For much of the 80s, the downbeat haven of Radio B at Auckland University was the centre of my world. The station was a magnet for outsiders and music obsessives, who threw themselves into the constant activity: DJing, music programming, producing and selling ads, and writing and reading the news bulletins. Engineers, whose eyes lit up with the technical possibilities of a radio station, assembled the equipment, built the studios and kept the station on-air. Live gigs were organised. The B discos, where the station’s DJs would vie to play a set, drew big crowds. They were first held at Shadows bar, then in the larger student union cafe, and later in the 80s at clubs in the city. During the day, the B staff and various hangers-on would catch up and socialise, often on the balconies above the student union quad. B was an education in itself, although not one that led to a degree, and for some caught up in this whirl, academia took a back seat.
Everyone at B lived and breathed music. It didn’t matter if the music was old or new, smooth or jagged, melodious or cacophonous, as long as it had an edge. Local bands would drop in with their demo tapes and new releases, and original music emerged from within the station’s institutional concrete-block walls. The Headless Chickens, Greg Johnson, and Strawpeople were some of the musicians who recorded and engineered their early releases in the B production studio. When the station was off-air there was time to trawl through the shelves of records, cue up the vinyl and practise mixing on the desk. I started doing late night shows in 1986, and by then I was also involved with the station’s magazine, The Book of BiFiM.
Established when the station transitioned to FM in 1985, the magazine found its niche covering independent music and culture in Auckland. The same talented people who ran the station, hosted radio shows and produced the quirky on-air ads also wrote features and reviews, created graphics, took photographs, and put the magazine together. It was an unforgettable time, the supportive scene at B gave me an outlet for my photographs, and I made lifelong friendships with a bunch of creative people.
Now that my book CRUSH – Photographs from Post-Punk Auckland is completed, I can see how the heart and soul of the book has emerged from the memories and music of The B Years.
All photographs © Jonathan Ganley
DJ Chris Forster in the Radio B on-air studio, circa 1983/84.
Martin Phillipps looking through a box of 45s at the bFM studio, on the station’s first day of FM broadcasting, Sunday 17 February 1985. Phillipps, and Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens, were interviewed and chose records to play on air, going deep into the station’s Flying Nun catalogue and stash of 45s.
Johnny Pierce and Graeme Jefferies of This Kind of Punishment, playing their last gig at the Nitpickers Picnic, Wednesday 24 July 1985. While the band was playing, I went upstairs to the empty mezzanine of the Maidment Theatre to take some photographs of the scene from above.
The Pterodactyls (from left: Martin Kean, Jeff Batts, and Ken Stewart) at the Rising Sun, supporting Bird Nest Roys, on Thursday 26 March 1986. The band had recently added Kean on guitar. Ken Stewart later wrote in The Book of BiFiM: “Enter one Martin Kean to complete the new and improved Pterodactyls line-up. We were still teaching some of the old songs to Martin in the toilets of the Rising Sun before a gig with Bird Nest Roys.” (The Pterodactyls Psaga, Book Of BiFiM no.12, 1986).
Jed Town of Fetus Productions, at the Galaxy, August 16 1986. Fetus Productions played a low-key gig featuring songs from their recently released album Luminous Trails, with film and visuals from Town’s virtual reality project The Box. This was one of the last gigs the band played before they split up, and Town headed to London.
Chris Knox knocks back a beer while chatting to Barbie, onstage at the Happy Accident show at the Maidment Theatre, Auckland University, Friday, 6 March 1987. The show also featured the Headless Chickens, the Gaskrankenstation stilt walkers, the dancers Te Kani Kani O Te Rangatahi, Graeme Humphreys and Bevan Sweeney, and Massive Stereo.
The Able Tasmans, photographed at the School of Biological Sciences in June 1987, for a BiFiM magazine feature about their debut album A Cuppa Tea And A Lie Down. Graeme Humphreys decided on one of the biology laboratories as the location; it was like an arcane museum of curiosities. The four Able Tasmans are (from left): Humphreys, Leslie Jonkers, Peter Keen, and David Tennent.
Headless Chickens guitarist Michael Lawry onstage at The Gluepot on Friday, 24 July 1987. Michael was also the bFM production engineer at that time, and I recall walking up the stairs into B one day and hearing an irresistible, room-shaking bassline and drum machine track emerging from the production studio. It was an early version of the Headless Chickens song ‘Expecting To Fly’.
In April 1988 I went over to Crummer Road, Grey Lynn, to photograph Graeme Jefferies and Robert Key of The Cakekitchen for a BiFiM magazine feature and cover. The pair had a gig coming up at the Rising Sun, and they had been busy pasting their Edmonds Cookbook ‘Sure To Rise’ posters all over the suburb.
All photographs © Jonathan Ganley
CRUSH – Photos from Post-Punk Auckland ($70) looks back at music in Auckland between 1982 and 1990, through the eyes of photographer Jonathan Ganley. From 26 May 2023 the book is available from Flying Out Music in Auckland (flyingout.co.nz), Real Groovy Records, and Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden. Many pages on AudioCulture feature work by Ganley, including The Headless Chickens, Snapper, and The Screaming Meemees. Plus, there are the dedicated photo pages Exhibition and Jonathan Ganley’s Straitjacket Fits Images.