Tony Faehse’s music career spans five decades.. as lead guitarist in Adelaide & Melbourne in the 1960′s, touring Europe with Alvin Stardust in the early 70′s, achieving ARIA HALL OF FAME success with Australian legends JO JO ZEP & THE FALCONS in the 70′s & 80′s and writing and producing five all original solo albums since 2000 mixing guitar flavours of flamenco, bossa-nova, celtic, jazz & classical music with funk & r&b beats.. indie sensibilities thoughtfully producted. Heartfelt, whimsical & idiosyncratic.
Tony Faehse was born in Adelaide, South Australia in April 1950, the youngest of four children. An aptitude for drawing suggested teaching art a likely career, but his mother’s encouragement to join the local church choir when aged 9, and then a few years later to take up a musical instrument was to change that. Eldest sibling Michael had the idea that the “Spanish” guitar (as the nylon string, classical or folk guitar was known at the time) would be the best choice, and it was Michael’s record collection that Tony would wake to as they shared a bedroom at the time; Joan Baez, Leadbelly, Davey Graham & Alirio Diaz. Joan Baez’s guitar accompanied English folk songs – Leadbelly’s twelve string guitar backed hollers & laments – Englishman Davey Graham’s folk/jazz solo acoustic guitar arrangements - Venezuelan maestro Alirio Diaz’s Spanish classical guitar music – this early exposure to these diverse talents can be heard in Tony’s music today.
Although his guitar lessons were only a half hour weekly for one year, Tony was lucky enough to have a good teacher in Lionel Ward. A steel string guitar player from the swing era he none the less taught Tony classical guitar technique as well as the basics of reading music. One of the first pieces he set to arrange and learn was Jobim’s recently released Girl from Ipanema, a first exposure to Bossa Nova. Then the Beatles arrived on the scene, and popular music was never the same again. Tony bought his first electric guitar for ten pounds saved singing weddings in the church choir! When faced with the solo from the Kinks You really got me Mr Ward was puzzled. A new era had arrived, and lessons were replaced by band practice.
The Village Eyes (name courtesy of Tony’s sister Suzy) was formed with schoolmates, practising after school every afternoon. Back then gigs hardly existed, but luckily, drummer Phil Ballard’s local church was just starting up a Saturday night dance. With great trepidation the friends opened their first gig with The Shadows instrumental The Rise & Fall of Flingle Bunt. With the opening downbeat and dramatic “octaves and fifth” guitar riff some girls in the young audience actually started screaming with excitement! …this made quite an impression on the fifteen year old Tony Faehse.
Firstly copying the rhythm & blues of the English beat groups, then embracing the hippy era (throwing flowers into the audience) they made the most of the emerging live scene, even making the long road trip to Melbourne to play The Garrison club, spending the night sleeping on the floor of Lilly Bretts cafe! But eventually reality reared its head, and the school chums went their separate ways.
Musick Express already had a following when they asked Tony to join to replace departing writer/guitarist Trevor McNamara in 1969. Lured to Melbourne with financial backing from a new management company in 1970 the band’s single Jackie’s Thing (the B side, How does paternity suit you was Tony’s first published composition) charted and they appeared on many TV shows and toured up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Although originally promoted as a pop group with matching outfits, their style was actually quirkier and more soulful, and a little out of step with the mainstream. Returning to Adelaide in 1971 they reformed with added Hammond organ, and then headed to Sydney to be the band for the controversial nude stage production Oh Calcutta! After rehearsing the show for a month it was banned after its first performance! This proved to be the end of the group.
Next stop London!
Tony and Wendy married at the end of 1972 (still together to this day), traveling to Europe in early 1973 on the Italian ocean liner Galileo. In those days London provided the best opportunities for rock musicians with the magazine Melody Maker having a large situations vacant section. Answering one of these adds Tony thought he had struck gold at his first attempt when he got the gig with members from Atomic Rooster after a massive audition process. Hopes were dashed however, allegedly with a member busted and the whole project abandoned. But the next add led to a band called Stars, with Davy Jack from East of Eden and Lionel Morton from The Four Pennies. This project did get off the ground, but not very far, and after a handful of gigs and an unreleased recording they broke up. The third add answered turned out to be the newly forming backing band of glam-rocker Alvin Stardust whose first single My Coo Ka Choo was number one in the charts! For the next year Tony toured all over the UK and the continent with this very commercial outfit as well as appearances on TV’s Top of the Pops. Meanwhile Wendy was working at the fabulous BIBA store in Kensington High Street! However, the rock gigs gave way to midlands cabaret, and Tony left. Eventually, reluctant to face a fourth English winter he and Wendy returned home at the end of 1976.
Back to join the Falcons!
Once again luck was with Tony. Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons happened to have a vacancy as writer/guitarist Wayne Burt was leaving. They were already an established live act with an album to their name. The next five years produced two gold albums, Screaming Targets & Hats Off Step Lively, and the writing team of Camilliri, Burstin & Faehse the evergreen tracks Shape I’m In, Hit & Run and So Young. The band toured all over Australia as well as a memorable world promotional trip in 1980. But international success proved illusive, and eventually Joe’s mercurial creativity lead to a change in writing direction and the end of the Falcons in 1983, with one final co-write, Taxi Mary. Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons rightly hold their place in Australian rock history, and were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2007. The band continues to do occasional special performances including supporting Elvis Costello for the 2013 Day on the Green tour, just like they did when he first toured here in 1980!
Following the Falcons Tony first tried writing and recording by himself, then to establish a career as co-writer with other front people. Some early success looked hopeful, but making a living just writing proved difficult, and when “guitar for hire” fills-ins, cover bands and teaching proved unfulfilling, Tony eventually decided to try something else. In 1996 he stepped back from full time music to open vintage design shop Retro Active with Wendy. This proved to be a successful venture. And then, with no criteria but to create his own music his own way he returned to writing and recording, releasing his first album Learn to Fly in 2000. St Tropez (2004), Dance With a Flower in Your Hair (2007) and If you’re a cat (2010) followed, and the most recent Fancy That (2012).
For some years Home & Away used numerous excerpts from Tony’s tracks, licensing being a useful commercial application of his music.
There has been a return to playing live recently with the renewed interest in what are now vintage bands like Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons and the proliferation of good gigs for them to play.. most recently in Nov 2016 the Melbourne Palais and Sydney State Theatre and then in Jan 2017 Melbourne Zoo & Toronga Zoo. This development is providing a chance for the public to appreciate Australian music history while it’s still possible. The opportunity for Tony to play his distinctive electric guitar style to both old and new audiences and to do so with a great band like the Falcons alongside Joe Camilleri is very welcome.. and taken full advantage of!
In recent years Tony and Wendy’s overseas travel has been a big influence on Tony’s music.. no place more than Japan.