classic and rare Australian popular music from the 1950's, 1960's. 1970's and beyond..including rock and roll, pop, beat, rock, surf and progressive, plus contemporary artists, new releases, reviews and other fun stuff

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs....the "heavy" version...Lock Up Your Mothers



Billy Thorpe himself openly acknowledged that the 'heavy' version of the Aztecs owed much to 'guitar hero' Lobby Loyde. Lloyde already had a cult following due to his stints in two of the most original Australian bands of the 1960's, The Purple Hearts and The Wild Cherries. While his stint in the new Aztecs was short (from December 1968 to January 1971), his musical influence proved crucial in steering Thorpe in a completely new direction, and he strongly encouraged Thorpe to keep playing guitar.

The new Aztecs' blues-based heavy-rock repertoire was dramatically different in style from the original group, and they quickly became famous (or notorious) for the ear-splitting volume at which they played. Thorpe had also drastically changed his appearance—he grew a beard, often wore his now shoulder-length hair braided in a pigtail, and he had long since traded the tailored suits for jeans and T-shirts. Needless to say this did not endear him to people who came to the shows expecting the 'old' Billy Thorpe of the "Poison Ivy" era, and this led to sometimes violent confrontations with disgruntled fans and promoters.

Their breakthrough recording was an ambitious album, The Hoax Is Over, recorded in September 1970 with new drummer Kevin Murphy. The album was an unequivocal signal of the Aztecs' new direction, containing only four tracks, three of which were Thorpe originals. The LP is dominated by two extended tracks: a version of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Gangster of Love", which clocked in at 24:35 and ran the entire length of Side 1 (an unprecedented move in Australian pop music) and Thorpe's own "Mississippi" which ran 19'35". According to Thorpe, the band (which at this time comprising himself, Murphy, pianist Warren Morgan, guitar legend Lobby Loyde and bassist Paul Wheeler), were all high on LSD and jammed continuously while engineer Ernie Rose just let the tapes roll. The result heralded the fully-fledged arrival of the new Aztecs and live shows at Melbourne venues consolidated the band's reputation and drew enthusiastic responses.