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 | 6 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.

 

 

 

 

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 musical heritage of war.

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wait till the clouds go by (2)Post researched and written by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian Music and Audio Visual

Music touches our lives in many ways, and often stays with communities and individuals for decades, even centuries after it was first written.  Sadly, this is not often the case with music written for, and around, The Great War of 1914-1918 (WWI). While British songs like “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” are still used frequently in film and television, and are in the public consciousness, many songs (both international and closer to home) have been forgotten. NZ written songs like “Call of the Southern Men”, “Haere Tonu” and “Thoughts” have disappeared from public and individual knowledge, but we are lucky sheet music has survived in collections both private and institutional. The Hocken Collections’ interesting WWI music sheets have been recently used for research, and are another way to view the narrative of war.

 

Many of the titles have been digitised, and are available to view and from Otago University’s OUR Heritage site http://otago.ourheritage.ac.nz/collections/show/60. More will be added in due course.

We have very little contextual information around some of these songs. Papers Past gives some information about the songs’ background and early performances. Some composer/lyricist information can sometimes be gleaned from military records if they served in the military. For example, the lyrics of Hampton Wood’s (H.W. Taman) “Keep On Keepin’ On”, subtitled “John Bull’s Advice for Those Who Can’t Go to the Front” suggest ways to help the war effort other than enlisting. Proceeds from sales went to the War Relief Fund, and the Prime Minister (William Massey) expressed the Government’s gratitude.

March of the Anzacs

Known as ‘The ‘March King of the Antipodes’, Alex Lithgow wrote “March of the ANZACs”. Lithgow was born in Scotland, lived in Launceston, Australia, but spent about 20 years in New Zealand, primarily in Invercargill. “March of the Anzacs” was an upbeat, sprightly march, no doubt intending to inspire a patriotic swell of pride in the hearts of all who heard it. The lithographed cover illustrates the troops landing at Kabatepe (although the actual landing occurred further north at Ari Burnu), and presents an early image of the ANZAC troops.

Haere Tonu (2)

Another treasure is “Haere Tonu: Maori War Song” by R.A. Horne and Ernest Hoben. The Press quoted the Christchurch Star’s view that the composition had caught the “true spirit and atmosphere of the haka”. The composer was the store manager of The Bristol Piano Company in Christchurch, and his advertisement prompted residents to call in to the store, where the song would be played for them. The lyrics (in both English and Maori) inspire patriotism, and encourage enlisting in the Expeditionary Forces, and looked to past Maori wars, as well as the current world war. “Haere Tonu” also had resurgence in the Second World War, associated with the 28th Maori Battalion.

Thoughts (2)“Thoughts: Dedicated to all who whose loved one have suffered in the war” by R.S Black, and A.H. Banwell was published in 1919, and is the opposite of the optimistic, militaristic, patriotic attitude that most WWI music presented. Banwell was a returning soldier, who served as Lance Corporal in Gallipoli, and Sergeant in Cairo, before being discharged in August 1915, diagnosed with neurasthenia. He returned to New Zealand and deserted from Trentham in 1918, and was court marshalled in 1920.The lyrics by Black were possibly influenced by Banwell’s wartime experiences. “Thoughts” is very bleak in tone, presenting a darker view of life in the midst of war.

When memory’s merely a tragedy sad

And life a “procession of years”…

Then naught seems left to the sore-stricken soul

But a bed in the cold, cold ground

The proceeds of the sale of Thoughts went to the Returned Soldiers Club in Dunedin.

 

Australian and British WWI-related sheet music also feature in collections. One Australian war song in particular is directed at women. “Mother of Men: Dedicated to the Mothers of the men of the Expeditionary Forces” by Tom Armstrong was straightforward in message, the song leaning heavily on the image of the soldier’s close relationship with his mother. Similarly, the British “Somewhere in France, Dear Mother”, written in 1915 by Arthur Leclerq and Jack O’Connor was another wartime song that gained longevity. A patriotic song designed to rally the masses, the song highlighted sentimentality and national pride, again focussing on maternal pride and love.

A mother in tears it’s the first time she hears

From her boy who is fighting in the war

Still full of pride she dries her eye

And soon forgets her pain

 

Your king and country want you (2)Another British song from the era that addresses women in a non-romanticised way is 1914’s “Your King and Country Want you: A Woman’s Recruiting Song” by Paul A. Rubens. This was a successful attempt to persuade more men to enlist for war, from the voice of a proud woman. Vocalist Vestra Tilley would perform the song at recruitment rallies, and men who failed to enlist at the end of the rally were given white feathers, symbolising cowardice, by children especially chosen for the task. Profits from the sale of 1914’s “Your King and Country Want You” went to Queen Mary’s Work for Women fund.

 

Amanda Mills

Fantastic Film posters from the Forties

Monday, February 16th, 2015 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post prepared by Katherine Milburn, Liaison Librarian – Ephemera

MonkeyBusinessRecently, whilst moving the posters collection from the upstairs pictorial collections stack to new cabinets downstairs, a fantastic assortment of old Hollywood film posters was rediscovered. There are just over 60 posters ranging in date from the 1931 Marx Brothers’ film “Monkey Business” to the 1954 film “Saskatchewan”. They were all donated to the Hocken Library in 1976 and had belonged to William Strong of Naseby.

 

The Hocken Archives collection includes a collection of OurHeartsWilliam Strong papers [MS-1078], and these incorporate another set of Hollywood film posters from the 1940s and 1950s. William Strong was a watchmaker and jeweller who took over the watchmakers shop in Naseby opened by his father Robert in 1868.William was involved in a variety of local organisations, including the Naseby Cinema whose audience was likely drawn in by these enticing and colourful posters.

RunawayThe Hocken Posters collection included a fairly limited range of New Zealand related film posters until last year when a concerted effort to improve our holdings was made. Many posters have been sourced via online auction sites. Coverage includes the 1947 film “Green Dolphin Street”, which features a destructive New Zealand earthquake, and the 1964 film “Runaway”, that starred Colin Broadley along with Barry Crump, Kiri Te Kanawa and Ray Columbus.GreenDolphin

We continue efforts to improve our holdings of New Zealand film posters and ephemera and make them available to researchers of the New Zealand film industry.

Please ask at the downstairs reference desk or email Katherine.Milburn@otago.ac.nz if you have any inquiries relating to the posters and ephemera collection.

A Kiwi Christmas playlist

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – AV and Music

Hocken Christmas music

Have you ever heard of the New Zealand Christmas classic “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Pat McMinn and the Combie Murdoch Trio? No? How about Pixie Williams singing “Best Wishes”?  These are only two of the many New Zealand Christmas classic tracks waiting in the Hocken stacks to be rediscovered. The recorded Christmas music that the Hocken has dates from the late 1940s with the Pixie Williams disc, though the 1960s to the 1980s featured many recordings popular at the time, but now faded into obscurity. These include

  •  Chic Littlewood’s “Let’s make everyday Christmas”
  • The Dallas Four’s “White Christmas”
  • Hauraki Good Guys with Salty Dog “Please daddy, don’t get drunk this Christmas”
  • Various Artists Still hooked on Christmas

However, many recordings have remained in the public consciousness, with arguably the most well-known being Kingi Ihaka’s “Pukeko in a ponga tree”.  Along with Billy T. James’ “When a child is born”, Julie Nelson and The Don Ball Orchestra’s “Sticky Beak the kiwi” is still incredibly popular. “Sticky Beak the kiwi” was written specifically by Gisbourne-based folk singer Bob Edwards and lyricist Neil Roberts for children in 1961. 14-year old Julie Nelson sang the song, backed by the Whanganui dance band, the Don Ball Orchestra. The song became a hit.

Sticky beak the kiwi

Well known bands like the Avengers in the 1960s, and Split Enz in the 1980s, recorded Christmas messages for their fan clubs, in a similar vein to the Christmas fan club recordings released by The Beatles. Billy T. James released “A Maori Christmas” for Radio Hauraki, while Fred Dagg released the infamous short track “Star of wonder”. These tracks were among the local songs gathered together in the 2012 Christmas-themed CD Pohutakawas & pavlova.

Along with Wing’s two albums of Christmas music (Everyone sing carols with Wing, and Carols, rap and sing: A beautiful Christmas), another Christmas-themed holding we have is Wendyhouse’s The Wendyhouse Christmas album, which has alternative (and often subversive) Christmas tracks such as “Teddy’s anger”, and “Here comes the family”.

Our sheet music holdings have some interesting items too – “The song of Bethlehem (A New Zealand Christmas carol)” from 1942 by Muriel Hunt and Joye Taylor is a short piece that centres on the seasonal features of the New Zealand Christmas. “Dear Santa Claus” in contrast (written in the UK in 1948 by Gerry Mason, and published locally by Beggs), is more traditional in theme, focussing on a child’s letter asking Santa Claus to not forget him.

Finally, one very interesting holding we have is particularly close to the Hocken Collections:  the Hocken end of year function from 1987, featuring the recorder skills of Ken Booth. This cassette is definitely one for the digitisation list!

Hocken Cassette

Seventy five years of the New Zealand Listener

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 5 Comments

Blog post researched and written by Gina Rocco, Library Assistant – Periodicals

In June 1939, the first ever issue of the New Zealand Listener was sent free to all households with a radio licence.  As the official journal of the state-owned New Zealand Broadcasting Service, its original brief was to publicise radio programmes and publish content related to broadcasting.  The first editor liberally interpreted ‘broadcasting’ to encompass all human affairs, including the arts in particular.  Consequently the Listener became an important contributor to New Zealand literary life, with many major writers among its reviewers and short form fiction contributors.

Seventy five years later the Listener continues to be a top seller, and is New Zealand’s only major weekly magazine combining current affairs, arts criticism, and entertainment.

Looking through our holdings, I encountered a constantly evolving format in both dimension and design. The original focus as a visual accompaniment to the auditory world of radio has gone full circle, with radio’s place in the magazine having been gradually usurped by television, and now also internet-related content.  Radio New Zealand’s weekly programming highlights are currently allocated a mere one page per issue.

Here’s a taste of some randomly discovered content that caught my imagination:

1944: The Pahiatua Polish Children

The ragdolls on the cover of this June 1944 issue are promoting nationwide toy making contributions for the 734 Polish refugee children about to arrive at the Pahiatua camp that would be their temporary home for up to four and a half years.  The associated article provides details for readers to write in and buy a toy pattern at a cost of one penny, the pattern choices being:  duck, owl, rabbit, elephant or a Humpty Dumpty.  The article provides an insight into soft toys of the day, describing considerations such as: the type of cloth to use (animal skin not recommended); type of stuffing (options given are wood-wool, scoured-wool, rags, flock or sawdust); procuring fencing or fruit-case wire to provide stiffening; and cutting cardboard ovals for the soles of the feet.  The last section describes how to make a paper mache doll, including finishing it with enamel paint so that “it will be washable and everlasting”.

IMAGE 1 S14-444j Toymaking for the Polish children. Listener v.11no.262  (1944June30)

v.11:no.262 (1944: June 30)

1957: The Aunt Daisy Story

A serial biography beginning in August 1957 marked twenty one years of Aunt Daisy, regular Listener columnist and “First Lady of Radio”.  The Aunt Daisy Story instalments had titles such as:  A Victorian Childhood, New Plymouth Ho!, and The Fairly Gay Nineties.  The first issue containing the series (1957:Aug.2) included a pull-out photograph of Aunt Daisy (unfortunately this insert is missing from Hocken’s copy).

Advertisers jumped on the bandwagon, hastening to associate their varied products with Aunt Daisy’s trustworthy image.

IMAGE 2 Aunt daisy ad collage

v.37:no938 (1957:Aug.2), v.37:no.941 (1957:Aug.23) & v.37:no.942 (1957:Aug.30)

1960: Twiss Family Puppetshow

The page below shows the format of the single page per issue dedicated to television that was typical of the early 1960s. The Monday to Sunday listings take up very little space, as television was broadcast only two hours per evening on a single channel.

The television page always included a story on current programmes or personalities.  The article below describes Puppet Playhouse, a local programme featuring 23 year old puppeteer Greer Twiss (better known now for his career as a sculptor).  Puppet Playhouse was a family affair:  Greer made the marionettes, his mother the costumes and his father the props and set.

Channel 2 has just acquired a new announcer called Mr Throgmorton.  Viewers will excuse his somewhat wooden features when they see him, because Mr T. is a puppet who introduces the new Wednesday feature, Puppet Playhouse.

IMAGE 4 S14-445c Television Guide (Greer Twiss, Puppet Playhouse) v.43no.1101 (1960Oct.7) p.26v.43:no.1101 (1960:Oct7)

1961: Television – It’s wonderful!

In contrast to the relatively low key one-page inclusion of programme listings when television made its New Zealand debut in Auckland less than a year previously, this issue excitedly announces its arrival to Wellington and Christchurch, claiming that “about half New Zealand’s population will soon be able to watch television”

IMAGE 3 S14-444i Television it's wonderful! Listener v.44no.1132 (1961May19)

v.44:no.1132 (1961:May19)

The article provides advice concerning the placement and size of the television set – quite the contrast to the popular super-sized television screens of today!

The best size of screen occupies 12 to 15 degrees of the viewer’s field of vision and does not require him to move his eyes or turn his head to see different parts of the picture… A viewer should seat himself at a distance from the set equal to five times the screen’s height.

1973: Happen Inn People

This January 1973 cover shows the move to full colour and the larger magazine format that persisted until 1989.

Happen Inn was a Saturday evening pop music show hosted by Peter Sinclair.

IMAGE 5 S14-445a Happen Inn People. Listener v.72no.1733 (1973Jan.29)

v.72:no.1733 (1973:Jan29)

Turning the cover reveals a two-page spread of monochrome photographs by Robin Morrison documenting the exploits of the “Happen Inn People” during their summer break.

IMAGE 6 S14-445b Happen Inn on holiday.pp.2-3.Pages 2&3 v.72:no.1733 (1973:Jan29)

******

Unfortunately, Hocken’s holdings of the Listener’s first three years are extremely sparse (only one fragile issue from late 1939), and we also have many gaps in later years. We will gratefully receive donations of early issues – please contact the Periodicals team (serials.hocken@otago.ac.nz) for details of collection gaps.

References:

‘First issue of NZ Listener published’, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/first-issue-of-the-em-new-zealand-listener-em-published, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Jun-2014

http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-PolFirs-t1-g1-g1-t5.html

“New Zealand Listener.” In The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, 1998-01-01. http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100232827.

Johnny Tahu Cooper, QSM, (1929-2014)

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

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

Johnny Cooper (the ‘Maori Cowboy’) was a local rock’n’roll hero.

Cooper grew up on a Te Reinga farm in the 1930s, becoming a fan of Gene Autry during his childhood. While living with his aunt and uncle, he listened to their 78rpm disc collection, his favourites being Autry, Tex Morton, and Wilf Carter. Cooper learnt to play the ukulele along with the records, soon performing to shearing gangs.

After gaining a scholarship and attending Te Aute College for two years, he went to Wellington and found work as a gravedigger. Not long after, he formed a country and western band with Will Lloyd-Jones on slap bass, Ron James on piano accordion, Don Aldridge on steel guitar, and later, Jim Gatfield on guitar. They called themselves Johnny Cooper and the Range Riders.

 

Johnny Cooper Rock and Sing

Rock and Sing With Johnny Cooper and his Range Riders. His Masters Voice, 1956. Hocken Sound Recordings. HRec-M 697

The band entered talent competitions, coming first in the talent quest at Wellington’s Paramount Theatre, winning £20, and an audition with HMV. In 1954 Cooper went to Korea to entertain the New Zealand troops, and on returning, HMV asked the band to record with the label. This resulted in their first hit, a duet with Margaret Francis of a cover of One by One, backed with Cooper’s own song Look What You’ve Done – a song that found another life 40 years later when it featured in ‘Once Were Warriors’. HMV then approached Cooper about recording a new genre: rock’n’roll. HMV were keen for Cooper to cover Bill Haley and the Comet’s smash Rock Around the Clock, though Cooper was sceptical, and didn’t really like the genre. However, he recorded it (and the b-side Blackberry Boogie), and it became a hit. Interestingly, Cooper’s version was released locally before Bill Haley’s version.

In 1956, HMV released its first New Zealand rock album, ‘Rock and Sing with Johnny Cooper’, a 10” compilation that placed his country recordings with Rock Around the Clock, and Blackberry Boogie. Cooper also released a second rock’n’roll cover by Haley – See You Later Alligator in 1956 (this time on 45prm as well as 78rpm disc).

Cooper’s third single made him a significant name in local music history. Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll (1957) was (as the story goes) about the Whanganui pie cart, where Cooper and the band would get their ‘pea, pie, and pud’ meals. Pie Cart Rock’n’roll was considered the first locally written rock’n’roll song. However, this is thought to be incorrect – Sandy Tansley’s 1957 song Resuscitation Rock (according to researcher John Baker) was released a few weeks before Pie Cart Rock’n’roll in September 1957.

Cooper and the band kept their audiences broad by appearing in variety shows. In the late 1950s he began the ‘Give it a Go’ talent quest, with musicians such as Mike Nock, John Rowles, and Midge Marsden appearing. The talent shows ended in 1968, and Cooper released his last single, Break the World in Two / Cold Cold Heart on Impact. He continued to perform in the 1970s as The Johnny Cooper Sound, and in the 1980s as part of the Original Ruamahanga River Band. He retired in the 1990s.

Johnny Cooper was 85 when he passed away last week at his home in Naenae.