In the mid 1960’s Melbourne was in the grip of a beat music boom, clubs and discos were mushrooming all over the city – Catcher, Biting Eye, Thumpin’ Tum, Sebastians, Berties, Opus, Powerhouse – while local bands were copying the look and the sound of their British- Invasion beat group heroes, and feverishly scanning obscure B-sides and album-only tracks that could be re-invented and given the beat treatment.
Few of the early beat group sensations in Australia wrote their own material – Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Ray Brown and the Whispers, Normie Rowe and the Playboys, MPD Ltd., simply re-birthed standards and obscure songs in the new Mod rock tradition. Original songwriting was limited to the more innovative individuals and groups such as the Bee Gees, the Easybeats, the Loved Ones, the Masters’ Apprentices and a particularly hyperactive duo from Melbourne known as Bobby and Laurie (below). Laurie Allen was a veteran of the Melbourne rock circuit, he had played with the Roulettes and in 1959 became the lead guitarist for Malcolm Arthur and the Knights, several of his bandmates, Graham Trottman and Phil Blackmore, would ultimately join the Playboys, Normie Rowe’s backing group. Following a three- year stint as keyboardist/vocalist with the Blue Jays between 1962-64, Laurie rejoined the Roulettes, his old bandmate Phil Blackmore was now managing the group.Bobby Bright had emigrated from the UK to Australia in 1953 and lived and performed in Adelaide until he relocated to Melbourne in 1963 to became a guest vocalist with the Roulettes, and soon after the chemistry between Bobby and Laurie convinced them to become a duo. TheRoulettes in the shot above are from left to right-Dennis Collins (drums), Denis Tucker(bass), Bernie O’Brien (lead guitar), and John Sullivan (rhythm guitar).Laurie Allen wrote their first smash hit in 1965, I Belong With You came straight from the beat music playbook, the song skillfully uses a stomping beat reminiscent of the Dave Clark Five’s Bits and Pieces, and Bernie O’Brien of the Rondells delivered definitive lead guitar riffs, with passion and flair. Bright and Allen were also a terrific live act, they quickly became the Beatle boot-stomping, fun-loving, mane-tossing mods of the local scene, backed by the talented Rondells and simultaneously appeared on the GO! Show as well as recording on the GO! Label, where I Belong With You was the first record released on the Horrie Dargie-owned label.The song was recorded on four track equipment at Bill Armstrong’s South Melbourne studios under the steady hand of Roger Savage, who had migrated from the UK in 1964 with his Australian girlfriend, where he had already produced records for the Yardbirds, Petula Clarke, the Hollies and importantly Come On, the debut single for the Rolling Stones, where they had recorded their version of this Chuck Berry song at the Olympic Studios in London.
Savage possessed start-of-the-art knowledge of current UK recording techniques and would become the go-to producer for such emerging local acts as MPD Ltd (Little Boy Sad/Lonely Boy) (above), the Easybeats (She’s So Fine) (above), Axiom (the album Fool’s Gold), The Masters’ Apprentices (Living In A Child’s Dream) (below), Healing Force (Golden Miles) and others including the Twilights, Lynne Randell (below), The Eighteenth Century Quartet, Spectrum and the Spinning Wheels.
In Craig Horne’s 2018 novel Daddy Who? Bobby Bright provides great insight into the recording of this song “Laurie had originally written the song as a waltz, but I suggested we change it to straight ahead four/four time, the standard beat music arrangement. We also wanted the record to have a beefed- up bottom end. Australian records at the time were often very tinny, but we wanted the record to sound more British. I don’t know how he did it, but Roger (Savage) lugged a railway sleeper – though it was probably a piece of plywood – into the studio and added a couple of contact mics at each end. I then thumped on the wood giving the record that foot stomping bridge that jumped out of radio speakers across Australia.”
I Belong with You was a #9 national hit, charting more strongly outside the Sydney market, the Rondells subsequently became the duo’s permanent backing band and comprised Roger Treble (lead guitar), Barry Rogers (rhythm guitar), Gary Young (drums), John Sullivan (rhythm guitar), and Wayne Duncan (bass).
In 1965 Bobby and Laurie supported a national tour by the Dave Clark Five, the Seekers and Tommy Quickly and later that year supported yet another national tour, this time by the flamboyant, pants-splitting, unpredictable Texan PJ Proby. (below), who was riding the charts with big ballads from the musical West Side Story – Somewhere and Maria.In June ’65 the duo followed up with Someone, which echoed the beat era cadences and riffs of their debut hit, written and recorded by US singer/songwriter Doris Troy (who wrote under the pseudonym D Payne) in 1963, she also penned Just One Look, a hit for the Hollies (#2 UK ’64).Someone charted at #20 and was rapidly followed onto the charts by another Allen/Bright original composition in Judy Green, a lively slice of garage rock about an aptly-named jealous female, which charted #28 in September of ’65, to make it three top forty hits for the duo in 1965.
Bobby and Laurie were one of the country’s first and best responses to the British Invasion, they released no less than eight singles and three albums in the period 1965-66, wrote much of their own material, and specialised in the close harmonies inspired by the Beatles, in a similarly tough and gritty version of Merseybeat. They would host their own TV show, Dig We Must, and later in their career successfully segue to more country-tinged songs such as their #1 hit Hitchhiker, as well as High Noon, The Carroll County Accident and Through The Eyes of Love.