A new book by STEVE BRAUNIAS presents 100 strange, beautiful and sometimes disturbing New Zealand LP covers. He selects 10 of the best and worst dressed.
This really beautiful one-button suit, complete with Cuban heeled boots and a cufflinked white shirt, is exactly what I’d like to wear next time I’m enjoying a nature walk in winter. I’m not sure where this was taken. It looks like maybe the Port Hills, or Diamond Harbour, but I suspect it’s Wellington. One thing’s for sure: the dude looks insane.
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New Zealand was supposedly uptight, aggressive, and Victorian in its sexuality before the great revolutions of the ’60s and ’70s but Noel McKay was blatantly sleazy in his fishnets and mink stole, and there’s a disturbing S&M touch in the mannequin’s head on the piano. I gather it was photographed in a house on Franklin Rd, in Ponsonby, later owned by Bill Ralston and tenanted by Noelle McCarthy. The piano was in the hallway. One thing’s for sure: everyone spoke of McKay as a total asshole.
Trumpet player Kay Hutchins said of this strange, haunting album cover photographed in the Botanical Gardens in Wellington in 1971, “I can remember that day vividly as anything. It was late morning, half-past 10, 11 o’çlockish. There was a waterfall to the left. Half of us were terrified we were going to fall into the friggin’ pond. We’re all wearing culottes – quite with-it for the time. Our choreographer Evelyn Charles took a shine to Vivien Hamlin who happened to be Miss Wellington and Miss New Zealand runner-up, and positioned her down on the rock in front. She didn’t shine to me. I had something taken off my neck and had a bit of patch on it so I was stuck up in a corner in the semi-shade. The girls in the back look like military soldiers. It’s a shocking photograph but it depicts how sweet and innocent we were…” One thing’s for sure: their choral version of ‘The Pushbike Song’ is awesome.
One of the main reasons I chose this from my collection of 750 New Zealand LPs was the argyle vest. The back cover notes, “Clothing courtesy Rockerfellers for Men, Papakura.” I suspect the photo was taken in Papakura, too. It doesn’t exactly look like a vibrant city scene with much happening. One thing’s for sure: it’s the greatest argyle vest in the history of New Zealand music.
And it was all yellow. When I interviewed Jon, the main thing I wanted to know was the story behind that amazing shirt. He recalled the photo shoot: “A whole rack of clothes was brought in and I tried everything on. I remember the stylist was a lady called Vicky Parker. She’s the one who convinced me to wear canary yellow. I was just a street kid from Upper Hutt. That whole thing changed my life.” The album, and the two singles – ‘Montego Bay’, and ‘Jezebel’ – were all smash hits. He reached the top, fast, and the only way to go was down. His career nosedived as quickly as it rose – in New Zealand, anyway; he got the hell out, and reinvented himself as a star in Australia. One thing’s for sure: it’s the greatest yellow shirt in the history of New Zealand music.
There were two massive disappointments when I set about researching the album covers for my book. One is I never did find who drew the incredible cover for Turn Onto Music by Fijian band Mantis, and the second is I never did find out who drew this incredible cover for John’s debut album, which was a massive success and can now be found in op shops the length and width of the country. One thing’s for sure: it’s such a great piece of New Zealand folk art.
Another debut album by another country music legend. Suzanne Prentice was 14 years old when she became a star, and is the picture of innocence in her cable knit sweater photographed in golden light by Harry Ruffell, one of the great names in New Zealand country as a producer and photographer. Her big break came on a TV talent show. She wrote in her memoir One Day At A Time, “I wore cream trousers with an apricot satin blouse and a sleeveless, suede fringed vest, and had my hair tied in pigtails with big apricot bows. No self-respecting teenager would want to wear pigtails but Mum persuaded me — and she was right as it gave me this girl-next-door look that the public seemed to love.” One thing’s for sure: man she was a great singer.
Stunning clothes, stunning album. One thing’s for sure: it’s pretty much entirely unlistenable.
Terence Hogan designed this classic cover, photographed in Queen Street by Murray Cammick, who always calls this photo The Kiss. Hogan said, “I like how the rumpled clothes are set off by the stark chrome lines of the car.” He referenced the great documentary photographer Robert Franks, and Robert Doisneau’s famous 1950 photo Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), of two lovers kissing: “And as in Doisneau the three visible hands are crucial.” One thing’s for sure: cool jean jackets.
And now Jesus will play the mandolin. This may well be my favourite New Zealand record cover of all times, and it’s all due to Brown having the gall to wear a fucking kaftan. I’m not sure why he did, but he did, and when I found the LP, for $2 in an op shop in Glen Eden, I nearly cried with joy.