Billy Thorpe Dies

Aussie music icon Billy Thorpe died February 28th after a massive heart attack at his home in Sydney. He was 60.

Thorpe’s drive allowed him to go from a 10-year-old TV performer to chart topper during the beat boom in the 1960s with his band The Aztecs.

But it was in the early ’70s, when they turned up the amps during the psychedelic revolution that Thorpe hit his strides.

The Aztecs became the biggest live band in the country. They played with amps turned to 11: At the first Sunbury Rock Festival, they were so loud that a pub 10 miles away complained. At a show at the Bondi Lifesaver in Sydney, the volume killed the fish in the venue’s aquarium. "He always had to be bigger and louder," recalled former Little River Band singer Glenn Shorrock.

Thorpe’s biggest contribution was to invent pub-rock. As liquor laws governing venues changed making it easier to have music in drinking venues, he led the move to playing music in pubs than in town halls, drawing a huge Australian audience that saw him hit the top of the charts with hits as "Most People Think That I’m Crazy."

It fashioned a blistering style that AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Jimmy Barnes and INXS would take to the world.

He used his clout to introduce a policy called "taking the door," where acts could get a share of the night’s profits as well as a fee. In the late ’70s he lived in Los Angeles, releasing two albums that charted in the U.S., and played in Mick Fleetwood’s side project band The Zoo.

On his return to Australia in the mid-1990s, he revived the Aztecs as a live force, and co-organised the multi-act retro tour "It’s A Long Way To The Top" tour with his manager and best friend Michael Chugg.

A week before his death, he joined the board of the music biz’s benevolent fund Support Act Ltd. to help destitute musicians and was planning to revive the Sunbury festival.