Kiwi music came of age … again
BY GRAHAM REID
As the man said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but any year that sees Run DMC, Miles Davis and Townes Van Zandt, Mick Jagger at the Gluepot and Pink FIoyd at the Springs has got to have something going for it. Davis was widely considered one of the best of times, the Neon Non Picnic scheduled for last summer one of the worst.
It was the year of the bimbette (Tiffany, Kylie Minogue. Debbie Gibson), of When The Cat’s Away (live, on the tele and in the Music Awards – everywhere in fact) and ageing rockers like Pink Floyd and Bryan Ferry still pulling crowds. In the late 80s even James Taylor and Don McLean got audiences in Auckland. And it was the year of cover versions, too.
Kiwi music came of age, again. Radio was still slow to catch on but the Holidaymakers, Tex Pistol, and Ardijah all got their well deserved time in the sun – Bailter Space, Headless Chickens and Straightjacket Fits all charted, too. despite an absence of airplay on stations which claim a lot for themselves but give away money to induce people to listen. The Fan Club did well.
Campus Radio and Aotearoa Radio tried to keep everyone honest and among radio’s finer moments in ’88 was hearing people ring up Aotearoa and sing to them. That’s a whole new ballgame. as they say.
And in spite of the small size of the potential audience in Auckland, the diversity of music on offer was extraordinary.
Little-known American artists like Butch Hancock and Steve Young pulled dedicated followings, the folk scene began the year with a couple of good concerts in the Art Gallery (but faltered thereafter) and the Gluepot and Rising Sun hosted the so-called Cassandra’s Ears, Bitumen Waltz, The Jean Paul Sartre Experience and, most recently, Sartre Experience and, most recently. Stephen – all working before audiences which knew what they wanted to hear and were seldom disappointed.
It began as an annus mirabilis tor jazz with Wynton Marsalis and Sarah Vaughan in Wellington (but turning up later on television) and Miles Davis, Dale Barlowe (at the Queen’s Birthday Weekend Festival) and a good cross-section of locals in the 12-week Art Gallery concert series.
And just as expatriate New Zealanders like Dave Dobbyn and Neil Finn took their Kiwi connections to the world, so did residents.
Away from these shores it was The Year of The Chills who played Europe, America and Australia, shuffled the line-up again, kept making their music despite it all and now look set to crack the big one.
Herbs, Shona Laing, The Bats, Headless Chickens and a one-off reformation of The Clean put our music into their ears. The Front Lawn put another side of South Pacific mores into their faces.
And while we went there, the Australians came to our place. Midnight Oil, Icehouse. INXS, Died Pretty, Big Pig, Jimmy Barnes, a brace of covers bands and rock guerrllas Painters and Dockers all crossed the big pond.
And in ’88, like it or not, rock got harder. On the local front Knightshade were rewarded by sales for their You Don’t Me and the charts got cluttered with American bands like Guns “n” Roses, Poison and Van Halen.
And rock got softer too. Tracy Chapman’s debut album was one of the year’s slow creepers and hung around the upper reaches of the charts for a very long time. And powerful women singers like Sinead O’Connor and Toni Childs appeared and were welcomed.
k d laing affirmed what a lot of people already suspected, the country music they like is the stuff that sounds most like it has a rock ‘n’ roll heart. For many people ’88 was the year to discover Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam and, if they were very lucky, Auckland’s own Al Hunter.
Along with the Warratahs, Hunter kept the small banner of country-inspired music fying.
This was the year when you could catch The Pogues and Cliff Richard within days of each other, when too many people mistook new age sounds for music and when Ardijah, Patea Maori and Kiwi compilation albums (ideal presents for those refugees from Rogernomics now living abroad) all became part of any sensible record collection.
And just one day glued to Aotearoa or Campus Radio, a couple of nights at the Gluepot, the Powerstation (the most welcome addition to the live venue drought) or The Rising Sun could convince most people of the depth of as-yet unrecognised taient in, the local marketplace.
And that’s without looking at the other “alternatives,” the scenes building up around Connxions Club (The Psychodaisies, The Rattlesnakes)- or the university (The Warners, Bygone Era).