‘You guys play like a punk band’: The Graeme Downes collection of live Verlaines performances

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 | David Murray | 2 Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills, Curator Music and Audiovisual Collections

The Verlaines have been a keystone band in the Dunedin music scene since their inception in 1980, and fully-fledged beginnings in 1981, when they were found regularly playing gigs in Dunedin’s Empire Tavern’s third floor concert venue. The band has undergone a number of lineup changes over nearly four decades, but the members pivot around songwriter and vocalist/guitarist Dr Graeme Downes, who has been the constant band member since the beginning. The first 15 years of The Verlaines in particular was a productive time for the band, when their sound was developing, and they released some of their most well-known recordings: the songs Death and the Maiden, Crisis after Crisis, and Pyromaniac and albums ‘Hallelujah all the way home’, ‘Bird Dog’, ‘Some Disenchanted Evening’, and ‘Ready to Fly’.

This particularly fertile time is documented in a collection of 33 performances on cassette tapes that Graeme Downes has deposited with Hocken’s music collections. The performances date back to 1981 with a cassette titled ‘Live at Duke Street’ and continue throughout the 1980s, capturing the band in the first decade of their career in exotic locales such as CBGB’s Nightclub in New York, and (arguably) less glamorous settings like Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. This collection of performances documents the band as they develop as performers, and Downes, as he develops as a vocalist and songwriter, imbuing his songs with increasingly sophisticated and complex structures and ‘musical tricks’ – no doubt reflecting his own study in classical music at the University of Otago. The live performances also capture the changing line-ups of The Verlaines, whose sound modifies slightly with each iteration of the band. The earliest cassettes document the initial line-ups (possibly with Downes, Anita Pillai on keys, Craig Easton on guitars and vocals, Philip Higham on bass, and either Paul Baird, Tim James, or Greg Cairns on drums). The band give it their all, and finding their way around Downes’ material which includes later Verlaines classics such as Slow Sad Love Song (the first song Downes ever wrote in 1980 as a response to a friend’s passing), and a faithful cover of Velvet Underground’s Femme Fatale – one of the interesting oddities on the 1981 ‘Rehersals’ tape. By 1985-7, the line-up is one of the most well-known (Downes, Jane Dodd on bass, and Robbie Yeats on drums), and they have just released ‘Hallelujah all the way home’, and ‘Bird Dog’ to excellent press. They are hitting their stride in the live setting, and it shows.

 The Verlaines, It was Raining. Live at The Playroom, Christchurch, May 1987.

 

There are many highlights in this collection. One favourite performance is the band’s spirited take of Pyromaniac at Reckless Records in Chicago (date not recorded, but likely in the early 1990s). There is a punkish spontaneity to this entire show, and Downes’ vocals are spot-on, as is the band’s performance.) Another is possibly the only recorded instance of Graeme Downes performing with Straitjacket Fits, singing She Speeds at Chippendale House in July 1987 (Shayne Carter returns the favour by performing  The Verlaines’ You Cheat Yourself of Everything that Moves) before the Verlaines set for the evening. This is a particularly emotive performance, as it was Downes’ wedding reception! Yet another highlight is a Christmas 1990 show at the Savoy in Dunedin, where the show ends with a dynamic version of Lying in State, which was a popular show closer for the band. By this time the line-up had changed again: Jane Dodd and Robbie Yeats had departed, with replacements Steve Cournane (drums), and Mike Stoodley (bass) taking over their roles in the band – bringing a slightly different feel to the music. The collection stops around 1993, at a point when The Verlaines (now Downes, Darren Steadman on drums, Paul Winders on guitar and backing vocals, and Mike Stoodley on bass) are no longer with Flying Nun, but have signed to Slash Records, an LA-based independent record label. One of the later recordings of the band is an interview with KALX Radio in Berkeley (part of the University of California), where they discuss their (then) new album, ‘Way out Where’, and the band’s history so far. The interviewer discusses Downes’ songwriting, and compares his writing style to Cole Porter or George Gershwin, while stating that The Verlaines ‘play like a punk band most of the time,’ a statement that still applies to the band today.

The physical cassettes are still in good condition for items of between 30 and 40 years old, although the materials are ageing. They are kept in a temperature-controlled vault at Hocken Collections to mitigate any potential issues with magnetic formats (such as sticky shed syndrome). All of these recordings have been digitised to WAV files for access, as the age and fragility of the cassette tapes means further playback could damage them. For any access to this content, please contact the Music and Audiovisual Curator at Hocken Collections for further information.

The APRA Silver Scroll collection

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post written by Amanda Mills, Hocken Liaison Librarian, Curator Music and AV

September is the month of the APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association) Silver Scroll Awards, an event celebrating New Zealand songwriters and composers. A number of awards are presented during this ceremony: the prestigious Silver Scroll award, recognising “outstanding achievement in the craft of songwriting,” the SOUNZ contemporary award recognising “creativity and inspiration in composition by a New Zealander,” and the APRA Maioha Award which “celebrates excellence in popular Māori composition, to inspire Māori composers to explore and express their culture and to increase awareness of waiata in te reo Māori throughout Aotearoa.” Also presented are the APRA Screen Music Awards – the APRA Best Original Music in a Feature Film and APRA Best Original Music in a Series Award, both of which celebrate New Zealand’s screen composers.

In 2017, the APRA Silver Scroll Awards are being held in Dunedin on September 28th – a first for the city – and it is shaping up to be a Dunedin-centric awards ceremony. According to the APRA website, Dunedin has more songwriters per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand, and this year Port-Chalmers based singer-songwriter Nadia Reid, is nominated for her song ‘Richard’. As the Silver Scroll Award itself is to celebrate songwriting, the nominated songs are performed not by their writers and composers, but by other musicians in a different style to illustrate how a song stands on its own merits, regardless of genre. A musical curator selects the artists to perform the tracks, and for the 2017 Awards, Dunedin’s own Shayne Carter (DoubleHappys, Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer) will be undertaking this role. Another link between the awards and our Southern city are the 2017 inductees to the NZ Hall of Fame: The Clean (including founding member Peter Gutteridge), whose contribution to local music history can never be understated.

Hocken’s own music collections have a connection to the Silver Scroll Awards – 190 45rpm discs of Silver Scroll nominated (and winning) songs from between 1965 and 1976 were donated in 1977. These songs represent the eclectic nature of songwriting from the time, with tracks from Blerta, The Maori Volcanics, John Hanlon, Steve Allen, Rockinghorse, Shona Laing, Ray Columbus, The Fourmyula, and Maria Dallas included in the nominations, along with Jay Epae, Lutha, The Moving Folk, (the wonderfully named) The Village Gossip  and Garner Wayne and his Saddle Pals. Accompanying lists of the nominated songs (also provided from APRA) give an indication of how many songs were nominated each year, and are a great resource for researchers looking at New Zealand popular music of the mid twentieth century.  Our wider music collections also include Silver Scroll nominated material from this period and later on 45rpm disc, CD and cassette, including Lea Maalfrid’s 1977 winning song ‘Lavender Mountain’ – the first Silver Scroll Award ever presented to a female songwriter. However, the core APRA collection brings together these nominated songs as a group to represent a time capsule of material nominated for the Silver Scroll.

The song digitised here is by The Blue Stars (later The Bluestars), an Auckland group that began in the early 1960s during the band members’ time at Auckland Grammar. In 1966, they released ‘Please Be A Little Kind’ b/w ‘I Can Take It,’ a record that charted at no. 12, and gained radio airplay. The Blue Stars disbanded the following year, but ‘Please Be A Little Kind’ has kept the band firmly in New Zealand music history due to the song’s nomination for a Silver Scroll.

Below is the 1965 list of Silver Scroll nominees, which features some familiar names like Garner Wayne, Peter Posa, and Ray Colombus – names that reappear frequently in the nomination lists, and in the music charts.

Good luck to all this year’s award nominees!

Amanda Mills

References:

APRA Mohoia Award http://apraamcos.co.nz/awards/awards/silver-scroll-awards/apra-maioha-award/

APRA Silver Scroll Award http://apraamcos.co.nz/awards/awards/silver-scroll-awards/apra-silver-scroll/

SOUNZ Contemporary Award http://apraamcos.co.nz/awards/awards/silver-scroll-awards/

 

 

 

Xpressway: Records of a Dunedin independent record label (1988-1993). Hocken Archives, 94-156.

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

To celebrate Music Month in 2017, here’s a brief look at a collection of papers relating to a local Dunedin label.

Post by Amanda Mills, Hocken Liaison Librarian, Curator Music and AV

Various Xpressway tapes. Hocken Music and AV collections

Xpressway Records began life as a cassette-only label in late 1987/early 1988, run out of Bruce Russell‘s home in Port Chalmers. Russell – archivist, writer, musician (in A Handful of Dust, and The Dead C) – began Xpressway Records with help from fellow musicians Peter Gutteridge, Alastair Galbraith and Peter Jefferies following Flying Nun’s 50% acquired by Mushroom Records. Russell worked for Flying Nun in their Christchurch offices for a time in the 1980s, and saw the label was moving away from its original ideals with the merger. The acquisition by a major label meant attention was focused on more commercial Flying Nun acts, and many were let go from the label.

Russell was disillusioned by these decisions, and when artists like Jefferies and Galbraith were released from their Flying Nun contracts, he decided to in his words “show [Flying Nun] a thing or two,” as their music was just as valuable as the label’s more commercial counterparts. To give these artists and their music a home, he began Xpressway Records. In Russell’s opinion, “we should make the music available to those people that want to hear it, and if those people are a scattering of people all over the world in tiny niches within other national markets … fine… it’s just what we’ve got to do” (Russell, 2000).

Various official Xpressway releases. Hocken Music and AV collections

Xpressway started as a cassette-only record label, but expanded to include vinyl and CD releases. Overall, there were over 20 Xpressway releases, with other recordings licensed from the label. Artists on the label included

  • Peter Jefferies
  • Sferic Experiment
  • The Terminals
  • Alastair Galbraith
  • Victor Dimisich Band
  • Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos
  • Peter Gutteridge

As well as these artists with material licensed from Xpressway to other labels

  • DoubleHappys
  • Sandra Bell

Mock-up of the back cover of the Terminals’ single Do the Void. Xpressway: Records of a Dunedin independent record label (1988-1993). Hocken Archives, 94-156

In 1993, Russell wrapped up the label, and, in 1994, gave Hocken the Xpressway archives. Russell also included other items in the donation: over 100 posters of local artists, and over 50 cassettes of live recordings of acts associated (mostly) with Flying Nun or Xpressway.

Xpressway Pile-Up press release and cassette cover. Xpressway: Records of a Dunedin independent record label (1988-1993). Hocken Archives, 94-156

The archival papers are rich in content, and include

  • Media files, drafts and correspondence
  • Newsletters
  • Financial records including receipt books and IRD records
  • Artist release files and profiles
  • Xpressway album release files
  • Correspondence with artists, other record labels and distributors
  • Mail order correspondence, both national and international

Mail-order Correspondence. Xpressway: Records of a Dunedin independent record label (1988-1993). Hocken Archives, 94-156

Correspondence between Russell and musicians reveals the frustrations, irritants, and (in some cases) jealousies between different parties. While this is in the guise of official correspondence between artist and the label, it is often personal in nature reflecting the close knit nature of the Xpressway music community. It is also interesting to note that hand-written, typed, or faxed messages are on any blank surface: the backs of photographs, envelopes, flyers, aerograms (remember those?), newsletters from Russell’s’ place of employment – it is all used.

Correspondence between Flying Nun and Xpressway Records. Xpressway: Records of a Dunedin independent record label (1988-1993). Hocken Archives, 94-156

Much interesting material is contained in the folder relating to Flying Nun, with business correspondence again revealing the frustrations and everyday realities of supply and distribution between labels, especially those relating to finances. The letters and faxes between Russell and Flying Nun staff running the label day-to-day in Auckland are friendly and informal; they relate personal and industry stories and reveal common frustrations with business, distribution, and (quite often), the musicians. Other folders also contain interesting – and often hilarious – exchanges between the label and correspondent.

‘Look Blue Go Purple + W.S.S.O.E.S’ poster. Hocken Posters collection.

Along with the papers are the posters and cassettes that Russell donated. The posters relate to gigs and album releases, and highlight local bands and artists (many on or associated with Xpressway), and many are hard to find. The tapes capture mostly live performances and some radio shows by local artists, but also artists from around New Zealand, in many different venues around the country. Some are recording sessions, or demos of material that may not have been released, and we are aware that these are possibly the master tapes for a number of recordings.

Various Xpressway tapes. Hocken Music and AV collections

Complementing the Xpressway papers, the Hocken also holds copies of officially released music from Xpressway:

  • Compilations Xpressway Pileup, Killing Capitalism with Kindness, and Making Loser’s Happy
  • Peter Gutteridge’s Pure
  • Peter Jeffries’ Last Great Challenge in a Dull World,
  • Plagal Grind’s self-titled EP,
  • Albums and singles by Alastair Galbraith

Hocken has also recently acquired the Xway Vision VHS video of Xpressway (and associated labels) musicians performing in 1991.

The Xpressway papers and recordings are used by students and other researchers, with material frequently published on the artists, the label, and the wider scene. The popularity of the label, and the music that emerged from it will only increase the intrinsic value of this collection. The Xpressway papers (and associated recordings) are a fascinating look at how an independent record label is run in a small music community, where artists often performed in each other’s bands, or on each other’s recordings.

References:

Williams, M. (2000). Magic Kiwis – Bruce Russell. Perfect Sound Forever. March. Retrieved from http://www.furious.com/perfect/deadc.html

 

… But most of all, it’s fashion!

Friday, March 24th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Curator of Music and AV

It’s iD fashion week here in Dunedin, and an opportunity to highlight an interesting piece of fashion-related audiovisual material in Hocken’s collections. The song It’s Fashion by Jack Roberts and Ian Couldrey was created as the theme for Ross and Glendining’s  fashion show.

Credit It’s Fashion. 1961. Lyrics by Ian Couldrey, and music by Jack Roberts. Hocken Sound Recordings Rec-S 3362

The company Ross and Glendining (founded by John Ross and Robert Glendining) was established in Dunedin in 1862, when they bought a local Dunedin retail drapery business. Changing to an import and warehousing business within three years, they sold imported fashion goods, though some of the most popular goods sold included blankets, and hosiery. To create woollens, they built the Roslyn Woolen Mill in 1879 for production of consumables like yarn, blankets and flannels, and several years later, they introduced knitting machines to produce hosiery and clothing. While expanding their clothing manufacturing business throughout New Zealand, Dunedin was still their main centre, opening a clothing factory in 1883 to manufacture men’s and boy’s clothing (under the Roslyn label), a hat factory in 1901, and also manufacturing footwear  from 1908, and neckwear from 1957. The list of brands Ross and Glendining manufactured was large, and included Mayfair Shoes, Roslyn Blankets and Rugs, Osti Lingerie, Glenross Millinery, Aotea Knitting Wool, and Sacony Fashions.

Mimosa Lingerie.[1959]. Ross and Glendining: Records, Hocken Collections AG-512/066 S09-529g.

Originally a staid manufacturer of wool, and an importer of garments, Ross and Glendining did not enter the world of fashion until the late 1950s and “stunned trade buyers with an innovative fashion show in Auckland at which they displayed their latest… creations” (Jones, 2010, p. 341). The show (held at the Winter Garden of the Great Northern Hotel) ran for 106 minutes, and used a three-piece orchestra and 10 models (eight adults and two children). The idea for this show came from Ian Couldrey, the company’s sales controller, well known in national publicity circles (Jones, 2010, p 341). The show had three successful nights before moving on to Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, and a film was made of the shows to feature in smaller centres. This was promised to be the first of many fashion events for the company.

Unfortunately, the motion picture of this 1960 show is not part of Hocken’s large collection of Ross and Glendining records; in fact, no copies seem to exist. This is a significant gap in the collection, and, if found, would be a fantastic addition to our records of the company.

It’s Fashion is stated as being written for Ross and Glendining’s 1961 fashion show, but the annual reports and records don’t document any event that year, so the date may have been incorrectly attributed – perhaps the song was written for the 1960 show. It’s Fashion was written  for the event by Roberts and Couldrey. The song is in the popular genre of the day – a charming piano-driven mid-tempo, melodic pop-ballad, sung in the style of Doris Day (sadly, there is no mention of the female vocalist’s name). The performance is sweet, and appropriate for the show, which while innovative at the time, would likely not be cutting-edge by today’s standards. Regardless, this lovely song is one of few recorded specifically for a fashion show and an interesting, and modern, approach for Ross and Glendining to take to advertise their fashion lines.

It’s Fashion.

 

References:

Jones, S.R.H. (2010). Doing well and doing good: Ross and Glendining Scottish enterprise in New Zealand. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press.

Happy World Audiovisual Heritage Day!

Thursday, October 27th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Audio Visual and Music

This annual day (October 27th) is run by UNESCO to celebrate audiovisual heritage, and to raise awareness that this vulnerable material is in danger of being lost through neglect, decay, destruction, and lack of resourcing. World Audiovisual Heritage Day has a different theme every year, and 2016’s theme is ‘It’s your story – don’t lose it.’ This theme presents opportunities to showcase cultural material in the audiovisual collections, and we’ve found a couple of fascinating pieces to share with you.

The first recording is from a disc called ‘Social Credit in 3 minutes’ (spoken word by A.E. Willyams) and is a promotional 78rpm recording for the Social Credit Party, recorded in the 1950s (side B is the ‘Social Credit March’). The short excerpt is taken from the last part of the recording, and explains what social credit is.

Social credit in three minutes

‘Social Credit in 3 Minutes’. Hocken Sound Recordings: Rec-M 1104

The second recording is a 1958 45rpm disc ‘: A Maori love story’, told by Kenneth Melvin, on the Reed Records label. This short excerpt picks up the story where Hinemoa and Tutanekai become aware of each other.

Hinemoa and Tutanekai

‘Hinemoa and Tutanekai: A Maori love story’. Hocken Sound Recordings: Rec-S 318.

How much audiovisual material do you have to preserve?

Rotorua Māori Choir

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | 6 Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills – Liaison Librarian Audio-Visual and Music

FullSizeRender

August was inaugural Māori music month, a celebration of Māori music around the country of all genres. The first music recorded in New Zealand was indeed Māori, when Ana Hato and Deane Waretini were recorded singing a number of songs, including Hine e Hine, and Waiata Poi. This was in February 1927 at Tūnohopu meeting house, in Ohinemutu, Rotorua, and their accompanists included the nascent Rotorua Māori Choir. While their story is the stuff of musical history, less has been written about the Rotorua Māori Choir, and their seminal recordings of 1930.

The Rotorua Māori Choir had been in existence for at least two decades, having been formed in the early 1900s by Frederick Bennett, an Anglican Clergyman. Before making their famous recordings, the choir had been part of New Zealand’s first feature film, George Tarr’s Hinemoa, from 1914. In 1929, the choir’s lawyer (a Mr. Simpson) suggested to Arthur Eady (of Arthur A. Eady Publishing) that the choir be recorded. This suggestion was taken to Columbia Gramophone Company, who agreed, and a contract was signed by three choir members – Geoffrey Rogers, Tame Petane, and Rotohiko Haupapa. In 1930, a group from the label (including musical director Gil Dech, managing director W.A. Donner, and engineer Reg Southey) came to New Zealand to record the choir, and this took three months – a significant commitment of finances and resources. Dech, who had been to New Zealand before, became closely acquainted with the music by listening to the songs sung to him repeatedly by the choir before the recording started, though his introduction to the some of the music originally occurred when he accompanied and conducted the recording sessions of Scottish tenor Ernest McKinlay, who recorded Māori songs in Sydney in 1928.

By all accounts, the recording sessions with the Rotorua Māori Choir were long and often hard, as choir members had day jobs, and the recording sessions often lasted until the early hours of the morning. Dech was keen to have the choir harmonise naturally, but often wrote harmony parts and taught them to the group – Reg Southey confirming “he trained them to sing as a group – most of them were used to singing solo.” There were soloists, however: bass baritone Rotohiko Haupapa, soprano Te Mauri Meihana, contralto Mere Amohau, and tenor Tiawhi Ratete.

As with Ana Hato and Deane Waretini before them, the Rotorua Māori Choir recorded at the Tūnohopu meeting house at Ohinemutu, Rotorua. To create a better environment to record in, shawls and carpets were hung from the roof to dampen the echo, and a production/control room was assembled in the porch. Southey recalled that the recording sessions were to record Māori singing and song, which they “felt was unique and should be put on record for all time. So many visitors… came to New Zealand, heard these singers and asked where they could buy recordings. They weren’t available… we wanted to correct that.” The recordings were cut directly to fragile wax discs (two recordings were cut, and the best one chosen for use), and sent to Australia, where copper master records were cut. Over thirty songs were recorded (in what Mervyn Mclean called “the European melodic idiom”): folk songs, love songs, and farewell and welcome songs, as well as two English hymns in Te Reo: Au e Iho, and Karaunatia. Originally issued on 10” shellac 78rpm discs, in 1961, all but three of the songs were taped from the master discs and pressed to LP, bringing the Rotorua Māori Choir to further recognition.

Digitised recording of Warutia Putiputi Pai

To illustrate the talents of the Rotorua Māori Choir, we have digitised some of our original 78rpm discs. One of the best examples of their vocal abilities is Warutia Putiputi Pai, a Māori love ditty, where the range of the choir members, and the style of the musical director is evident. The disc is in remarkably good condition for being 86 years old, though there are ‘pops’ due to the nature and slight deterioration of the format.

References:

Armstrong, A. (1961). Records: Still popular after thirty years. Te Ao Hou, 36 (September), p. 63-64.

Mclean, M. (1996). Maori Music. Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

[Unknown author]. (1964). Pioneer returns. New Zealand Listener, 20 March. p.10.

 

 

 

 

Unboxing (mostly) Flying Nun

Monday, May 30th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Music and AV Liaison Librarian

One of the most fun things we get to do at the Hocken is open new material, so in celebration of Music Month, we thought we would share some of our new popular music acquisitions with an unboxing video. Most of the discs are from Flying Nun artists in the 1990s, though the Chris Knox compilation on cassette (on the Thokei Tones label) is a brand new release and the Ladyhawke discs (released on Modular) date to around 2007-2008. The Flying Nun discs were mostly sourced from overseas vendors, as some of these titles are hard to come by, and finding them locally (or nationally) can often be a challenge. These recordings are a great addition to our vinyl (and other format) holdings, especially as many of them showcase Dunedin musicians.

These titles include:

King Loser – Caul of the outlaw

Chris Knox – KnoxTraxFine

Ladyhawke – Back of the van

Love’s Ugly Children – Cakehole

Martin Phillipps and The Chills – Sunburnt

Straitjacket Fits – Melt

Various Artists – Abbasalutely

 

You may ask, what are the next steps in the process of putting them in our collections?

Flying Nun albums unboxed

Flying Nun albums unboxed

The discs are placed into inert polyethylene bags to protect the sleeves, metadata about the recording is input into the publications database (Library Search Ketu), and then items are barcoded and labelled before being shelved into our specially made LP cabinets. They are then available for University of Otago staff, students, and the general public to come and listen to.

vinyl cabinets

LP storage cabinets

We acquire New Zealand music of all genres, time periods, and (most) formats constantly, and this is only a snapshot of the material that is added to the music collections on a weekly basis. All published music can be searched for via the University of Otago publications database, Library Search|Ketu.  For more information on the music collections at the Hocken, please see our music guide.

album spines

Albums all safely stored in the cabinets

Unforgettable. In every way.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and Audio Visual

In Hocken’s 78rpm disc collection there is an anomaly: over 100 American pop standards by US artists. For a collection of New Zealand material, this is a significant exception to our collection development policy, and more than just an example of a popular genre. There is little to explain why these discs are in the music collection, but our records state they were donated by Mr Grant Fleury in the late 1990s, and were (according to staff recollection) part of an estate collection.

So, why would a collection of New Zealand material include these items? One potential reason for keeping these discs, is that they are all NZ pressings of international labels, including Columbia Records, Decca Records, His Masters Voice, and Capitol Records. However, there are between 50 and 100 of these recordings, so this collection is more than just an example of local label pressings. Some of the titles are jazz, pop, and rock’n’roll classics that shaped popular music in the 20th Century, coming at the end of the 78rpm era. Titles include:

Ella Fitzgerald: Happy Talk. A track from the very popular musical “South Pacific”, Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song with Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra in 1950, and this led to them recording an album soon after.

photo 2 78

Fats Domino, Blueberry Hill

Fats Domino: Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame. Both are significant rock ‘n’ roll classics – Domino’s 1956 recording of Blueberry Hill became the standard version of the song, while his 1955 recording of Ain’t That a Shame gained US  fame after being re-recorded by Pat Boone. However, Domino’s version became more popular.

photo 1 78

Fats Domino, Ain’t That A Shame

Nat King Cole: Unforgettable b/w Mona Lisa. Unforgettable was recorded in 1951, with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, and with Riddle’s arrangement. Cole remade it in 1956, and it was remade again  in the 1990s as a beyond-the-grave duet with his daughter Natalie. It is backed with an equally popular song, Mona Lisa, which won the 1950 Academy Award for best original song from the film “Captain Carey.”

photo 3 78

Nat King Cole, Mona Lisa

Having these recordings in the collection presents a conundrum – are they a one off exception to the collection development policy of collecting material by New Zealand artists? Or, was there a valid reason for adding international music into the 78rpm disc collection, when there was no apparent local link in terms of composer, or performer?  They are an interesting addition to the collections of early popular music, and their influence is felt widely throughout local New Zealand music of the same time.

The Dunedin Sound?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 | Anna Blackman | 8 Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and Audio-Visual

Dunedin Sound cabinet 2

The Dunedin Sound is a phrase used widely to describe a particular sound in independent music (most often on the Flying Nun label) that emerged from Dunedin in the 1980s. Currently, there are a number of people who claim ownership of the phrase ‘Dunedin Sound’, but it is commonly attributed to The Clean’s guitarist, David Kilgour, who uttered it in an interview. The phrase is contentious: many people deny there was ever such a thing as the ‘Dunedin Sound’, while others are adamant it existed. However, it is a convenient term to use when describing local bands from that era, in particular The Chills, The Clean, The Verlaines, The Bats, Look Blue Go Purple, and Sneaky Feelings – all bands that used (to a greater or lesser degree) an underlying  drone, or a jangly guitar in their sound. Dr. Graeme Downes (guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with The Verlaines) argues that there is a ‘Dunedin Sound’, found in the songs themselves, within structural and compositional commonalities. Other factors fit too: isolation, the weather, and finding that their diverse inspirations all filtered through a similar mindset. The right time, and, crucially, the right place.

It has been argued the ‘Dunedin Sound’ began with The Clean’s Boodle Boodle Boodle EP (which was very popular, selling over 10,000 copies, and attaining the no. 4 place in the charts), and then continued with The Chills, the Stones, The Verlaines, and Sneaky Feelings (a.k.a The Dunedin Double), which is still a benchmark for local independent music – compilations such as Wellington’s Four Stars, and last year’s Fishrider Records compilation Temporary were heavily compared to it.

Dunedin Sound posters

The Hocken’s collections are rich in material from this music sub-genre, spread throughout our different collections – Posters and Ephemera include treasures such as one-off gig posters, such as these by the Magick Heads and Look Blue Go Purple, and invites to parties where the bands played; Garage, Hahaha, and Kahoutek zines all feature in-depth interviews with the musicians. Within the archives, a copy of Martin Phillipps’ recent oral history with Helen Frizzell resides, and the Xpressway papers are a mine of information about releases and careers of local musicians signed to the label (many formerly on Flying Nun). The accompanying Xpressway cassette collection was transferred to the published music collections, and these tapes include rare, and early, live recordings of bands and solo artists. There is research too – theses by Craig Robertson and Sian O’Gorman provide information on the bands and the music, as well as the creative scenes surrounding the musicians. Our publications hold books on New Zealand music that include the local scenes and profile the artists, and our music clippings files cover not only ‘Dunedin Sound’ bands and artists, but also the wider Dunedin music scenes and genres. The recorded music collection is richest in terms of the core of the ’Dunedin Sound’ – the actual recordings. We hold some of the hardest-to-find music releases because we collected them at the time of release, and, thus, have a collection deep in content. While not 100% comprehensive, original recordings and reissues are constantly being added to the collection – many new items purchased recently have been reissues. In addition, as part of the Audioculture function held at here on May 14th this year, we were generously gifted the original design for the initial Flying Nun logo (a one-eyed cherub holding an LP), a significant addition.

Dunedin Sound cabinet

 

Music is subjective: here are my 10 favourite ‘Dunedin Sound’ recordings in the Hocken’s music collections, between 1981 and 1996. How many of these do you know?

  • ‘The Dunedin Double’ EP (The Chills, The Verlaines, The Stones, Sneaky Feelings)
  • ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’ EP (The Clean)
  • ‘Life in One Chord’ EP (Straitjacket Fits)
  • ‘Death and the Maiden’ single (The Verlaines)
  • ‘Pink Frost’ single (The Chills)
  • ‘Outer Space single’ (The 3Ds)
  • ‘Bewitched’ EP (Look Blue Go Purple)
  • ‘Snapper’ EP (Snapper)
  • ‘Randolph’s Going Home’ single (Shayne Carter and Peter Jeffries)
  • ‘A Timeless Piece’ EP (The Rip)

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that many of these bands and artists are still making records:  new Chills and Verlaines’ albums are coming, Shayne Carter has a new solo album out this year, and The Clean and The Bats have toured locally and internationally recently.

 

Celebrating audiovisual heritage

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Audiovisual and Music

Broken disc Hocken Collections

UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is held annually on October 27th to raise awareness of collections of audiovisual objects around the world in various institutions. While this celebratory day has passed, it is always advantageous to draw attention to the importance of audiovisual collections and to their fragility.

It is worth remembering that audiovisual materials are very important primary records of the 20th and 21st century. Countless major historical moments of the last 100 years have been captured in film, or on sound recordings. Many of these recordings are now iconic, for example footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Edison blue amberol cylinder. Hocken Collections; uncatalogued.

However, much audiovisual material has been lost, or is in danger of disappearing. Purposeful destruction, decay and obsolescence of format, and neglect are some of the factors that contribute to much of this cultural loss. The theme for the 2014 World Audiovisual Heritage Day was “Archives at risk: Much more to do”. Audiovisual collections are often at risk because of the inherent fragility of the materials used : all audiovisual heritage is endangered.

Damaged shellac 78rpm disc.

In New Zealand,audiovisual collections are held in many institutions, including the Hocken Collections, and the Alexander Turnbull Library. Preservation programmes are undertaken to ensure the survival of these precious items, though often these are hampered by lack of resources. Audiovisual digitisation and preservation is highly skilled and labour intensive work. But the collections that are in the care of institutions, archives and libraries are highly valued and we do our best. Apart from preserving sound and images for the future digitisation can improve access to AV collections. Many people know of their existence, but often not the depth of the collections. Making digital copies available online brings them to a new audience.Broken disc Hocken Collections

The Hocken Collections has many different formats of audiovisual material. Formats such as cylinder, open reel tape (ORT), and 16mm film are challenging to for us to digitise, as suitable equipment is often difficult to source. Film reels are a precious source of historical content and information, and we have very pleased to have preserved the Hocken’s motion picture films with the help of the local Film Heritage Trust. A sound format that presents interesting preservation issues is the 16” transcription disc – turntables need be larger than usual and require a longer tonearm to accommodate the disc size. Rare and unique material is part of the Hocken’s collection, and we are currently building our capacity to care for this material using the highest standards and best practice.

The images presented here include three broken 78rpm discs that we have in our collections, though they have been removed from circulation! The was cylinder is not broken. They are all extremely fragile, and care is required in handling them. This is only one example of how delicately balanced the preservation of audiovisual material can be, and how vulnerable the content and the carrier (formats) are.