Sunday, January 29, 2012

So sad, so sad, sometimes she feels so sad (Paul and Linda McCartney)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)
  3. Dragon Young Years (1989)/ Rain (1984)
  4. John Hanlon - Higher Trails (1975)/ Wind Songs (1975)
  5. Crowded House - Private Universe (1994)/ Weather With You (1991)
  6. Split Enz - Six Months In A Leaky Boat  (1982)/ Split Ends - One Two Nine (1973)
  7. Max Merritt and The Meteors - Slippin’ Away (1976)/ Let it Slide (1976)
Seventh in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is a real veteran of the music scene in both NZ and across the ditch.

Max formed the Meteors before I was even born and he's still a member!! Although he's had a rare kind of illness that has laid him up recently, he was still able to perform in 2007 when inducted into the Australian Hall Of Fame.

What did they sing that night? What else but Slippin' Away.

The song is a classic and Max's vocal is a deft less is more masterclass.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ah c'mon all you lads (Split Enz)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)
  3. Dragon Young Years (1989)/ Rain (1984)
  4. John Hanlon - Higher Trails (1975)/ Wind Songs (1975)
  5. Crowded House - Private Universe (1994)/ Weather With You (1991)
  6. Split Enz - Six Months In A Leaky Boat  (1982)/ Split Ends - One Two Nine (1973)
Sixth in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is the mighty Split Ends who then became the even more mighty Split Enz.

One of the great things about NZ music is how accessible the bands are to the public at large.

My mate Greg wrote recently to tell me that he remembers hearing Dragon rehearsing from their house near his place in Mt Eden when he was a teenager. He also reminded me that people could book John Hanlon to appear in their living rooms with his guitar and voice.

The band who played at the Mt Albert Grammar school ball in 1976 was Th' Dudes - a great NZ band who may have made my top 10 (you'll have to wait and see). I remember the night well!

And then there was Split Ends, as they were called when they started out: a people's band if ever there was one. The Finn's of Te Awamutu - there you have it - as down home as you can get!

I have a single in my collection at home in Nu Zild that is very special to me. It is Split Ends One Two Nine on the EMI label. You'll notice it was the B side (to Sweet Talking Spoon Song, a good but to my ears, an inferior song to the wonderful One Two Nine).

It was given to me in 1973 by a school friend from Mt Albert Grammar - a fellow member of Senior Five - Michael Budd. I can remember the day he gave it me very clearly.

I was living with the rest of my family in Asquith Ave in Mt Albert at the time, close to another mate (Peter Cahill) while we were waiting for our new home in Mt Roskill to be built. I loved living so close to all my friends (Mike lived in Ponsonby) and so close to the school.

One day during the summer holidays Mike came round to our place in his little Morris Minor (called a Morrie Thousand or Morrie Thou' for short) after work. He was working at the local Heards’ sweet factory.

He had a pile of singles with him: One Two Nine by a group called Split Ends. Seems some members of the group were also working at the Heards factory - supplementing a non-existent income I guess - and they had given Mike some singles to give to his friends. I still have the copy he gave me as I mentioned.

This was fantastic because I knew the song from the TV show - a NZ Opportunity Knocks style show called New Faces. We all loved this show - an early precursor to the X Factor, Turkmenistan's Got Talent rubbish we have now.

At the time it was one of the rare chances we had to see some pop bands on TV. I can remember seeing bands like Split Ends and Space Waltz and solo artists like John Hanlon and Shona Laing from that show especially.

Regardless of my rose tinted memories, it’s a great great song – done in an endearingly flippant kind of tone. I can remember being slightly disappointed with their first album (Mental Notes) because it was much darker and dense in its sound compared to the fun One Two Nine.

Six Months… comes from a vastly different period for the band; much more straight forwardly poppy thanks to Nil Fun being a member (see my previous post for his adventures after the end of the Enz).

It’s probably become a larger than intended touchstone for ex-pats because of the New Zealand references (Aotearoa, rugged individual) and the succinct explanation for our country’s isolation (tyranny of distance).

I include it also to celebrate the patriotic feel that I always have when I live outside the country. Even when I visited NZ at Christmas I felt more positive about the place. Much more positive.

Here’s my top ten of NZ positivity

·         The music industry is fantastic.
·         Isolation can be a blessing.
·         Being laid back is better than over thinking things.
·         Pohutakawa blooms are amazing.
·         The All Blacks won the world cup.
·         The proximity of the sea and swimming beaches is a real plus.
·         The film industry is exciting.
·         JB Hi Fi has a great CD and DVD selection at reasonable prices.
·         My habibi and the immediate fandamly are (mostly) there.
·         And, of course, some of my favourite people are NZers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Close my eyes, she's somehow closer now (Beach Boys)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)
  3. Dragon Young Years (1989)/ Rain (1984)
  4. John Hanlon - Higher Trails (1975)/ Wind Songs (1975)
  5. Crowded House - Private Universe (1994)/ Weather With You (1991)

Fifth in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is Crowded House - something of an inevitability (say it as Smith from the Matrix - it's good).

Nil Fun is surely a Beatles acolyte, like me. The difference between the two of us is that Neil is a genius writer, singer, musician and I am practicing five basic guitar chords, but that’s by the by.

A genius? You ask. Yes – a genius. He can churn out hummable instantly loveable chewns for fun, in his sleep, with his fretting hand tied behind his back.

Picking two great songs from Crowded House is a very tough job (unlike Berta, say, who only had two great songs to my mind).

I’ve stuck by Weather With You because I use that philosophy a lot in day to day life. It’s like Emerson’s great quote – Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. Neil’s version is even more succinct – you always take the weather with you.

And Private Universe edges out the more obvious pop songs (Don’t Dream It’s Over, Four Seasons In One Day, Distant Sun and loads of others) because it’s a proper mature Beatle song.

The lyric touches on the personal and the universal (private and universe). Neil evokes a Strawberry Fields style sepia coloured childhood domesticity in the song (in his own apple tree, dinner on the table, talking to birds) but he also touches on the cosmic quest for meaning - I have all I want, is that simple enough? A whole lot more I'm thinking of.

The music is otherworldly. There is longing and hope and there at the end are the Polynesian rhythms which take over from the drums. A magical aural experience in its own write (sic).

Macca would have been delighted if he’d written this song!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Me minus you is such a lonely ride (Peaches and Herb)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)
  3. Dragon Young Years (1989)/ Rain (1984)
  4. John Hanlon - Higher Trails (1975)/ Wind Songs (1975)

Next in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is not a band at all.

John Hanlon is a singer/songwriter (still going strong I believe) who had a real knack for catchy toons in the seventies.

He was interesting because he often wrote songs with a NZ flavour and he was entertaining. His lyrics often seemed to contain NZ content - one lyric was about 'heading out of Auckland'. Quite a revelation, at least to me at the time.

Higher Trails was on the soundtrack of a great little documentary film called Off The Edge about a couple of American skiers/ hang glider pilots who climb/ski Mount Cook (I'm pretty sure it was Mt Cook) and then launch themselves off it.

They glide down to the strains of Higher Trails. Fantastic.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I know that I just need you like, I've never done before (The Fabs)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)
  3. Dragon Young Years (1989)/ Rain (1984)

Third in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is the best from the reconstituted Dragon. Actually I think it was maybe just the Hunter brothers on Young Years but I could be wrong. They are certainly the only members to grace the video.

The album they did in 1989 (Bondi Road) is a great album pure and simple, even though its faux aussie title is annoying. In fact the way Australia tries to claim our NZ bands as their own when they get some aussie exposure is also damned annoying.

The Hunter brothers (bass player Todd and the great singer/frontman Marc) are definitely kiwis so for my money they are a Nu Zild band!

Unfortunately Dragon's manager and members developed a reckless reputation for drugs and debauchery (just check out the emaciated and heroin addicted Paul Hewson on the Rain video) - resulting in a number of drug related deaths and Marc Hunter's death from a smoking related cancer in 1998.

How they managed to make such outstanding music is something of a mystery. But make it they did.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

They were true love written in stone (James Taylor)

  1. The Exponents – Like She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)
  2. Blerta - Dance All Around The World (1972)/ Joy Joy (1972)

    Second in the Wozza countdown of the 10 best Nu Zild bands and their two best songs is the weird co-op that was Blerta. Best group may be a stretch I admit but their influence and these two songs alone that had a huge impact.
Bruno of Blerta
Hugh Romney, a.k.a. Wavy Gravy
The band was Nu Zild's own version of the Hog farm. A loose congregation of talented and individual artists who grouped themselves into an alternative kind of commune.

Bruno Lawrence (drummer, actor and the B.L. of Blerta) was our own Wavy Gravy character (even with the same look).

Blerta toured around NZ in a big red communal bus like Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and were experimental in their approach to their art (and life I guess). Blerta alumni included names like Corben Simpson, Beaver, Geoff Murphy and Bruno; all became big names in NZ film and music.

My introduction to the song Dance All Around The World was via the Loxene Golden Disc for 1972. A brilliant album of NZ music that in itself had a huge impact on NZ music in general and me in particular. Dance... stood out with its hippy consciousness, phased drums and dramatic spoken section. Joy Joy was more of a straight rock number but was played with skill and the risque lyric was an added bonus for a schoolboy such as myself.

Sidebar: I would have included a clip of the mighty Blerta doing Dance..except the pathetic EMI have not released the clip for viewers in my part of the world. What do they think will happen? Blerta are a tiny little obscure NZ outfit from 40 years ago; surely their video presents no financial risk to a huge company like EMI.

Truely pathetic - no wonder the dinosaur record companies are undergoing a slow death!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Aotearoa, rugged individual, glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world (Split Enz)

Time for another top five selection.
As I recently headed back to New Zealand for the Christmas break it seems appropriate that I come up with my top five kiwi songs and it’s going to be a very idiosyncratic list. For a start I can’t limit it to five so I considered a top 10, but then for every song that I included I knew that that group had done equally brilliant stuff on other tracks so it’s ballooned out to a top 10 and an alternative top 10.

Phew – complicated cos I’m going with 1A and 1B for each group! HA!!

I'm also going to reveal my ten top NZ acts and their two songs slowly over the course of the next ten postings so that we can savour each one. First up...
  1.  The ExponentsLike She Said (1994)/ Nameless Girl (1992)

I've chosen a few other Exponents (aka Dance Exponents) songs to fill in for the absence of Nameless Girl. And don't forget to check out two of their excellent albums Grassy Knoll and Something Beginning With C. Each is great - Grassy Knoll for it's grungy guitar sound and Something... for it's sloppy at home feel and for the rampant Beatles inspired vocal harmony work (think Yes It Is and Beatles For Sale era stuff).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

We're faithful, we all believe, we all believe it (Pearl Jam)

Adam gave me a copy of Pearl Jam's Twenty DVD while I was back in NZ recently. My children know my tastes well!

I've been a pretty loyal fan since day one when the unbelievably great Ten came along. It seemed they arrived fully formed (I love it when bands appear this way - like The Doors - with a different sound/attitude/style right off the bat).

I also love it when, as a fan, I can get in on a good thing right from the start. Maybe that's why I have continued to buy every studio album released by the band over the last twenty years (even when the quality control was a tad wayward).

I even have a sizeable collection of the live albums and Stone Gossard's fantastic solo album, Bayleaf  (although I'm not that enamoured by Eddie's solo stuff away from the band for some reason).

The Twenty film is an excellent primer on both the band and the Seattle music scene that spawned them. It's also a pretty good insight into Cameron Crowe who was a Rolling Stone journalist before becoming a film maker of some renown (Jerry Maguire is one of my favourite films and its also gave Tom Cruise AND Renee Zellwiger their best roles ever).

I liked Eddie Vedder before I watched the film. Now I like him a lot more! What a guy - a fantastic voice I knew about, but a sensitive soul with a brain is pretty rare in rock circles.

The other revelation is Stone Gossard. The cool name, the cool music - yes, but who knew he was so funny, so personable, so anchored, so nerdy (the glasses and goofy grin? It could be me!!!). I loved the tour of his house where he finds his Grammy award in a dark corner of his basement!

The film has some great moments but the version of Better Man when the crowd takes over the singing is especially affecting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I went down on 31st street to pick up a jug of alcohol (Rory Gallagher)

First thing I did when I returned to the apartment in Al Ain after being in NZ for a few weeks was pop on a Rory Gallagher live DVD.

It's always good to meet up with old friends and as readers of this blog know, Rory is definitely that.

The DVD is a compilation of his appearances at the Montreaux Jazz festival.

The best stuff comes from 1985, by the 1990s he starts to show signs of wear and tear (noticably bloated I'm afraid, a year before he died in 1995 from an infection he picked up in hospital after getting a liver transplant).

Everybody loves Rory.

I love him for his loyalty - the great Gerry McAvoy on bass played with him from 1970 to 1991; Rory stuck by his battered Stratocaster throughout his career; he also stuck by his haircut AND the sidies even during the eighties.

I love him for his selfless dedication to his art - he never married and there were no children.

I love him for the stories - Brian May (of Queen) relates: "so these couple of kids come up, who's me and my mate, and say 'How do you get your sound Mr. Gallagher?' and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound."

Jimi Hendrix was asked in an interview shortly after Woodstock, "So Jimi, what's it like to be the best guitarist in the world?" Jimi: "I don't know, ask Rory Gallagher".

But of course I love him best for the music. His version of Too Much Alcohol always (ALWAYS) brings a smile to my face.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When I look into your eyes (Santana)

Wahoo - some major finds while on my Christmas break in Nu Zild.

For the moment my concentration is on two wonderful Santana albums from the early seventies - Borboletta (1974) and Welcome (1973).

I kinda lost track of Santana at the time after the first four albums and Borboletta was a major discovery when I found it among Keegan's vinyl collection. I've been looking for a CD version since and found it in JB Hi-Fi (currently the best reason in NZ to still go browsing through CD bins).

When I Look Into Your Eyes sounds like a song you've known all your life. It's a Santana group original though and combines all their best elements into a jazzy latin rock feel.