Penknife Glides – Sharpies Stab At Success

GARY STEEL pulls another piece from his oozing back catalogue – 1981 story about Auckland band Penknife Glides.

Penknife Glides in 1981

“We don’t tell you to forget your problems. We tell you your problems. But dance anyway. We might not be here in five years. We might not change it, but at least be aware of it.” This comes courtesy the mouth of Stephen Gravelle, frontman/vocalist in Auckland’s ‘band most likely to…1981’, Penknife Glides .

“To me, it’s more of an interesting edge to stand there and dance yourself stupid while you’re saying that the world’s coming to an end next year.”


Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.


Penknife Glides want people to get off their arses, to dance and think: they tell us that it is possible to do both at the same time.

Their music is zippy, energetic, principally passive pop. Lyrics are as “serious and down to earth as the old ’76 punk lyrics,” says drummer Stefan Morris. “They’re not just lovey dovey ‘be mine tonight’ bullshit. That’s why on our first single we’re printing a lyric sheet because it’s an important part of it.”

“Some of the songs are angry songs,” says Stephen. “But they’re not put over in three chord riff style. It’s not ‘your personality makes me vomit, Blam! Blam! Blam!’ Like, we may be saying it in a subtle way!”

Yet the band don’t deny punky origins: guitarist/vocalist Cliff Gravelle came by way of The Primmers and bassist Jules Maloney via Electrabeat, for instance.

PGs see the positivism of bands like The Beat and Madness to be where it’s at in ’81, rather than the fatalistic, negative angle of other nameless bands.

The band have met with early approval. Signed to Hugh Lynn’s Mascot Studios, and with appearances at Sweetwaters and a support slot for The Police already under their belts, they’ve got a head start on many others. They are thoughtful in conversation, genuine and completely natural; something which is rare even within the New Zealand pop world.

Their ideas don’t seem to come across in practice as well as they do on paper – their show seems to lack variation and dynamics – but the one that I could afford time to see was barely enough indication to convince or otherwise, so I’ll leave my personal verdict in the wind.

* This story appeared in the April 1981 edition of Wellington’s In Touch magazine. Murray Cammick’s profile on Penknife Glides can be found here on AudioCulture.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.