Born in Scotland, John Paul Young’s family migrated to Australia when he was in his teens. After recording a single with an obscure band called Elmtree, the apprentice with the Railways engineering section landed the role of the high priest Annus in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
His rapid rise to fame began when, as John Young, he was chosen by producer Simon Napier-Bell to record a song called Pasadena, written by former Easybeats‘ Harry Vanda and George Young. It became a hit in 1972.
To avoid confusion with host Johnny Young from Australian television show Young Talent Time he became known as John Paul Young. But to Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and thousands of fans, he was known by his special nickname, Squeak.
A Countdown regular, he had many hits in the 1970s, helped by the songwriting and production talents of Vanda and Young. These included carefully crafted, well-produced records like Yesterday’s Hero and Love Is In The Air.
1975 saw JPY embark on two national tours, including one with Sherbet. His backing band, The Allstars, originally formed in 1975, included at various times skilful session musicians like Kevin Borich, Warren ‘Pig’ Morgan and former Aztec Vince Melouney.
His first two albums, Hero and JPY, went platinum while I Hate The Music (1976) was his first single to achieve gold record status. It was in the film clip for I Hate The Music that JPY first wore his famous white and blue sailor suit – one of the great fashion statements of the 70’s.
JPY was also one of the few Australian recording artists to create decent disco music. His 1978 song Standing In The Rain (another Vanda & Young song) was a dance floor hit which went Top 10 in a number of European countries.
Young was a huge star in South Africa, where he toured extensively and caused scenes of hysteria. Love Is In The Air, a true international hit, reached #5 in Britain, #7 in America and topped the charts across Europe. It has since been covered by more than 50 artists and is the most successful Vanda/Young composition of all time.
JPY was elected TV Week ‘King of Pop’ in 1978, but his time at the top did not last far beyond the end of the decade. Out of fashion in the early 80s, he had to adjust to a drop in live engagements and a loss of fame. He developed a career in radio and spent a lot of time fishing
JPY returned to the spotlight when Love Is In The Air was revived for the Australian film, Strictly Ballroom in 1992. He performed the song in a new promotional film clip – stylishly dressed in an immaculate white suit. The glitter had well and truly settled.