Stranger than Fiction: Split Enz at 50

Thursday, January 26th, 2023 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

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

October 2022 marked 50 years since the formation of Split Enz, one of the most significant bands to emerge from New Zealand, and one which launched the careers of Tim and Neil Finn, Phil Judd, Noel Crombie, and Eddie Rayner. Before the ‘Enz’, they were ‘Ends’, with their original line-up of Brian (Tim) Finn, Phil Judd, Miles Golding, Mike Chunn, and Mike Howard – a five-piece who favoured acoustic folk-pop music. Idiosyncratic, creative and unique, they were unlike anything in the Aotearoa New Zealand music scene. Time, exposure, and evolving music styles meant their sound and image changed over the years, moving through art-rock, prog-rock and post-punk with a distinctive flair for stage (and costume) theatrics.

Split Enz, 1975. [Unknown Otago Daily Times photographer]. 1975. P1998-028/01/20-001. Hocken Photographs Collection, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena. Permission to use kindly granted by Allied Press and Tim Finn.

1973 was a key year for Split Ends and began on January 6 with a performance at the Great Ngāruawāhia Music Festival. To say they weren’t the favourite act on the bill is an understatement. Split Ends were booed offstage by 18,000 Black Sabbath fans who did not appreciate their sound, which, according to Phil Judd was (at the time) a “lightweight, puny-sounding acoustic affair” (RNZ, 2005). The experience at Ngāruawāhia was disappointing, but the band were on a trajectory, recording early songs ‘Split Ends’ and ‘For You’ at Stebbings Studios before starting a New Zealand tour. The band line-up was also evolving: Mike Howard and Miles Golding exited the band and were replaced by Geoff Chunn on drums, and Wally Wilkinson on guitar. Honing their sound for the rest of the year, Split Ends’ spot on the New Faces television talent show cemented them as a band to watch, although they came second to last in the final – one judge told them they would be ‘too clever’ to succeed. They may not have won, but they made an impression and were given a 30-minute concert feature on New Zealand television. At the start of 1974 they changed their name from ‘Ends’ to ‘Enz’, signifying a change in style and sound, a move which Tim Finn in 2005 noted as “graphically it sticks in your mind with a z at the end” (RNZ, 2005). A move to Australia, and an emphasis on band visuals (costumes, hairstyles, and movements) saw them sign with Mushroom Records, and they released their debut album Mental Notes in 1976. A glorious, strange album, Mental Notes was voted no. 1 on Rip it Up’s canonical list of 100 best New Zealand records in 2000.

Image: Split Enz. (1975). Mental Notes. [Album]. Original LP on White Cloud Records, and various CD reissues on Mushroom Records and Festival Records. Mental Notes is Split Enz. [Auckland: Pye Records, c.1975]. Split Enz: Ephemera, Eph-0109-ML-D-01/01.Ephemera Collection, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena.

Band members including Eddie Rayner, Noel Crombie, Neil Finn, and Nigel Griggs joined at different points, while others including Phil Judd and Mike Chunn departed. The changing line-up and a continuing move towards a leaner, pared-back image and sound in the 1980s gave Split Enz hit singles and albums both in New Zealand and Australia. Their 1980 album True Colours was massively successful, charting locally at no.1 for eight weeks running. Split Enz were now an international success as True Colours also went double platinum in Canada, selling over 200,000 copies there. The lead single ‘I Got You’, a no. 1 single in Australia and New Zealand, also reached no.10 in the UK singles chart – the band’s performance on Top of the Pops seen by an estimated 11 million people. 40 years later, the 2020 reissue (and remix) of True Colours would again reach the New Zealand no.1 album chart position, confirming their place in New Zealand music history. While Tim Finn left the band in early 1984, Split Enz disbanded after their Enz with a Bang tour that same year, but occasionally reformed for one-off shows or tours around New Zealand and Australia. In 2022 Tim Finn and Eddie Rayner formed Forenzics, a musical project that took different melodic or rhythmic strands of Split Enz songs and created new works from them.

A band of idle dreamers: Split Enz at 50 foyer display, 2022. Image taken by Amanda Mills.

A band of idle dreamers: Split Enz at 50 foyer display, 2022. Image taken by Amanda Mills.

During the University of Otago’s 2022 second semester, Humanities student intern Emma Aplin worked on a project examining Split Enz, and the materials across Hocken that relate to the band. As well as listing these sources, Emma worked with Music and AV curator Amanda Mills to create the current foyer display highlighting materials about Split Enz, from publications to recordings, posters and ephemera. We found many gems, including a scrapbook of 1980s music donated to Hocken’s archives, and the One Step Ahead newsletter which looks at Australian and New Zealand music and film in the early 1980s (Split Enz feature regularly). To compliment the display is an introductory panel, written as part of the student internship, and a Spotify playlist (curated by our intern and Music/AV curator) celebrating 50 years of the Split Enz, and the band members’ subsequent solo work, or work in other bands.

Footage of Split Ends’ 1973 performance on New Faces can be seen on NZ on Screen here https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/split-enz-new-faces-1973

The Hocken Collections’ 50 years of Split Enz Spotify playlist, curated by HUMS intern Emma Aplin and Hocken Music Curator Amanda Mills can be found here https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2SAIUZqig5ZFXjFy8lAC78?si=ad40406de0f84347

Music Curator Amanda Mills talked to RNZ in early January about the display, and the Hocken’s Collections of Split Enz material. The interview can be found here  https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/summer-days/audio/2018873218/history-never-repeats-50-years-of-split-enz

References:

RNZ, 2005. Enzology Part 1 – Beginning of the Enz (1950s-1975). Available online https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/enzology/audio/2534636/enzology-part-1-beginning-of-the-enz-1950s-1975

 

Book Review Corner: ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post written by Collections Assistant – Publications, Gini Jory

 ‘The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.’

In this 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, a blood feud between two rival gangs that has been going on for generations has swept Shanghai into chaos. The Scarlets, with their newly returned heir from America, Juliette Cai, have previously been almost unchallenged for power, except by their rivals, the Russian White Flowers. But now with the various colonial powers as well as the Chinese Nationalists and Communist party all vying for control of the ancient city, the lawless power of the gangs is being threatened. And when gangsters on both sides start ripping their own throats out, their strenuous hold on power starts to slip even more as the people start whispering of a madness, and a monster in the shadows. To figure out who is behind the madness and save her people, Juliette must team up with the heir to the White Flowers, Roma Montagov- her first lover, and her first betrayal.

Welcome back to the Book Review Corner of the Hocken blog! In this post we discuss New Zealand author Chloe Gong’s New York Times Bestseller These Violent Delights, a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920’s Shanghai featuring a horrible monster, political intrigue, queer characters, and a scathing takedown of colonialism. If you like Shakespeare, historical fiction and fantasy, this might be right up your alley!

Before we get into These Violent Delights, I want to take a moment to talk about its author, Chloe Gong. She is only 23 and finished writing this book at 19. NINETEEN. When it was released in November 2020 it debuted at no.3 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was on there for over six months, which is an incredible achievement for a first novel. The sequel Our Violent Ends came out in late 2021 to equal success, and Gong already has a spinoff series in the work with the first book being released this September, and an adult fantasy series due out 2023. Born in Shanghai, Gong grew up on the North Shore but went to university in America as she knew that was where she’d want to publish. She’s been writing since she was 13, and These Violent Delights was her eighth completed manuscript. And while many might think she’s a bit young to be so successful (most young adult authors are a lot further removed from the intended age genre), I think this is in part why she’s been so successful. She knows what young adults are looking at online, how they come across content and what will make them purchase a book. Gong’s own tiktok is a great example of her own marketing- she was creating videos of makeup looks inspired by the White Flowers, sharing quotes from her novels and inspirations for these, and following viral trends. And it worked- I heard about this book from an Asian-American ‘bookstagram’ creator I follow on Instagram, and the creator sounded so genuinely excited about it that I pre-ordered my personal copy that day. This is the kind of organic work of mouth marketing that Gong was aiming for, and it has obviously aided her success.

Back to the review. I really loved this book, and thought it was a great modernisation of such a classic story. Romeo and Juliet was never my favourite Shakespeare play but Gong has really taken it in a much darker direction. In this adaptation we no longer have two very young star-crossed lovers but two bitter and jaded eighteen-year-olds whose secret love affair when they were fifteen ended in disaster and betrayal. Juliette has recently returned from America a true flapper, with beaded dresses and gelled hair to take her place as heir to the Scarlet gang empire- an empire that is under threat from foreign powers. Roma is seemingly on the verge of losing his place as heir to the White Flowers as the gap between himself and his father widens. Both are on rocky ground when a madness starts to spread through Shanghai, affecting members of both their gangs as they are infected by some sort of insect and compelled to rip their own throats out. (Warning- there are a few very gory descriptions of violence in this book.) When they run into each other as they are both separately investigating the cause of the madness, they realise it is within their best interests to work together and use both of their connections to solve the mystery. But as their families have a rival blood feud, they must do so in secret, not even telling their closest friends.

The new family and friends Gong introduces was part of what really sold this book to me. There are the obvious adaptations- Tyler for Tybalt, Marshall for Mercutio, Benedikt for Benvolio- but Gong also introduces female cousins for Juliette, to give her someone her own age and gender to confide in. These cousins, Rosalind and Kathleen are the cornerstone of Juliet’s family life and give a view of how others in her family are treated in the Scarlet gang hierarchy. Roma is also given a younger sister, Alisa- perhaps to make him slightly less impulsive and willing to sacrifice his own life. These family and friends are given their own point of view chapters as well, so we get the story not only from the sometimes very jaded views of our main couple. It is also through these characters that Gong subtlety and naturally introduces queerness into an otherwise very straight world.

When Kathleen is introduced to us, waiting tables at a Scarlet club, the indication that she is trans is so subtle I completely missed it the first time through:

Rosalind used to tell her that someone was going to snatch such a precious stone if she wore it so obviously, but Kathleen liked it there. If people were to stare at her throat, she always said she would rather it be because of the pendant than the bump of her Adam’s apple underneath.

Kathleen is never misgendered by any character, and her cousin and sister always come to her staunch defence if anyone even looks like they might insult her for being trans. But unfortunately her trans identity has not always been valid or easy. When her father finally accepts that she is trans it is only under very specific circumstances that he allows her to present as woman, and she must take on someone else’s identity, not the one she had chosen for herself. I think it can be difficult with queer characters to walk the line between overused and upsetting tropes (such as the bury your gays trope used in a lot of media, especially for lesbian characters) and acting as though their queer identity would be fully accepted, especially in a historical setting (there are absolutely settings where discrimination does not have to exist though). While Kathleen is given a tragic backstory she is also given important roles within the story by her cousin, has her own agency, and in the present text is never looked down on for her trans identity.

We also get gay representation in the form of Roma’s best friends, Benedikt and Marshall. Their relationship is very much a slow burn, and while we don’t get to see them admit their feelings for each other in this book, their POV chapters make it very clear how they feel about one another. They are extremely close and live together, but both are afraid of ruining their friendship and of the repercussions they would face from the leaders of the White Flowers if they were to come out.

Another great aspect of this adaptation is the historical setting of 1920s Shanghai. Not only do we get the glitz and glamour of the American flapper age through Juliette and her fantastic dresses and styled hair, but it is set against the very real colonisation that took place in China during this time after their loss in the Opium Wars. Juliette often makes remarks about foreigners taking parts of the city for themselves, and her family is constantly scrambling to make agreements with the Nationalists so they can still maintain a semblance of their power. Communism is spreading through the workers of the city, and historically there were thousands of strikes across Shanghai in 1926 due to the terrible wages and working conditions. The Scarlet gang is also loosely based around the Green gang, a secret society and criminal organisation prominent in the mid 20th century, and while there was no equivalent of the White Flowers, Shanghai was a free port and many Russians ended up there after fleeing from the civil war. I personally love a historical backdrop in any novel, and having this very real pressure of foreigners, Nationalists and Communists all fighting for the city is an integral part of the story.

Overall, this is a great book and I would really recommend it if you enjoy modern Shakespeare, the enemies to lovers trope, queer fiction, murder mysteries, monster hunting, and historical backdrops.

Interested in reading this? These Violent Delights is in our published collections and can be used on site in our reading room.

References:

Gong, C. 2020. These Violent Delights. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Zhang, S. 2020. ‘Chloe Gong is 21, she’s from the North Shore, and she just wrote a US bestseller’ The Spinoff. 24 December 2020. Accessed 2 September 2022. https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/04-12-2020/chloe-gong-is-21-shes-from-the-north-shore-and-she-just-wrote-a-us-bestseller

Representations of women in the Dunedin music scene in the 1960s

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

AG-047-7/004. Photograph of unnamed performers. Folk Proms Concert Capping, 1967. Otago University Folk Music Club: Files. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Post researched and written by HUMS 301 intern Kayli Taylor.

How power (im)balances mean minorities are not adequately represented, including in archives.

Gordon Spittle’s Beat Groups and courtyard parties provides a broad snapshot of the underground culture of the Ōtepoti Dunedin music scene in the 1960s. The book offers a raw depiction of collectives of artists, musicians and performers who set the stage for the city’s emerging Dunedin sound. The book also contains a distinct lack of representation of women. Therefore, one might be forgiven for thinking that there were no women performing in the 1960s. An in-depth analysis of the Hocken archives, as I did for my HUMS301 internship, tells another story. Women did perform but were simply represented less than men. This has implications for how historians and archivists discuss women in the Dunedin music scene, and how we can do research to understand their lives and experiences.

The research I undertook at Hocken was broad, looking at publications and archives. In particular, the archival material on the Otago University Folk Music Club AG-047/7 provided different representation of women. Publications such as student magazine Critic, the Otago Daily Times and Playdate also provided interesting points of analysis.

In the 1960s, folk music expanded across Ōtepoti Dunedin and the world.[1] A key aspect of folk music was the role of women.[2] Through the archival records of the Otago University Folk Music Club, we can see that women played a key role in the organisational management of the group. This includes Diane Baird, Wendy Clark, Catherine Monthieth, Di Looney, Liz Somerville, Lyn Jeffcoate, and Bronwyn Patterson. Women also performed in concerts organised by and connected with the group, including Di Looney, Val Murphy, Lea Stevens, Christine Smith, Brownyn Patterson and Ann Wigston.

An article published in student magazine Critic in 1961 recognised this phenomenon, saying there was a shift to women performing in concerts on the basis that if women are good enough to perform behind the scenes, they are deserving of performing.[3]

The representation of women in the music scene in Dunedin in the media is also of interest to our analysis of women in the Dunedin music scene in the 1960s. Critic, for example, includes discussion of women and their role in the Dunedin music scene. In particular, Critic shows that folk music has quite extensive representation of women. Women, such as Diane Baird and Juliet Scott, also wrote for Critic about music – showing another way that women could speak into the Dunedin music scene in the 1960s.

AG-047-7/001. Photograph of unnamed performer. Folk Proms Concert Capping, 1967. Otago University Folk Music Club: Files. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

Expanding to look at women musicians across Aotearoa New Zealand, we can see that women both performed – and were represented. Musicians such as Sandy Edmonds, Dinah Lee, Maria Dallas and Kiri Te Kanawa were regularly represented in Playdate. The way they were represented is still of note, however. They were often used in advertising, such as for hair product Napro. These products were advertised by Dinah Lee (seven times), Anne Murphy (one time) and Sandy Edmonds (nine times).

Analysing the representation of women in the Dunedin music scene in the 1960s shows common threads of the representation of minorities. David Thomas’s Silence in the Archive argues that archives are not neutral or natural, but hold particular stories and reinforce particular discourses.[4] He argues that though archives should be beacons of light to the stories of history, that is not always the case.[5] We can see this playing out in the lack of representation of women in the Dunedin music scene.

The Ōtepoti Dunedin music scene has an interesting history of its presence and representation of women. The 1960s, in particular, was a key point of flux and transition. Women played an increasingly role in the music scene but were rarely recognised in the media of the day. For historians, this poses a challenge to how they perceive and understand women and their involvement. Thomas argues that as historians seek stories of minorities, there is not always the archival material to assist their research.[6]

AG-047-7/003. Photograph of unnamed performers. Folk Proms Concert Capping, 1967. Otago University Folk Music Club: Files. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

While I found some representation of women in the Dunedin music scene in the 1960s, I believe there were more women performing than the archive represents. David Thomas argued that archives silence some stories, and I believe this is the case in this instance. This encourages us – as historians and people – to act more consciously to find and represent the stories of women and minorities in the archives, and to make space for their stories in our everyday lives.

Dunbar, Julie C. Women, Music, Culture: An Introduction. Second Edition. ed. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Thomas, David, Simon Fowler, and Valerie Johnson. The Silence of the Archive. London: Facet Publishing, 2017.

[1] Julie C. Dunbar, Women, Music, Culture: An Introduction, Second Edition. ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016), 364.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “More Women Take An Active Part in Concert”, Critic, 4 May 1961, 8.

[4] David Thomas, Simon Fowler, and Valerie Johnson, The Silence of the Archive (London: Facet Publishing, 2017), 1.

[5] Ibid., 22.

[6] Ibid., 17.

John Prouse and the Maiden of Morven

Monday, November 4th, 2019 | Hocken Collections | 2 Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills, Curator Music and AV

Every year when World Audiovisual Heritage day comes around, we are always struck with the wonderful, intriguing recordings that are made available for the public to hear a little bit of a forgotten past. This year, to celebrate World AV Heritage Day at Hocken, we are looking back to the very early days of recording, and focussing on one New Zealander in particular – John Prouse, and his 1905 recording of Maiden of Morven (Gramophone and Typewriter Company 3-2359 ). This recording is one of the first recordings of a New Zealand artist, after the extremely rare Violets by Thomas Mandeno Jackson. Hocken Collections’ copy of Maiden of Morven is also thought to be the only copy that survives, although others may exist in private collections.

John Prouse was born in Wellington in 1856, the fourth of Richard and Janet Prouse’s twelve children (sadly, three died in infancy). Richard Prouse was an early settler to the Wellington region, arriving at age ten on the Duke of Roxburgh. Prouse senior established a sawmill business in Wainuiomata (later moving to Silverstream), before retiring to Wellington in the late 1880s until his death in 1894.  Two of Richard and Janet’s sons (James and Richard) established Prouse Brothers Sawmills in Levin, and a joinery factory and timber yard in Wellington. John, however, did not enter the family business. From his youth he possessed an excellent singing voice, and was a member of the Taita and Wainui church choirs (where the Prouse family lived). His public debut on the Wellington stage came in 1885, at age 29, and his career bloomed from then. He won much praise for his performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Israel in Egypt during the 1888 New Zealand Festival of Music in Wellington. In the early 1890s, Prouse, wife Lena, and their four children left for England, where he studied with Wilheim Ganz and T. A. Wallworth at Guildhall in London. Prouse also studied with Sir Charles Santley, who helped launch his professional career with engagements at The Crystal Palace, and The Royal Albert, and St. James’ halls in London (Main, 1990, p. 27). Prouse returned to New Zealand in 1892, joining the family timber business, and managing sales in Wellington, but also kept performing around New Zealand, including at the 1894 New Zealand Festival of Music in Wellington. He toured in 1902-1903 with visiting French soprano Antonia Dolores, before returning to England in 1903 with his family for a longer stay, where he could perform alongside some of the most well regarded vocalists in England and Europe. Violinist Jan Kubelik and pianist Wilheim Backhaus assisted Prouse in some of these performances.

Portrait of the New Zealand singer, John Prouse – Photograph taken by Marceau, Los Angeles.. White, Harold Temple, 1881-1972 :Photographs relating to Temple White’s musical career. Ref: PAColl-8018-2-6. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

While still in London in June 1905, Prouse made twelve recordings for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company (forerunner to His Master’s Voice). William Main, in his 1990 article on Prouse, suggested that until the late 1980s it was unknown if these recordings were ever commercially released (p.27). However they were assigned catalogue numbers, so it is possible they do exist in private or institutional collections. Three of the titles Prouse recorded were test pressings with few copies known to exist: Pilgrim’s Song (composed by Tchaikovsky), There are no more like thee (composed by Temple), and Maiden of Morven (a traditional composition arranged by Malcolm Lawson).

Maiden of Morven survives at Hocken Collections, donated to us in 2002 as part of a larger collection of 78rpm discs. Maiden of Morven itself is a love lament from a bereaved Ossianic hero to his deceased love, with lyrics by Harold Boulton, and musical arrangement by Lawson. Prouse did not use Boulton’s full lyrics, cutting a third verse that refers to Ossian (the narrator and purported author of a cycle of Scottish epic poems) and his writing. The below lyrics are those sung by Prouse for his recording of Maiden of Morven.

Moan ye winds that never sleep,
Howl ye spirits of the deep,
Roar ye torrents down the steep,
Roll ye mists on Morven.
May the tempests never rest
Nor the seas with peace be blest
Since they tore thee from my breast,
Maiden of Morven!

Fairer than the flowers that grow,
Purer than the rills that flow,
Gentler than the fallow doe
‘Mid the woods of Morven;
As the leaf is to the tree,
As the summer to the bee,
So wert thou, my Love, to me,
Maiden of Morven!

Oft I chased the deer of yore,
Many a battle-brunt I bore,
When the chiefs of Innistore
Hurled their might on Morven.
Blunt my spear, and slack my bow,
Like an empty ghost I go,
Death the only hope I know,
Maiden of Morven!

(Harold Boulton, Maiden of Morven lyrics. Date unknown.)

The performance is of its time – formal, with clear diction and enunciation with a piano accompaniment that is, while not spartan, not overly florid, and does not overpower the vocalist. Prouse is in fine, robust form on the recording, and it is easy to understand why his performances were highly commended with his “cultured style and melodious voice”, as noted in The Kent Times, and re-reported in the Poverty Bay Herald (unknown author, 1912). Here is the 1905 recording of Maiden of Morven.

 

John Prouse. Maiden of Morven (Gramophone and Typewriter Company G.C-3-2359). 1905. Hocken Music Collections Rec-M 972. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.

The 10”, 78rpm shellac disc is in good condition for being 114 years old. There is surface wear and minor scratching, but this is to be expected on a disc this age. The centre label is in good condition and clearly indicates the artist, title, composer, catalogue number, and the Gramophone and Company label image, but not the lyricist. The reverse side has the company name, and an etching of the label image – a cherub writing on a disc. Due to the age and fragility of the disc, we made the decision to digitise the content for preservation and access, and the original disc is no longer available for issue. By making this digital copy of the recording available for World Audiovisual Heritage Day, we are celebrating Prouse’s career and highlighting how very early recordings survive and thrive in collections.

And what of the remainder of Prouse’s career? On returning to New Zealand  later in 1905 (Wellington newspaper The Evening Post lists him performing in August) he continued to be in great demand as a vocalist, and hosted friends such as Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Clara Butt at the family home. In 1908 he performed in Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and the reviewer for The Dominion was complimentary, calling his performance “thoroughly enjoyable”, and noting his singing and enunciation of the Latin text were “beyond criticism” (unknown author, 1908).  Prouse toured again with Antonia Dolores in 1911, and continued to perform widely until his death in August 1930, including some radio broadcast recitals in April of that year. Prouse’s legacy lies in being one of the first recording artists from New Zealand – one with a particularly fine voice.

References:

A Clerk of Oxford (2012, May 19). Thou’rt the music of my soul: Maiden of Morven [blog post]. Retrieved from https://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2012/05/thourt-music-of-my-soul-maiden-of.html

Mail, W. (1989). John Prouse (1856-1930): New Zealand’s first commercial recording artist. Music in New Zealand 5:9, 26-27.

Unknown author. (1908). Stabat Mater. Dominion, 15 August. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DOM19080815.2.47?query=%22john+prouse%22+stabat+mater&items_per_page=10&start_date=01-01-1856&end_date=31-12-1930&snippet=true

Unknown author. (1912). Gisbourne liedertafel. Poverty Bay herald, 6 July. Retrieved from https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/PBH19120706.2.7?query=%22john+prouse%22+voice&items_per_page=10&page=4&start_date=01-01-1856&end_date=31-12-1930&snippet=true

Wallingford, N. (2014, December 3). The houses of the Prouse brothers [blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.qwerty.geek.nz/ProuseHouses/

 

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

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 | Hocken Collections | 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.

A Fireside Family Favourite

Sunday, October 1st, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post researched and written by Emma Scott, Hocken Collections Assistant.

V.1:no.1 (1898:January 1) page 1

Two weeks ago we were kindly donated “The Home Circle: an Instructive & Entertaining Magazine for the Family  & Fireside”. This was the first time any of the Publications Collections Assistants had seen this particular periodical before, so it was a very special discovery.

The Home Circle was published fortnightly in Oamaru and distributed throughout the Oamaru district. The first issue was published on January 1st 1898 and included an introduction explaining that the purpose of The Home Circle was to “help foster the home life” of it’s readers as they are “convinced that the home is the seat of national strength and vitality”. The Home Circle contains “articles on Social Questions, a Column for the Ladies, a Children’s Page, “Quaint Talks” by John Blunt, Short Stories (original and selected), Records of Local Doing, Notes and Comments on matters of passing interest”. The magazine was distributed gratis for the first three months it was published in the hope that readers would be interested enough to subscribe to it at the end of March. The publication must have continued, as we hold v.1:no.1 (1898:January 1) to v.2:no.8 (1899:April 27).

The “Ladies’ Column” features such topics as; personal appearance: “the untidy member of the family who utterly disregards her personal appearance is a great trial to her friends” (v.1:no.1 1898 January 1, page 8), how to keep children away from home: “when the children run in from outdoor play on little errands of their own, don’t fail to seize on any possible excuse for detaining them in the house” (v.1:no.20 1898 November 3, page 236), unattractive homes: “One often sees a man coming home tired and depressed from his day’s work, hoping to find a little comfort and cheering at home… When he is greeted instead with a dirty house and a cold hearth, or when a sudden fit of tidiness had prompted his wife to begin to scrub out rooms late in the afternoon, then he may feel strongly tempted to put on his hat again and take the shortest cut to the public-house” (v.2:no.6 1899 March 30, page 68) and what men like in women: “they like women whose lives and faces are always full of the sunshine of a contented mind and a cheerful disposition” (v.2:no.3 1899 February 9, page 32).

V.1:no.20 (1898:November 3) page 236

“Quaint talks by John Blunt” is another regular column with the subtitle: “A plain blunt man, I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know”. John Blunt is a “straight forward sort of chap” who “calls a spade a spade”. Some of his musings include: “I would not give a fig for a man who is not punctual to his engagements, and who never makes up his mind to a certain course till the opportunity is lost. Those who hang back, hesitate, and tremble, – who never are on hand for a journey, a trade, a sweetheart, or anything else are poor sloths” (v.1:no.7 1898 April 28, page 79).

The “Bits of Humour” section on the back page includes jokes very reminiscent of the jokes contained in Christmas crackers, and just like on Christmas day, you can easily picture a family reading them out at the dinner table. One part of the humour column which caught my eye is called “An Interesting Love-Letter”, see attached image:

V.1:no.9 (1898:May 26) page 108

Local news and advertisements are scattered throughout the journal, including advertisements for W M’Donald on Exe Street (for dyes and woollen wearing apparel), B Mollison & Co. on Thames St (for boots and shoes), C. Martin on Thames St (photographer) and J.H. Cunningham on Tyne Street (for plain and ornamental printing).

 V.1:no.1 (1898 January 1) page 12

If you are interested in looking at the Home Circle or any of our other fascinating publications, archives or pictorial collections come along to the Hocken Collections! We are open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.

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

 

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 | 8 Comments

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

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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.