Rock and roll dreams come true

In 2018, I interviewed Tony Barber, one of the original members of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.
This story originally appeared in October 2018 edition of The Sandgate Guide


Tony Barber has worn a lot of “hats” in his life – musician, author, producer, and creator. The one thing you can’t call him is “an old rocker”.

“I’m not dead yet,” the original member of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs says, with a twinkle in his eye.

Tony arrived in Australia in 1963 as a “ten pound Pom” and, after recently moving to the Sandgate area, sat back to reflect on the amazing life he had led.

“I really believe in watershed moments,” Tony said. “You meet someone, or you see an opportunity and you take it.

“I had just arrived in Australia, I’d been here only two months when I met Billy (Thorpe). He told me he was starting a band and he needed one more person – I said, let’s do it.

“And that was the start of a lifelong friendship. It was just the right time, and it was the right music.

“I’d come out fresh from England and I had seen the Beatles, I knew what was coming and I knew every country was going to have their own version of the Beatles and that type of music.

“And you know, who doesn’t want to be a pop star? It’s the most wonderful feeling and I enjoyed every minute.”

After almost two years with Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Tony decided it was time for a change.

“It sounds funny, but I’m actually quite a private person and I wanted my privacy,” he says.

“I was more interested in the creative side of things – the songwriting and the producing, I really loved that, so I told Billy that was it and I was out.”

After giving up the life of a touring musicians, Tony had a number of other creative careers, including children’s book author, toy designer and marketing mentor.

But in 2002, the rock and roll life came calling again, with the Long Way to the Top tour, featuring Australian artists and bands from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

“That was another watershed moment,” Tony said. “I’m so glad Billy convinced me to do it – who else gets to go back and relive their youth like that? I had such a wonderful time on that tour.”

But at heart, Tony says he has always been an artist.

“I’ve always painted, I’ve always drawn, I’ve always created something,” he says.

“Now I’m at the stage of my life where I have a desire to paint full time and at last, I’m going to have my own studio and I’ll be able to do it.”

Tony has also been an art teacher and mentor and is keen to connect with art groups in the 4017 area.

“For me, every painting tells a story and I am passionate about storytelling and helping others find that passion,” he said.

“I’m really excited to be in the Sandgate area – firstly, to have my studio; secondly, to be able to talk to art groups; and thirdly, I’ll be able to do a bit of fishing.”

Any arts groups in the 4017 area who are interested in getting in touch with Tony can contact him at:

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