BLERTA Profile

Keith Newman
Published: 9 May 2013
Updated: 4 Dec 2018

At the dawn of the 70s brightly coloured posters began appearing around the country announcing "Blerta is coming". Who or what BLERTA was remained unclear, until an old red bus covered in hippie symbols and an entourage of minstrels, multimedia pioneers and hangers-on trundled into town.

Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Traveling Apparition (BLERTA), a collusion of musicians, actors, script writers and movie makers, delivered a unique blend of theatrical rock and children’s shows that helped reshape New Zealand’s film, television and music industries.

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BLERTA with Fane Flaws on the roof and Bruno on drums
Photo credit: Fane Flaws collection
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BLERTA kids show at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth on the first North Island tour, 1972. Corben Simpson (vocals), Bruno Lawrence (drums), Alan Moon (hammond organ), Beaver vocals and Chris Seresin keyboards.
Photo credit: Photo by Helen Whiteford
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Blerta's second and final album, released in 1976 and featuring music from the Television One series Blerta
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Mike aka Fane Flaws with BLERTA at the Ngaruawahia festival, 1973 - from Affairs magazine
Photo credit: Chris Bourke Collection
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BLERTA, 1973. Chris Seresin, Greg Taylor, Fane Flaws, Ian Watkin, Kemp Tuirirangi, Bruno Lawrence.
Photo credit: The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
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The cover of Blerta's first album. Originally designed by Fane Flaws and entitled Organism, it was redesigned (using parts of Fane's art) and renamed without discussion with the band by the record company.
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Bruno Lawrence singing and drumming with BLERTA
Photo credit: Photo by Robin White
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Fane Flaws designed poster for BLERTA
Photo credit: Design by Fane Flaws. Fane Flaws Collection
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BLERTA at the University of NSW, Sydney. Fane Flaws on left
Photo credit: Fane Flaws Collection
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Blerta Revisited
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The BLERTA family
Photo credit: Corben Simpson Collection
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The BLERTA bus with Ian Miles, Greg Taylor, Fane Flaws, Kemp Tuirirangi, Tony Barry, Ian Watkin, Arnold Tihana, Alan O'Neill, Helen Whitford, Corben Simpson, and Bruno Lawrence.
Photo credit: Taranaki Photo News, April 1973
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BLERTA on tour in Australia
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The BLERTA bus
Photo credit: Corben Simpson Collection
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The soundtrack to BLERTA: The Return Trip
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Fane Flaws' original artwork for the debut BLERTA album, then named Organism
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Some members of BLERTA, with their families, 16 October 1971. Among those visible in the back row, from right, are Bruno Lawrence, Kemp Tuirirangi, and Fane Flaws. Corben Simpson is in front of Flaws, in shades. Geoff Murphy is sprawled in front, in barefeet and woollen jumper. 
Photo credit: The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
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BLERTA in Australia: left to right:  Greg Taylor, Fane Flaws, Paul Murphy, Bernie McGann, Mick Lieber, Ian Watkin, Beaver
Photo credit: Photo by Robin White. Fane Flaws Collection
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Drugs - the full version
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Members:

Bruno Lawrence - drums, vocals

Geoff Murphy - trumpet, visual effects

Corben Simpson - vocals, bass

Beaver - vocals

Fane Flaws - guitar, vocals

Chris Seresin - keyboards

Bill Stalker - actor

Bill Gruar - actor

Kemp Tuirirangi - guitar

Tony Littlejohn - bass

Alan Moon - organ

Eric Foley - saxophone

Don Burke - guitar

Chaz Burke-Kennedy - guitar

George Barris - bass

Billy Williams - bass

Dick Wyeth - saxophone

Greg Taylor - saxophone

Ian Watkin - actor

Patrick Bleakley - bass

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Labels:

EMI

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Trivia:

Geoff Murphy went on to direct NZ film classics like Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu and The Quiet Earth before Hollywood called, resulting in blockbusters like Young Guns II. He died on 3 December 2018, aged 80.

Stories of the group’s NZ bus tour around provincial NZ in 1972 are legion, and the stuff of mythology. Roger Booth’s book Bruno recounts the details of their encounters – many of them involving drugs – with the guardians of small town morality.

Bruno Lawrence had previously served time in Quincy Conserve and Max Merritt & The Meteors, and was later to perform in The Crocodiles, before his acting career took off.

Blerta member Fane Flaws also performed in The Crocodiles. He became well-known as a director of music videos, including The Crocodiles' Tears, Parihaka for Tim Finn and a slew of videos for The Mutton Birds, including Nature, Dominion Road and The Heater.