Billy Thorpe Biography

William Richard Thorpe, 29 March 1946, Manchester, Lancashire, England, d. 28 February 2007, Sydney, Australia. Arriving in Sydney, via Brisbane, in 1964, Thorpe soon joined a band, the Aztecs, with whom he could perform at dances in Sydney, playing the new beat music coming from England. Following the success of their first single ‘Blue Day’ in Sydney, they recorded Leiber And Stoller’s ‘Poison Ivy’ after hearing the Rolling Stones’ version, and the song became an Australian number 1 hit in 1965. Inexplicably, Thorpe broke up this band and started recording with a ‘new’ Aztecs, MOR ballads such as ‘Twilight Time’ and ‘Love Letters’, all cover versions that were Australian Top 10 hit singles. By 1966 he was fronting his own television show It’s All Happening!, but the hits dried up and the second Aztecs disbanded.

Undeterred, Thorpe took up the guitar and grew his hair. He formed yet another new band, still called the Aztecs, which emerged as a heavy blues rock band claiming to be the loudest band in the land throughout the 70s. This music appealed to the beer-drinking dominions of pubs and outdoor festivals where Thorpe was undisputed king. The first half of the 70s saw line-up changes in the Aztecs, but nonetheless they released several excellent albums and one single (‘Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy)’) reached the Top 3. By 1975 Thorpe had moved to the USA, where he formed the Million Dollar Bills and concentrated on writing and producing a sci-fi/hi-tech album Children Of The Sun which had success in the US national charts, reaching the Top 40 in 1979. His follow-up album, 21st Century Man, also charted, albeit with a minor position.

Largely absent from the music scene in the 80s, Thorpe ran a business importing toys, although in 1991 he was again touring Australia with Mick Fleetwood and Zoo as his backing band. He returned to Australia in the mid-90s and began touring with a revived Aztecs, although he retained a lucrative sideline in writing music for television adverts. He also wrote two highly entertaining books about his life in music. In the early 00s, Thorpe inaugurated the successful multi-act retro tour It’s A Long Way To The Top. This popular and ever-busy musician died of a heart attack in February 2007.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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