In the early days of Rip It Up when these photos were taken, Auckland lived in the shadow of Hello Sailor. They were suave, sophisticated rock musicians that were placed on a pedestal by fans and media. A young band like Th’ Dudes were also in awe of Hello Sailor and gained a “Hello Sailor wannabes” tag in some quarters. But who didn’t want to be Hello Sailor or wear the boots they wore?
The age difference between Graham Brazier and Ian Morris was only five years. In 1977 Ian Morris was the recording engineer at Stebbing Studios when Hello Sailor recorded their debut album. Morris won the Engineer Of The Year Award at the 1979 New Zealand Music Awards.
Hello Sailor were usually dressed to kill, their sense of style cohered while the Th’ Dudes in their early days wore a clash of clothing styles. I recall a recent conversation with their always-stylish manager Charley Gray when he said it annoyed him that people had the gall to say that he told the band what to wear.
When Rip It Up magazine debuted in June 1977, I was a 23-year-old music fan and a fresh-out-of-art-school magazine publisher. My music heroes were inevitably older than me, people I looked up to and respected in life. One had to learn to “respect” younger musicians to stay in music journalism.
I took live photos of Th’ Dudes with original bassist Peter Coleman but the first group photo of the band was after bassist Lez White joined. The photo was taken after a mid-week Windsor Castle gig and it was a bit of a failure as, during the session, more young musicians showed up. The drunk Scavengers crossed the road and started heckling, “take our photo” etc. In fact, the Scavengers photo was the better photo from the night.
A superior photo opportunity was organised but the timing may have been too early in the day for gigging musicians. The shoot was outside Charley Gray’s Island Of Real café in Airedale Street, an all-ages venue that was 200 metres down the road from the first Rip It Up office. It seemed to be the perfect chance to try a Beatles-style running towards the camera photo. I was having difficulty witnessing the lack of physical co-ordination of one band member running in boots, so I abandoned that idea. One of the more palatable photos from that series is seen here for the first time. Photos of the band in the alley beside the café were used in the October 1978 Rip It Up.
For a photographer, there is a key difference between The Beatles and Th’ Dudes: there were four Liverpool lads and there were five Dudes. I am not the only photographer that thinks it is a lot easier to photograph a band with four members, than a band with five. There’s something cosmic causing humans to exist in pairs, leaving one leftover soul to look lost or unloved in every photo. The problem does not relate to nurture but to numbers.
In 1979 writer John Dix wrote the behind-the-scenes story “Dayz in the Life of Th’ Dudes” for Rip It Up’s June issue. This was a good opportunity to take some photos that were not stage shots. The images were nothing special as the behind-the-scenes photo access was a sound check where the only larger than life personality (and beer gut) was road manager Keith “McFrenzy” McKenzie.
The band’s manager, Charley Gray, wanted to read the story prior to printing, probably in case Dix focused on “sex and drugs”. This was an unacceptable request at the time. It was agreed that he could check for “factual errors” but we would not change any views expressed by the writer.
Th’ Dudes wanted to supply their own photo for the June 1979 cover of Rip It Up and they commissioned a very fine photo taken by fellow Elam graduate, and renowned artist, Paul Hartigan. Words (and adverts) took priority in Rip It Up and my photos were the usual postage-stamp size we associate with early issues of the magazine.
When Th’ Dudes decided to split and do their final gigs at Mainstreet on the last weekend of April 1980, the band and Charley Gray were no longer on the same page. He left early in the evening not wishing to celebrate their final performance or maybe he knew that Ian Morris intended to perform the final set of the evening naked. Several musicians from the punk genre including Karel Van Bergen, Ljinon Manson and Chris Orange were present to show respect and to help Th’ Dudes drink their rider.
The final gig – a Sunday night, ending a multi-night booking – was not the auspicious occasion that Th’ Dudes deserved, but the punk contingent and the road crew joined them on stage during the last set and fun was had by all. The photos appeared in the May 1980 issue of Rip It Up. One image has Peter Urlich looking towards the ceiling as Ian Morris wanders the stage wearing only his 1964 Fender Stratocaster guitar.