February 28, 2015
On February 28, 2007, Australia lost music legend Billy Thorpe. Yes, it is hard to believe that it has been eight years since his passing.
Thorpe, who was the lead singer of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, was best known for hit singles such as ‘Most people I know (think that I’m crazy)’, ‘Poison ivy’, and ‘It’s almost summer’.
For NRL fans, Thorpe was better known for his Friday night football intros back in the mid nineties for Channel Nine.
Thorpe’s rendition of ‘Friday night’s a great night for football’ was magic – it felt like a party was going to commence. After watching the intro, as a fan, you are more than pumped for the game.
In the accompanying clip, it’s great to see old-time players like Cliff Lyons and Kevin Walters (or Kerrod?), while the North Sydney Bears and Illawarra Steelers also feature, providing evidence that they were involved in the comp once a upon a time.
In the late nineties, the Friday night football promo featured a collaboration of Thorpe and Jimmy Barnes. But it didn’t hit the mark the way Thorpe did when solo.
The single ‘Friday night’s a great night for football’ came from the US movie The Last Boy Scout, starring Bruce Willis, in 1991. It was written by Steve Dorff and John Bettis, and performed by Bill Medley in the movie’s opening credits with a game of NFL as the backdrop.
When you compare the two performancess, Thorpe nailed the song and performance. Medley’s version is slower and laid-back, while Thorpe is rockin’ away and does the actual lyrics of the song more justice.
Apart from the Friday football anthem, Thorpe also did a great cover of Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. In his last TV appearance, a couple of months prior to his death, he performed on ‘The Today Show’, singing The Masters Apprentices’ ‘Because I love you’.
It was a spine-tingling, mesmerising performance. Far from been a fading star, Thorpe still had the gift right to the end.
It’s a shame the NRL didn’t use Thorpe in an ad similar to that of Tina Turner. If Thorpe was given a well-known rock anthem, not only would he make it his own, it may have been close to Turner’s ‘Simply the best’.
Instead, the NRL chose Thomas Keneally and his forgettable ‘Blow that whistle ref’.
Thorpe had that rock, working-class appeal, and knew how to engage with the audience. The old-school rocker was perfect for rugby league.
NRL fans will always remember him in that wonderful Friday night football intro. He sang his final note at the age of just 60. Gone too soon.
Thanks for the memories Billy. You will never be forgotten.