#710: Hey St. Peter by Flash And The Pan
Johannes Hendrikus Jacob van den Berg was born in the Netherlands in 1946. When he turned 13 he taught himself to play guitar in his family’s tenement home. He played guitar in a band called The Starfighters, based in The Hague. When he was seventeen his family moved to Australia in 1963. The following year, going by the anglicized name of Harry Vanda, he became the lead guitar player for a Sydney band called The Easybeats. A co-founder of the band was George Young. Also an immigrant to Australia, in his case from Glasgow, Scotland, George Redburn Young was a rhythm guitarist. After one of the coldest winters in Scotland on record in 1962, the Young family saw a Television ad from the Australian government promising travel assistance for families seeking a new start with a life in Australia. In 1964 The Easybeats often held band practices in a local laundromat. Vanda and Young became a songwriting duo and scored an international hit in 1966 titled “Friday On My Mind”. The song climbed to #9 in Vancouver, #1 in The Netherlands and Australia, #2 in New Zealand and #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.
Inspired by the British Invasion in 1964, The Easybeats charted seven Top Ten hits in Australia between 1965 and 1970, including two #1 hits down under. After they split in 1970, Vanda and Young went on to produce recordings by AC/DC. The duo wrote a hit for John Paul Young called “Yesterday’s Hero” which went to #8 on the Australian pop chart in 1975.
In 1976 Harry Vanda and George Young formed as a duo billed as Flash And The Pan. Their first single release, “Hey St. Peter”, went to #5 in Australia in 1976. The song charted to #6 in Belgium and #7 in the Netherlands in the summer of 1977. In 1977 their song, “Love Is In The Air”, was recorded by John Paul Young which became an international Top Ten hit. “Hey St. Peter” was released in Flash And The Pan’s self-titled debut album in December 1978. By the fall of 1979 CFUN in Vancouver chose to give the disc a spin.
According to an email by Flash And The Pan fan Jimmy Wiggians, “The Flash in Pan guys used to go clubbing when in NYC as back then it was a wild scene Australians found crazy fun, so did Freddie Mercury. The song is about a drag queen named Billy, once a famous entertainer in Manhattan now down on his luck, in the “hell of 70s Time Square scene” who happens to make a comeback by simply “raising his hand” at one of those karaoke gay bars. Inspired by applause he returns cause it’s what he does best, dress as a woman and sing.”
John Paul Young told an Australian reporter in 2016 more about the inspiration for the song “Hey St. Peter”. “George was in New York chatting to the hotel doorman about the weather and the African American guy says ‘Oh well, man, when my time comes, I am going to say to St Peter “You can’t send me to hell, I have done my time in hell in New York!”‘ George just picked up things you and I would say and turn them into songs.”
“Hey St. Peter” climbed to #9 in Vancouver in October 1979. It climbed to #1 in Ottawa and made the Top 20 in Buffalo and Boston.
In 1981 the B-side of “Hey St. Peter” was recorded by Grace Jones who included “Walking In The Rain” in her album Nightclubbing. In 1983, Young and Vanda recorded “Waiting For A Train” which went to #7 in the UK. In 1996 Meatloaf had a Top 30 single with the Vande-Young composition “Runnin’ for the Red Light (I Gotta Life)”. In 2005 Harry Vanda established Flashpoint Music which opened a recording studio. Vanda has been a producer for many decades including indie rock back British India. In 2017 George Young died at the age of 70.
In 2016 John Paul Young performed in several Australian cities the Vanda and Young Songbook. In an interview it was reported that the Easybeats songs were simplest to perform. But, “Young said the Flash and the Pan songs were the most challenging to perform because of George’s “talk singing”, which approximated an early form of rap or the very least, spoken word. “Walking In The Rain, which was covered by Grace Jones, has me a little scared because it’s just such a moody, performance piece with George’s talking. George never, ever liked his voice.”
December 24, 2018
“C-FUN-TASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, January 21, 1967.
Andrew Stafford, “George Young Should be Remembered as the Sonic Architect of Australian Rock Music,” Guardian, October 24, 2017.
David Fricke, “The Easybeats: Where Are They Now?: Catching up with the band behind ‘Friday on My Mind’,” Rolling Stone, September 11, 1986.
Michael Dwyer, “Legends Pay Tribute to Vanda and Young,” Sydney Morning Herald, December 7, 2013.
Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz, “Harry Vanda & George Young,” The Monthly, Carlton, Victoria, Australia, December 2010 – January 2011.
Ken Emerson, Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture. Da Capo Press, 1997.
Hans Rouw Interviewt Harry Vanda (Easybeats) in Zwarte Ruiter in Den Haag, YouTube.com, May 13, 2012.
St. Peter, Wikipedia.org.
Kelly McCabe, “John Paul Young Spotlights the Brilliant Career of Vanda and Young Hitmakers in his New Show,” New Corp Australia, January 31, 2016.
“Narrows Botanical Garden,” Timeout.com.
“C-FUN Top 30,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 27, 1979.
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