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.

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.

‘Pay no attention if I crawl across the room/It’s just another full moon…’

The full moon’s still up there,
Like a great white balloon.
The owls are a-callin’,
And they’re singin’ my tune..

 

Ray Davies wrote a lot of songs either about, or referring to, Insomnia (and yes, I capitalize the word).

There is a reference to it in the Kinks’  first  big hit,  the famous You Really Got Me  (“you got me so I can’t sleep at night…”).

That song came out about  the time I was keeping my own parents awake by screaming a lot in the cot  (it was a hit about a month after I was born – yes kids, it was that long ago).

Over the Kinks career  there were plenty of other songs referring to sleep and sleeplessness ( even a demo,  I Go to Sleep,  resurfaced years later when Davies’ then-partner, Chrissie Hynde, recorded with her band The Pretenders).

Anyway at one point the Kinks did an entire album on the theme, Sleepwalker . It’s not one of their better known ones, and certainly a long way from their best, but it has some good numbers and this is one of ’em. 

 

 

 

‘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.

Rugby – that ’70s Show version 

lions 1971

There was a time when rugby test matches had a sense of occasion. Now, it seems, they’re a bit like the latest software upgrade. Don’t worry about missing this one, there will be another along in two or three clicks of a Yes I Have Read The Terms and Conditions.

Even the Rugby World Cup…hell, it only seems the other day the first or second* most famous whitebaiter in NZ history (and son, btw, of my 7th Form History teacher) was lining up a shot at goal at Eden Park.

This year?  I have an uneasy feeling. And so, for now, I’m going to take a dip in the steamy bathtub of nostalgia. I like it, and besides, it has a cute rubber duck.

So, here, first: an excerpt from the fillum Footrot Flats about rugby.

It might as well be a documentary. Captures the attitudes and dreams of an era perfectly.

And then there’s this moment, from winter 1977. The try that won the series against the Lions. It wasn’t the first test series I’d followed – that was the previous year, when the All Blacks went to South Africa – but this has happier memories.

Firstly, of course, the ABs won, unlike in South Africa, when the tests were almost 16 players versus 14, partly because the All Black selectors did not take a first class fullback or an in form goal-kicker, and partly because the referees were South African and delivered some crucial, dodgy decisions at critical moments, especially  in the fourth test (one referee is reputed to have half-apologised, afterwards, to an All Black by saying ‘you have to understand, I have to live in this country’  .

Secondly,  and of growing importance in the mid-1970s, was the Lions series did not have the moral ambiguity  attached to the South African tour.

Personal example: at the age of 12, I could follow the 1976 series: by the 1981 tour, I was not watching any of the games (and never have since, btw, even on Youtube), rowing with my parents and getting into scuffles at school on the issue. (note, too – I didn’t start scuffles physically, but being unable to keep a smart arsed comment to myself used cause situations to develop )

The  NZ Listener, in those days, had a monopoly on listing what was on TV. Yes, that’s right. The newspapers were allowed to print the TV listings for that day, but no one else was allowed to print them 10 days or so ahead, as the state owned Listener did.
Whenever the All Blacks had a test series, the Listener would have a big preview edition, usually with the All Black captain of the era on the cover (can still recall a great pic of Andy Leslie, the 1974-76 captain, balancing a ball and looking purposefully into the middle distance, before the South African series).

There was a centrefold pull out, with all the games n the tour: you could pin it on the wall and market off the scores in each game.

They were kind of neat. Well, I thought so.

The other oddity was around whether the tests would be broadcast live on the telly. This  was never officially announced or included in the tv listings.

The Rugby Union, you see, was worried fewer people would go to the games.

It didnt’ make a blind bit of difference because everyone assumed the tests would be on the telly.

And everyone was right. Rioting in the streets would have eventuated if the games hadn’t been broadcast.  Would have made what happened in 1981 look like a friendly game of swingball in comparison.
The first test of the Lions series coincided with National Field Days at Mystery Creek, and me and my brother   were there with Dad. One of the the stalls – it may have been Livestock Improvement – had connected up a tv and the place was crowded out well before the official kick off time at 2:30pm.

Remember: this is despite it being officially uncertain whether the games were to be broadcast or not.

The other thing I note about this Lawrie Knight try is how people are reacting to it. The crowd, of course, goes wild, but then by this point in the game the crown was probably fairly well lubricatd.

Look at the players, though. They’re probably quite pleased, but in most cases its kind of difficult to tell.

They’re certainly not going berserk and hugging each other like soccer players.

That’s another thing which has changed, changed utterly.

Russell Brown has a piece on this here:  he points to a wider degree of comfort with emotions amongst New Zealanders, especially men, and I think he’s right there, but of course he suggests it might  be something to do with drugs.

Now, this is not my area of expertise, so I have to defer to Russell’s much greater knowledge of the topic. And it is quite possible – very possible in fact, – that the use of various substances is more widespread than I have noticed.

But I have my doubts.

No doubt a Colin Meads or similar would put it down to too much pasta and salad eating by test players, not enough mutton, and far too many women teachers.

Again, I think this is unlikely.

I just think we’ve loosened up a bit. Also, there is a degree of emotional incontinence   around now which has probably swung too far the other way.

It would not do to greet every success as if we are slighty embarrassed by the whole thing. (although, surely, if we are embarrassed by the whole thing, it should be ok to express that)

Besides, emotional repression has been unfairly maligned, at  times, I feel. There is a place for it. Sometimes you do have to Not Make a Fuss – be it about a good thing or bad thing.

There is such a thing as a happy medium.

Well, a reasonably content medium, anyway.

We don’t want  to get too carried away.

* Whether you like The Bone People nor not, I rekkin Beaver has to compete with NZ’s only Booker Prize Winner for this title.