BLOOD + THUNDER The Sound Of Alberts

George Young, Bon Scott, Harry Vanda, Angus Young, Ted Albert - in Alberts studio

Premiering on ABC TV this Thursday, July 2, at 8.30pm is the second episode of a new, two-part documentary, BLOOD + THUNDER – The Sound Of Alberts. SHANE PINNEGAR reports.

BLOOD + THUNDER – The Sound Of Alberts provides what is to some a long-overdue analysis of the importance of the Alberts Studios sound to Australian rock and pop music.

“In the ‘50s and the ‘60s, Australian artists recorded American and British music and did it in a British or an American style as well,” explains series co-writer, Alex Barry. “Ted Albert was one of the sons, or one of the third or fourth generation of the Albert family, a music publishing company.

“He had this idea in ’64, that they should actually record and produce local artists for the local audience first but then also take that to the world. That was the real leap forward – this idea that we can do our own music.”

The result was a flood of epic talent. Alberts started off by recording The Easybeats and Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs. After The Easybeats returned from an unsuccessful attempt to break it big in England, Alberts enlisted Harry Vanda and George Young from the band to be resident songwriters and producers for the studio.

What followed was some of the most glorious years of Australian music, years in which a truly Australian sound – the Alberts sound – was forged by AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, The Choirboys and Stevie Wright.

Rose Tattoo’s leader, Angry Anderson, says that the Alberts legacy lies not just in this country, but the bands they influenced overseas.

“Dave Grohl – Foo Fighters. You have Metallica. You talk to the guys that were in Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Motley Crue. The list goes on. Some of the greatest rock bands and inevitably the trail of their influences comes back to four bands: AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, The Choirboys. It’s the Alberts sound.

“None of those four bands,” he continues, giving full credit where it is due, “and the other artists, none of us would have turned out to be the songwriters that we became without George and Harry.”

Barry says there are two storylines running through the programme – one of the Alberts rock n’ roll sound, one of Vanda & Young’s explorations into new pop.

“They spent what they call their four-year binge in London after the fall of The Easybeats, learning how to write every type of song you could – everything from jingles through to jazz through to reggae, whatever.

“When they came back and set up the studio with Ted Albert, Ted really wanted to capitalise on that as well and use these wonderful skills. They were given the freedom so that they could create great and interesting pop music which would satisfy a different portion of the Australian public, which wanted to watch Countdown and wanted to sing along with John Paul Young, William Shakespeare, Ted Mulry (and Vanda & Young’s own quirky pop duo, Flash & The Pan) because he had Vanda & Young writing these wonderful songs.”

The link between the Alberts family and the Young family – George Young and his younger brothers Malcolm & Angus, who formed AC/DC – is at the heart of Blood + Thunder, and it’s a united front that Barry says was not easy to break through. In a coup for the producers, however, AC/DC guitarist Angus Young agreed to give them a rare interview.

“Paul Clarke who’s the director, had made a series called Long Way To The Top, a very seminal series about Australian rock’n’roll,” explains Barry. “During that time, they managed to secure an interview with Angus. Of all the interviews that have been done with Angus – which are very few – that’s a really strong one, and that was arranged through Alberts at that time.

“The Alberts family includes the Youngs – Stan Holsborough, who is one of the main people at Alberts these days, is the son of Margaret Young, who is Malcolm and Angus’s older sister. We communicated through Stan largely, who would then talk to Angus and the other members of the Young family.

“It was a gentle process of convincing them that we were going to do it justice, that we’re going to be sensitive and that we were telling the right story. It was important to the Young family, and to AC/DC, that we weren’t just telling AC/DC’s story because, on the whole, they haven’t been interested in that. Because it was a broader story about Alberts, they were more keen in that regard… but it took some negotiation.”