Of days of light and laughter long ago….

OK, New Zealand music month. This is wilfully obscure, mostly, and very few people are going to remember, if they ever knew, these tunes.

But here, for what its worth, is a bunch of unheralded New Zealand music classics, songs I feel should be better known than they are.

Sometimes Nothing – Daggy and the Dickheads

Coming from Taihape, and with a name like that, they really were begging not to be taken seriously. They weren’t a comedy outfit, or even a country band: rather they were a straight-ahead rock five-piece. Saw them live a couple of times in 1982: they were bloody good.

They also put out an EP, but this was their best effort: a nice piece about hangovers with a great opening couplet:

Well did you wake today with morning thickness
how’d you get this sickness?

Actually I just thought of another meaning for ‘morning thickness’. Particularly as the next line is

Was it in that figure dressed in lace?
The imprint of her perfect face?

Can’t believe that never occurred to me before. Whoops. Anyway. And what seems to be a bloke saying he’s fed up with being mucked around by some woman so he’ll go out on the piss with the boys. Sometimes Nothing is better than not enough, as the chorus goes. It has a great line “love’s not lost, its only hiding”.

Well, we’ve all been there, mate.

Itinerary – DD Smash

Every New Zealander between about 35 and 55 knows the A side to this song – “Outlook for Thursday”. The B-side is much less well known and it shouldn’t be. “Itinerary” is a GREAT soul number about New Zealand wanderlust and the great OE.

And Dobbyn turns out a great soul performance on this. I saw him do it live sometime in 1983 or 1984 and he was even better than on the single. I remember bugging a bar in Whakatane with “Itinerary” – the single was on the jukebox and I think it was 20cents (or maybe 50cents) for three plays and I played it three times running.

People looked at me funny, but you do these things when you’re eighteen and have had a few and have a tendency, at that point in the proceedings, to become over-enthusiastic, talk too loudly and wave your arms around a lot. OK, so I made a dork of myself. Anyone who has lived has done this. That’s one of the main differences, growing up; you’re not supposed to get that enthusiastic about anything. And its bollocks.

Blimey that’s deep.

The Scots and the Irish are big on songs of exile and people far across the sea: it’s a constant theme in New Zealand music now too: off the top of my head there’s Hammond Gamble’s ‘Leaving the Country’, Split Enz’s ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’, The Chills ‘Part Past Part Fiction’ and ‘Come Home’, the Mutton Birds ‘Ngaire’, not to mention…

‘Tomorrow Night’ – Front Lawn

Should have been bloody HUGE. A bouncing, exuberant, utterly joyous tale of a Kiwi girl’s OE and return home…

She loves Wellington, she was born there,
She grew up out in the Hutt Valley….

Saw them do this live at least once, in the ‘One That Got Away’ show…one of them played this tinny little toy accordion. Don’t recall much else except it seemed to lift the entire theatre about two feet off the ground.

Rolling Moon – The Chills

A bit more well-known, perhaps, but I love this song so much I’ m not going the miss the chance to write about it again. Came out in 1982, I think, but I don’t recall hearing it until a couple of years later. It was The Chills first single. The heading on this post is a line from the song.

From that first clumsy echoing scrape across the guitar strings in the opening moment up to the hopelessly fast verses with fantastic lyrics you can’t quite catch because they’re tripping over each other…. to that gear change as the song drops into second gear and takes the sharp bend into the chorus….this is just awesome stuff.

A Place to Hang his Hat – Jim n Joe

I don’t know who these guys are. They never released anything but this one single in 1987. It has the same song on both sides, both produced by Dave Dobbyn. It’s a slight song, but with a beautiful little countermelody to it.

I think at one point it was used as the theme for BfM’s ‘flatmates wanted’ ads.

Banana Foot – Desert Road

This band should have been much bigger than they were. Wellington-based, early to mid 1990s, they played a sort of basic bluesy rock, all originals, songs of blokes and beer and women and boss problems. They got Untameable onto a Wellington compilation CD in 1995 – that’s the ‘You Can’t Beat Wellington On a Good Day’ collection. It’s perhaps their best song, with a nice nod to Janis Joplin’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ in the opening line (‘She’s got a dirty bandanna/And those crazy blue eyes’) but it’s still pretty obscure.

Whether it’s the bleary self-pity of ‘Missed Your Ride’

‘Your heart’s been waiting for a train
Too late you missed your ride
Ain’t coming around again
Spend your life dreaming,
Live the fairytale
Too late, you missed your ride
Ain’t coming round again….’

Or ‘Doing Time’, a not-entirely-serious tale of drowning one’s sorrows:

‘You say you got some new friends
Don’t need me
I been drinking Chivas Regal since quarter past three.
Your arm’s around some pencil neck
His tongue inside your cheek
Don’t you see, baby, what you’re doing to me?’

All good ballsy, bluesy stuff. Sometimes you can hear a recording and think, I bet they’re great live. Never saw them live, but I know a bloke who did, who said, yeah, they were f******* fantastic.

One thought on “Of days of light and laughter long ago….

  1. I have just been searching on Youtube and even the whole of google but these guys have hardly left behind a ripple. I have a copy of their CD Banana Foot which I got years ago from a guy who worked for me. He put money into the making of the CD and was part of the Mounain Rock fest. He lost his shirt on both but I listen to this CD now and again and like you I can’t understand why they didn’t get further. Maybe another band can redo the songs and do something……


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