been reading about
Garry Shandling – class act. Read More
For my first regular music feature on RNZ for 2020 I decided to look at the music of 1990 – or at least some of the music from the start of the year and the big hits. Guilty pleasures, pop, rock – some enduring hits and some best forgotten. It was fun to look at some of the bizarre trends as we said goodbye to the 1980s and the retro movement of 1960s music was a big deal and yet the ‘voice’ of the 90s was nowhere to be seen in that very first year. Read More »
A low point
was when I told
my folks I had to
go to the school in
the weekend to do
some work and left them
in town for a couple of hours.
I went and sat on the steps
and smoked some ciggies,
then bought some gum from
the store and met up with them
a couple of hours after
‘clearing the decks’.
That was a low point alright.
It was the low point.
Or at least I like to think.
I like to hope.
But we will never admit
our lowest point, because
to admit to it – is to know it.
And to know it is to not
be in it.
For many, our lowest point
will never – truly – arrive.
In that way, at
The great American jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath has died, aged 93. Heath recorded and performed with so many legendary names – Miles Davis, John Coltrane – he built lasting relationships as a sideman and collaborator with the likes of Milt Jackson, Art Farmer and Kenny Dorham among others. And he was a leader for well over a dozen records.
The other important, enduring, endearing set of records he made was with his brothers Percy and Albert – as The Heath Brothers Jimmy (saxophone), Percy (bass) and Albert “Tootie” (drums) released at least ten albums together. Read More »
Writer’s block is
something writers hide behind
to make themselves seem more
important. There’s no block.
You just write right through it.
Good work, bad work and everything
in between – you get it down and let
anyone else decide what they think.
You’ll know already.
But you’ll possibly be doing it to
keep moving, to maybe generate
a new idea, to not get stuck – at the
Because no matter how tragic or
romantic – or both – writer’s block
it is false. It is a lie. It is safe.
Better off ploughing through. Since
there are good and bad days in any
job or activity.
I already know what I think
And you couldn’t
(Unless of course
you said you loved it).
Here I am
with another set of
words – that I
be heard, that I assume
you want to read, that I
need to put down
on the line even
if you don’t
have the time or
inclination to add
to your list of
in your life.
How do you
like it so far?
We’re almost halfway
I might chuck in a
reference to a musician
or writer that’s meant
the world to me – or
a TV show I’ve loved a lot.
Or I might not.
I might dredge up
a memory of when I was
a kid or of more recently
when I wish I still was
Did I tell you I’m
still looking for a job?
The most recent application
was to a place I was shortlisted for
a year ago – they gave me amazing
feedback, then gave the job to anyone
else. This time I got a Dear John.
It didn’t even say there was
dinner in the fridge. There was no
mention of the field being full, of
the applications being strong, of
me being wished all the best – just
an email to say this is not for you, as
if we’d never met.
I have no memory of flinging
shit on their wall, of being less than
gracious when I knew I could do that
It ain’t no fun waiting round to
be a millionaire.
How good’s AC/DC though?
I was listening to them in the
car the other day – first time
in years. What a hell of a
Back on the Floyd and Van
Halen too. These things might
seem simple to you – but to
me I’m a student for life, when
I don’t have them in my
head I carry them in my
heart. And vice versa, or so
it now seems.
There is no
reason for you
to be sticking with
this by the way – there is
no thread to follow.
I’d ditch it if I could.
If I only could.
I surely would.
When I was about seven I had
a black and white cat named ‘Horse’.
Named after Footrot Flats, it had the
inverse colours – actual black’n’white
rather than white and black and it
had the complete opposite personality too.
But that didn’t matter. I loved that comic
strip and the cat’s name was going to be Horse,
A lovely cat. Friendly. Wonderful. My first
real pet. (We had a dog for a bit before that
but it was my brother’s – and when he realised
he was no pet owner at all my folks organized
to re-home it).
One night there was a huge party up our street,
cars everywhere – and the cat never
made it home.
The next day we got a call to say that the
cat had been hit and the driver had delivered
it to the vet.
They’d kept it alive on a drip. A very expensive
I found out at cricket later that morning. My mum
came down to give me the news.
They had decided that really we would need
to get the cat put down – put to sleep. No pain.
Just a long rest. Because the alternative was
an operation where there’d be plastic discs and
new (fake) joints and pins and rods and most of
it didn’t really mean a lot to me at seven – but I could
guess that it sounded severe.
There was no real chance of a smooth ride – it was possible
she’d die anyway or be in pain. So my folks
had decided she needed to have the big sleep. And they were
telling me in that way where they wanted me to feel
like I was making the decision; being guided without
really knowing I was being guided.
(I think I knew).
I picked up my bat and headed out to the middle of
the pitch. I whispered to myself that I was off
to hit a six – for Horse. For the cat. The fucking cat,
about to be put to rest, was going to get a six hit for it.
I was out first bowl.
Swing and a miss.
Went home. Read some Footrot Flats.
Had a little cry.
Got told to harden up.
And so gave that a go.
This one time,
back with the Irish
band, we played at
at the anniversary of
some bike gang.
They paid us in rolls
They said lewd things
to the violin player.
One time she was sawing
away, and a beer-gut biker-guy,
his helmet on, his chin strap swaying,
his tummy wobbling out from under
his Motorhead t-shirt, shouted, “faster!
She raised her eyebrows over her fiddle
and said, “I can’t or I’ll fall off”
“Not if you were on me babe!” came his
I had blisters on my fingers. We played for five
hours instead of the usual four (and I’d been at
a rehearsal with another band earlier that day).
They refused us the chance to stop. Asking how much
to play for longer. And our singer joked that they’d need
to pay us another $400 at least for an hour or so.
Over to the bar in their headquarters and more rolled up
The instruction to play for two more hours was barked
And we did. We played Drunken Sailor about six times that
night. And we played 500 Miles at least twice. And Dirty
Dirty Old Town was fucking right.
Best crowd I reckon I ever played to. They were super-invested.
Almost literally, I guess.
Best pay-day too.
My drums had been stolen earlier that week. My
car as well.
A mate sat outside waiting for me – and then we
loaded the hire kit into his car, sometime around
2am or 3am.
A good gig.
A good mate.
A good crowd.
I’d turn up to that dirty old place and
see those dirty old faces and play
the shit out of Dirty Old Town for
those rotten old clowns any fucking
day of the week.
Let it rain a shit-ton of twenty-dollar
Let it rain from the rafters.
Good weed money.
From people that
liked to party and knew how to and
valued it on all levels.
In an effort to help raise funds for the Red Cross for the Australian Bushfire Appeal Variety for Fierys is a charity fundraising night of poetry, stories, comedy and song that will take place at Meow in Wellington on January 23.
Click on the link above for more information – and if you’re outside of Wellington you can buy and donate tickets for others to attend. Read More »
The first really
famous person I
met – at least as
far as I can remember –
was Ian Gillan
from the band
I was super exited, too,
I loved Deep Purple (still do).
Great band. Great singer. And
it seemed kinda odd, kinda brilliant
to be meeting him on the set of
the Good Morning TV show.
Not very rock’n’roll.
I was out there to do my usual
CD-review segment, but the show’s
host had called me up the day before
and asked me to come out and sit in
on the interview.
So there I was live on TV chatting to
the guy that sang Smoke on the Water
and Highway Star and Child In Time. Those
songs that blew my fucking mind when
I was a teenager.
The conversation on the show was just fine.
Easy. It went as well as it could – I think.
But after we talked backstage – and that’s
where he told the real good yarns. He was
happy and keen to be listened to – and
he was down to earth and relaxed, no
show-pony, just the good stories. Talking
about writing Smoke, talking about playing
to thousands, and the time he filled in
for Black Sabbath and had to have
words on the autocue but the dry-ice swirling
at his feet blocked out the lyrics and he froze.
And then he signed my copy of Machine
Head. (Well if you’re going to get one album
by Deep Purple signed, that’s the one right?)
He made some comment about being impressed
to see that it was vinyl – and as he opened up the
gatefold I panicked at the thought that he’d read
the birthday inscription to anyone else in my
Finally, I asked him the one question I wanted
Something about Ritchie Blackmore. Were they
friends at all? Was it likely? What was it about Ritchie
that was so problematic. (Okay, so it was a cluster
of questions – but one general theme).
And he paused. And he looked angry for a second.
Then he said, with his eyes closed, “we’ll never be
friends. Never ever again”. Another big pause.
And then finally. “Not after what
he did to my daughter”.
I heard the three big piano chords in my
I was trying to summon some journalism.
But it was too late. And I was too shy. And
it didn’t seem right.
And his driver arrived to take him back
into town to get ready for that night’s
The gig was a blinder – but I watched
it with the feeling I was balancing
on a cliffhanger.
It’s a new year – welcome, belatedly to 2020. You’ve arrived already of course, but here now is the first edition of the staggeringly inconsistent Five Songs For Friday for the new year. No theme. Just songs that are on my mind at the start of this year. Or on my turntable. Or in my ears one way. Or the other. Five Songs For Friday. Or for your Saturday or Sunday. Or next Friday…five songs posted today for you for when you feel like it… Read More »