John Paul Young is back on the road with his Allstar Band, playing classic tunes from the prolific Vanda & Young songbook.
The much-loved Aussie singer recently performed at Mt Lawley’s Astor Theatre and is currently touring the nation belting out the songwriting duo’s greatest hits, including Friday On my Mind, Falling in Love Again, Down Among The Dead Men, Yesterday’s Hero, and of course, Love Is In The Air.
But WA fans who missed him, fear not, he’s back in our fair State on May 16.
Young recently chatted to The Starfish about the tour, his rich history as an artist and why he still loves performing.
Seems you’re always on the road these days?
Things aren’t the same as they used to be. Gone are the days of leaving home, going on a national tour and returning home many weeks later. What we do now is, we come and go – and I’ve been coming and going for quite a few years. There is no strict border in what we do; when the work comes in we go out and we do it. I’ve just been doing some country New South Wales, then it was WA of course and then Adelaide, plus we’re doing a big theatre in Sydney which will be magical. Then I’m doing another tour, I’m off on the APIA GOOD TIMES TOUR so I’ll be back in Perth for that. Then I’ve got the rock the boat tour so work is a bit disjointed!
Do you like playing Perth? What’s the best experience you’ve had here?
Well, I just love Perth. I’ve been there many, many times. I love the people I’ve got great friends there. The last time we played the Astor it was fantastic. A great night.
Is it fun to play all those great songs written by Vanda & Young, probably brings back good memories?
Yeah, it’s a dream come true for me.. I’ve always loved what they did, even when they were back in the Easybeats. I’m reliving my own history from school right from the 80s to the early 70s. It brings back a lot of memories; it does for the audience as well. So many times I get the comment “you’ve given me back my childhood.” Which is just a wonderful thing.
Of course I have to ask you about Love Is In The Air. Are you surprised by just how massive that song became? Did you ever imagine in 2019 it would still be getting played on radio and still be relevant?
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t think it was a hit. We were all quietly confident back in 1978 it would bring some business and get airplay and be good for us all. But we could never have ever guessed how big and how much longevity it would have.
Almost everyone I told I was interviewing you brought up Strictly Ballroom. The song had a resurgence with that film.
Yeah exactly. I couldn’t get arrested in the pop business by then. The 80s had arrived – and I was 70s and old hat. I was actually working in radio when Strictly Ballroom rolled around in the early 90s. It was a lovely thing because it got me out of radio. I did enjoy radio but I tell you what, there’s nothing like doing what I do. Being on stage is a fantastic way to live!
Did Strictly Ballroom change your career?
It did – because my career was basically non-existent! I was a disc jockey. My singing career had basically gone by the wayside and this brought it all back.
You performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That must have been pretty special.
It was just mind-blowing to be up there doing that! Somebody whispered to me “there’s 4 billion people watching on t.v.” That sort of makes you think.
Was that the most significant performance you’ve done in your career?
Well it’s certainly the biggest audience I’ve ever played to. It’s hard to divide it up into significant performances. Every gig is different. You probably sing between 15 and 20 songs in one night and sometimes one of those songs will just shine unexpectedly bigger than it has before. It may not be the same song every night, but that’s what keeps it nice and fresh with me when I’m on stage. Sometimes the magic is just there in bucketloads. And sometimes of course it’s not. Sometimes for whatever reason, the sound or whatever, things aren’t quite the way you’d like them to be but by and large it’s great when it all works.
You were a big part of Countdown. Are you still close to Molly Meldrum. How is he doing, after that recent health scare?
Yeah yeah. I spoke to him recently and he was fine, enjoying the tennis. He sounded very happy indeed, I mean of course he’s a lot slower now, that fall did take a lot out of him. It really smashed him up on the left hand side but he gets around, he’s fine.
No show has replaced that; why do you think that is?
It had a lot to do with the era. Countdown really was a show for its time in the 70s. I think the show itself started to struggle in the mid 80s, that’s why it disappeared. Things just change; who knows why they change or where they change to. If we knew that we’d all be millionaires. Things just started changing after 1980 basically, the whole vibe changed and I can’t put my finger on it, I don’t think anybody can. You’ve just gotta be lucky enough to be on the spot as it’s happening. I was very, very fortunate and in a different time I might not have been so lucky.
Do you get new generations of fans coming to your shows?
Look; I’m older, my audience is older. There is a smattering of people under 40 out there which is great. It’s lovely to see younger people enjoying the music of the 70s. I think there’s a lot of fun in the music of the 70s and that’s what really comes through. I don’t think the fun element is there as much as it used to be when you’ve got rappers talking about their gangs and molls and Christ knows what you know, it’s all a bit weird. The music of the 70s certainly reflects the fact that we had a lot of fun back then and it’s quite infectious. I see that. Even though my audience are in their 50s, 60s and 70s, some of them, they’re just having a great time and it’s just like they were 18 again.
John Paul Young returns to WA on May 16 when he plays Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre, on the APIA GOOD TIMES TOUR along with Vika & Linda Bull, Brian Card, Joe Camilleri, Kate Ceberano, Russell Morris and Ross Wilson. On Friday, May 17 they will perform at Perth Concert Hall, before heading to Adelaide and the rest of Australia.
JPY’s Vanda & Young Songbook tour then continues, playing on June 25 at Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, June 26 at Brolga Theatre, June 27 at Moncrieff Entertainment Centre, June 28 at Rockhampton’s Pilbeam Theatre, June 29 at Mackay Entertainment Centre.