The Fear….

…and more on the rugger.

An English bloke I met trekking in Nepal, in 1998-99, had been in the English schoolboy rugby team and had played against our lads.
He’d been coached by Terry Cobner, pack leader for the 1977 Lions – he may have been vice captain, I’m not sure.
Anyway, Cobner coached them on the psychology of New Zealand rugby: we play not out of joy of winning, he rekkined, but out of a fear amounting to terror of losing.

cobner
Terry Cobner, wiliness personified, during the 1977 series

I had to point out that, at the time, the  All Blacks seemed to have regrettably overcome this fear – 1998 was one of the worst seasons ever, something Liam Hehir indirectly reminded me of on the Twitter this morning.

Perhaps it is also why New Zealand is treating last night’s draw as a loss, while the Brits are treating it as a win.

Fifteen All? Perhaps it was deserved. Would have been happier if it had been deserved bacause of some iffy play by the ABs in the first half, and not some even iffier decidions by the reff in the final quarter.

Third Test against the Lions…40 years ago

This was Graham Mourie’s first test. Huge build-up. The ABs had lost the previous test and only had an iffy win in the first test. Coming the year against a lost series in South Africa, there was a sense of crisis.

The selectors went berko after the second test loss, making six changes and – most shockingly of all – dropping veteran halfback Sid Going.

It was an extremely wet winter, and Carisbrook had been rained on all week. From memory, the rugby union hired a couple of helicopters to fly up and down the ground for hours before the test, trying to dry out the ground with the downdraft from the rotor blades.

This may be a bit of a legend. I don’t know.

The dropping of Going at halfback was seen as a signal the All Blacks would run the ball through the backline rather than having Sid Going have a go on his own and fold it back into the forwards.

Anyway, they showed they would do that, right in the opening minute. Bruce Robertson – Counties’ only player in the side, something I kind of noted, as a Waiuku lad – had a fantastic day.

After a couple of years without a decent goalkicker – Joe Karam, who has since gone on to fame in other areas, had been a dead-eye dick with the boot for years but in 1975 he went to league – the new boy at fullback, Bevan Wilson, was a real find.

And of course it was Kirkpatrick’s 50th try.

Anyway, it was a really great game. Here’s the highlights.

And here’s hoping to a decent win tonight.

And you can hear Jack say.. MOAR COWBELL

…or rather, ‘Sweet Jane’.

Many, many bands have covered this song. it’s a great warm-up number and I have vague memories of seeing Hello Sailor use it as a set opener back sometimes during one of their mid-80s incarnations.

It’s got a chugging basicness, a riff which kind of pulls you in.

I’ve always loved the Mott the Hoople version. I think it’s my favourite one, although the Cowboy Junkies and Lone Justice run it close.

Not to mention, of course, the original, on Lou Reed’s final album with the Velvet Underground.

Mott the Hoople’s big hit, All the Young Dudes, was written by David Bowie, and he produced them in 1972.

This demo track seems to have been a warmup number in the studio, that year, and they are backing the man who actually wrote Sweet Jane, Lou Reed.

The recording quality is a bit fuzzy but you can hear the zest and verve in the playing.

‘Gonna make it after all…’

Husker Du. Mary Tyler Moore Theme. Thrashed a lot, very ironically, back in 1985. Seems less ironic now.

Rest in piece, Mary. Wasn’t till I got to journalism school in 1982 I realised many of the newsroom types in the MTM Show were everywhere. Not just the Marys, but the Ted Baxters & the Lou Grants.

Bob Dylan – the Nobel of Rhymney

Bob Dylan gets a Nobel. For literature, just in case you were thinking it’s for economics or anything.

Hmm.

I’m in the rather large camp which believes St Zimmy’s songs were best done by other people. I don’t like his singing much – his style, especially in his better-known songs from the ’60s, is very sneering, very off-putting.

And like others, I’m sure, I’ve heard too many bad buskers hooting ‘how does it FEEL???’ too many times not to feel a certain weariness.

I’ve only ever owned one Dylan album – Blood on the Tracks, which became the soundtrack for one of the numerous, not particularly happy, road trips I did around the North Island back in the ’80s.

It is, to be fair, pretty good, and ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ is one of the great ‘Track One, Side One’ songs of all time.

More recently, I downloaded a few of the mono mixes of some of his famous songs from the mid-60s.

Yeah, they’re good. But Dylan is a bit like the Beatles. We’ve been saturated in adulation for the “genius” of these “icons” for so long the colour and flavour has kind of leached out of them. It’s kind of difficult to tell if they’re really that good any more. Besides, I’m of an age group that grew up after they were already towering eminences, great cultural gods. The urge to lay about these icons with a hammer is never far away – or at least, to point out these Emperors might not have been naked but they did have many of the less personally admirable aspects of emperors down the ages.

And the Nobel? For literature? Dylan’s influence is huge but it’s musical rather than literary. It doesn’t feel right, somehow.

Dylan himself once said the band who did his songs best was Manfred Mann. The Dylan Disciples – of whom there are many- have always maintained this was one of the Bobsters’s great jokes.

Good one.

And finally: William Shatner does Mr Tamborine Man. As only Bill S & his singing hairpiece can.

The Daylight Saving Terror now lies upon the land again.

Yet another legacy of the 1970s, along with the current account deficit and people starting political anecdotes with ‘I remember when Muldoon….’ , it is inherently discriminatory.

I know I’ve made this argument before, but here…I shall make it again.

It assumes New Zealanders are all owls…ok, moreporks

It shifts the clocks so those who like late nights get an extra hour.

Those of us who are larks – or whatever New Zild bird starts tweeting at dawn – are discriminated against.

Anyway. Good Morning, Happy Daylight Saving, and Bah Humbug.

Bigger than Rod

 

Rod Stewart has been knighted. His autobiography was one of the musical memoirs I read in late 2014 as a detox from the general election campaign and meant to review for this site but, mostly, never got around to.

It was probably the most good-humoured and unpretentious of the lot. Stewart knows his faults and points them out before anyone else can get around to it – for example, his mid-’80s hit ‘Passion’ was a travesty:  he reveals his mother expressed her dislike and he concludes ruefully it was clearly a song not even a mother could like.

From the same era, he also reveals that, touring the US with his backing band, the only band which could outdo them for partying stamina and drug taking was the all-women Go-Gos.

And there is the aftermath of his split with Our Rachel, and how she wanted someone younger. In sharp contrast to his freewheeling and footloose image, he reveals he ended up seriously depressed and in therapy in California. More characteristically, he says the three therapists he saw were all varying degrees of useless. One breezily told him ‘you’ve seen one **** you’ve seen them all’; a second came on to him; the third suggested he get a cat.

Stewart’s best work was the first four albums he did in the early 1970s.’You Wear It Well’ is still my favourite of his big numbers – it’s a great, rough-hewn song about an old flame.

His later solo stuff, when he was a stratospherically feted pop and sex symbol, was almost all awful: ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ has I suppose a certain kitsch ironic charm, if you’re into kitsch ironic charm, but personaly I find a little of this sort of thing goes a very long way. 

The first four albums were much more downhome, and much better. 

And, with The Faces, there was this great version of Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. To my ears, it knocks the original into a cocked hat. McCartney might be one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century, and the song is, no doubt, a stupendous declaration of the sudden, astonished emotion of a bloke unexpectedly finding love  – that line ‘maybe I’m a man in the middle of something/that he doesn’t really understand’ gets me every time. It’s perfect.

McCartney, though, isn’t always the best interpreter of his own work. And Rod and his rough, boozy sidekicks extract the emotion and soul from the song which McCartney himself never quite managed.

Books and lists

Lists of things are all the rage. They help sell news…I was going to say newspapers, but hell, I mean clicks.

In 2000 years, perhaps, New Zealand will have one of these. It must be preserved.
You know the kind of thing.  What’s hot, What’s not” or ” 
Five Things You Absolutely Must Do Before Ennui Overtakes Your Entire Life and You Might Just As Well Lie Down On A Skillet And Wait for Them to Slide You into the Crematorium“.Well okay:  none are quite as explicit as that. But it’s very much what they seem to be getting at.

And then there is the whole ” 100 Record Albums You Must Have in Your Collection if You Are to Be Taken Remotely Seriously” or “ 100 Books You Should Be Able to At Least Reel off the Conversational Equivalent of Coles Notes About”.

These sorts of lists are a bit more forgivable.

A bit.

There is still, unfortunately, more than a whiff of ostentatious taste-setting for the plebs about them.

Which is one reason – but not the only reason – why I really like the Spin Off’s 100 great New Zealand non-fiction books list posted this week.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has been compiled by a group of people, with a joint byline of Group Think – itself a neat little dig at other lists like this.

And certainly some of the books listed show more than a small whiff of  Braunias-esqe mischievousness.

Some are genuinely good.I got into a neat little online discussion on Twitter – which is possible to do, sometimes – over books which should be included and came up with a few which they missed.

This is the other aspect of such lists which can be a bit naff ,  so I’m venturing forth on this a bit carefully.

It’s  the whole “I can’t believe you’ve missed out **** *********!!” thing.

Accusations of “glaring omissions” are common over lists like this. I’m not going to glare at any omissions, nor even eye-roll at them (although I did over some of the books included. The Passionless People? Really??)

But lists like this should not take on the form or tone of ex cathedra pronouncements from some cultural pontiffs. (yes, the authors of this list  claim it is “definitive”, but it is clear from the context that they do so with tongues firmly in their cheeks).

The approach of the list makers, in this case anyway, seems to be very much in the area of “here are some books we have come up with – what do you think?”

This is a conversation starter, not a Final Word.

The compilers manage to do this with a combination of some very good books recommended, often some quite obscure ones, and often some not obscure ones which, to my own slight chagrin, I’ve not got around to reading.

That is the other, perhaps most useful, purpose of  of lists like this: memory joggers.

There are at least two books on this list which I greeted with a “oh yeah, haven’t got round to that one yet”.

One final point: New Zealand seems to have reached a point in our history where non-fiction books are streaming onto our  bookshelves (and, yes, onto our kindles and iPads as well) in a flood.

The New Zealand non-fiction section in Unity Books is spreading, and is stacked wide as well is high. There is a thirst for New Zealand history right now – history,  and analysis of that history

If you want to skip the next bit and go on to my – quite short – list, feel free to do so. I’m about to go into Old Fart Mode.

When I was growing up, there were few books on New Zealand history – and in particular very few on New Zealand political history.

And about half the books on news on political history were written by John A Lee, or it least it seemed that way. There were no books on the history of non-Labour governments and almost none on non-Labour politicians.

There were a couple of pamphlet-sized booklets on political history –  some particularly short but good ones on the interwar period – and there may have been a biography of Richard John Seddon.

That was kind of about it.

There were local histories,  which tended to gloss over some of the more awkward, not to say bloody aspects of New Zealand’s history, in particular with reference to any events between roughly 1845 and 1872.

The flood of books about New Zealand history in recent years has, I believe, only begun to slake the thirst New Zealanders have for all this.

Aspects of national identity and knowledge of our history is becoming more important, more emotionally important, to New Zealanders in today’s world because today’s world is so globalised.

Living in this environment means an awareness of what makes us specifically us becomes more important.  It is not about nationalism (or racism either come to that) although it can be warped into those poison-soaked channels by the unscrupulous and the stupid  if care is not taken.

So.

Anyway.

Here is my, small,  number of additions to the Spinoff list:

 

  1.  His Way by Barry Gustafson –  I’ve written about this before, here, and won’t add much.  It’s the best New Zealand   political biography I’ve read and the companion volume, Gustafson’s biography of Keith Holyoake, is almost as good.
  2. 1981 by Geoff Chapple –   A protester/journalist-eye view  of the 1981 Springbok tour. Partial,  highly partial –  but then, given the fierce and bitter divisions of the Tour I don’t think anybody could write about it dispassionately. Not at the time certainly. Chapple  glosses over – but does not totally ignore – the propensity for some more fanatical protesters to engage in vandalism and behaviour which could easily have seriously endangered other people. The self-righteousness of the time is caught, and so is the atmosphere of violence.  It was a bitter, ugly period  and this book manages to reflect that while also informing.
  3. The Unauthorised Version by Ian F Grant –  Again, I’ve written about this in the past, here, so I won’t expand too much. Effectively it’s a history of New Zealand told through cartoons drawn during that history, and with some good explanatory chapters. I often give this to newcomers as a primer  on New Zealand  history up to the 1980s. And not jokingly either.  It is a very good, entertaining summary.
  4. New Zealand the Way I Want It by Bob Jones –  written as a response to the National Party 1975 election slogan: “New Zealand the way you want it” this is Bob Jones’ – now Sir Bob – best written work I think.  Again, Old Fart Alert here –  but in the 1970s everyone was so  polite and Jones’ bluntness and exuberant, don’t give a damn commentaries on New Zealand public  life had roughly the same impact as a gale force  Wellington southerly would have on a stiflingly  humid Auckland food hall.
  5. Food for Flatters by Michael Volkering – when I started flatting every flat had this, usually in the third drawer down the kitchen where the  house accounts were kept. It started with teaching you how to boil an egg –   and some of us didn’t move on from that page for some time – before moving on to more complicated things such as curried sausages.
  6. Economic Management By the New Zealand Treasury 1984 –  This was written back in the day when briefings to the incoming government actually meant something. This was more meaningful than most. As a giveaway, the first hundred copies came with a set of brown trousers and bicycle clips.
  7. Mark of the Lion By Kenneth Sanford –  the story of Charles Upham,  who won the Victoria Cross twice (one of only three people to do so, and the only one who wasn’t a medical orderly). Utterly mind blowing, this book.  At one point during one of the battles during the retreat to El Alamein, he was so peppered  with small wounds and blood from shrapnel some of his own people did not recognise him. And some of the wounds were from his own hand grenades because he tended to get so close to the enemy before throwing them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘It may not be the new sensation, but it’s the nearest thing to heaven….’

 

Something exuberantly innocent about this song

 One of those online discussions that you get into, or rather arguments I should say, this week featured the pros and cons of National Radio’s “Matinee Idle” programme.
I’m a defender of the programme. I enjoy it. It’s often a bit naff, and to be frank I don’t want to listen to it for long stretches. But it’s fun.
The comparison I use is that it is like one of those old motor camp lounges. These may still exist. I hope they do.

They’re the sort of places that are furnished with ancient, dishevelled chairs and lounge suites, out-of-tune pianos, a rich supply of books, many of them Reader’s Digest versions, slightly dodgy novels from the likes of Harold Robbins and Sven Hassell, probably a few new-agey books on meditation or transactional analysis, plus the occasional gem such as Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Scoop’ or Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’.(Don’t laugh: I’ve found both these in motor camp lounges)

There will be books about World War Two – of course there will. The large ones about tanks will have pages torn out, and perhaps drool stains.
And there will be one of those ancient Ultimate radiograms, probably stocked with scratchy recordings of the Beach Boys Golden Greats, Trini Lopez Live at PJ’s, the Howard Morrison Quartet, and various 20 Solid Gold hits volume Umpteen compilations.
On wet days, and even and the occasional dry days, there will be some kids either playing on ping-pong tables, or some sort of go-round-the-room-by-leaping-around-the-furniture-so-you-don’t-touch-the-floor games on the ancient long-suffering furniture.

Someone will have “Spiders and Snakes” or “Fernando”  going on the stereo. There will be some kids trying to bash out ‘Chopsticks’ on the old out-of-tune piano.

That’s the Matinee Idle vibe. It suits the Kiwi summer brilliantly  like a battered, over-worn jandal.

Okay, I’m sounding completely nostalgic here. The list of examples  outlined probably betrays my own age, a 1970s childhood. It’s been much on my mind the past few weeks, partly because summer always seems to engender at least some wafts of nostalgia.

Someone once called this the “L & P Tinted Spectacles”  view of Kiwi summers. I can’t claim credit for that phrase – I wish I could, it’s brilliant – but I’m inclined to engage in the behaviour, while being aware of the pitfalls.

My earliest memories of summer are of the ground. I suspect this is not unusual: one is rather close to it at that stage of one’s life.

Drought-hardened ground, often with Onehunga weed, particularly noticable as childhood involved going everywhere in bare feet. The pads toughened up by the end of summer, which was useful for going to school: a half mile walk up a gravel road at the start and finish of each day.

There was the hard dry ground of the farm in summer: being taken over to either the hay shed or whichever hay paddock was being worked at the time.

The dirt tracks, usually graded at the start of the season because they would have become so puggy during winter, flattened by the tractors towing the hay tedder and baler, and then the truck carrying loads of hay.

The sounds, too: the rattle of the old tedder we used when I was young, a converted International make which had originally been towed by horses.

The hay baler, with its spurt, spurt, spurt, engine pushing out the hay bales and which always managed to sound more urgent when there was a rush on – either because of looming rain clouds or simply because there was so much to get done.

First time I heard the word ‘message’  was about haymaking – I was about four, and was told Grandma would be coming down ‘with a message about the baler’ – and Mum would have to take it over to the where Dad and Grandpa were working. I had to look out and tell her when Grandma was coming.

I wanted to see what this ‘message’ thing was. I pictured something physical and was disappointed when, in the event, nothing was actually  handed over.

The smells, of course…freshly made hay smells uniquely sweet, but not in a sickly way. It has an uplifting freshness, even when – as when I got a bit older – you’ve been hauling the bales around all day.

The hay smells though are mingled, in the hay paddock, with other aromas: old fashioned baling twine has its own, grease-like smell, and of course there’s is also the smell of grease itself, from the continually working hay tedder and baler.

‘..across the fields of stubble where the bales, they had been….’

Grease, to me, always smells no-nonsense , businesslike. It’s a very practical smell.

Summer holidays, usually a week, sometimes 10 days, one landmark  year a whole two weeks at Camp Morley on the shores of the Manukau.

It’s still there but very different now: all Lockwood chalets.

Back then it was four buildings, two family sized units in each. The buildings were old army huts from World War II – I think they’d been used by the Americans in New Zealand. at the end of the war they’d been put on barges in Onehunga and shipped across the Manukau.

They were pretty basic. Everything in them was second hand.

Ancient beds, with sagging wire bases. Didn’t matter after a while: a lot of the time we’d camp out somewhere along the beach. It tended to be roughly the same families at the same time every year and we all got to know each other pretty well. Friendships – and alliances and rivalries – built up over successive summers.

After dinner: the whole camp would usually join in a huge game of longball which lasted until the sun went down, sometime after 9am.

There were no TVs in the camp. Some of the caravanners would bring in portables but this was widely regarded as kind of copping out on summer. It missed the whole point.

It was on the southern side of the Manukau, across from Mangere Airport. The year the first jumbo jet landed – 1971, I think, one of the first years we went there – the entire camp sat along the edge of the foreshore to see it coming in, One of the older kids (i.e. about eight or nine) running up and down and yelling ’the jumbo jet! The jumbo jet!’ As it came in low towards Mangere.

Being the Manukau, the tide went out a long way. At low tide, in the distance, were two rocks. A couple of kids walked out to them one day and came back reporting there was a whole lot of bombs out there, and the rocks were in fact very large slabs of concrete.

No-one believed them, of course, but enough curiosity was roused for a general expedition the next day.

This produced about half a dozen little bomb-like things, in various stages of corrosion and general dismemberment. Full size they were about the length and diameter of a fully grown guinea pig.

One of the adults at the camp – a Territorial in his spare time – took one look, turned puce and phoned up the Ardmore Military Camp (it dates this piece that there still was a camp at Ardmore).

A couple of Serious Uniformed Blokes turned up in a landrover. Looked at the bits of bomb spread out on the footpath by the temporarily abandoned home made go-Karts, chuckled, and suggested they had once been smoke bombs, probably, but 30 years previously. They were no risk to anyone now, at least not explosively.

Lurking on the edge during all this was a lad, about 17 I’d say, who worked on the farm next door. He was hanging around because – as was plain to me even at that age and with my tendency to be oblivious to these nuances – he had a huge crush on one of the girls.

He mentioned, to the army blokes, there was a bomb-like thing over at the farm. it was propping up the door to one of the sheds, he reckoned. “Oh, go and get it, we’ll have a look,” says one of the Army guys (they had relaxed, and someone had made them a cuppa and had brought out the biscuit tin.)

The lad returns, 10 minutes or so later, with this missile-shaped device: bigger than the ones hauled out of the Manukau mud, about a foot and a half long  and in pretty good condition.

The army blokes leap up from their tea with some urgency, carry it delicately out to the middle of the field where we played longball and indicate, with some  degree of excitement, that everyone should keep away for a bit.

A bit of historical research turned up a few facts: there had been an air-base further along the spit of land the camp was on, and both the blocks out at low tide, and the concrete building in the paddock next to the camp, had been used for target practice during World War Two by squadrons based there.

The following year, a bunch of us announced we were going to go along and find the old airbase site.

It was a big expedition, set up with all the focus and serious determination small boys can bring to such projects. We packed lunches, drinks, and set off at low tide to find the base.

Operation Seagrove – ‘Seagrove’ being the name of the base – took a couple of attempts, but like good keen young Kiwi lads, we eventually knocked the bugger off.

That is the other thing summers are for, regardless of your age. Expeditions, voyages into the unknown, whether the “unknown” is river, sea, mountain or other natural spaces, or the inner spaces explored by new books, or old books re-discovered.

Summer break gives the rest of the year some perspective. It involves taking some distance from the day-to-day. This often involves an indirect route, but indirect routes, on such intrepid journeys, only add to the depth and experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return of the Short Ginga Duchess…

Since Bowie-related stuff is still in the ether, since I’m taking a tea break, and since apparently today is Hug a Ginga Day….Here’s Lulu doing ‘The Man Who Sold the World’. 

I gather it was Bowie’s idea she cover the song – he plays saxophone on it and may have produced as well.

 It’s probably the best thing Lulu ever recorded – not so much Return of the Thin White Duke as Return of the Short Ginga Duchess- even if she seems a bit bewildered at times during this UK Top of the Pops clip (watch the eyes. There’s a few ‘WTF?’ moments). 

It’s a measure of Bowie’s brilliance he could pull off something as mainstream pop as this, and something like ‘Low’. Man, the guy had range.

I can remember this being a hit in New Zild – not sure when, sometime in the mid-70s. Can  recall hearing it on the radio at the summer place we used to stay. I thought she was singing about the man who stole the world, which was confusing: had a mental image of someone trying to hoist a globe onto his back.