The Gordons: Free birds with massive tweet

May 29, 2023
3 mins read

To celebrate NZ Music Month GARY STEEL excavates a 1983 interview – 40 years ago! – with legendary noisemakers The Gordons.

The Gordons liken their extraordinary sound to a little bird escaping the big city: the pneumatic drills, the sonic rush of peak traffic.

Anyone in the vicinity of Wellington’s Cuba St last weekend will have heard for themselves this little bird in full flight.

In fact, hundreds of diverse young people descended on a disused billiard parlour, many with cotton wool at the ready for ear protection, to witness the comeback of this phenomenal three-piece from Christchurch.


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The music is a massive wall of noise played through an equally massive sound system, a crushing but exhilarating assault on the senses. The Gordons are an object lesson in the potential of three instruments played by people with intelligence and no bars on the creative process; they use no special effects, but the depth and scope is as wide as you wish.

The Gordons are back after an 18-month sabbatical, and no one’s disappointed. They have lost bass guitarist Alister Parker along the way: he “had a religious experience” and became a Christian, says guitarist/vocalist John Halvorsen. The band are willing to accept Parker back any time he wants, but are pleased with new recruit, ex-Proud Scum man Vince Pinker.

“This is a lot like our first tour,” says John. “We’ve got a brand new dog. We always had a puppy with us. The van nearly blew up. We had lots of money stolen… $1200. Everything’s gone wrong that could possibly go wrong!”

The tour/accommodation money theft meant the band had to sleep at their Wellington venue. Luckily, the dates were successful, and they now have enough to finance themselves to Auckland.

Says John: “We were really worried about Wellington. It’s just so unpredictable (whether people are going to turn out on the night)… it depends so much on what’s on television. I’m really glad the people arrived and they didn’t forget… otherwise we would have been stuck here for months.”

The re-activated band (the unmentioned member being fab drummer Brent McLaughlin) is ambitious. Back in Christchurch, their own recording studio is near completion. “It’ll be the best facility in the South Island,” says John. “We’re a label as well – Freefall Studios, Freefall Records. There will be other labels for other things. The Gordons and some other bands will be on Freefall. I’d like to do a label for mums and dads as well.”

The studio will give the band unlimited time in which to improvise and practise material before recording; something they could not afford to do with their highly acclaimed album, recorded two years ago at Auckland’s Harlequin Studios.

“The album wasn’t representative of live Gordons,” says John. “We were trying to change people’s ideas of what we were. For one night’s recording with a low budget it turned out incredibly well, but every time we played it back, that’s one hour, $40; and we couldn’t afford to play it back.”

In fact, says John, “We hardly heard it before it was released. We just did it, late at night, stuffed.” As it was, it took the band months to afford to buy the tapes off the studio in order to release the album.

The new Gordons are as powerful as ever, but have a more refined, moody tinge to their repertoire of mostly brand-new material. The Gordons are still like no other band on earth… not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe, but that’s their funeral. Right?

The Gordons finish up their tour at Mainstreet on October 20, A Certain Bar on the 21st, Windsor Castle on the 22nd, and SPAM on the 24th.


+ This story originally appeared in The Times on the 16th of October 1983. In retrospect, it’s fascinating to hear John talking about the recording of the classic Gordons debut album; how it was all done in one night and it wasn’t representative of their live set at the time. One of the great tragedies of NZ music is that the songs with which they made their legend were never released, apart from the one ‘Future Shock’ EP. Check out Witchdoctor for more Gordons coverage, including my first story published on the band in 1980.



Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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