Thorpe in the Aztecs Side

Written by on 1 September 2020

The 1960’s was an interesting time in Australian music as listeners had the choice of the bands, groups and artists like the Bee Gees, Normie Rowe, Johnny Young, Johnny Farnham, The Easybeats, The Seekers and more.

They also had Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs whose recording career began in 1964 and they quickly rattled off twelve charting singles between 1964 and 1967 before charting seven more singles between 1970 and 1979.

The Aztecs were originally Col Baigent (Drums), John “Bluey” Watson (Bass Guitar) and Valentine  Jones and Vince Melouney (Guitars) and they released the instrumental “Smoke and Stack”/”Board Boogie”.

Billy Thorpe then joined the band as their singer as music tastes changedand the band became Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Valentine Jones left the band after Billy’s arrival and he was replaced by Tony Barber.

Their first single as Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs was “Blue Day”/”You Don’t Love Me” and that got the band national attention when it peaked at No. 51 but bigger things were about to come for the band as TV opportunities came calling.

The big time arrived for the band when “Poison Ivy”/”Broken Things” peaked at No. 3 on the charts, the release was the first of six singles to reach the Top Ten by 1966.

The fourth overall single “Don’t Cha Know”/”Mashed Potato” peaked at No. 9 and “Mashed Potato” is known for only having five words in different combinations.

Those words are Mashed, Potato, Oh, Yeah and what sounds like Whoa which makes the song sound repetitive but is actually quite catchy and the song was frequently played on internet radio station TheFuzz in the late 00’s as it was a song that just had to be played.

“Sick and Tired”/”About Love” just missed out on the Top Ten after peaking at No. 11 but a live performance video shows just how popular Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs were when young women invaded the stage mid song, viewers will be impressed that Billy got away from the fans and out of the way of the Police trying to catch the fans while still managing to keep up with his band.

“That I Love”/”Over the Rainbow” delivered the band another hit single by peaking at No. 2 and “Over the Rainbow” became a fan favourite as it was regularly played live over the next couple of decades.

“I Told the Brook”/”Funny Face” became Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs only No. 1 single when it reached the top in 1965.

A financial dispute caused the original Aztecs to leave during 1965 and new Aztecs were recruited which didn’t slow down the success that Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs were having though bands and groups like The Easybeats and The Seekers were closing in.

While such a break would usually turn things sour between former bandmates, the original Aztecs remained friendly with Billy with Tony Barber even going into business with him years later.

Vince Malouney eventually went from the Aztecs to the Bee Gees and was part of the group as they started to become internationally famous.

“Twilight Time”/”My Girl Josephine” was another hit as it gave the band its second peak of No. 2 in three releases and while most groups released three of four singles from albums, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs usually just required two.

“Hallelujah I Love Her So”/”Baby, Hold Me Close” was a Top 20 hit for the band with a peak position of No. 16 giving the band seven consecutive Top 20 hits.

“Love Letters”/”Dancing in the Street” gave the band their third Top Three single in just five releases but it would be seven years before the band got this close to No. 1 again.

1966’s “The Word for Today”/”The New Breed” peaked at No. 23 but the next two singles only reached No. 55 and No. 57 and Billy Thorpe became a solo artist in 1967 for a couple of years, a path that would help lead him to musical immortality.

This would not be the end of Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs as a new version would soon be formed and they would record more hits and there was even a reunion with the original Aztecs years later but all of that is another story.

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