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Black Cats & Blue Highways

Dunedin songwriter and musician David Kilgour’s new album Bobbie’s a girl is out September 20. He spoke to Richard Langston.

Is there a story behind that title Bobbie’s a girl?
For the last session of recording we had the house full of people and we’d just got Bobbie the cat, a stray that turned up on our doorstep, quite sick actually. I called her Bobbie after Bobbie Gentry cos I’d been listening to a lot of Bobbie Gentry that week. Tony (De raad, guitar player) kept saying ‘…he’s outside..’ and I said, ‘Man, Bobbie’s a girl!’ and it became a tag for a while and I said, ‘Hey, hey we’ve got a title for the album buddy!’. It’s one of the closest relationships I’ve ever had with an animal… this cat’s awesome.

You had the same band for this record?
Yeah but because we’re scattered (drummer Taane Tokona lives up north, Tony De raad now lives in States) there’d be a gap of six months between sessions and when we’d get together we’d only record for two nights cos it turns into work after two nights. We got about a third of the album in one or two nights in the first session four years ago. We were in no rush at all. We finished it about 18 months ago so we sat on it for a long time which I’ve never really done before. But I’m always interested to see if we still liked it after four years.

David with Heavy Eight’s bass player and sound engineer, Tom Bell.

You wrote it over a long period, it didn’t all come in a rush…?
I’ve been pretty dry over the last ten years. It’s not been easy put it that way. But I’m in no rush, what’s the pressure y’know.

But in that time you’ve put out quite a few records…the two Sam Hunt albums …Left by Soft (2011) …End Times (2014)
We did put out two albums in one 12 month-period, the Sam Hunt one (The 9th) and End Times Undone. We pretty much toured them too so we were busy there. It was quite surprising, we talked about that Sam album for probably three years and suddenly out of the blue Sam just wrote and said ‘Ok, I’m ready let’s go’.

End Times seemed a bit of a break-through album for you…
Small biccies but it sold in The States, as many as Feather in the Engine. They’re the best-selling albums though I don’t know if you call it selling any more! Mojo magazine in England put it in their top 40 for the year which was surprising, they said it sounded like The Byrds were rehearsing downstairs, and I thought yeah, I’ll take that (laughs).

I think many people who’ve followed you over the years would regard Feather and End Times as among the high points…
Really? We didn’t tour End Times here so we didn’t really get that much feedback, I spent all my energy on America for that one. What’s sustained me for in the last few years has been that American audience and Merge. They’re such great record company people, actually I wouldn’t even call them record company people. They’re just great people. In the next few years there’s going to be more Clean stuff in the archive that will be released.

I love the song “Comin’ On” off End Times, it’s a song where you seem almost mesmerised by the joy of being in the moment creating a song…
It was a magic moment when we came up with that. I like that one. We were just about to go into the studio for the first time and I didn’t have much material. The day before I went out on the porch and just sat down and bang! I got the riff and the basic melody. That doesn’t happen very often but it’s great when it does, it’s like ‘yeah, I still got it’ (laughs). That album’s got some weird bits but it is kinda sparkly.

I imagine your mood was very different when you started to write and record the new album…
The first session had a certain mood, it wasn’t really on purpose but I thought ‘fuck, I like this’, really melancholy and very simple. We all dug it and we’re just going to mine it and see how much I can get out of that mood.

“It’s really hard to verbalise grief – it’s new territory for me.”

At that time I imagine you were preoccupied with Peter Gutteridge (who’d been in The Chills, The Clean, The Great Unwashed and Snapper) and his passing (in 2014) – a great friend you’d known since school…
Most of the album was a reaction to Peter’s death. I’m not really one to run to the guitar when something major happens, not sure why, maybe it seems a bit too obvious. I didn’t write anything for about 10 months, I sat in a daze really. I was amazed how writing about it helped. It’s an obvious thing to do, of course it’s going to help… puts it in black and white. You can focus on it, and then walk away from it. It’s like a long exhale, a breathing out.

What was it about Peter? What attracted you to him when you first met?
We definitely hit it off straight away, within a couple of weeks I was out at his house in Portobello and that’s where we came up with the idea to start the band (The Clean).

Did you share a vision at that time of how music should be?
Not really. I think for him it was a brand new idea, he’d mucked around with things and he drew a little bit. I knew he liked Gustav Klimt and he had a Mahavishnu Orchestra album which I thought, mmm I’ll accept that for now but you might have to move on from that buddy! I can’t believe I was so snotty at 16. To be fair he did also have the first Roxy Music album. But he was not really immersed in rock’n’roll like Hamish (David’s brother) and I were.

Peter was quite brave and cheeky and I was quite shy. He’d go places I wouldn’t and I’d just tag along and try and pull him back (laughs).

Roy Colbert (music writer & owner of Records Records in Dunedin) once said to me teachers regarded Peter as the boy who questioned everything…
We had a student-teacher for history called George Kay and I think he called Peter one of the most difficult students he’d ever had to deal with, Peter put up a good argument. He was in the debating team, I think I was too actually (laughs). Peter liked to debate (laughs).

I don’t remember him being troublesome at school, I hardly saw him actually, the year of the 6th form he just didn’t go and at the end of the year they accredited him. I wanted to kill him! ‘How did you do that!?’ Peter just walked through fire sometimes (laughs).

Like many human beings he was something of a paradox – he had these various sides to him – he could be amazingly sweet and write songs like ‘Universe of Love’ and ‘Planet Phrom’ but he was into guns and war…
But that was much later on, that side of Peter was much further on down the track, the Peter I met was a charming intelligent creative, really open guy, loved people, really social. The darkness was later. I was living with him when he came up with the songs that we later recorded with the Great Unwashed (“Born in the Wrong Time”, “Can’t Find Water”, “Boat with no Ocean”) and he was just on fire. He chipped away at it, he was a pretty good bass player in a primitive sort of way with the early Clean, and he started to chip away at the guitar still quite primitive but the stuff he was doing was great.

People like to go on about the guns but y’know Peter loved to play on that, ‘I’m a big tough guy ha ha ha’, he liked to play with his image, he was a good bull-shitter (laughs). It was a bit of a pose and a laugh really, he only ever had air pistols. I’m sure he went to some dark places and had trouble here and there. It’s that obsession, William Burroughs and all that. That was part of it – he was a multi-layered character.

“…It’s a conversation between two dead people and someone who’s alive – it’s a just a mood piece.”

I remember when he died and you posted that Martin Rev song Mari and said something like, ‘We loved this one eh Pete’…
We loved that stuff, it’s a stunning wee EP. I remember really loving the second Suicide album but I don’t think anyone was obsessing about it. Peter almost stumbled into that when he got a 4-track portastudio and started getting better on the six-string guitar then got a fuzz box, and I thought ok! Then the first Snapper show with Stephen (David’s band at the time) it was instantly great. It was a revelation, ‘Snapper and the Ocean’ wow, too good. Years and years, he just nailed it down to that one note. He almost devolved, he’d honed it to the point he became a lesser player in some ways, it’s what he wanted and it worked for him.

He was always going on about the sizzle, get the vibrations sizzling man (laughs). He was trying to put himself to sleep I think, meditate into the other zone, when it was really working you’d see him start nodding off (laughs). We all use music as medicine anyway and for Peter that was part of it, trying to calm himself down. He had a really hyperactive mind.

He never started stopped creating, he was always doing something at his house. He’s lived within a kilometre of our place for 30 years or something. We’ve always kept in contact Peter and I, we’ve always had that connection even when we fell out we’d always get back together eventually. The last couple of years of his life he cleaned himself up health wise and the light came on and it came on really bright. He was still creating wonderful stuff, I remember one day I went over and he said listen to this and he had a lead plugged into a delay pedal that was plugged into an amp and he just picked up the lead and shorted it and it just made this gorgeous sound and he started singing to it and I was like ‘wow!’

After he died that ten months I didn’t do anything much about it but I thought maybe if I write about it might make me feel better. It actually worked, it was great. Any time some bleak or melancholy stuff came along I’d go into the studio and whack it down and that’s pretty much what happened.

At one point we thought let’s make a double album cos we were mounting a lot of stuff, there were over 20 tracks we liked. Looking back now I realise I pulled out all the melancholy tracks (laughs). There’s another album there which is interesting.

The single “Smokes You Right Out” there’s melancholy but there’s sweetness to it..
That was the first one. That’s Peter, that’s saying goodbye, that’s letting him go. It’s really hard to verbalise grief, it’s new territory for me. Peter’s death and then my mother’s death not long after, like wow! There’s hardly any lyrics on the album, there might be 20 lines. Grief is just indescribable y’know. The statement is the album, it’s not really made to talk about really.

In some ways it’s a conversation between two dead people and someone who’s alive – it’s just a mood piece. I think if it does anything it might calm you down a bit which is not a bad thing in this world (laughs).

As a lyricist you’re often quite open and impressionistic…as much using your voice as an instrument…
I’ve been trying to hone that more and more in the last few albums, I think Nick Bollinger recently said it’s almost like I’m not writing a song but there is a song there. The thought of sitting down with the lyrics in front of me and the intro and the chorus and the middle eight and quirky wee thing with a turnaround thing I just can’t go there anymore. I really love to be able to write as close as possible to the recording even if that means putting everyone under pressure and they don’t know what the song is …all that stuff (laughs). I’ve got a really good relationship with the band now so it’s a joy really.

I remember your mother at the gig in Christchurch when The Clean reformed in 1988 and she said, with a big smile on her face, ‘oh, I do love creative people!’
She did, she really did, and she didn’t mind the freaks either. The stranger ones we took home were the most fascinating to her really.

She was musical herself…
She played piano and did a little bit of theatre when we lived in Ranfurly. She was quite a cool artist, a good drawer, she was made to be a creative person but it wasn’t really the right time for women artists. She really encouraged us with art and a little bit with me in music.

Hamish posted a picture of your mum standing with family in front of a car back in the ‘60s …a very cool picture…
Fuck, I love that photograph. That’s how her family the Aulds dressed. They’d dress up and go and visit the cousins. They look like they’re in a country band and have just flown in from Nashville or something. My mum’s brother, Uncle Jack, was just a total dandy.

David held by his mother, Helen, with his brother, Hamish, in the middle and his Uncle
Jack and family while visiting their farm in Marlborough in 1964.

You’ve been making music and writing songs for a long time – I make this your 11th album – and one of the people who inspired you and who you worked with, Chris Knox, has been virtually side-lined by a stroke …you must miss his creative energy…
Yes, of course you miss his voice, yeah, and I’m sure he does too. It’s sad he lives at the other end of the country or I’d see a hell of a lot more of him. He’s there but it’s a different Chris. He’s still manages to perform – the strength of the guy, the power, the will. He’s brave Chris, he always was, gutsy as fuck.

And many of the musicians who started in that era in Dunedin are still making music…still writing songs…
The lifers are yeah. Graeme Downes (The Verlaines) has worked hard, he’s got a pretty full on job, he’s still managed to make music. Shayne (Carter) has been a lifer, Martin (Phillipps), Hamish, Bob (Scott), Chris Heazlewood…the list goes on. It’s lovely some of us have stuck at it. I used to be disappointed when I was younger when people pulled away but looking back I can’t blame them. It’s a mental life to get into, it’s not easy financially.

We had so much luck and we pretty much all had success. It all happened pretty quickly so we were encouraged early on. That was one thing I thought was missing from The Chills’ doco… the sheer joy of making music at that time, it was wonderful. It was kinda astonishing and magic. Everyone was on the dole, we were all writing quite good songs, and suddenly boom!

I’ve had a really charmed life. I haven’t worked for about 30 years. As long as I’ve got a car and a house and surfboard a piano and a few guitars and I get to travel every couple of years I’m pretty much a happy guy.

And you paint of course…
That helps pay the bills and I enjoy it… been painting a bit more than usual actually. It’s a good thing to do in winter (laughs). I’ve been having a good break from music but I am ready to do something. Touring will be good, I haven’t done a live show for four years or so. I’m ready to do something different, something new, whatever that may be. I’ll do it till I drop, I don’t know if it will always be in the public eye, but I’m just going to keep on going.

Bobbie’s a girl is out September 20 on Merge Records.

Pre-order the album here – https://www.mergerecords.com/bobbies-a-girl

David Kilgour on tour:
Oct 24 Queenstown, NZ – Sherwood
Oct 25 Dunedin, NZ – The Cook
Oct 26 Christchurch, NZ – Blue Smoke
Oct 31 Wellington, NZ – San Fran
Nov 02 Auckland, NZ – Whammy Bar
Nov 03 Auckland, NZ – Whammy Bar

 http://www.davidkilgour.com/

Submitting to the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader

The Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader is published quarterly with 12 to 15 authors typically appearing in each issue. We are interested in submissions for the ‘zine in the form of short stories or editorial with a word count of 3000 words or less. We also publish poems in the ‘zine but there is typically no more than three per issue so space is usually quite limited.

Submissions to the Cafe Reader must be previously unpublished in any format. Copyrights are retained by the author. However, the author agrees that Phantom Billstickers has the right to use the piece in both the Cafe Reader hard copy and digital formats (currently available for download on Amazon.com) for both domestic and international distribution.

By submitting, the author agrees that the piece published in the Cafe Reader will not be published in any other format between the publication date of the issue where it appears and the publication date of the next quarterly issue of the Cafe Reader. We do not guarantee which issue any piece will appear in. When a piece is scheduled to appear a layout will be provided to the author for review and approval prior to publication.

Submissions must be provided in an editable WORD document  submitted via email to submissions-cafereader@0800phantom.co.nz. The author should provide some background information about themselves in conjunction with the submission. Labeling the file with the author’s name is appreciated.

 

The following is a blurb about the Cafe Reader which may be helpful for writers to get in the right direction regarding themes:

The Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader is a quarterly literary zine featuring short stories, poems, art and editorial by New Zealanders. The stories we publish are heartfelt glimpses into family, community, and the more colourful aspects of the creative life in New Zealand. Many of our articles and stories revolve around Kiwi music. Our contributors range from globally recognized Kiwi authors to emerging artists who deserve to be heard.

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 14/09/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 14 September 2015

 

I think a true thing about life is to find something you love and then to stick to it like glue. Love, after all, is more like oxygen than oxygen itself. And we do need lots of oxygen in this life.

It has been a week since Graham Brazier left us and I have been thinking about what to write since then. The day after he died my back gave out and I was in quite a bit of pain. Then I felt the huge, black scraping arm of death above me as well and I got just a little bit morbid there for a bit. Graham meant a lot to many of us here in the Shaky Isles. The very idea of Graham was huge in local music.

Many years ago, being a New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll promoter and needing a break from the sadness of it all and from just being me, I would travel to Penang for ‘Heroin Holidays’. I would stay at the glorious, old and decadent New China Hotel. This destination was on what you might call the ‘Beat Route’ and my mates and I would go there and read Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. We’d recite poetry and sing songs to each other. Then, spent, we’d fall asleep in each other’s arms like men can do if they try. The seemingly natural aggression of men would be gone for a while and we liked it leaving us. Sometimes we’d play cricket out the front of the hotel and we’d laugh a lot.

In the foyer of the hotel, there would be ten heavy-duty Chinese guys with sunglasses and wearing hats (it sometimes seemed like they were actually wearing tea cosies on their heads). They’d be playing poker and grimacing at each other. In the rooms, there were no carpeting or blankets, but there was a giant old ceiling fan that one could study for hours a day. This, to us, was a very worthwhile existence. We didn’t watch television or read the newspapers. The internet wasn’t around and so life was a lot more peaceful on that account as well. We didn’t hear every five minutes that a cop had been shot ten thousand miles away. We weren’t endlessly gazing at people who were obviously doing better than us.

But you had to be careful in Penang because nearby was the Australian Air Force base at Butterworth. You’d get drunken and violent Australians pumped up and walking the streets with prostitutes. In every stomp, they’d be defending their manhood and I’m sure alcohol does shrink the dicks of many men and often makes them belligerent as a compensation. They steal their love like thieves in the night.

At one stage at the New China, I shared a large room with some of these prostitutes and they’d tell me about the Australians. I always found it interesting what respectable men will do when they can and what lies beneath the ‘thin veneer of civilisation’.

Anyway, when you walked the streets of Penang dozens of people came up wanting to sell you the local delicacy, ‘Pink Rocks’ (Pink Rock Heroin). At that stage, it was what was keeping the economy afloat and now of course it’s shoes all around the world that keeps the money flowing in and out of the banks. We are all trading shoes with each other, man!

If a Heroin dealer really wanted to attract your attention he’d say: “I know the Chinaman.” What he was telling you was that he was extraordinarily well connected. My man was called Alphonse and I’m here to tell you he really did know the Chinaman.

If I remember correctly, the first time Hello Sailor came to my attention was when they played the Gladstone Hotel in Christchurch around about 1976 or 1977. The pub at that time was owned by local legend John McCarthy.  The gig room was booked by Robin ‘Oz’ Armstrong. These guys are two of the unsung heroes of New Zealand music. Oz told me a few years later that he’d be racing around town on the Sunday morning trying to sell 1000 Buddha Sticks in order to pay the band. That makes it a genuine gig and that’s what music used to be like. It probably still is this way but only if it’s real. It’s all a big gambling game.

Anyway, I can’t say that I knew Graham Brazier that particularly well and so I never really knew the Chinaman.  Hello Sailor played for me a lot over the years and Graham and Dave particularly seemed to always have a smile for everyone. The band came back to New Zealand from Los Angeles sometime in the late 1970s after exhausting themselves trying to go to ‘another level’ in the world. They didn’t crack America and yet they were truly of top shelf quality. Someone got a bad hand because this was one of the very best bands I have ever seen.

In music, it’s as much about ‘the breaks’ as much as anything. If you can play the kind of music that is getting very popular on radio, during your rise and yet make it seem like it’s all your own and that you created it, then you will probably do well. If you can look the part then this helps a lot as well. It’s also best to have sex with music journalists and it pays to wear skinny jeans and to have a beard and to sound wistful keeping in mind that everyone is lonely. If you have a lot of money behind you and a good marketing machine then you should break through. Rumours and photographs of your bad behaviour will help. Join in the popular political movements of the day and play the benefit gigs. There will be curry in your pot if you can do these things.

I saw Graham a lot over the years and at one stage I had quite a correspondence with Dave McArtney. In these last four years since I have been back in New Zealand, I’d call into Graham’s shop a bit. He did some writing and sketching for me and also sang me a song from time to time. Mostly, people surrounded him and he had 20,000 mates as everyone knows. This made it difficult for me to truly connect with him. He was hung like the Statue of Liberty and I’ve seen it.

Most of all what impresses me is that Graham was a good bloke and that is the highest realm in New Zealand. He was a man who had a great deal of feeling for the music he played so well. I mean he ‘felt it’, he wasn’t faking it for radio play and that would be beneath contempt for him. Graham also felt for the man or woman on the street who is just trying to cobble together a living. He was in the very same position. Times are hard as everyone knows and Graham never put himself above anyone. He said to a mate of mine one day that there were now more musicians than plumbers and he meant it in the way you might think he did. He stayed true until the day he died.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

 

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A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 19/03/15

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?

 

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Underdogs and a (Very) Brief History of NZ Music

What Phantom Billstickers is trying to do with our Facebook page and our website is take a bit of Kiwi culture to the world, whether it be our very fine music industry, our artists, poets, film-makers, comedians, clothing designers, or (as they say), whatever. We have several hundred followers on our Facebook page now from places further afield than Aotearoa. We can’t mail you a good old Kiwi meat pie, but we can tell you what our creative people are doing. Onward and on ya!

We’ll feature a little bit of Kiwi music each week and try to explain how we all got here as Kiwis. Firstly, we are a nuclear free country and that’s what we are really proud of.

Secondly, a bloke called Kupe discovered New Zealand some centuries ago. In his waka, there were probably musical instruments. Captain James Cook then ‘discovered’ (again?) Aotearoa in 1769. On any ship, there is always music. We all know this. Music is how people make their lives better. There is a ton of good music in New Zealand and it may be the last place to be truly discovered as a musical Nirvana.

My history will probably fail me, but I believe there were whalers around the shores in the early 1800s.

A lot of settlers came to New Zealand from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They bought mandolins, bagpipes, various stringed instruments, and probably some oboes.  This was all well before the eight track recorder. Maybe even a Lute or two. There were no publicists on board from what we know.

I’ll cut through now to a great period in NZ music probably from the 1940s and 1950s onwards. Great Maori show bands, rock ‘n’ roll (Johnny Devlin was our own star) and many other types of music including some great country music. There was a promoter from Mosgiel in Otago called Joe Brown, and he made a difference to the whole country. Gore is now the country music capital of New Zealand.

Music, a few decades ago in New Zealand, was a mixture of what we heard (being so isolated from the world) and what we made up. Good fun it was too. All radio was government until some dudes put a boat out in the Hauraki Gulf and called it ‘Radio Hauraki’. That stirred us all up immensely. Anything the government does is pretty staid after all. But no one can fight rhythm.

By 1967, and I’m really editing a lot out here, The Underdogs have arrived. Even by then, we’d already sent several bands and solo acts around the world. Long way to go, Snow.

Lots of people will have a different view, but I think the Underdogs were probably our prime blues band of that era or any other. The Blues Army Salvation (from Christchurch) were also pretty good. Oh hell, there were many. The tradition of good blues bands in New Zealand carries on to this day.

The Underdogs had many fine moments, and Sitting in the Rain was one of them.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson