This is an excerpt from the 1972 single release of ‘Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy)’ by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.
Summary by Thorsten Kaeding
This studio version of Most People I Know begins with a straightforward acoustic guitar intro before piano and drums kick in. At the two-minute mark, an epic guitar solo signals a change in direction of both the song and the band, and helped usher in a new era of Australian rock. The Aztecs line-up changed several times with this incarnation of the band known as the loudest and heaviest. Although known for playing blues-rock, this song is more straightforward rock’n'roll of a type that would influence much Australian rock music of the 1970s.
Billy Thorpe’s musical career mirrors the Australian pop and rock music scene of the 1960s and ’70s and the move from pop to hard rock. His hit song Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) came to define the artist and the coming of age of Australian rock music.
It was at the Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1972 – Australia’s closest answer to Woodstock – that Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs first performed this song. The single subsequently went to number one on the charts and the ‘Aztecs Live’ double album, recorded at Sunbury, reached number four on the album charts.
Born in Manchester, England, in 1946, Billy’s interest in music began early. He played his first gig at the age of ten, by which time he and his family had emigrated to Brisbane. His first show was in a church hall on the outskirts of Brisbane and it wasn’t long before he began playing regularly around Brisbane and appearing as a regular on local television, leading to a contracted spot on QTQ Channel 9’s new children’s show The Channel Niners. This exposure led to more regular gigs around Brisbane, however due to his age he was not allowed to play on licensed premises or after 9 pm. Concerns over ‘child protection agents’ led to him taking the stage name Little Rock Allen.
On a trip to Sydney at the age of 15, Billy auditioned with Channel 9. This led to a performance on the Jimmy Hannon Show, and a permanent move to Sydney followed. Backed by the Sydney surf-music band the Aztecs, Thorpe found success in the 1960s as a clean-cut pop crooner. A cover of the Leiber and Stoller song Poison Ivy became their first hit when it reached number one on the Sydney charts. Next, songs such as Mashed Potato, Over the Rainbow and Love Letters became national hits.
By 1967 the original Aztecs had broken up and Thorpe’s career had stalled. This led to a complete change of direction for Billy. He grew his hair, gained a moustache and relocated to Melbourne. Billy took on guitar duties and adopted a more aggressive rock stance. A reformed version of the Aztecs gained a reputation as the loudest band in Australia and briefly included the legendary hard rock guitarist Lobby Loyde.
It was also the period of some of Billy’s greatest successes: as well as Sunbury, 1972 also saw the band’s performance at Myer Music Bowl in front of 200,000 people. The next few years saw Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs established as favourites on the hard rock concert and pub circuit. After a few more releases and an appearance by Billy on stage in the rock opera ‘Tommy’, with Billy as the Pinball Wizard, the Aztecs split up in 1975.
Billy relocated to the US in 1976 where he continued recording with some limited success before finding a new career writing music for US television series including Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–94), Columbo (1971–90) and Eight is Enough (1977–81). On returning to Australia in 1996 Billy recommenced playing and touring, and found a new audience with the release of the ABC documentary Long Way to the Top in 2001. He continued to play and record up to his untimely death from a heart attack in February 2007.
Notes by Thorsten Kaeding