Able Tasmans Profile

Russell Brown
3 Dec 2013

"Chamber pop", "baroque pop", whatever the critics called them, the Able Tasmans were both part of the early Flying Nun community and stylistically distinct from it. They were never much interested in fame, but, through their unusual, captivating songs, left a legacy anyway.

Like most of their peers, they were moved to pick up instruments by punk rock; in this case, in 1979 in Whangarei, as a band called Sister Ray, playing new wave covers and their own songs. Things might have ended in 1981, when keyboard player Graeme Humphreys moved to Auckland to study.

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Able Tasmans, Bird Nest Roys and Court Martial, at The Pulse, Auckland, May/June1991
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Clockwise - Graeme Humphreys, Craig Mason, Ron Young, Jane Dodd, Peter Keen, Leslie Yonkers
Photo credit: Photo by Stuart Page
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Graeme Humphreys
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Craig Baxter, Peter Keen, Graeme Humphreys, Progressive Studio, 1985
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Photoshoot for the retrospective compilation, Songs From The Departure Lounge, 1998
Photo credit: Photo by John Collie. Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans photoshoot. Islington St, Ponsonby, 1985
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans and Goblin Mix, Rising Sun
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans and Pterodactyls, Windsor Castle, July 1991
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans at Auckland University Cafe
Photo credit: Photo by Simon Bendall
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Graeme Humphreys recording at Progressive Studios, 1989
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Graeme Humphreys
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Not Really Anything and The Able Tasmans at the Gluepot, Auckland in a hand-stencilled poster
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Poster for Store In A Cool Place, 1995
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Hold Me 1 - live at the Gluepot, 1991
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Able Tasmans in a Dunedin motel, post-gig early 1990s. L to R: Craig Mason, Peter Keen, soundman Tex Houston
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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The Renderers, Able Tasmans and Chris Knox at the Gluepot, 1991
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Graeme Humphreys at the Gluepot, Auckland, early 1990s
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans and Bird Nest Roys at Pulse, 1991
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans at Empire Tavern, Dunedin, early 1990s
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Hold Me 1 from Hey Spinner (1990)
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Lyrics to I See Now Where from the Cuppa Tea And A Lie Down album, handwritten by Peter Keen
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Zippy's Last Tour, February 1985
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Graeme Humphreys and Jane Dodd, bFM Summer Series, 1995
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Fault In The Frog
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Able Tasmans at the Empire Tavern, Dunedin early 1990s
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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1988 set list
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans and Doubting Thomass, March 1990
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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bFM live to air, 1991
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans in Myers Park, 1997
Photo credit: Photo by Alan Holt, Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans
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Able Tasmans and Doubting Thomases (who seemed to spell their name differently on every poster) play a private party at The Globe, Wakefield Street, Auckland
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans and Dribbling Darts Of Love, Palmerston North, 1990
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Interview with Flying Nun band the Able Tasmans, 16 June 1994. Directed by Ross Cunningham.
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Peter Keen, Mascot Studio, 1989
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Somebody decided Chris Knox would be a good drawcard. That he wasn't playing seemed irrelevant - Able Tasmans and Pterodactyls at the Windsor, 1991
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Able Tasmans, The Expendables, Bird Nest Roys
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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1984 set list
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans, January 1996. L to R: Graeme Humphreys, Leslie Jonkers, Craig Mason, Jane Dodd, Peter Keen.
Photo credit: Photo by Alan Holt
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Live at the Gluepot, Auckland - Bob Sutton Collection
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Able Tasmans in Galatos Street, Auckland 1990
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Able Tasmans at The Gluepot, May 1990
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Able Tasmans backstage at the bFM Summer Series, 1995
Photo credit: Graeme Hill collection
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Members:

Graeme Humphreys - keyboards, vocals, guitar

Dave Beniston - bass

Craig Baxter - drums

Peter Keen - vocals

Anthony Nevison - guitar, vocals

Leslie Jonkers - keyboards

Stuart Greenway - drums

Jane Leggott - flute

Dave Tennent - guitar

Jane Dodd - bass

Craig Mason - drums

Ron Young - synthesiser, vocals

Donald Nichols - clarinet

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Trivia:

When he began broadcasting on 95bFM, Humphreys took on the name Graeme Hill, supposedly to avoid embarrassment when he had to play one of his own band's songs. As he continued a broadcasting career – as a co-presenter of the long-running Sports Cafe TV show, a host on Radio Sport and, since 2007, the host of Radio Live's weekend magazine show – he gradually became better known by his assumed name than his real one. He has also worked as a television scriptwriter for Eating Media Lunch and The Unauthorised History of New Zealand.

Early on, the Able Tasmans had an alter-ego, The Ogdens, who played straight-up covers of such 70s classics as Michael Nesmith's Joanne and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition's Ruby, Don't Take your Love To Town.

Humphreys worked with Children's Hour (and later Headless Chickens) drummer Bevan Sweeney on several projects, including music for the Māori dance troupe Te Kanikani o te Rangatahi, and the remarkable instrumental 'If God Had a Megaphone' for the multimedia event The Happy Accident. He even choreographed several works for the dance group.

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