Their ultra elusive 7-inch EP is a rare Christchurch punk rock single, almost never seen in New Zealand. It slipped out at a release party at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Christchurch in December 1982 in a 500 copy run and soon disappeared.
At the show, guitarist Vince Haughey threw copies of the single out into the audience. “I remember holding one above my head, breaking it and throwing the remains out – ‘Yeah Punk! (destroy what you’ve created)’.”
David Swift in The Press rated it as “right up there with the Punk and Disorderly collections” of British neo-punk that were current at the time.
David Swift in The Press rated it as “right up there with the Punk and Disorderly collections” of British neo-punk that were current at the time, noting the record’s driving drums and a production that topped the 1984 EP from fellow Garden City punks Desperate Measures.
“Another Christchurch ‘punk’ record for the growing audience of that ilk. You could put this in your favourite punk’s Christmas boot,” Swift concluded.
I snagged my copy of the single from Chelsea Records in Hamilton. It looked impressive in its printed red, white and black card cover with photos of a soldier in a wheelchair and seven hanging men; a pro job for a Kiwi punk act. The sound was basic simple-minded punk. ‘Govt Don’t Care’ entered with a crash chord, a heavier fuzz riff cutting in, followed by rumbling tribal drums and cavernous sound, and finally a weak vocal whine and hack class war lyric from Rick Tindall – “Hang the bourgeois …”
Trust Christchurch, the most visibly English of New Zealand’s cities, to turn out a Marxist punk anthem. The anemic, echoing Nightshift Studios sound that plagues the single actually works to ‘Govt Don’t Care’s advantage by giving it an appropriately doomy, desolate air.
Better is ‘Who Killed Johnny’, written by drummer Neil McRobie and dedicated to his friend and sometime roadie Johnny Chandley (AKA Johnny Chanley), a Christchurch punk and Blam Blam Blam soundman who died suddenly in Auckland on Boxing Day, 26 December 1981. Blam Blam Blam dedicated their only album Luxury Length to Chandley.
Rick Tindall wrote the majority of the group’s songs with some coming from The Jolly Ups’ set. Their final tune, ‘Bash Me With That Truncheon Again’, about a party broken up by police, was a group effort.
Speaking to Christchurch Star at the time, McRobie and Smith dismissed any Oi or Nazi leanings. Haughey jokingly half-raised a Hitler salute in the group photo session. They complained of the usual boot boy related hassles with pub bookings and practice rooms and expressed a dislike of the then current funk fad.
Haughey also admits to being caught hanging group posters on the Christchurch Central Police Station. Rick Tindall had nothing to say. He didn’t turn up to the interview. “He wants to change the world by music,” bald-headed Haughey sneered.
The little known Johnnies never released another record and played sparingly around Christchurch throughout 1982 to 84 at the Gladstone, St Asaph St Hall, Caledonian Hall (27 May 1982), PJ’s (12 June 1982) and the Star & Garter Battle of the Bands.
They were billed to play Golden Showers in Wellington on 2 April the following year at the Newtown Community Centre, to hundreds of punks from throughout New Zealand, but bailed at the last minute. Their only out of town show was a weekend in Dunedin with The PD Boys.
Desperate Measures’ Erik Van Den Hoven remembers the singer as “a big bald guy with a leather jacket. I saw them at a party, and he was burning their lyrics.”
Vince Haughey - guitar
Rick Tindall - vocals
Neil McRobie - drums
Mike Smith - bass