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). His first tentative steps into the world of music writing took place for Rip It Up in 1979. These time capsules are reproduced below.
Having graduated from journalism school and scored a job at The Evening Post as a cadet subeditor, I approached Rip It Up’s editor Murray Cammick to see if he needed any correspondents in Wellington. Next thing I knew, I was asked to meet up with the magazine’s co-editor, Alastair McDougall, in a Cuba St café. He handed over a few terrible albums to review (The Shirts, Night, Tycoon) and asked me to do the Wellington part of their news column, Rumours. I was too shy to tell him that I was too shy to do such a job (all I really wanted to do was interview myself by reviewing albums). It involved ringing up loads of people and finding out what was actually going on. Actually talking to people. I was scared of people.
But somehow I rose to the challenge, although my Wellington Rumours columns were painfully light on any punk-oriented material. I think my take on that was that Rip It Up wanted to keep it commercial, mainstream. I was probably wrong.
Looking at these bits now, they show a Wellington that was if not exactly moribund, definitely taking a downward turn in terms of interest in live bands/venues, and an attendant diminishing of recorded evidence. It was as if the only bands that existed were Reel To Real, the Wide Mouthed Frogs and Rough Justice, who fittingly hung up their collective hats in my final column.
Still, interesting to see the emergence of Ross Burge as a 19-year-old jazz drummer, years before his tenure in The Muttonbirds… and other tidbits.
Within a few months, I had somehow blagged the music writing gig at the Evening Post. I succeeded Cameron Bennett and Hannah Wallis, both of whom went on to TV stardom, while 35 years later, as improbable as it sounds, I’m still just writing about music.
Wellington Rumours, May 1979
The Queen city fave raves Th’ Dudes let Wellington down on Anzac Day when they pulled out at the last minute from their headlining gig at the Opera House. They didn’t like the sound gear, natch. The gig went ahead with support band Rough Justice (not to mention the Wide Mouthed Frogs) playing to a sympathetic audience. Promoter Stuart Thwaite loses out financially, but Th’ Dudes go down 10 points in credibility stakes (see letter page 22)… Crocodiles, who recently osmosed out of the very spirit of Spatz, have secured Kim ‘Street Talk’ Fowley’s enthusiasm. He’s been in touch with Fane Flaws, and wants some demos immediately!… Short Story has a single ‘Julia’ out through CBS and an album in the works at Marmalade Studios. Also recording at Marmalade are Ready To Roll perennial Tina Cross and ex-Rockinghorse keyboards man Wayne Mason…The Wide Mouthed Frogs are to concentrate on recording and TV work over the next few months. The six feminine froggies have yet to venture from homeground as they are determined not to get trapped in the pub circuit… IYC will get the proceeds from Sharon O’Neill’s self-penned, soon-to-be-recorded theme from Telethon, and Sharon has already cut a couple of tracks for her next album… Neville Purvis, Rough Justice, Limbs, and Ian Watkins are tentatively set to star in what promises to be an off-beat (at the very least) TV variety show in September. Keep your fingers crossed that this gem doesn’t become a victim of Government TV spending restraints… Australia’s revered Phil Manning Band, featuring ex-Country Flyer Midge Marsden, play the Last Resort on May 8… Also here in May are Auckland’s The Plague and the just-signed to WEA Toy Love… Last Resort features jazz Wednesday nights this month with gigs organised by Colin Hemmingson and featuring different guests each week… Christchurch band Bon Marche are coming up in the world. They play the Rock Theatre the second week in May, and if successful, plan to head still further North! GARY STEEL
Wellington Rumours, June 1979
Dennis O’Brien is going back to Britain in August to record for European disco company Ariola. He is well peeved with reception in Auckland, though in Wellington his debut album is moving a few units… The Wonders, Rough Justice and the Wide Mouthed Frogs are set for a concert tour of the North Island in August. The Frogs are working on an animated complementary film for their third of the show. The Rough Justice touring bus blew up in Christchurch in May, stranding the band for nearly a week… Reel To Real have reformed after a three-month lay-off. New members are James Cameron (vocals, ex-Stiletto) and Peter Alison (keyboards). Geoff Keith (bass), Graham Potter (drums) and Ashley Lienart (guitar) remain from the previous incarnation… Johnny Mono and the Steroids, Min Kala and the Smashed Executive went down well as support acts in May at the Rock Theatre. The two bands a night policy, giving young locals a chance, is to be continued… Session bassist Mark Hornibrook is back in NZ and getting his ‘high class disco’ outfit Streetplayer back together. They will reside at Uncle Albert’s through June… The Rodger Fox Big Band has a new drummer. Replacing Bill Brown is 19-year-old Ross Burge from the Polytech music course. Busy Bill Brown will continue playing with the 1860 Band… There are nasty rumours flying around that sticksman Bruno Lawrence is back in town and playing sax on appalling TV quiz-show Paddy’s Market. GARY STEEL
Wellington Rumours, July 1979
The Last Resort celebrated its first birthday on June 15 with a Rockinghorse midnight reunion concert and a huge birthday cake. A full house consumed both with obvious relish. The Resort’s Wednesday night jazz sessions have proved so popular that a similarly-styled rock night is being planned for Thursdays… RTR has a new producer, Tony Holden, whose previous experience includes A Week Of It. He is giving NZ bands more exposure and will use film as opposed to video for some bands. In July, the RTR lenses will capture Bon Marche, Medusa (winners of 2ZM’s band competition) and the Wonders… Mike Knapp is now the manager of the Rock Theatre. He is replaced in Streetplayer by Steve Osborne… The Wonders are searching nationwide for the right guitarist. If you fit the bill, phone Peter Anderson… In July, Phil Judd’s The Swingers and Think play the Rock Theatre and Appaloosa (featuring ex-Living Force members Harvey Mann and Glen Absolum) and the revamped Reel To Real appear at the Last Resort… Both 2ZM and Windy are pushing local bands on weeknight programmes. Those responsible are John Hood and John Barry. Local radio is worth listening to again. GARY STEEL
Wellington Rumours, August 1979
Splits Department: Wellington’s dwindling number of bands is sadly depleted by the breakup of both Rough Justice and The Wonders. The Rougho’s July 26 ‘Farewell Party’ also starred the Wide Mouthed Frogs (in Auckland August 17-19), Neville Purvis, the Windy City Strugglers, Gary McCormick and The Ducks… Reel To Real’s new line-up had a successful first weekend at the Last Resort… The Normals have left Wellington’s pleasant clime to conquer Auckland… The Steroids (who have dropped the ‘Johnny Mono and…’ tag) have recorded several songs at Crescendo Studios, Miramar… When the Crocodiles record their album it’s likely to feature Mark Hornibrook on bass and Bruno Lawrence on drums… The Rodger Fox Big Band will be appearing at the prestigious Montreaux International Jazz Festival in 1980. GARY STEEL