By 1983, there was a whole world of live local music in Auckland and if there was a trend at all, then it was that anything goes. From the old school, the All Stars returned to playing the blues, Rick Bryant to his beloved soul music, and Graham Brazier continued his search for the perfect backing band. 

Meanwhile, over in the pop-rock mainstream, the Narcs, DD Smash, Sharon O’Neill and the Mockers were on the rise. And, more interestingly, Blam Blam Blam were reborn, and Coconut Rough, Body Electric and Miltown Stowaways were born. 

And who remembers Gorilla Biscuits?


Gorilla Biscuits, at the Globe, last night and finally tonight; February 1983, Auckland Star

“Another quiet night at the Globe,” said the barman to no-one in particular.

Shame too. Gorilla Biscuits are a band worth catching. Not because of any pretence at polish, slickness or a tight stage act. They have none of those.

But what they do have are all the ingredients that count – songs, feel and originality.

The same barman had inquired of the band before they crammed onto the tiny stage what sort of music they played.

“Biscuit music,” muttered the bass player.

Which seems pretty fair. In a world where everyone is only too willing to label any new band, Gorilla Biscuits defy categorisation. Their music is angular, occasionally awkward stuff built on the strong base of Greg Edwards’s decisive drumming and Bernie Griffin’s melodic bass lines.

Lead guitarist Paul Gilbert aims for colour rather than flash. Rod Flint, who adds sax, trumpet and flute to the mix, provided some nice subtle touches in the generally low-key first set and a touch of fire in the more aggressive second.

Out front, Richard Holden, on keyboards, rhythm guitar and very distinctive vocals, shows promise as a front man to watch.

Of their songs, ‘Funk Up’ stood out for its guitar-driven aggression, ‘Ghost of a Sailor’ for its melodic ambition and ‘Patti Smith’ because it sounds like a hit single.

That’s three bases covered – and they hit home with a nifty version of Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love’, with aid from a pair of femmes vocale dubbed the Biscats.

Nothing crumby about these Biscuits. The recipe sounds right from here.


The All Stars Play the Blues at the Windsor Castle, last night, tonight, and every Monday and Tuesday; March 1983, Auckland Star

Blimey, I’m staying home tonight. There’s been enough excitement in the past three days to last a musical hedonist a couple of months, never mind compressing it into one extended weekend.

Dire Straits (on Saturday) and Joni Mitchell (Sunday) were nothing short of wonderful in their differing ways. But anyone who thought that wandering into The Windsor Castle last night for a little local entertainment would bring them down to earth fast would be very wrong.

A different musical deal altogether maybe, but pretty fine in its own right – and, at $3, terrific value.

The theory is simple: Assemble a band of some of Auckland’s “star” blues and rock musicians, put a couple of strong voices out front, mix in a few musical guests and let them loose on a bunch of blues and rock standards.

Nostalgia, maybe, but rock is as much about its past as it is about its present and ever-shaky future. And who’s going to argue with a band that poured out as much feel, energy and sheer musical excitement as the All Stars did last night.

But then, that was some sort of line-up they had. At the bottom of things were drummer Ricky Ball and bassist Billy Kristian, keeping things rock-sure and effortlessly on course, while Peter Wood (piano), Willie Dayson (guitar), Keith Ballantyne (trumpet, trombone) and Walter Bianco (sax) traded solos.

Out front, veteran blues-master Sonny Day and the rather wonderful Beaver handled the vocal chores.

Brian Smith stepped up to add some jazzier flavours on sax during the second set, and even Tommy Ferguson leapt onstage for a hyperactive storm through ‘Gimme Some Lovin’.

Great stuff – from Sonny Day’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’ to Beaver’s ‘Hurts So Bad’ and their duet on ‘Dust My Broom’ and more fine playing than probably anyone was prepared for.

The place was packed and will be again tonight if good taste has any say in these matters.


Coconut Rough and Diatribe at the Windsor Castle, last night; April 1983, Auckland Star

It was one of those nights at the pub when, if someone had sealed the doors at 9pm and turned on the gas, they might have wiped out a goodly portion of New Zealand’s rock industry.

Every interested rock musician in town was there, along with Neil Finn (passing through town). Great heavens, there were even record company people present.

And, yes, there were plenty of real people too. The place was jammed.

And the reason for this particular game of sardines was a new five-piece band called Coconut Rough, on paper anyway, an event of considerable musical potential.


The combination of Andrew McLennan (ex Pop Mechanix and The Swingers), Mark Bell (Blam Blam Blam, Big Sideways), Stuart Pearce (Street Talk), Paul Hewitt (Big Sideways) and Dennis Tuwhare (Smilers) pointed to a spot of musical excitement the like of which we could use right now on the Auckland rock circuit.

And, as things turned out, Coconut Rough were considerably unrough and very ready to make a major mark.

They’ve got sharp, modern, memorable songs – ‘Sierra Leone’ in particular sounds like a hit – a bright, skilled instrumental front of Bell, sparking as always on guitar, and Pearce, pulling shrewd strokes, mainly on synthesiser.

McLennan maintains a lower profile than his pat freneticism, often singing from behind the piano. Bell too takes his share of the lead vocals and Tuwhare, apart from being half of a strong rhythm section, adds a distinctive warmth to the vocal frontline.

Coconut Rough is definitely a band to watch.

So too is Diatribe, with their sure feel for the power of an ever-changing beat, though they won only a polite response from the crowd last night.

Coconut Rough would have to be front runner for the flavour of ’83.


The Birthday Party with Children’s Hour, Fishschool and Marching Girls at Mainstreet, last night; May 1983, Auckland Star

I recognise that girl

Took her from rags to stitches

Tonight we sleep in separate ditches

And early this morning (aprés the midnight hour), the Birthday Party uncoiled their evil spell on the stage of Mainstreet.

The problem at Mainstreet, as someone was heard to observe last night, is staying sober – that is, if you have the money to oil such a marathon.

The big crowd got three support bands, stretching from 8.30, when what they really wanted, probably, was the Birthday Party – and much more Birthday Party than we got early this morning.

They were good, mind you, if “good” is a word you want to use around an outfit like the Birthday Party. But I, for one, would have preferred them making their point for a bit more than the barely 40 minutes they delivered.

A problem for Birthday Party was that they arrived here drummerless and, at short notice, pulled in Des Hefner from Marching Girls to sit behind the kit. Intensive rehearsal on Monday and yesterday yielded the short set they played.

So, short and definitely unsweet, it was. Birthday Party make music to have nightmares by. Their songs, like the afore-quoted ‘Deep in the Woods’ from their new EP, are slow-evil grinds riding on the back of Tracy Pew’s monumentally heavy bass guitar.

Rowland Howard’s guitar skates on top in a haze of half crazy, half inspired feedback while, out front, singer Nick Cave rides his lyrics with a visceral ecstacy. 

Utterly gripping.

Opening proceedings, Children’s Hour delivered their version of the apocalypse. Impressive too, if a little high on the distortion factor. A perfect opening band for what was to come.

Fishschool were more inclined to atmospheric fumbles. Avant garbage, did I hear someone say.

While Marching Girls displayed a smooth, well-oiled power on songs like ‘My Friends’ and especially ‘Plain Jane’ from their new EP.

Debbie Schulze’s voice was strong and confident, matched by the impressive playing of bassist Bryan Colechin. Not enough stand-out songs, though.

Birthday Party, on the other hand, burned.


The Narcs with Stark Naked and Auckland Walk at Mainstreet, last night; May 1983, Auckland Star

Approaching Mainstreet last night at about 8.30 things looked grim.

The only bodies on the street belonged to a bulky young constable who was passing the time of night with the lady pulling a classic pose on the corner below the rock venue’s entrance.

And they showed no sign of popping in to catch the music.

Inside, it wasn’t much busier when Stark Naked took the stage as opening act for the evening’s festivities. Not much fun playing to next-to-nobody, though Stark Naked aren’t an intensely gripping sort of band anyway.

By the time Auckland Walk hit the stage there was considerably more flesh on the floor. Which was just as well – Auckland Walk aims at the feet to a great extent.

And no wonder, with a rhythm section as propulsive as the combination of Eddie Olsen on drums and Warwick Keay (bass). Michelle Morris’s keyboards fill the instrumental frontline without dominating, leaving Carey Patterson to pull the vocal heroics, which he does with considerable power.

The Narcs, a viciously tight trio, turned on the fire and the fury

The Narcs came onstage and fully lived up to the title of the EP they were launching last night. No Turning Back is definitely the name of the game as the viciously tight trio – currently augmented by Liam Ryan on keyboards – took the bit between its teeth and turned on the fire and fury.

Guitarist/singer Andy Dickson writes aggressive rock songs that are perfect vehicles for his hyperactive playing, while Tony Waine (bass) and Steve Clarkson (drums) supple the thrust.

I know it’s been said before, but the Narcs do sound custom-made for an Australian audience hungry for the sort of controlled fury the likes of the Angels supply. And Dickson often turns out brighter songs than that Aussie outfit manages these days.

The hooklines in songs like ‘No Turning Back’ and ‘Stay Away’ are designed to catch and hold. A shame the addition of keyboards was often lost in the mix, though Ryan did step neatly to the fore in the new ‘Look the Other Way’.

The Narcs have worked hard for success. They deserve it.


Ricky May at the Ace of Clubs, last night and finally tonight; May 1983, Auckland Star

Ricky May “live” at the end of the world.

Well, that’s how it must seem to the Onehunga-born-and-bred singer on his occasional visits home. He might have cracked the international cabaret circuit, but back in Auckland his performances are very much family affairs.

“I’ve come 50 yards in 25 years,” May cracked at one point last night – a reference to the fact that he started his career at the Picasso, once a hop, step and holler from last night’s Cook Street venue.

And, as always, references to his musical beginnings peppered his two sets.

Ricky May is undoubtedly a gifted singer, a great stylist and a performer impossible to faze. He almost enjoys teetering on the brink of a disaster – letting songs virtually fall apart before he plucks them back with a swift touch of the ad libs or, his favourite, scat singing.

The six-piece band standing behind him last night included some of Auckland’s finest jazz players. Those were the good points.

Because, sadly, musical inspiration wasn’t exactly pouring off the stage last night,

First, the players were sacrificed to a sound system that lost as much as it relayed. And, second, it seems a major pity that May let his considerable talent loose on songs as inconsequential as the majority of his repertoire.

May seems a stylist in search of a style. One minute, the high-flying jazzman, the next a rock and roller and, the next, a singer of some of the stickiest songs ever to find themselves glued to the middle of the road.

Cabaret, variety – is there any difference?

Either way, the capacity audience lapped it up.

A hesitant ‘The Big Hurt’ kicked things off, followed by ‘Big Boy’, a near-novelty song to match May’s impressive waistline.

Then ‘Solitaire’, which, like much of what followed, rapidly became a medley. May is a man who doesn’t like to hang onto one song too long. Much of what he sang last night had a Stars on 45 feel to it.

‘The Three Bears’ matched ‘Mack the Knife’ in the nostalgia stakes and the Righteous Brothers’ crass ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ provided an excuse to run through some creaking oldies from the pop bag.

We got sugar aplenty with the themes from Arthur and The Love Boat – both songs ill-designed to match May’s abilities. Akin to treading water in a tepid pool.

We got a touch of Ray Charles with ‘Georgia’ and ‘What’d I Say’, a dreadful new piece of pop schlock in the shape of ‘Abracadabra’ and then back to the warm MOR stuff with ‘Love Is in the Air’.

Style reared its head near the end, though, with a heartfelt ‘As Time Goes By’, featuring Mike Walker’s stylish piano. And then it was out on another wave of nostalgia – ‘La Mer’, ‘Cocacabana’ and an energetic, if unconvincing ’50s rock and roll medley.

All in all, a very mixed bag. A lot of nostalgia, but with the crowd virtually shouting “thanks for the memories”, May couldn’t go wrong.

All I can say, though, is great voice, shame about the songs.


DD Smash with Days Centrale at the Gluepot, last night and tonight; June 1983, Auckland Star

Now here’s one export we can be proud of – DD Smash, loud, proud and fresh back from the continuing attempt to conquer Australia the way they did New Zealand.

On the strength of last night’s roaring performance and the leap-out-ability of the band’s new songs, it’s hard to imagine they’ll fail.

In spite of writing a song about the musical merry-go-round touring bands do ride – ‘Repetition’ – singer, guitarist and electric imp Dave Dobbyn never looks like this is just another performance.

His sheer joy in making big, bold music rolls off the stage in waves – waves that were lapped up by the jam-packed Gluepot crowd last night.


The six-piece band has settled down into a unit of considerable power. After a somewhat shaky start when he replaced original bass guitarist Lisle Kinney, Ian Morris is pushing proceedings along with just the right funky thrust, punctuated by Peter Warren’s spot-on drumming.

Dobbyn and Gary Langsford trade licks – and smiles – on guitars, Scott Colhoun adds colour on trumpet and keyboards and the band’s musical star, Andrew Clouston, plays marvellous saxophone.

Out front, Dobbyn hurls that boundless voice of his at songs old and new. A big helping of tracks from their Cool Bananas album, the new hit single ‘Outlook for Tuesday’ – saved for an encore – and some very impressive new songs, among them ‘What a Day’, ‘Optimist’ and ‘Guilty’, the latter with Dobbyn at piano and Clouston playing a wonderful solo.

DD Smash is moving on, leaving behind the earlier hard-edged guitar attack and expanding into a bigger soulful sound that’s exciting and very satisfying.

It’s been said before and we’ll say it again – DD Smashing.

Up first, Days Centrale, a strong-sounding pop band in its formative stages, made its mark with a clutch of distinctive songs. ‘I Don’t Understand’, for one, sounds like the stuff of which singles are made.


Rick Bryant and the Jive Bombers with the Hotshots at the Gluepot, last night and tonight; August 1983, Auckland Star

The unthinkable happened last night – and bear in mind that it was Monday.

First, the bar was 10-minute-wait-for-a-drink crowded. And, second, come 10 o’clock, the jammed dancefloor demanded an encore.

Unheard of on a day that, in live rock and roll terms, is generally regarded as one of national mourning.

But last night there was a lot to get excited about, though most of it wasn’t the Hotshots, who opened the night. Regrouped as a seven-piece and minus the formidable stage presence of departed singer/chanteuse Hattie, the band now mixes more of the rhythm and blues stuff into a musical mix that still nods at salsa and jazz.

The same could not be said of the stars of the evening, Rick Bryant and the Jive Bombers. First, for presence, you don’t tangle negatives with a steaming 12-piece soul band. And, as for songs, when they come from the likes of Al Green, James Brown, Otis Redding and LTD, quibbling isn’t advisable.

For Rick Bryant, the Jive Bombers is a bit of a dream come true.

In the Jive Bombers, he has the band par excellence. From the squeaky-tight rhythm section of Tim Robinson (drums) and the great Alastair Dougal (bass) to the precision punch of the horn section, the Jive Bombers were the open palm Bryant could deliver his goods from.

And he stormed last night – from Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ and a roaring ‘Sweet Soul Music’, with the female vocal trio chasing their leader, to a slow tingle on ‘Hold On’ and a super- slinky ‘Take Me to the River’, Bryant demonstrated why, for many, he is the New Zealand singer.

But, with a band this big, tonight will be their last gig for some time. You’d be a fool to miss it.


The Mockers at the Gluepot, last night; August 1983, Auckland Star

In some ways, The Mockers remain the typical New Zealand band – great songs, often dodgy performances.


In front of a good-to-healthy crowd (for a Tuesday night), singer/frontman Andrew Fagan and the latest version of the band that has made a string of potential hit singles, had them up and dancing from early on. But, performance-wise, it was a pretty average affair.

Fagan remains a frontman with a strong sense for doing a show. Not maybe the strongest voice in the world, but he does project. With his “new look” – a wild cross between Adam Ant and Nick Cave – he holds attention. But he has certainly sung better than he did last night.

The band has probably played better too. Mind you, the adoption of The Dabs’ rhythm section is a major boost. A fiery drummer, a solid, punchy bass. In comparison, the guitar sounded thin and the keyboards generally too far back in the sound mix.

The songs remain above reproach. Older (criminally) failed hits like ‘Woke Up Today’, ‘Trendy Lefties’ and the marvellous ‘Good Old Days’ shine on as potential gold unmined by record buyers. While both sides of the last single, ‘Cleopatra’ and the moody ‘After the Rain’, have done little to change the band’s commercial picture despite their sheer simple appeal.

Maybe the new single, ‘Alvison Park’, will put the Mockers in the charts where they richly belong. As with the other songs, it sounds like it should.

Meantime, C+ for last night’s performance, but an honours pass for the songs.


Hammond Gamble Band at the Gluepot, last night, tonight and tomorrow; August 1983, Auckland Star

It has been 18 months since Hammond Gamble stood in front of his own band and, as could be expected, getting into the driving seat again has a nervy experience, especially in an uncrowded Gluepot.

The new band falls somewhere between the rocky thrust of his original band Street Talk and the smooth, some might say too-confident drive of the first Hammond Gamble Band.

And that’s good. And it’s going to get better after a few weeks running in.

Gamble was a touch nervous – you only had to count the “thank you for comings” – but the raw, gutsy vocal delivery remains undiminished and the quicksilver flurries of lead guitar still startle and excite.

Starting on firm ground with ‘What a Disaster’ and ‘What Happened to Lucy’, he blended songs from his forthcoming new album into the set with a sense of risk learned from playing to audiences waiting to be spoon-fed the old favourites.

So ‘Big City Thrills’, the break-neck ‘Girl in My Room’ and the punchy ‘Pretty as a Picture’ were slipped in between past landmarks like ‘Lonely at the Top’, ‘Gambler’s Blues’ and ‘Should I Be Good’’. The tough bluesy ‘Young Girls to Dances’ sounds like a new live favourite in the making.

‘Gambler’s Blues’ shone and provided a nice spot for new second guitarist Paul Jameson, who played a well-placed left-hand-man to Gamble’s guitar, holding back and stepping forward with a fine sense of discipline.

Drummer Dennis Ryan is a major find, rock solid with an impeccable sense of timing, he didn’t put a stick wrong all night. McDonald’s bass is in a similar class – big, beefy, never fussy and with a sense of swing. And, on keyboards, Malcolm Smith was in all the right places.

It’s going to be tighter and, undoubtedly, the audience is going to be bigger than last night’s only-average crowd. But a strong start. 


Hip Singles and Cor Blimey! At the Gluepot, last night and tonight; September 1983, Auckland Star

Bars like the Gluepot’s never somehow seemed the natural environment for pop music.

Rock, yes. But pop of the fresh and breezy variety just seems a mite out of place being tipped into the ears of the beer-sipping audience.

That’s the sort of music that fuels the pulse of Cor Blimey! And they look and sound like a band with a future. Singer Shelly Pratt and bass player Debbie Chin are former members of defunct Auckland popsters the Gurlz. Guitarist Paul Lightfoot used to be with the Royales, singer/guitarist Rikki Morris was a member of the last version of The Crocodiles, and drummer Steve Melville used to kick things along behind Prince Tui Teka.

Only some of which has anything to do with the bright, snappy pop songs they play. ‘Jungle Boy’, the bubblegummy ‘Beach Party Hop’ and the fast and furious ‘Shot Down’ are songs for young audiences to get excited to. The response at the Gluepot only started to warm towards the end of the set.

That’s their problem. Given access to a younger audience, Cor Blimey! could really go places. Some of those songs sound like they were made for vinyl and Shelly Pratt has the voice and the personality to put them across.

Performance and sound-wise, there’s a little way to go. But it’s certainly a trip worth taking.


Hip Singles, on the other hand, have taken the trip and somehow missed out on a mass audience along the way.

Last night, they played with brutal confidence, Martin Morris’s slashing guitar building the bridge between the rhythm section and Dick Driver’s vocals.

Driver’s problem is that he’s starting to look like a frustrated actor. The personality’s just too big for the band and their often-average songs. He remains a riveting performer, but if you’re going to make bold gestures, you need the songs to make them with. 

‘After the Party’, ‘So Strange’ and ‘Two Lonely People’ are solid pop songs, but classics they ain’t. And the cover versions of ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, ‘Brand New Cadillac’ and the awful oldie ‘Baby Come Back’ sounded like mechanical gestures.

Driver, obviously tiring of the whole thing, meantime teeters on the brink of caricature, an unthinkable fate for one of the brighter stars in our particular version of rock and roll heaven.


Sharon O’Neill with Gary McCormick at the Town Hall, last night; September 1983, Auckland Star

No, no, you can put those away. We won’t be needing the superlatives this time.

Okay, Sharon O’Neill is a fine songwriter and a strong singer. She’s also very popular in these parts with a career that stretches back several years and includes a number of hit records. In fact, her latest album, Foreign Affairs, recently went gold.

But in concert, she’s never quite been as exciting as her skin-tight stage gear.

Her music, for the most part, is of the American-flavoured mainstream rock style. Her six-piece band plays it with the sort of brutal efficiency that reduces everything to an often-stultifying common denominator.

Yeah, the guitarist is slick and the drummer sounds powerful, but when they thunder in midway through a song as poignant as ‘Maybe’, you might wish they’d go away for a while and leave Sharon alone with her piano.

Anyway, she sang songs old and new and she looked half-awkward and half-sure of herself. Her voice rang true in spite of the band’s bluster and sometimes, in unison with back-up singer Mary Bradfield, it sounded quite wonderful.

But the show never really sparked. And I’m sure that most of the audience standing up downstairs would have been just as comfortable – and active – sitting down.

Gary McCormick, the opening “intellectual element”, was often very funny.

In between launching vicious assaults on the sexual integrity of vegetarian jogging types and handing out hints on how to slaughter Mormons, he made a wild claim that the much-quoted “Don’t make love to the bottle baby, go make a cup of tea” TV ad is going to result in “hundreds of Kiwis being badly scalded late at night in bed”.

These things need to be said. Thank you, Mr McCormick.


The Big Concert Party featuring Miltown Stowaways, Big Sideways and Coconut Rough at the Gluepot, Monday night; October 1983, Auckland Star

A hard-to-resist combination, even on a Monday night after the weekend’s excesses have taken a big bite out of most people’s wage/dole packet.

And a lot of people thought so too. More than 200 made it to the Gluepot to catch three Auckland bands in three diverse and interesting hours of music.

Miltown Stowaways looks like a band that’s going places – and they’re running to get there

First up, Miltown Stowaways not only look like a band that’s going places – but they’re running to get there. The Miltowns match the hard, bright sparkle of their ska-funk dance songs with an energy that threatens to dent your beer can.

Kelly Rogers’s voice might be the dodgiest instrument in the band, but he slings it about with an abandon that almost disguises its deficiencies.

At the heart of the matter are the hard-kicking restless rhythms of Ben Staples’s percussion, Mark Dansey’s bass and Syd Pasley’s jagged rhythm guitar. While Grant Hughson’s trumpet and Rogers’ sax mix flair and anarchy in equal doses.

A genuinely exciting band.

Big Sideways, with their brassy top and funky bottom, work a related field but never manage to sound or look quite as excited about it. Part of the reason is a shortage of stand-out songs, the other is the lack of a stand-out front person, a focal point.

Coconut Rough have a strong recipe going for them. A hot rhythm section, possibly the country’s best synthesiser player, certainly one of our most distinctive guitarists and some great songs. Somehow, it still hasn’t quite jelled, but when it does – and when Andrew McLennan commits himself to being the frontman he should be – this band could be a major event.

A pretty good start to the week.


The Body Electric, at the Windsor Castle last night and at the Esplanade tonight and tomorrow; December 1983, Auckland Star

It’s a bit disconcerting.

There’s a great rich wall of electro-funk coming out of the speakers, driven by a big beefy rhythm section of drums and bass.

But there are only three bodies on stage – the large male one on the right is standing singing, the smaller male one in the middle is fiddling with some knobs on a keyboard and the female figure is further back, doodling on a small keyboard.

It doesn’t seem right. Shouldn’t they all be leaping around thrashing things and waving guitars?

And just where is the drummer anyway?

Who cares. If you can hear it, who needs to see it?

This is the modern age and this is The Body Electric, Wellington techno-pop band. Alan Jimson and Wendy Calder play keyboards (mostly) and guitar and bass (occasionally), while the large chap, Garry Smith, sings with near-operatic power, casts giant shadows and makes dramatic robotic gestures.

Arrayed on table tops across the front of the stage and up one side are the keyboards, sequencers and drum machines that put the throb, pulse and and melody behind Smith’s voice.

It takes a bit of adjustment on the part of the audience. Mind you, on Wednesday there wasn’t an awful lot of audience to adjust. And, to be honest, the Body Electric were well short of being visually electrifying.

Musically, though, there were some fine moments – particularly the big funky feel of ‘Imagination’, which contrasted nicely with ‘Illusion’, another track from the band’s debut album, Presentation and Reality.

Given a bigger, more responsive crowd, a little more concern with stage dynamics, the Body Electric could be electrifying.

Maybe tonight at the Esplanade …


Dead Sea Scrolls at the PR Bar (DB Tavern), last night and tonight; December 1983, Auckland Star

“Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in inner-city bar.”

Well, it’s a new angle. And local bands need all the angles they can get these days to pull crowds, pay the rent, PA hire, HP payments and maybe have enough left over for a beer during the break.

But these particular Dead Sea Scrolls have a little more going for them than the weird catchy name.

Though, with last night’s meagre and damp (thank you Auckland weather) crowd, there probably wasn’t enough for any of those overheads – apart from maybe one beer apiece.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have more going for them than the weird catchy name

The music was quite rough and nearly ready. A bit like sitting in on a mid-term rehearsal. All original – apart from a shot at the Yardbirds – and often showing spark, mostly on the wilder, off-the-wall moments, with singer John Wallace at his most vein-bulgingly intense.

Tim Mahon (ex Blam Blam Blam) plays looping bass guitar curves, Greg Blanchett (ex Gurlz) plays impressive guitar and Carol Varney (another ex Gurl) plays under-miked drums.

The songs range through three-legged funk to eight-legged punk, with a stop for reggae (‘Breaking it Up’) and even Pepsodent pop (‘Bus Driver’).

As mentioned, it’s rough – especially when Varney takes over the singing and Wallace the drumming, but it’s ready for better things – like a bigger audience. That, at least, would demand some more attention to performance and presentation.

The Scrolls are back here tonight. And again, early next week, with some interesting guests, like Don McGlashan and Ivan Zagni lined up.


The Pelicans at the Gluepot, last night, tonight and tomorrow; January 1984, Auckland Star

Singer Bill Lake looks like the only intelligent clerk in the Railways booking office … But he sings better.

A whole lot better. And the band runs a lot better than that particular corporation too.

In fact, last night in front of a reasonable (size and appreciation) Gluepot crowd, The Pelicans, direct from Wellington for one weekend only, were not two-fifths short of rather wonderful.

They crowd the stage in front of their colourful backdrop, but then, there are eight of them – Lake on vocals and guitar, plus guitar, bass, drums, percussion, two saxes and trumpet.

Those who listen to those who know have been muttering about this capital city band for the past year. And last night’s performance confirms that there’s more that comes out of Wellington than nasty stories about high winds and the worst airport since Pearl Harbour.

The Pelicans’ recent 8 Duck Treasure album – the title comes from a Chinese menu – came as a treat for those who bothered to buy it. And, live, there’s even more to the band.

The Pelicans – and Lake’s songs – run the gamut, from a strong funk-ska-reggae base, through soul to blues and rock and roll.

There are shades of Little Feat round the edges of ‘Shuffleitis’, a relentless reggae pulse under the homegrown politics of ‘Banana Dominion’ and considerable eloquence in ‘Innuendo’ – all of those from the album.

Then there’s a touch of Otis Rush with ‘Double Trouble’, rock’n’roll (the ’50s version) with ‘Undercover Cops’ and the Stax soul echoes on the newer ‘Working’.

All in all, nothing short of rather superior. And you’ve only got tonight and tomorrow to catch them. They all have to be back at work in the Windy City come Monday morning.


Blam Blam Blam with Vegetation at the Gluepot, last night and finally tonight; January 1984, Auckland Star

A lot of people, it seems, remember Blam Blam Blam.

And many of them were at the Gluepot to catch the first of a short series of reunion gigs by the band that, two years ago, could do no wrong.

Sadly, in 1982, on the heels of the release of their first album, in the middle of a successful national tour and with an Australian tour supporting Split Enz beckoning, the band literally crashed.

A road accident seriously injured bassist Tim Mahon and left truck and equipment badly damaged.

With hits ‘There is No Depression’ and ‘Don’t Fight in Marsha’ fast-fading memories, the Blams were no more.

No one else managed the Blams’ mix of intellectual pop and tense rhythms

And sadder, because there was never another band quite like them. No one else managed their mix of intellectual pop and tense rhythms.

And, last night, we got another taste of the band’s unique flavour. With the DD Smash brass section adding punch and a second drummer freeing singer Don McGlashan to occasionally step out front, the Blams lived up to the memories – and with some fine new songs, pointed forward too.

They delved right back – to ‘Battleship Grey’, ‘Blue Belmonts’, ‘Luxury Length’ and guitarist Mark Bell’s brooding ‘Last Post’, all from that fine album.

Bell’s playing, as always, remains a major pleasure, McGlashan’s drumming, once impressive, is now daunting. Mahon’s bass playing, though limited, is simple and effective.

Up first, Vegetation, a five-piece semi-musical ensemble put together by occasional Blams lyricist Richard von Sturmer, played interesting games with words, chants and rhythms without ever really committing themselves melodically.


Two Armed Men at the Gluepot, last night; March 1984, Auckland Star

All the way from Wellington with a massive sound system and more lights than Queen Street came Two Armed Men, ready to impress Auckland ears with their vision of homegrown rock and roll.

And there were more ears than usual at a Wednesday night Gluepot, but I don’t know that an awful lot of them were permanently impressed by the band.

Three Armed Men actually boast six arms, variously holding guitar, bass and drumsticks. Frontman, singer and songwriter is Wayne Mason, who has been surfacing and resurfacing on the local rock scene since he first stepped into the spotlight with The Fourmyula, a teen-scream band way back in the ’60s when inflation was something you did to car tyres.

Bassist is Jonathan Crayford, whose playing never quite got its share of credit in the sound mix last night. And the drummer is Ross Burge, who was very impressive indeed, driving the machine along with a fine sense of punctuation.

The band was as tight as a Muldoon wage order, though Mason’s overly economic guitar playing made for a definite lack of colour.

The songs, many of which are currently being recorded for the band’s debut album, generally gave as little away as his playing, few of them really standing out on first hearing.

Not great, not bad, but really not quite enough to pull the ears back for a second hearing – in spite of all the light and sound.


The Legionnaires with the Innocent at the Gluepot, last night and tonight; May 1984, Auckland Star

Always wanted to make some sort of joke about Legionnaires disease, but I’ve never been able to. And, from the way the Legionnaires sounded last night, I suppose I never will.

Because, last night, it sounded like a pretty good thing to catch.

A lot of other people seemed to think so too. And, like most Legionnaires’ audiences – or should I say Graham Brazier audiences? – there were as many females as males up front.


First up were the Innocent, a band that plays its final gig tonight – in support, as always. Great shame. Playing support and never taking much of the folding stuff home must start to hurt after a while.

But the Innocent, or some other version, have too many good songs to toss it away. Whatever shape they come back in, they deserve attention.

For the main course, Brazier and his Legionnaires sparked from the first kick. The man’s sense of style, delivery and communication remain intact – along with that innate feel for drama and melody.

New songs win the honours – as they should. Okay, the crowd still wants ‘No Mystery’, ‘Billy Bold’ and ‘Blue Lady’, but ‘Forlorn’, a brutal little thing called ‘Waiting Room’, ‘Nosferatu’ and especially ‘Any Port in the Storm’ fly like flags in the set.

The guitarists play like gunslingers and, if stand-in drummer Lyn Buchanan stays, the Legionnaires Mark IV (or is it V?) remain major contenders.