Tony Worsley: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — February 9, 2022

349) Tony Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays — “Oh, How Can It Be?”

Tony’s ‘65 cover of the Birds’s (see #33, 99, 220) “How Can It Be” is “considered by many to be superior to the original” (Paul Culnane, http://www.milesago.com/artists/worsley.htm) and is “a savage take” on the song (Mike Star, http://rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/07/). Alec Palao’s liner notes to the Hot Generation comp say that “[w]ith a guitar sound like cut glass, their cover . . . exaggerates the inherent power of the song, resulting in less an imitation and more a celebration.” I love the Birds, but the Blue Jays’s version truly soars, swoops and sings (and stomps)!

What is it about that Aussie beat? Mike Stax:

According to popular stereotypes, Australians prefer their beer strong and their football played by their own rules: hard’n’fast. It’s an attitude that frequently extends to their music. Rock’n’roll down under has long held a reputation for being hard, fast, loud and delivered with an untamed, youthful abandon analogous to the land itself. In Australia’s mid-60s beat scene this wild spirit flourished, manifesting itself in the music of hundreds of young bands, some of which, fortunately, made it onto vinyl. Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions (the Easybeats, the Missing Links, the Masters Apprentices), most of these amazing records remain largely unknown and unreleased outside of their homeland. . . .

http://rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/07/

For a few years, no one soared higher than Tony Worsley & the Fabulous Blue Jays. Paul Culnane recounts that:

In the wake of the incredible success enjoyed by pioneering Aussie ‘beat’ acts Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs and Ray Brown & the Whispers in 1964, just about every local A&R man, artist manager and would-be talent scout in the country was on the lookout for similar acts . . . . [I]mpresarios . . . would take . . . seasoned groups and team them with a fresh-faced front man with the requisite pin-up appeal for the young ladies (remember — these were the “scream years” of Aussie pop . . . ). And so it was that Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays, one of the most accomplished and exciting of these groups, came to be. Tony was born . . . in England . . . and emigrated . . . when he was 15. Tony had already set his sights on a show biz career [and] was determined to fulfill that dream in his adopted country. By day he worked as an apprentice rigger in the Brisbane dockyards, but at night he patrolled the dance halls, waiting for his chance to get up on stage . . . . “One time . . . some people in the crowd were yelling out for ‘Little Sister’, by Elvis, ‘cos it was big hit at the time … And I knew the words, so I got up. And the next minute I was on there for an hour, and that all started from there!” . . . Tony quickly developed into a consummate performer, gigging around Brisbane’s dance circuit . . . . His outrageously long collar-length hair, wild stage presence and repertoire of Merseybeat tunes . . . earned him his early nickname “Brisbane’s Beatle”. Tony had come to the attention of Ivan Dayman, a pop entrepreneur, and a budding ‘svengali’ figure . . . . Dayman’s offer of AU£35 per week . . . . was a huge salary for the times . . . as late as 1966, even the members of The Small Faces . . . were being paid just UK£20 per week each! . . . Dayman promoted the group in package extravaganzas up and down the coast . . . . [H]e soon gained a reputation as a wild man on and off the stage . . . . 1965 was . . . the peak of their meteoric career. . . . Probably the most notorious show from this period was the now-legendary 4BC Sound Spectacular concert in Brisbane in December 1965. [W]hen Tony and The Blue Jays hit the stage things had started to get out of hand, and by the time . . . The Easybeats came on a full-scale riot had broken out, with kids breaking down barriers . . . storming the stage and smashing chairs and equipment. Police stopped the Easys after only 17 minutes and . . . . the[y] only barely escaped the frantic fans, who stopped their ‘getaway’ car and stomped all over it . . . .

Oh, and Worsley reminisces that “to me it was never artistic or financial, it was always the chicks.” (liner notes to Hot Generation)

“Babe, you always pass me by (chorus: “How can it be?”) Now I call to understand why. (chorus: “How can it be?”) You say you love me but then again. (chorus: “How can it be?”) You can’t resist those other men. (chorus: “How can it be?”) How can it be? I said, how can it be? . . . Now to read you like a book. (chorus: “How can it be?”) Should have stopped you with just one look. (chorus: “How can it be?”) You won’t, yeah use me. (chorus: “How can it be?”) You won’t all confuse me. (chorus: “How can it be?”) I said how can it be? . . .”

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Here are the Birds:

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