In honour of NZ Music Month, Gary Steel climbs into the crumbling catacombs of his back catalogue, and disinters a different story Every Day In May (EDIM). Today’s piece appeared in Rip It Up in September 1979.
Note: The band’s name is rather apt. I think by the time the article was published, Colin Bayley had taken off to Sydney, and Short Story’s fate was pretty much sealed. As the story notes, there was supposed to be an album, but it was never released. I’ve never heard exactly what happened, or what Kevin Bayley did afterwards. Perhaps there’s a reader out there who can fill in the last chapter?
WHILE HARDLY METEORIC, Short Story’s rapid ascent up the rocky rock to success since inception December last has seen them established as Wellington’s top group and one of NZ’s more promising outfits.
Leader and mentor Kevin Bayley is modest when approached on the subject, but manager Danny Ryan admits that “Short Story is a vehicle for Kevin’s songs.” The 29-year-old guitarist/singer/songwriter has a 10 year history in NZ rock, which includes time with such seminal early ‘70s groups as Chapta, Taylor, Luther and most importantly Rockinghorse. His influence is dominant on the Grande Affaire album from 1976.
Rockinghorse disintegrated mid-1978, and after a well-earned six month rest, Kevin decided the time had come to get back into rock and roll.
“We initially came together to record a tape for 2ZM’s Band Of The Month”, says Kevin of the band’s formation. Brother Colin Bayley, similarly a guitarist/singer/songwriter (with a track on Misex’s debut album to his credit), drummer Steve Garden, keyboardist Gary Taylor and bassist Leon Keil complete the lineup.
Leon is a former Red Rose, Steve played briefly with Rockinghorse, Rough Justice and Bamboo, and Gary Taylor was previously with a Christchurch group called Shannon.
The first single ‘Julia’, an infectious yet unrepresentative sample of Kevin’s material, appeared in April before most radio stations and record shops had become aware of the group’s pedigree. It got generous airplay but low sales.
The next feather in SS’s caps was a three day stint at wellington’s Marmalade Studios in July (the group are managed by Marmalade Records) with visiting American producer Jay Lewis. Besides astounding local musos and setting the biz in a buzz, Lewis produced a creditable future single, slotted for release later this year, in ‘Halfway To Paradise.’
Kevin comments on the sessions: “It was an amazing week. Everyone was just so enthusiastic. I think everyone learned quite a lot from that week.”
He enthuses: “A lot of it has to do with attitude. His attitude was just so positive. We just came into the studio, jammed for awhile, did two takes and that was it. He wasn’t concerned with bad notes or whatever. He was into performance, into capturing something on tape.”
SS are considerably better at ‘capturing something on tape’ than yours truly the journalist, whose cassette recorder chooses a marathon one and a half hour interview with Kevin Bayley and amiable manager Danny Ryan, to cease proper functioning.
A rainy Wednesday late in July, Short Story (minus Kevin, who is having his toothache exhumed at the dentist) are in Marmalade studios in rarely achieved “relaxed circumstances, recording at their leisure rough takes of “possibilities” for the debut album, which they take two months off the road to record starting early October.
Being contracted to Marmalade has its advantages, not least in free studio time, and the group is using these privileges to good effect. This afternoon they record three of Gary’s tunes, and the results are remarkably polished. The previous day, no less than ten of Kevin’s songs had been recorded.
In contrast to the norm, audiences (or at least the audience at Wellington’s relaxed, low-key Last Resort café) show appreciation more for original Short Story songs than for covers, however good they may be. ‘Whole Lotta Lookin’, ‘Don’t Stop’, and ‘Halfway To Paradise’ get particularly good audience response, the band and audience feed off one another, and Short Story turn in an exemplary performance.
A couple of tunes from Rockinghorse days are featured – ‘Jamaica’ and ‘Operator’. Their covers are carefully selected lesser known songs by artists as diverse as Cheap Trick, Roy Wood and Little Feat, apart from the grossly over-used ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, which caps off the evening’s entertainment.
Short Story’s support for The Knack in the Wellington town Hall burned bright despite the dire sound acoustics. The band stormed aggressively through a short, impressive set which nearly earned them an encore.
Steve drums perkily, hard-hitting but swinging, evidence of his jazz leanings, while Leon sloops back and forth plucking out bass figures. Both keep the undertow firmly under control. Gary mostly adds texture on electric piano, and occasionally lets out with a screaming synth break (without detracting from the music). Colin plays excellent rhythm and occasional lead and has a quintessential pop voice, not to mention looks. Kevin though, steals the limelight with his rough full throated vocals and accomplished guitar.
Kevin is a potential guitar hero, but displays remarkable restraint and economy in his playing. He will acknowledge that, though the song format occasionally frustrates his wish to solo, the main idea is to get the song across to the audience. Most of the action goes on in the instrumental texture beneath and within the song structures, and the end result is music worthy of shaking limbs to and bending ears for. The songs are generally longish, which works wonders when the right sort of communication between band and audience is established and the energy level is high, and becomes equally boring and static when this is not the case.
Although to some extent comparison is pointless, the Short Story sound obviously draws from Little Feat’s loose limbed rock and roll shuffle (done ala Rockinghorse), smooth ‘70s pop (Cheap Trick, Cars, Police), and new wave aggressiveness.
The immediate future for Short Story will be devoted to recording the first album, and directing efforts towards release overseas.
Says Kevin: “This country has advantages in its size, but also disadvantages, in that over exposure comes very quickly.” Like Street Talk, the group is after an international market: a base in NZ, but records released in other countries, and tours in those countries to promote the records.
Kevin’s talent and experience combined with the other members’ youthful energy (they’re in their early 20s) and musical ability, should place them firmly in the running for the kind of success which has so far eluded local groups.
Personnel changes are in the wind for Short Story. It’s the usual personnel/musical differences cliché but they will last in one form or another with Kevin Bayley at the helm.
Regardless, we can enjoy their music in the meantime – a mainstream mixture of the best of the old and the new which discards fashion and pretense in favour of good rock and roll. GARY STEEL