Originally a four piece instrumental group who had put out one surfing instrumental, "Smoke & Stack", they formed in Sydney in 1963. With the advent of the Merseybeat sound, they added a lead singer, Billy Thorpe. His powerful voice and showmanship (which made him one of the most popular and respected rock performers in Australian music), completed the original line-up, which comprised of drummer Col Baigent, bassist John "Bluey" Watson and guitarists Tony Barber and Vince Maloney (who later played with The Bee Gees).
In 1969 Thorpe decided to go to England, after being offered a recording deal by the Australian-born, London-based impresario Robert Stigwood, who had risen to become manager of The Bee Gees and Cream. While rehearsing a backing band in Melbourne that would form the basis for a new Aztecs, the guitarist unexpectedly dropped out, leaving Thorpe to assume lead guitar role at short notice. It marked another turning point in his career and from this point on Thorpe played lead guitar in The Aztecs as well as continuing as lead vocalist. His planned six-week stay in Melbourne soon stretched into months and eventually Thorpe decided to remain in Australia and re-launch his career.
Thorpe himself openly acknowledges that this new 'heavy' version of the Aztecs owes much to 'guitar hero' Lobby Loyde. Lloyde already had a cult following due to his stints in two of the most original Australian bands of the Sixties, The Purple Hearts and The Wild Cherries. While his stint in the new Aztecs was short (only a few months), his musical influence proved crucial in steering Thorpe in a completely new direction, and he strongly encouraged Thorpe to keep playing guitar.
The new Aztecs' blues-based heavy-rock repertoire was dramatically different in style from the original group, and they quickly became famous (or notorious) for the ear-splitting volume at which they played. Thorpe had also drastically changed his appearance -- he grew a beard, often wore his now shoulder-length hair braided in a pigtail, and he had long since traded the tailored suits for jeans and t-shirts. Needless to say this did not endear to people who came to the shows expecting the 'old' Billy Thorpe of the "Poison Ivy" era, and this led to sometimes violent confrontations with disgruntled fans and promoters.
While by no means the first of Australia's outdoor rock festivals, Sunbury '72 has assumed the mantle of "Australia's Woodstock". It was held at the end of January, 1972, over the Australia Day long weekend. The venue was a natural amphitheatre site on farmland near Sunbury, a rural town north of Melbourne, Victoria. The Aztecs shared billing with such other prominent acts as Spectrum/Murtceps, The La De Das, Max Merritt & the Meteors, SCRA, Pirana, Greg Quill's Country Radio and many others. But the main event of the festival was undoubtedly the Aztecs' triumphant appearance, which soon acquired legendary status.
Part of the Aztecs' set was issued on the double-album recording, Sunbury [EMI-HMV SOXLP 7561/2], and it was also captured on the film made of the event. A double-album collecting the Aztecs' full set, Live at Sunbury [Havoc HST 4003/4] was issued later in the year and this has recently been reissued on CD. In mint condition, the original LP release, with pop-up inserts, is much sought after by collectors today. (via wikipedia) (BUY IT)
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs - Time To Live