Continuing on the theme of NZ Music Month, here’s a blog Jim wrote in 2015 about his best mate Mike Jones and cutting his teeth on Kiwi music at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre.
A Tinker’s Cuss: Jim Wilson’s Blog, 19 March 2015
I wanted to say a little bit about the French person here on Koh Samui in Thailand.
The French person gets about the place with an innate sense of superiority and casts around sneering at the whole human race and exfoliating socialist fumes on everyone. They believe that everyone would be fine if they only did as they (the French person) wished.
The French person always has two selfie sticks in both back pockets. Now, it’s difficult to sit down with four selfie sticks aboard and it’s just lucky that the French person likes to stand as they deliver you a lecture stemming from their deep and inner intellectualism and academic egalitarian working-class background.
I remember having two French teachers in high school. The first one’s name was Evans and his Christian name was so strange I can’t for the life of me recall it. He taught us in one of those big towers at Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin. What I most remember about him was that he thought France was infinitely superior to Great Britain and then by association New Zealand. He flung his long, gangly arms wide open and around as he spoke like he was getting ready to sign a peace treaty with the rebels in Algeria and yet at the same time wanted to tell them just how morally in the wrong they were. He had enormous hairy nostrils that flared cavernously as he paced up and down the room with his cane ready to deliver a decent Froggie Thwack as he went. He owed it to us and that was the egalitarian part of the equation.
Monsieur Evans tried to teach us how to speak French by starting with the nasal passages and arms first and by then working backwards. If he weren’t so damn interesting he would have been a completely repulsive human being. I believe the whole Flying Nun music explosion started as anguish in one of those classrooms and most probably in those nostrils right there. I bet Monsieur Evans drove a Ford out of a feeling of doing something generous for the Americans too.
The second French teacher was at Linwood High School in Christchurch. His name was Peter Sharp and he was a very good-looking, blonde haired athletic type. From memory, he played cricket for the Canterbury cricket team and he was very good at it. He commanded everyone’s attention in the classroom and then he demanded utmost concentration. If he thought you weren’t concentrating, then he’d fast bowl a piece of chalk at you. I believe he did this merely so that he could get some bowling practice in. I don’t know how well he aged. I can merely tell you that he was a prick when he was young. But I think we learned a lot from him too and there’s the rub.
My parents and I moved to Christchurch from Dunedin when I was 13 or 14. My brother died in a tractor accident on a road gang in Dunedin shortly after that.
When we moved to Christchurch, I met one of my very best mates and a joker who was a brother to me his whole life through. His name was Mike Jones and his mum owned a dairy down by the railway tracks on Wilson’s Road. Our family lived just across the street. My mum worked in Melhuish’s pickle factory that was almost next door to our house and my dad worked at Stainless Castings in Woolston. This was good work for both of them and they enjoyed it. It took me a while to get used to a Christchurch summer after a Dunedin one, but I enjoyed the change. Christchurch just seemed to have more fresh air.
A notion of what being a brother means is that he has been with me my whole life through and I have always cherished having good mates. There is nothing better for me than the feeling of being part of a team.
Mike Jones played bass in various Christchurch bands and when we were sixteen we hired the Mount Pleasant Community Centre hall to run dances. This would have been in 1968. We did a lot of these gigs and it was wildly good fun. We did gigs in the halls all around Christchurch in fact and this was well before bands really played the pubs as all hotels closed at 6pm.
The Mount Pleasant Community Centre Hall was mostly where I ‘cut my teeth’ in Kiwi music. I saw what could happen and not much new came after this. Oh, they keep on calling it different names, but it’s basically the same. We would get 600 or 800 people in that hall on a Saturday night and there would be ten bouncers working for us. You needed ten bouncers because half the hall might have had 570 people and the other half had 30 ‘Epitaph Riders’. The Epitaph Riders were the local bike gang well before everyone was either in a bike gang or selling coffee or amphetamines.
I remember that after these dances, Mike and I and a half a dozen others drove our Bradfords, Bedfords, Austins and Vauxhalls down to the Silver Grille on Manchester Street for a late night steak. I always drove a Volkswagen but mostly because I can’t stand the French. I guess you know.
One of our bouncers at these hall gigs (known in wrestling circles as ‘Dr Death’) ended up being a screw in Paparua Prison when I was incarcerated there on drugs offences a few years later. Then some of those Epitaph Riders became my best mates in jail. Dougal Johnson was one of them and but for him (and a few others) I would have been a real broken arse. As it was, I enjoyed it.
Loss, what do I know about loss? What could I possibly know…
Mike Jones became a junkie for a while and ended up in jail for manufacturing Heroin in the 1980s. I have many proud memories of him and here is one: at one time in Christchurch one of the ‘heaviest’ guys around was known as Griff and he terrorised many in the ‘home-bake community’ by taking their dope off them and other ‘rorts that a junkie will pull in order to survive.
‘Griff’ went around to Mike’s place one day in South Brighton and demanded Mike’s Morphine. Mike refused and so Griff got out a pair of scissors to cut a finger off. Mike was highly intoxicated and not making any sense at all, but he bellowed: “Go ahead” and this was when Griff had the scissors open across Mike’s fingers and he was screaming and ready to go as well. “Go ahead!”
You can’t and don’t call a policeman in a situation like this. Not before or after. You know it, the other guy knows it. Mike kept his fingers and the Morphine.
Funny the things you can feel proud of.
The stuff I know about Kiwi music doesn’t seem to fit into any particular format. I see others write about Kiwi music and I mostly don’t enjoy reading it (or worse I get angry). It seems that they always miss what are, for me, essential points. But I think we’re probably all like this (we have unique experiences) and meanwhile Facebook is driving us all mad and wanting our fingers to boot. They already have our minds it would seem.
I am committed to not looking at Facebook after 4pm. I’d rather get some fresh air.
Mike died about six years ago after he had interferon treatment for Hepatitis C which is not a very popular thing to get and yet a virus that almost all junkies attract. The treatment is worse than the virus. He developed liver cancer and he went to the wall very quickly. His voice is with me every day and mostly the way he played bass. I feel it rather than hear it and the man went to his grave still capable of raising a snarl.
Who could wish for more?