Sunbury Pop Festival '72 – Billy Thorpe

Sunbury Pop Festival '72 – Billy Thorpe
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Billy Thorpe, along with his band The Aztecs, was one of Australia’s biggest pop stars of the 1960s.

Known for hits like ‘Mashed Potato’ and ‘Poison Ivy’, as well as covers of ballads like ‘Over the Rainbow’, he ended up being so popular that he hosted his own television show in 1966, It’s All Happening.

In 1968, Billy moved to Melbourne and formed a new line-up of The Aztecs after the break-up of the original band and out of a desire to move away from recording pop tunes. This form of the group was different to previous incarnations – Billy was now playing lead guitar, and his voice had developed from that of a Beatles-type pop singer to a loud screamer!

With help from guitarist extraordinaire Lobby Loyde and keyboard player Warren ‘Pig’ Morgan, the band became one of the first of the Australian pub rock era.

Playing at venues such as the Thumpin’ Tum and Catcher, the band developed a following that set them up nicely for their headlining slot at the inaugural Sunbury Festival in January 1972.

Although there were many fine Australian bands at the festival, the performance by The Aztecs is arguably the most memorable.

This clip, from John Dixon and Ray Wagstaff’s documentary Sunbury ‘72, shows Thorpe and The Aztecs at their rocking peak during their performance of ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’.

The footage is a great example of the amazing connection that Thorpe had with his audience. Here, his call and response routine sends the crowd into a frenzy, which is accentuated by the frantic editing of the film.