First known as Ambitious Vegetables, the band got together at Rongotai College in 1979. The songwriting core was lyricist Andrew Fagan and melody writer Gary Curtis. They recorded their first single, a double A-side 'Murder On Manners Street' c/w ‘The Good Old Days’ in May 1980 when the band were 17 years of age and sold 400 copies, mostly by mail order. 'Murder On Manners Street', written about an actual incident, was an instant student radio hit and established the band.
When The Mockers played the Sweetwaters Festival in January 1981, RipItUp magazine’s Mark Phillips wrote, “The Mockers turned in a set of enjoyable originals and covers that saw vocalist, Andrew Fagan, make good use of the available stage space. Standing out was the excellent 'Murder On Manners Street', while sadly missing was ‘The Good Old days’.”
Also missing from the Sweetwaters stage was the band’s regular bassist and co-songwriter Gary Curtis who had decided to give up the touring life and be a stay-at-home Mocker in Wellington. Filling in on bass was the band’s manager Donald Mackay.
More cool indie pop singles would emanate out of Wellington – ‘Trendy Lefties’ on the CBS distributed Bunk label (1981) and ‘Woke Up Today’ on their own Morocat label (July 1982). Both records put the band in stores natiowide and sold respectable numbers. Tired of the indie-life, the band headed for Auckland late 1982 and in April 1983 they recorded ‘My Girl Thinks She’s Cleopatra’ at Mandrill Studios, for Glyn Tucker Jnr's Reaction label after Trevor Reekie had signed the band to the imprint. It was released mid-June and was the first of a string of Mockers hit singles that coincided with endless national tours promoted by new manager Ian Kingsford.
Fagan looked back in Shake! magazine (July/August 1986), “It was sensible to move to Auckland. You have bands like the Meemees really growing huge over the same period of time that we were sitting in Wellington just treading water. Auckland is where the record companies are, it’s where RipItUp is, everything like that.”
The band recorded songs such as ‘Alvison Park’ and ‘Swear It’s True’ and re-recorded early songs like ‘Woke Up Today’ and the ‘The Good Old Days’ at Mandrill’s 24-track studio, in pursuit of "international recording quality".
In between the 1983 tours the band recorded songs such as ‘Alvison Park’ and ‘Swear It’s True’ and re-recorded early songs like ‘Woke Up Today’ and the ‘The Good Old Days’ at Mandrill’s 24-track studio, in pursuit of “international recording quality". Behind the desk on all of these were producer Trevor Reekie and producer/engineer Glyn Tucker Jnr.
1984 started with the band’s fourth appearance at the Sweetwaters Festival on Saturday February 4 and by mid-March their sixth single ‘Swear It’s True’ was released and peaked at No.19. The album Swear It’s True followed in May and entered the NZ Album chart at No.10, peaking at No.4 and staying in the Top 5 for five weeks.
Auckland saw a lineup chanage as Fagan and Kingsford effectively fired the earlier Wellington band replacing them in late 1983 with Geoff Hayden (bass), Dean Heazlewood (guitar), Steve Thorpe (drums) and Tim Wedde (keyboards). A month after the release of their debut album, the band recorded a live television special (and album) at Auckland’s Mainstreet venue. The live album Caught In The Act was released in July and peaked on the NZ Album chart at No.12.
Two albums within three months made 1984 a very productive year and Andrew Fagan also published his first book of poems, Take the Chocolates and Run.
With The Mockers looking ready to take on the world, the Reaction label’s distributor RCA purchased The Mockers' recording contract from Glyn Tucker Jnr in early 1985. One of the final tracks recorded by Reaction Records was the ‘Forever Tuesday Morning’ – the band’s biggest hit that reached No.2 on the NZ Singles Chart in December 1984.
With RCA Australia now interested in The Mockers, their 1985 album, Culprit And The King, was recorded in Sydney with Australian producer Jonathan Kennett. They had the luxury of a two-month block book-out at a top studio, whereas they’d been recording in downtime at Mandrill Studios. Guitarist Brett Adams was on the new album, having replaced Dean Heazlewood.The single ‘One Black Friday’ reached No.8 on the NZ Singles Chart, while the album reached No.9 on the NZ Album Chart. The album gained a coveted five-star review from Colin Hogg in the Auckland Star (Sept 19).
Fagan said to Shake! (July/August 1986), “The worst times are the ones where you come back from the tour … and everybody’s put a lot into it every night and you find you are in debt to all the fringe industries – the rental cars etc.”
Overshadowing the year was the tragic death in September of the band’s longtime drummer, Steve Thorpe.
In 1986 Andrew Fagan wrote a second book of poetry called Salt Rhythms and toured in the stage musical The Pirates of Penzance. In August an album of hits and misses entitled The First Five Years was released by RCA. But overshadowing the year was the tragic death in September of the band’s longtime drummer, Steve Thorpe, who was a popular, always cheerful member of the music community and a great mate and drinking buddy of the Exponents, yet he took his own life.
At the end of 1986 the band returned to Auckland’s Mandrill Studios to record, but this time with expat super-producer Peter Dawkins who had masterminded massive hits for Dragon and Mi-Sex amongst others. The first single ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ was released January 1987 and publicity photos for the band showed them as a four-piece, there’s no replacement for Steve in the picture.
The new album Emperor’s New Clothes was released March 1987 and for the national tour they added Steve Bush on drums. The eight-week March to May tour consisted of 50 gigs plus up to 40 lunchtime school concerts.
With the appetite for 1980s pop fading and American heavy rock taking over, Andrew Fagan and guitarist Brett Adams headed for London, where Fagan, with partner Karen Hay lived on a riverboat, got familiar with the British music business, raised a family and continued to write in a stimulating new environment.
In 1993 Andrew Fagan returned to New Zealand to record the solo album Blisters at Revolver Studio. The single ‘Jerusalem’ gained some airplay but only charted at No.39. Fagan was on the cover of the December 1993 RipItUp magazine but the album, released by Sony, did not rekindle the Mockers mania of the 1980s.
A Mockers compilation released in 2007 spent three weeks in the Top 40.
Andrew Fagan - vocals
Geoff Hayden - bass
Steve Thorpe - drums
Tim Wedde - keyboards
Dean Heazlewood - guitar
Gary Curtis - bass
Gordon Costello - keyboards, guitar
Steve Bush - drums
Barry Caitcheon - guitar
Brendan Fitzgerald - drums
Andrew Fagan and his partner Karyn Hay host an evening radio show on Radio Live.