Not so Stranded in Paradise…

A million miles from New Orleans
Drinking a can of beer

I think about Memphis and Detroit  City 

I hear you ladies there are young and pretty

Will there be rhythm and blues on the radio?…

 ‘No movie stars or really big deals,

Me and the band just need a place to play

What more can I say?

This is a record  with pictures from New Zealand

This is for Kiwi Music Month. Street Talk is a band which has been kind of forgotten, or overshadowed some of the higher profile bands of the era. They had, in Hammond Gamble, one of the most distinctive lead vocalists of all the Auckland bands of the late ’70s, and some great original songs, but they didn’t have the decadent, squalid glamour of Hello Sailor or the brattish bad boy image of Th’ Dudes.

At least one of the key lines from this album track, “Stranded in Paradise” lives on in the title of John Dix’s great history of New Zealand rock music. Street Talks’s two albums appeared, without any real promotion, on itunes about a year or so ago.

I recommend them as examples of good, ballsy, meat and potatoes rock/ r&b from the time. I just wish the non-album single, ‘She’s Done It Again’, was also available.

And I love this song, as much for the overall feel of it as for the playing (especially that great keyboard work and lead singer Hammond Gamble’s gruff, bluesy singing).

we got a band that’s been milkmen
and taxi drivers
and truck drivers and
postmen too

accountants and door to door men, believe you me:

we got jukebox heroes just like you.

All very wistful and pleading. There was always a feeling, in New Zealand, that anything that mattered happened elsewhere. I think that’s the big difference in mood in the past 15 years or so.

Yes, New Zealanders are still big travellers, and we will continue to be so, I think. We still look energetically and often a bit excessively overseas.

But more of the younger generation of godwits, I think, will return.

And I think, now, we’re less prone to assume what we do here does not matter as much, or isn’t as good, somehow.

For Kiwi Music Munff: Giant Friend – Mutton Birds

I don’t think I’m the only person who, when this came out, thought they were singing about Janet Frame. 

That, though, would have been a bit too direct for Don McGlashan. 

Someone once defined the Muttonbirds as being like the a Kiwi version of the Kinks with a touch of Twin Peaks’ undefined menace to them.

That to me is almost right. The band – and Don McGlashan’s other work, with Front Lawn and Blam Blam Blam and elsewhere – certainly get, and convey, New Zealand culture in a way the Kinks, at their peak, were able to do for the English. 

But Twin Peaks?  Hmm.  You can see it a bit in this video clip, I suppose. But really, you don’t need to go offshore to seek influcneces.  The band is  like a rock muso version of Maurice Gee’s novels, or of some of our infamous ‘Cinema of Unease’.

If peoeple still bothered to market music compilations, someone could do a very good ‘Music of Unease’ of Kiwi Music. 

In fact, of course, you could probably make one of your own. 

Kiwi Music Munff: – ‘Come With Me’ and ‘Kaleidescope World’

Very few New Zealand hits by New Zealand bands were in fact New Zealand songs in the late ’60s.  The general idea was find a catchy but obscure number published overseas, perhaps a hit in some country other than the UK or the US, and have a local group record it.

This lot were an exception.  This isn’t as famous as their big one, ‘Nature‘ but I like it just as much.

Wayne Mason, the bloke who wrote this (as well as ‘Nature’) used the line ‘the horizon is much closer than it seems’ in a mid-’90s song of his as well.

It’s a line which calls out for the #spockDissectsLyrics treatment – if something looks a certain way, it pretty much certainly seems that way as well.

Style wise, its half Brit invasion, half psychedelia.

I was about four when it came out – yes, I do remember hearing it on the wireless, when staying at relatives.

This, much later, song from the Chills, which came out the first year I was out of home, seems to me to have a similar vibe to it and I can’t help but wonder if Martin Phillips was influenced by the earlier New Zild outfit.

Both are about going to other worlds, somehow, in a dreamy rather than a dystopian sense.

It only occurred to me, many many years later, that perhaps ‘Kaleidoscope World’ was about drugs. At the time, I simply assumed it was about using the imagination to go to another place, at least internally.

Ah, well. I was never very good at picking  up on these things.



MILTOWN STOWAWAYS – Strong and True 1983

One of the great, if slightly weird, New Zild songs from the first half of the 1980s.

Some would call it a golden era for NZ Music, a lot of time time it was more a rather grubby yellow colour, though that grubbiness was despite rather than because of the music.

This is a lovely mix of styles – jazz, ska/reggae, and a hint of Stax-Volt soul.

And that vocal! There is something very ‘strong Kiwi sheila’ about the contralto – is that the right term? – tones of the lead singer.

This came out around mid-1983. Picked up the EP in the Whakatane rekkid store, use to play it on Saturday mornings while I washed my work shirts in a bucket.

Happy days.

It’s a Happenin’ Thing….Kiwi Music Munff

According to John Dix’s monumental history of New Zealand music, ‘Stranded in Paradise’, Happen Inn – referred to in the previous post – was a less “hip”, more family friendly version of ‘Come’On, the 1960s pop show hosted by Pete Sinclair.

I’m too young to remember ‘Come On’ but I remember Happen Inn: it was the more pop version of ‘Country Touch’ the other music programme run by NZBC televsion in the late 1960s.

No one would call a programme ‘Country Touch’ these days.  They might, I suppose, call a programme The Grunt Machine, which was the later, mid-1970s, predecessor to Radio With Pictures.

Anyway, here’s a clip from, I think, Happen Inn, circa 1969.

This song came out round the time I started school. A wet winter, and I found school a huge disappointment. They expected me to sit still in class, not just in my chair but on the mat. With everyone else, and all.


And they wanted to read to me, rather than teach me to read. I felt quite short changed by this whole school thing.

Anyway, this was around on the radio at the time. This particular song was, as noted earlier, one of those songs which was a hit overseas – in this case, Greece, by Aphrodite’s Child. Their lead singer, Demis Roussos, later went solo. He was a large bloke, with a beard and I have a vague memory of him wearing kaftans.

He had a huge hit in the 1970s called ‘My Friend the Wind’, which I recall being subject to some inventive  and witty lyrical alteration when I was at high school.

This tune is a straight rip off of Pachelbel’s Canon in D (there’s a lovely version here by the London Symphony Orchestra), as are many other famous pop tunes. Everything from ‘Let it Be’ to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ to ‘Don’t Marry Her‘ to…oh, this Canadian guy has a rant on the subject.

Later, the more venerated Radio With Pictures had great local clips like this one: Chris Knox’s first post-Toy Love offering, Nothing’s Going to Happen.

I seem to remember this clip being a big deal at the time: the nature of the video, in particular, was weirdly different, and the dolorous  but intriguing tune was the first inkling something new and interesting was being cooked up in Christchurch and Dunedin.

I don’t know if the Clean’s Anything Could Happen was intended as an Answer Song  – a bit like the Jim Reeves/ Jeanne Black He’ll Have to Go/ He’ll Have to Stay numbers from the early 1960s  – to the Tall Dwarf’s effort.

I would kinda like to think so, though.

I’ve written about this one before so I won’t ramble on it again.

For NZ Music Month: Bill & Boyd – Abergavenny (NZ) 1969

Not, technically,  a New Zild song – it is about a place in Wales and was a big hit for English singer Marty Wilde in the late ’60s.

But hell, ‘Gumboots’ isn’t a Kiwi song either. Nor is ‘Ten Guitars’. Yet New Zealanders have taken them to their hearts, like a kind of musical cholesterol.

Back in the Bad Ol’ Days, on NZBC television, local singers did versions of the current hit songs, in a characteristic New Zild way.

So here we have marching girls. Are marching girls still a thing?  They used to be huge in this country. I have no idea why.

This was probably on Happen Inn, a music show on the telly in the late 1960s hosted by Pete Sinclair. They used to do things like this.

The singers are Bill and Boyd. They later grew moustaches, moved to Australia, sang ‘Put Another Log on the Fire‘ and ‘Santa Never Made it in to Darwin’. 

I think there’s still a warrant out.

Paper Dolls – IQU featuring Betty-Anne Monga (rare 1984 video)

For Koywoy Musik Munff.

This is dance music, which I usually avoid in the same way a vampire avoids garlic crucifixes. But I loved the EP this came off, ‘Witchcraft’.

It’s got quite a few things going for it. One is Betty Monga’s truly great voice, which mournfully, elegantly soars here. (The core members of this group went on to form Ardijah, which had quite a bit of success at the time).

Another is the line ‘everyday somebody tries to complicate our future’ which as a 20 year old in mid 1980s New Zild, had a certain resonance.

It’s a classic video clip in other ways: the hair, the clothes, but also they all look so young and nervous.

This is 30 years old, which feels extremely vertiginous.

While I’m doing the Kiwi Music Month thing… the Chills at the Gluey, 1990

One of my favourite lyrics of any NZ song. Captures something of the great Kiwi OE, without being too overt about it.

Sitting in a foriegn setting,

Bands in backgrounds always play

Their phoney lonely cacaphony,

It didnt have to be this way

Some place alone,

And noone known,

So far from home here.

I really didnt choose to leave you,

To tear myself away so long,

To travel and unravel all the fabric we’d sewn,

So now somethings wrong,

And the world we used to know has gone,

Some place alone,

And noone known,

So far from home here.

Years of awkward confrontation,

I’d like to set your mind at ease,

I’m stuck here in these muddled ages,

I find the words won’t please.

Where could we dwell

Within our past alive and well?

Escape from all thats hard to bear

To where the child as you were creeps near

Without fear?

Scary things arent always clear

To hide in fiction and nostalgia

Can be eerie too

You cannot drive and steer rearview.

Someplace alone,

And noone known,

So far from home, here.