28 April 2014

Road Trips

Early 1970’s childhood trips from Christchurch, through Arthurs Pass and Otira Gorge, over to the West Coast town of Ross to visit the Grandparents, meant up to 9 of us jammed into the Blue Morris Oxford II (or III?). Parents and eldest sibling in the front, perhaps the youngest sitting on a knee there too; 4 or 5 in the back, elbows, knees and voices competing for space. An overweight corgi on the floor; and possibly overweight trailer behind completed the cargo. The safety aspects perhaps not as frightening as it seems today- the vehicle apparently could get from 0-60mph in 28.9 seconds. With the load in ours, I suspect it may have taken a good 5 minutes to get to such dizzying speeds. And possibly as long to come to a complete halt- by which time, undoubtedly a car-sick child would have stalled the journey anyway. No wonder it took more than 6 hours to do the trip that now takes three and a half.

No car radio meant either endless games of “I spy”, or singing ourselves. Or trying to make barley-sugars last an eternity, thus bringing silence for a while.
Innocent times.

Today, of course, there are endless opportunities for music while on the road. Which can mean competing choices amongst travellers, or the closing off of everyone into their own musically cocooned world of ipods. Finding a middle ground when a 15 year- old wants to listen to self proclaimed “shit-rock” noise band TFF, while his 10 year-old sister wants to listen to “High School Musical” is rather difficult.

4 Years on from that 2009 tension, the 2013 xmas pilgrimage to Riverton found a more acceptable musical equilibrium for all. A few whanau favourites from that trip follow . . .

First I heard this song was a 2am awakening from the fall-asleep-in-front-of-the-tv daze which occasionally occurs at the end of a long week’s work. Momentarily disorientating; flickering black and white screen; aggressive, thumping, propulsive beats- and a favourite of the 14 year old on this trip.

Kanye West- Black Skinhead

Another frequent choice of hers was this from David Dallas, (featuring Ruby Frost)- which could well have been the ubiquitous NZ track on the Solid Gold albums from days past.

David Dallas feat. Ruby Frost- The Wire

The mightily talented Lisandru Grigorut (once part of the Communist Rainbow Relationship as well as other acts) has another new musical persona, but this is from his excellent 8-bit and house influenced “concept album” of last year. In recent years, $noregazZzm have been a bit of a feature on car trips where the (on-this-trip) 19 year old has been with us- check out any of his stuff- there are another couple of cool clips here and here.

$noregazZzm – Computer Whatevers


Sun breaking through rain clouds over the undulating plains of Southland. Only a cold heart could not find some joy and a smile listening to this lovely debut album towards the end of the 2 and a half hour drive. Gorgeous stuff.

Trick Mammoth- Delphine (With a Purpose)

The Puddle were a regular feature for us at the Cellars Bar in Dunedin in the early 1990’s. The efforts in recent years of Fishrider’s Ian Henderson (current drummer for the band), combined with the musical and lyrical genius of George D. Henderson, has delivered new albums and gigs, as well as ensuring the great talent of this – over time- widely and interestingly populated band. GDH also featured in excellent Mink for a period of time.

(A recent Puddle release features guest vocals from Millie Lovelock (Astro Children/ Trick Mammoth)and Adrian Ng (Mavis Gary/ Trick Mammoth))

The Puddle- Southern Man

This post is already too long, so Vol 9 song will have to wait till next time.

15 December 2013

2013 Live

I reckon live music has a power that can never be replicated in a recorded format. The subtle change; the missed beat; the forgotten lyric- each can contribute to an instant where the listener feels they are part of a unique moment of time. A mesmerising confluence of imperfection and perfection- fleeting and lasting at the same time.

I particularly love seeing the interaction within a band when they appear oblivious to the audience. (Funnily enough, this video of the Verlaines- who played tonight with Astro Children, Trick Mammoth and Surf City- has just such a moment late in the clip, even though it is not “live”).

Anyhoo . . . instead of trying out fancy words (“Confluence”?? FFS), here are four tracks of artists from live performances I have had the joy to experience this year. All of them moved me for different reasons and in different ways. All of them were brilliant and left me wanting more; and all have remained firmly embedded in my memory since.

We spent about three weeks in Sydney just after Christmas last year. Lots of cool stuff to do, including some free events as part of the Sydney Festival. Isaac and I got to go to an amazing free concert in the Royal Botanic Gardens- the Daptone Super Soul Revue. Kindly fellow bus patrons guided us to the correct place, wandering through town and discussing the oddities and variance of NZ/ Australian vocab. A warm night; close to the stage; fantastic performers. Perfect.

We knew nothing of Charles Bradley before this, apart from the promotional material for the show. And what a show.

Charles Bradley- Why is it so hard?

Happy coincidence (perhaps a confluence of events?) and a bit of planning meant I got to stay in Wellington for an extra couple of days for this one. (I went to see the Phoenix on the Sunday, and the intro for then coach Ricki Herbert was met with silence by the crowd- a sad beginning of the end for his coaching tenure). Fun though the football was- actually joining the feverzone for the first time – this gig was far more memorable. Probably less than 1000 people there, which meant an intimate feeling show. Despite Chan Marshall really never speaking to the audience except through song (and hey, that’s what I was there for), it was a very close, engaging and personal performance. One of the best of the year.

Cat Power- Cherokee

Familial connections acknowledged- for raw, visceral and intelligent live music, this was totally a favourite. A packed Chicks Hotel for their album launch, Astro Children played the best set I have seen from them. The crowd propelled by thumping, just-in-control drumming; drawn in and thrown out by, in turns, beguiling and brutal vocals; and all enveloped in swirling, droning, pulsating and melodic guitar. Excellent gig; excellent album worthy of many listens.

A bit hard to choose one track, but went with this. (Here a close second). I love how it builds in pace. Live it started faster than on the album, but still (just) managed not to careen off the stage and create carnage on the dancefloor. Joyous chaos reigned supreme anyway.

Astro Children- Eden

Back to where the year started for live music. The night was darkening but still warm. We could see bats silhouetted as they flew above the stage.
Also performing at the Daptone show was the wonderful Sharon Jones. A true privilege to see her live- owning the stage and bossing the audience; shimmering in her blue-sparkle dress; carnal, human and humorous all at once- just as all good (soul/funk) music/life should be. The final numbers, with Charles Barkley and the rest of the revue, were almost rapturous. Heady stuff indeed.

Sharon Jones- 100 Days; 100 Nights

28 November 2013

1969: Harry Bipthday Trebor 27 November

Hilarious 10 year old humour.

Rob has the symmetrical joy of turning 44 today. I can find pleasure in many numerical patterns, but the simplicity of double digits is always pleasing.

I want to live to 99.

After that it is triple digits, and that is a bit creepy.

Anyway let's get into it, some years since my last post. Is there anybody out there?

In recent years, Rob has become a big fan of "the boss". I kinda missed it all- apart from the " born in the USA" stuff from 1984, which was ever present for the latter part of that year. I was a youthful 16/17; Rob a baby faced 14.

So, in a fraternal spirit of birthday wishes, here is a very early track from Springsteen- happily from 1969; weirdly a big white boys rhythym and blues wig out; but still . . . Not too bad.

Steel Mill-Jeannie i want to thank you (Live)

It is always a bit grim when the end arrives for a such an influential artist as Lou Reed. It nearly inspired me to start the blog again at that time; but it seemed too bleak to use death as a motivator for anything really. Like many, it meant a week or two of reflective (and instructive) listening to the Velvets and Lou. (Oddly, growing up in Dunedin, I was a bit late to knowing much about them, despite the fact that I found out later many of the flying nun bands I loved then cited the velvet underground as a key influence - the so called "thousand bands" launched by the Velvets. Strangely- for me at least- Nico - a very unpleasant woman according to Germaine Greer, among others, (see my comment at the bottom of this article) played at the very first orientation of my university time in 1986- And I missed her, not knowing the significance.)

This is another track from 1969 . . . patience people - so far they are both long songs with long intro's. So very 1969.

Velvet underground- Sister Ray (Live)

Ok. I know Elvis has already appeared in this blog, so this will only be an oblique reference, but one in keeping with the 1969 theme. In 1984, the marvellous and disturbing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their first single- a cover of the magnificent Elvis track from 1969 "In the Ghetto". In keeping with the wonderful and unsettling from Nick, here is a beautiful track from the macabre, hilarious, and quite wonderful "murder ballads" album from 1996, featuring the magnificent PJ Harvey.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (featuring PJ Harvey) - Henry Lee

And finally, from Vol.9, here is- frankly a bit of a shocker, but Rob seems to like a bike.

Billy Sans- Bicycle Morning

Happy birthday brother, and may there be many more. Let's eat weetbix at Wembley one day.

12 March 2012

Hey Hey

It all feels a bit melancholic, this post.

The Monkees  was an early staple of my television life in the mid 1970's. I think the tv show must have screened about 5pm if during the week (tea at the table, not in front of the telly!); or maybe as late as 5:30 if on a weekend. Endless re-runs of M*A*S*H and Happy Days on NZ television throughout the ‘80’s (and probably ‘90’s- now it is the turn of Friends) only highlighted the absence of the made for tv fab four. John Pertwee as Dr Who; the Goodies; Spot On; Vision On; and Muhammed Ali (conserving energy on the ropes, past his prime but still the greatest) defending his title, starting just after school finished on rainy Christchurch days- and we watched while our mother brought through a jug of cocoa to share. Elvis movies (I know they are mostly slated, and generally neither musical nor dramatic masterpieces, but I still kinda love them. And check this. The track- which can only be described as hokey- yes, hokey- was the only one in the movie, which was actually pretty good). Ah, innocent times (even though, given the vagaries of NZ television at the time, 5-10 years late in many cases.)

But now, Davey Jones is dead. Already, as many words have been written about him and the Monkees as there have been tears shed at his passing. Maybe it is just the thing of mortality staring us all down; but also, it is another severed link to a perfect pop music past.

Like many, I did a wee “youtube” memory lane trip upon hearing of his death last week, and it took some surprising tangents. Some good, some great, some not-so-much.

The first track, of course, has to be the Monkees.

The Monkees- Valleri 

This track is wonderful, discovered by me a few months ago on this excellent blog- well worth bookmarking.

I first heard this song was when it was covered by "This Mortal Coil", but did not know it was a cover. Quite liked it then, but this version- heartbreaking, beautiful, and performed on a Monkees episode- is so, so much better.

Tim Buckley- Song to the Siren

Elizabeth Fraser was the vocalist on "This Mortal Coil's" version, and is also vocalist on this track from Massive Attack, taken from their first album, Mezzanine. It is not the Monkees, but it is very cool.

Massive Attack- Teardrop

I really have to end it with another Monkees track. I did not really realise how many of their songs were sung by Mickey Dolenz, with Davy Jones leading the way on seemingly more simple tracks. But the show was always fun, and some timeless pop music coming from them. Sad to see it end.

The Monkees- Theme Song

21 December 2011

2010- "You're Already Down in the Sand"

There is a form of pure joy in playing air guitar to a song you love. Generally, this is best done in the privacy of your own home, and often after a beer or three. For parents, it is usually preferable that the offspring are sound asleep.

But what happens when one of them is nearly 18 years old, and is introducing the parent to new music?

This is a fantastic song, which I did check with aforementioned son that I had not ruined forever by faking my lost dreams of rock stardom in his room on Friday night whilst it was blasting from his stereo. He assures me he still loves it, and I have not ruined it for him forever by my antics.

Possibly because he shunted me from (air) guitar to (air) keyboards.

I know my place.

This is from 2010, part of the still exciting and original music coming from Dunedin then and now. Whether deliberate or not, knowing or not, to me I can hear tones of the Chills (the key boards) and the Puddle (just general pop brilliance)- what to me seems to be a nod to the brilliant past while blazing into the future.

Communist Rainbow Relationship- Two Horse Pony Loser

Maybe I am cheating by putting this under 2010, as it was released in November of 2009. But I only got it last year, and this is my blog, so my rules. The Black Keys have just released an album (El Camino)that already seems to be making into many “album of the year” lists (check this nice video from it)

Their album Brothers was released last year, and 2008’s Attack and Release is also a favourite and worth checking out- as are most of their videos.

This is from a collaboration with a number of hip hop artists, where they record under the guise of Blakroc- the whole album is brilliant, and this song is just goddamned sexy.

Blakroc- What You Do to Me (feat. Jim Jones, Billy Danze and Nicole Wray)

This lot supported the 3d’s at Sammy’s last year, and tore the stage apart. Snarling, spitting, funny and frightening; aggressive rock’n’roll- just the way its meant to be. Brilliant live, and a great debut album to boot.

Street Chant- Yr Philosophy

As well as just neglecting this blog the last few months, a few posts have also neglected its very Raison d'être (that’s French, y’know!)- a salute to the fine year of 1974 and its musical masterpieces, all nicely collected on 20 Solid Gold Hits vol 9.

the other night, there was only one choice . . .

Paper Lace- The Night Chicago Died

26 July 2011

1981: I want you to be happy

Just a quick reminder- sign the petition and/or make a submission to prevent the sale/closure of Radio 1. Needs to be done by Thursday. My previous post (and rant) tells why I think you should- check out their site for more coherent stuff about what is happening.

1981 was pretty weird times in NZ, with politics at it’s most obviously ugly. Rob Muldoon exploited the Springbok Tour and ran a hideous “Law and Order” campaign to get re-elected. It seems odd to think it was 30 years ago this week that protestors invaded the pitch in Hamilton to force the cancellation of the match there. I remember reading something from Desmond Tutu years later, saying how there was dancing in the streets of Soweto when the game was cancelled. In this doco he described it as “like the sun coming out”.
(Graham Reid’s excellent “Elsewhere” site has a piece on one song of the time, “1981”, by Riot 111. I made a comment below the piece, and it is worth checking the clip I mention)

In the midst of the tour, a more positive sporting occasion occurred. A strong Dunedin City football team came second in the National League (losing out on goal difference to Wellington Diamond United), but won the Chatham Cup 3-1 over Mt Wellington- a team containing a few New Zealand players, including one Ricki Herbert who was part of the All Whites team to qualify for the World Cup the following year. The League was great- competitive, and with plenty of NZ representatives (including Steve Woodin for City around that time, but not in the final).

I remember being sick in bed, listening to the game on my transistor, (which was by that time held together by sticking plasters). I don’t know who did the commentary, but in my mind’s eye, I can still see Mike Glubb receive the ball with his back to goal, swivel, turn and shoot- his second goal in the final helping City to a 3-1 win. (And, 30 years on Caversham are through to the semi-finals after a quarter final win on the weekend).

Aah, sport, music, politics. Gotta love 'em.

In 1987 I saw Brownie McGhee play at the Dunedin Town Hall- a fantastic experience. Sadly, Sonny Terry had died the year before. In 1981, Sonny Terry was with him when they played Nambassa. Being 14 at the time, and not there (possibly listening to 4XO on my transistor at the time) I have no idea what they played, but this track (and video!) is fantastic. (Sonny Terry, with his song “Fox Chase”, provided the soundtrack for Len Lye’s “Colour Cry” in 1953. Great clip, but dodgy quality on You Tube)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee- Hootin’ Blues

Perhaps their anthemic “There is no Depression in New Zealand” was a more fitting 1981 song, but this has always been a favourite- ever since the unusual pairing of Blam Blam Blam with the Netherworld Dancing Toys on a live album- “The Blam Blam Blam Story” (one side for each band)- after they had toured together.

(I have never met anyone called Marsha- only one I ever knew was on the Brady Bunch. And she spelt it Marcia.)

Blam Blam Blam- Don’t Fight It Marsha (It’s Bigger than both of us)

Alas, never saw them live. Probably would have frightened a 13 or 14 year old. Christchurch’s finest- the Gordon’s. Latterly released on Flying Nun, but originally on Failsafe Records. (This video is available on the excellent Flying Nun “Very Short Films” compilation.)

The Gordon’s- Adults and Children

Possibly scary in it’s own way to, it is time to revisit Vol. 9. One of only two NZ tracks on the album, it is probably hard to find a bigger difference between Bunny Walters “1970’s cabaret” styles, and this New Zealand Glam-classic from Alastair Riddell’s Space Waltz. Fantastic.
Space Waltz- Out on the Street

5 July 2011

Radio One- Nostalgia for the future

A few weeks ago, Molly and I bumped into Ryan watching football on a Saturday morning. Never knew Ryan was a football fan- but was pleased he had popped to our place to see if Isaac wanted to come down as well, only to be refused because there was vacuuming to be done. Not sure if that was Isaac’s like of following parental instruction, or dislike of sport- but hey, the couch was cat-hair free when I got home.

Ryan, saying kind things about this blog, also said “It’s a kind of nostalgia thing for you, eh?” Ouch- made me feel old (not that being my age is a bad thing at all!),  but also reminded me that I have not touched on anything at all from this decade.

Recent events in Dunedin have evoked both feelings of nostalgia, and a heightened awareness of needing to be involved in the present and plan for the future.

Radio One has been, and continues to be, hugely influential on the music I listen to and enjoy. I also had the thrill  of being news reader and “acting news editor”;  voiced a few ads (with my radio voice, short run campaigns were best); I have had my own show (in 1988, the “Hydro Surf Dawn Patrol”- hilarious  really- I know I can barely swim, let alone surf (poor upper body strength, as the whanau will all attest!) and suspect the same of my co-host of the time) and various shows- both regular and irregular until about 1993 or 1994.

There were lots of laughs. I remember doing a show from 11pm till 1am one Easter, and ending up drinking whiskey and Stones Ginger Wine with the very dapper, but slightly dishevelled, station manager who stumbled in having completed playing organ at one of the Cathedrals in town for an Easter service. His usual attire included a knobbly woollen jersey, and gumboots- one white, one black. Arriving around midnight at the station, in his formal tails and bow tie, I was pleased to see he was still wearing the gummies, and wondered how they went on organ pedals.

I remember the hilarity  of reading the news (which at that stage was often just lifted from Teletext), and realising that each sports story one particular morning was so laden with sexual innuendo, that neither I nor the show host could complete a sentence without cracking up, and had to finally cut to music when it all became too silly. (legend also had it that the station was the first to broadcast the news of the first Fiji coup, beating the state radio station by about 20 minutes)

While the station has professionalised a lot since those days (generally for the better) all those experiences were wonderful for me, and led to some great friendships and experiences.

But far more important is the role Radio One has played, and continues to play, in the social, cultural and political fabric of Dunedin and beyond. A diverse news and political perspective; a broad exposure of the arts – local, national and international; and a constant exposure to an exciting and often exhilarating range of new and not-so-new music- all combine to make the station an escape from the usual drudgery and depressiveness of most other news and/or music stations available in the city.

And it is all under imminent threat because of a proposal under consideration by the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) to sell the station they have owned and operated since 1984.

I think this would be a tragedy for those who have benefited from the station- musicians, artists, performers,  and students (as well as OUSA as an organisation). And most especially, listeners who are continually exposed interesting, exciting, challenging, and provocative music. I also think it would be a betrayal to those students who over the past 27 years and more put in time, effort and money to create such a vibrant radio station.

If in any way you value “the arts”, and share a love of music, wherever on the planet (or beyond!) you live, please get involved in the campaign to save Radio One. Regardless of any views you have on who or how the station should be funded, please take the time to check their websites, facebook pages, and offer support and suggestions.

Via Radio One, Dunedin city has nurtured many local acts (The Verlaines; Die!Die!Die; Del Girl; The Puddle; 3D’s; Haunted Love; the Clean; Alizzarin Lizard; the Suds; TFF; Cult Disney; Hannah Howse; Sonic Smith; and many, many more) by giving them airplay, interviews, promoting gigs etc, some of whom have gone on to great things, and some of whom have brought joy for only a short time. Radio One has also done the same for national and international acts that exist outside the mainstream (wanted to avoid that godammed word!), and who have had the opportunity to be exposed to Dunedin and New Zealand audiences without being financially or artistically crippled in the process- to the benefit of both artist and audience.

The loss of Radio One could be the start of the creation of a cultural wasteland, where it is hugely difficult for music beyond the dictates of Australian radio programme directors running commercial stations to get any broadcast exposure.

The very thing the station was created to rebel against.

The following tracks are of relatively recent stuff I enjoy, and which I first heard on Radio One.

This one- well, it is just a very cool song off an excellent album. And I am a bit of a sucker for a duet. (One of my all-time favourites- Rae and I used to be able to do a pretty good rendition- is Duet, by the very wonderful early 1990's band Mink - featuring among many other notables, Dermania Lloyd and George D. Henderson)

Princess Chelsea- Cigarette Duet

Unfortunately no video with this one, but this is a great psychedelic pop track from Ruban Neilson's new band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Thought Ballune

Just love this, and the "lyrics" have become a bit of a throwaway line with me and the kids. The song is a few years old now (2008), but still gets a bit of deserved airplay. (As does other stuff from Sonic Smith- a fine local exponent of electronica)

 Sonic Smith- Condensation 101

I heard a lovely interview with this artist on Aaron Hawkins' breakfast show a few weeks ago- on, of course, Radio One. Unfortunately could not get out to Chick's Hotel in Port Chalmers to see her when she was here. Stunning song- gorgeous and original voice, great guitar playing.

Tiny Ruins- Little Notes