After years of playing together, the jazz influences of Ross Burge and Neill Duncan were really having a bearing on the Spines and my song writing. Odd but funky time signatures and improvisations were becoming central to our sound.
We had parted ways with Jayrem Records after The Moon and were now on Flying Nun. I had met Roger Shepherd in 1981 when the original line up was playing at the Star & Garter in Christchurch. He liked the band and told me Flying Nun would be interested if we ever changed labels. So I went up to his offices in Auckland and met with him and Chris Knox, Doug Hood and co. We worked out a deal to record an album.
The new songs were longer and more challenging. The title track was like a poem from a lunatic to a humanised sun. You Seem to Be Happy was about dwelling in and savouring sorrow. I was flatting with Steve Braunias at the time and he helped me with the lyrics for Kiss of Death. Minutes Don’t Matter and The Prize For Industry had several major time changes. Heavy songs.
In the recording too, we went for a harder sound. It was put down in a great little studio on Ghuznee St. called Pioneer. Brent McLachlan from the Gordons had been our live sound guy for a while and engineered and co-produced – very much from the drums up. We even used two kits, with Ross and Neill both playing live together in the studio on Idiot Sun and Kiss of Death.
For the opening track, More to Go (about a village idiot with a knife), Neill played bagpipes, for Kiss of Death, recorder and gamelan on You Seem to Be Happy. We all sang the backing vocals.
Wendy’s bass through the whole thing was sublime. She was a child prodigy – played violin when she was four, had been offered a scholarship to the Royal Academy. She had perfect pitch and was our rock.
I remember playing these songs live at the time and their grooves became almost demonic. We had a gig at the botanical gardens for Summer City and the movie (Local Hero) that was supposed to follow us got munted and we wound up playing for an extra 90 minutes. We jammed the new material live pretty much and tore the place down.
It was one of the very last vinyl records to be pressed at EMI in Petone – FN072. It was also released on cassette.
I’m proud of the lyrics but the songs now seem too much written for that line-up of the band rather than for an audience. We don’t play any of them these days.
Roger Shepherd left Flying Nun soon after Idiot Sun came out. I ran into him years later and he said that it wasn’t the album he expected from us – too much like jazz.