album! All those things are priorities I suppose, and it’s be easy to neglect them in a way, and have a bit more fun with The Wrights, but, you know, you have to look after your day job”.
You’ve only played three times (WaveAid, Rove Live and the ARIAs) so is it like the concept is just sitting there, sneering at you, teasing you with the possibilities?
“Yeah, pretty much. And we’ve only done the whole eleven-minute version once, at WaveAid, It was really fun for me because I haven’t really played in any other bands since high school I’ve just been so driven with The Living End thing that I’d forgotten about playing with other musicians, so it’s really healthy just from that point of view – for me, anyway. But I think the other guys all found something in there, too. We’d love to play it more, but there’s no point us all driving to Bundaberg and then playing one song!”
How did it all come together in the first place?
“We toured with Jet last year, and then shortly after we all returned to Australia, Nic had gone to the Hard Road book launch. I think he got the idea from there, that it’d be great to get all these guys together to re-record this song. So I got a call one day from Nic going, ‘I have a plan…’. It was quite weird in a way – and this is no word of a lie- because the week before I’d been down to a record shop on Carlisle Street, and I found a copy of ‘Evie’ there while I was browsing through the 45s, and I remembered it from when I was younger, and so I bought it. So when he called me a week later, I said, ‘It’s really strange that you’re calling me, coz I just bought that!” So I sat down and learnt it and then we got together a couple of weeks afterwards and had a jam on it, and it was really good.”
And Harry Vanda came down to the sessions…
“That was just the ultimate! To be in the studio with him showing me and Davey the right note to play and so on – it was just amazing. Then sitting around drinking beer and listening to AC/DC and hearing the Easybeats story, which was just incredible – one of the highlights of my life, really!”
You can stop now…?
“Yeah, mission accomplished!” (Chris laughs wildly)