‘And another thing, I’ve been wondering laayte-lee’ ….

Ok, finishing the weekend with another Aussie outfit – the Hoodoo Gurus from 1987. Great year.

Introduced by Suzi Quatro wearing the most awesome mullet of all time.

Superb, surging powerpop/rock, this number.

‘Oh where oh where can my scene be….?’

So gloriously different: Do Not Adjust Your Set

Scene: A field. An unmistakable historic figure from 200 years ago stands, alone and glowering, in his French uniform, his arm tucked in characteristic pose. 

A stentorian voiceover demands, rhetorically: ‘Why did Napoleon keep his hand inside his waistcoat?’

Napoleon pulls his hand out. His trousers fall down. 

This was one of the earliest things I can remember laughing like a drain at for several hours afterwards.  It is stuck in my mind for that reason and also because it was the first time I realised how you pronounced ‘Napoleon’. 

 I had read the word – probably in Look and Learn magazines –  but had no idea how to pronounce it.

Napoleon was, I think, played by either David Jason or Terry Jones.  The sketch  was from  Do Not Adjust Your Set, a tv series made in Britain in the late 1960s by several people who went on to form of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

It is best described as a kind of children’s version of Monty Python, although it pre-dates that series.

It was shown in New Zealand in the early 1970s –  I think 1972.

And I loved it.  The combination of eccentricity,  humour,  and historical references like the one above was just magical.

It was just so gloriously different. 

It’s been on my mind at the moment because I threw together an iTunes music playlist for a road trip last month labelled “Brits” which included the obvious ones such as the Kinks and Madness and Ian Dury and the Jam and the Smiths…and then, for light relief, the Bonzos.

Vivian Stanshall was…well, an alcoholic nutter, and probably rather awkward to be around. A brilliant eccentric, though.

The Bonzos only had one hit – I’m the Urban Spaceman – and the B side was this lovely piece.

I first heard this on a jukebox in an Auckland cafe, sometime in the mid-eighties, and lay on the floor under the table laughing uncontrollably.

 

 

‘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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City of a thousand….meh

Spent much of the week in Auckland. It is always a bit weird going back there: I lived there for 10 years and the fingerprints of memory are still grimily splattered around the place.

Mostly the inner west and south: Of the 11 years in the Sprawl I lived most of the time in a run of flats in an arc from Western Springs, through to Kingsland/Sandringham and across to Royal Oak.


It bucketed down on the Saturday and I was having flashbacks to long aimless Auckland weekends, the feeling you often get in your 20s, life hasn’t really started yet and there’s all sorts things, a lot of them undefined, you need to do but for various reasons can’t yet.

This was pre-property boom Auckland: arrived in 1985 just as the sharemarket frenzy was taking off and even though the first two years saw me working for business magazines all that stuff struck me as being a bit inflated.  In retrospect it was a bit weird, being exposed to that mirror glass world and then going home to crappy, un-gentrified villas, passing round the cider or the Baileys (or a cheap home made substitute) and listening to Flying Nun bands and the Smiths.

I have a theory – and its a long way from being original – that some people are born to be a certain age. There’s an assumption that someone’s prime is in their 20s or so – its there in that word “prime” – but that’s utter balderdash.

I wasn’t all that good at being young. Nothing particularly horrendous happened: it was just a bit meh.

Some of us are rather good at being middle aged. I probably got the knack of this when I was about 15, in fact. It’s been a long wait.

The only big birthday I’ve celebrated as an adult was when I turned 30 because it felt like I was leaving all that crap behind and as it turned out I was right. Left Auckland a year later.

It is a very different city now. In 1985, for all the surface froth, there was a sense of subsidence. A legacy of the Muldoon-era orphan-of-British-Empire vibe, perhaps.

It was a lot more mono-cultural and becoming more so in the central city: in 1986 I chucked in full time journalism and became a postie (it paid more) and was delivering mail in the Ponsonby area.

Again, major dissonance: gentrification was under way at the top end of places like Norfolk, Summer and Anglesea streets. There would be BMWs parked outside, I’d be delivering mail which included listed company annual reports and Labour Party membership newsletters to houses which, in the weekend, always seemed to have the soundtrack from The Big Chill blaring out of expensive stereos.

At the bottom of those streets were still the last of the Pacific Island immigrant families, slowly being forced out. Sometimes I’d be taking in registered letters: they were damp and horrible houses and often the registered letters would obviously be from debt collectors or landlords.

Now, of course, those houses are worth more than a million bucks.

Anyway, the music from that era still resonates. The attached clip is a mournful Celtic-type number from a Flying Nun band who may have done other songs but I never heard them.

This though, “Actifed Blues” is a lovely, sad number. [Warning: clip contains the Kiwi Bacon Factory, a lot of trains, a phone box at Auckland Uni, and more trains. ]

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.

Pfft.

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.

The Beatles – Hey Bulldog in the studio

http://youtube.com/v/UaRz-3DYV7c

Back in the late 60s the only time I remember seeing musical clips was when they were jammed in between programmes to fill a gap. The word ‘Interlude’ could come up. More often than not it was an orchestral version of ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’ being played with a film of a steam engine. My brother and I used to call that ‘The Interlude Song’.

I remember seeing a musical clip at my aunt’s – this would have been mid- 1968, and I was four – and being told it was The Beatles. I could never recall the song – the only thing I remembered was one of them, at the end,  picking up his jacket and throwing it over his shoulder.

Discovered recently, through Youtube, the song was ‘Lady Madonna’.

This clip is from the film which went with that, but – obviously – the song is not ‘Lady Madonna’

The tale goes they wanted to film the Beatles in the studio to go with the ‘Lady Madonna’ single and they figured, since they were in the studio anyway, they’d record a song.

The Lady Madonna clip has them singing and playing and at no point do the words and singing and playing match the tune, but that was pretty common in those days anyway.

A few years ago someone went back to the film, unscrambled it and put this together.

The song is one of Lennon’s nonsense numbers, in the same vein as the more well known ‘I Am the Walrus’. I like it for a lot of reasons, one of the big ones being it hasn’t been played so often any magic has long since departed, which is how I feel about most of the Beatles output.

It’s also got some great playing. The bass in particular, along with that nagging rhythm guitar riff. Ringo’s drums are heavier on the tomtoms than usual, and the lead guitar break is a great little slash and burner.

Kiwi Music Month 3 songs for final day – 3 – The Clean: Anything Could Happen

http://youtube.com/v/OAl5qcTgmy0

Ahh… One of those ‘moment’ songs. Straight out of school, straight out of the country, to Wellington Polytech journalism course. Walking down Devon St to Polytech and hearing this coming out of one of the student flats and thinking, that’s just how I feel….

Kiwi Music – for the Weekend….Higher Trails (Original) – John Hanlon

http://youtube.com/v/fMq2Kkowaas

This was a ‘short’ at the pictures, mid-70s. If you don’t know what that means, ask your mum or dad.

I was about 11. The mountains, on the big screen in a small town flea-pit, were utterly breathtaking.

Even on here, they’re still pretty stunning.