SPECIAL FEATURE – THE VALENTINES

 

Valentines 1

 My Old Man’s a Groovy Old Man (H Vanda/G Young) – The Valentines 1969

 

The Valentines never really climbed to the top of the greasy pole of Australian rock and pop, but their two lead singers, Bon Scott and Vince Lovegrove, would make their mark in the industry, but only after the Valentines had disbanded in 1970.

Ronald Belford (Bon) Scott and his family emigrated from the small market town of Kirriemuir in Scotland, to Melbourne in 1952 when he was six years old, four years later they would relocate to Perth (WA) as it was deemed to be a better climate for Bon’s younger, asthmatic brother Graeme. The Scotts’ settled in Fremantle, a tough working-class port town, Bon left school in 1961 at the age of fifteen where he had shown ability to play drums and the recorder, but only disdain for academic subjects.

Young Bon was a tearaway teen with a penchant for trouble, he was charged with theft, carnal knowledge, and assault and in 1962 was sentenced to a term at the Riverbank Correctional School. Nine months later he was released, and set his sights on a career in music, joining local cover band the Spektors, who performed at Johnny Young’s Port Beach dances, and competed with Vince Lovegrove’s Winztons’ for top billing.

Once local hero Johnny Young had relocated to Melbourne following his double A-side smash hit Step Back/Caralyn, Bon and Vince decided to merge their bands to form the Valentines, who quickly became the top band in the West. The definitive Valentines lineup would feature Scott and Lovegrove as joint lead singers, Wyn Milson (guitar), Ted Ward (bass) and Paddy Beach (drums). They honed their act at such Perth venues as the Top Hat, Beethovens, Pinocchio’s, Gobbles, North Side and Trend Setter and in 1967 came second to the Groop in the national final of Hoadleys Battle of the Bands in Melbourne, where they decided to relocate to further their career.

Vince Lovegrove was a handsome, charming front-man, with an engaging pop voice, he was also a good networker and landed a management contract for the band with Ivan Dayman’s Sunshine Records, so ensuring constant gigging for the band at Dayman’s many venues including Cloudland (Brisbane), Bowl Sound Lounge (Sydney), and the Op Pop Disco chain nationally, as well as the opportunity to make records.

Their first three singles were flops, so the band adopted a more pop less R&B style of music, turned themselves out in bright yellow or red jumpsuits with puffy sleeves, Bon sported a page- boy hairstyle, and an ever-expanding collection of tattoos – they were a curious mix of hard case rockers masquerading as Prince Valiant-style purveyors of bubblegum pop.

 

Valentines 2

Their first chart success was a Vanda/Young composition, My Old Man’s a Groovy Old Man, something the Albert Music wunderkinds would have written before breakfast, as evidenced by the following lyrical extract from the song “ Some men are groovy, and some are a drag/ Some men are quiet, and others get it right/ Last December he got stuck in the jug/ The cops caught him smoking at the pensioners club/ Wears long hair and moves around in blue jeans/ Goes to love-ins, gets caught in freak-ins.”, but for the first time the lead vocals were pure Bon Scott, and he was able to imbue a gritty attitude to even this most inconsequential of songs, which charted #22 nationally.

 

Their follow up release, Nick Nack Paddy Whack, was unsurprisingly based on a children’s rhyme, co-written by Bon and the band’s guitarist Wyn Milson, it flopped and stalled at #53, despite Bon again delivering convincing vocals.

The band broke up in 1970 following a drugs bust and differences of opinion among the band about their future musical direction, Lovegrove relocated to Adelaide where he became a rock journalist for Go-Set, compered his own pop music show Move and later enjoyed success as manager of Jimmy Barnes and the Divinyls. Vince Lovegrove sadly passed away in 2012.

Bon Scott was 24 and would segue from the scream teen pop of the Valentines, via the prog rock-influenced Fraternity, to become, at the age of 28, front man of Australia’s greatest rock and roll band, AC/DC.

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