Rocker John Paul Young is at Mounties on Saturday, August 24. And that afternoon he delivers the Liverpool & District Historical Society's annual Havard lecture. Liverpool, you see, is special to him. He grew up here. He went to Liverpool Boys High and Westfields Sports High at Fairfield West and formed his first band outside the Collingwood Hotel. Now 69, he's had a huge career. He was in the original Jesus Christ, Superstar for two years, along with Marcia Hines, Jon English, Doug Parkinson, Stevie Wright and Reg Livermore. He's sold over 4 million albums. His first hit was the hooky and unforgettable Pasadena (1972), then came Yesterday's Hero (1975). And let's not forget that little swing ballad Love is in the Air (1978). And he was made.
You grew up at Liverpool. It never hurt the Beatles, it certainly never stood in your way!
Ha-ha. I went to Hammondville Primary School but we lived at East Hills Migrant Hostel when we first arrived in Australia [from Scotland].
How old were you when you lived in the South-West? And where specifically?
I was 11 when we arrived here and I was 13 when we moved into Reilly Street at Liverpool.
What did your parents do for a job? How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Mum was a process worker and Dad worked at making washing machines before he went to work at Bankstown Airport as an aircraft-maintenance worker. I have two sisters and a brother.
The South-West has since become the most multicultural region in Australia. In what ways were you aware of that as a child?
Yes, for sure. For example, the Panetta family, who owned the corner shop, they were my first exposure to Italians.
Did the multicultural experience have an impact on your time at Westfields Sports High?
A little. My best friend was from England. But I was only at Westfields for 18 months, leaving after I did the School Certificate.
You kick-started your amazing career in 1967 with a bunch of mates from high school who all joined you on your first band, Elm Tree, which I believe was formed outside the local Collingwood Hotel on the Hume Highway at Liverpool. You were 17.
Yes, my first band, Elm Tree, were mates from Liverpool Boys High. The vacant block of land opposite the Collingwood Hotel is still there, with just two palm trees planted there. Maybe we should have called the band Palm Tree and then that could've been the plaque!
What things stay with you to this day from your time in the South-West?
Theo's Milk Bar in Liverpool Mall!! I'll never forget spending a lot of time there playing pinballs. I haven't been there for quite a while so I don't know if it's changed.
Strictly Ballroom is very proud of its migrant roots -- the Spanish Paso Doble is a key plot point, along with all the dancing, costumes, sense of community. How fitting that one of our best, and best-known, films reflects our multicultural suburbia . . .
Yes, you are right! And, honestly, I'm so glad I was part of it.
You've got three numbers (all Vanda & Young) on the soundtrack; and the film in Spain was even called El Amor Est en el Aire (Love is in the Air). Did you have any notion what this would do for you? And for the film?
Not at all. I was a complete non-believer! I could never have predicted that this film would become such a huge Australian classic.
How did Baz first pitch this to you?
Actually, it wasn't Baz, it was my record company, Alberts, and I've always had total faith and trust in them -- so I do what I'm told!
Love is in the Air is the song that keeps on giving. Used in EastEnders, Hawaii Five-0, Will & Grace and at least 22 other shows. Ever get tired of singing it?
I will never get tired of singing that song. I'd never bite the hand that feeds me. It's the song that relaunched my career.
Pasadena is one of my all-time fave tracks. I heard it was thought to be American, maybe because of the title. In hindsight, should you have sung "It's a long, long way to Broken Hill . . ." ?
I loved the song the first time I heard it and I was so excited when it was offered to me. Look [laughs], Broken Hill is Australian -- Vanda & Young wrote for the world!
What will audiences get at Mounties? What will be the moment you most look forward to at this show?
Audiences will hear all the amazing songs that Harry Vanda and George Young wrote. Not just my hits -- but hits from AC/DC, Ted Mulry, Stevie Wright, The Easybeats, Flash and The Pan and many more. They'll hear the stories about some of those songs and the heady days. I will look forward to the free beer and being at my old stomping ground and being not far from where I used to visit Donnie Sutherland!
15/08/19: Gallery, email address updated