Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Walking a straight line / No Deviation

Yes, yes,'s gratitous plug time, although I've missed the rush, I'm sure. But I'd just thought I'd mention one last time that The Screaming Meemees' album, If This is Paradise, I'll Take The Bag, as produced by the mighty Ian Morris in a haze in 1981 and 1982 (sessions that found him eventually married it should be mentioned), and remastered lovingly in 2009 by Alan Jansson is available on iTunes and directly, in glorious non-DRM via Amplifier.Screaming Meemees

This is what Skip Jensen, in the review of the album on the authoritative All Music Guide said:

Existing from 1980 to 1982, the Screaming Meemees were probably New Zealand's biggest pop band of the post-punk and new wave era. The quartet of Tony Drumm, Yoh, Peter van der Fluit, and Michael O'Neill initially dealt in the three-chord power pop derivative of the Buzzcocks.

If This Is Paradise, I'll take the Bag was recorded in 1981 with producer Ian Morris and boasted a eclectic range of influences in the mix of power pop, electro, dub, and funk -- styles not usually associated with New Zealand rock sound.

Their work for the album brought the Screaming Meemees closer to what U.K. groups A Certain Ratio and Rip Rig and Panic were up to.

The Screaming Meemees were as essential to the history of New Zealand rock as Split Enz and Blam Blam Blam.


The reissue also adds pretty much all non-album tracks, singles and more and will hopefully make a physical release sometime in 2010, geographical constraints being what they are right now, and maybe I'll get around to processing the live footage sitting on my desk right now.

For more on the band there's a bio on my site, and a personal recollection.

And cheers to all at Amplifier for making this, and so much more, happen.

From early 1981, Can't Take It:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An' if I close my eyes / They will not go away

7 years

Hey Charlie / I'll be eligible for parole / come Valentines Day

All Christmas records are not tosh.

Darlene Love and Phil Spector

Well, that's only slightly true as the overwhelming bulk of those foisted upon the public by hungry record companies are complete rubbish, and are best discarded, or set aside from the things that are supposed to make us feel good at this time of year. In 2009 Bob Dylan decided it was his turn and, while I've not heard it (and am unlikely to) beyond a track or two, plus this shocker of a video, I am happy to conclude that my life would be fuller if I didn't.

But we've been blessed (I can use words like that since it's Christmas and once upon a time I was forced to go to church every Xmas eve by a long past girlfriend, so I feel I've earned the right to use the word at Christmas, even if I'm happy being a non-believer in all that twaddle at any time of the year, Xmas especially..I remember standing outside the Catholic church in Northcote in 1981 with The Screaming Meemees, various Ainsworths, Regulators and assorted other North Shore bands, having a fag whilst the families thought we were at the back of the crowded room..the things you do for love and rock'n'roll) with the odd tune that stands above the morass of quickie, knock 'em out for that quick buck fodder that covers the sale tables outside your average mall record store for weeks before December 25th. Or fills the for a good cause compilations that labels get their acts to contribute to (royalty free of course although the label still gets the marketing and warehousing fees deducted before the returns get divvied up).

No, some are actually made for the right, jollity, and because the song itself has legs.

So, not all Christmas records suck but, really most of them do, however to prove a point, here are a few that don't:

The Maytals: The Christmas Song

Produced by the great Byron Lee, this came out in 1972 on a 7" and, yep, it's affectingly lovely..but then Toots was the man who stood up on stage at Mainstreet in Auckland in tears, thanking New Zealand for his first, and only I'd imagine, number one (Beautiful Woman).

Chuck Berry: Merry Christmas Baby

Very Charles Brown in it's execution, this bluesy wee gem, which dips into White Christmas in the middle, dates back to 1958.

Marvin Gaye: Purple Snowflakes

This was a single in 1964, and a flop. Why Marvin's pre-What's Going On period is so overlooked is beyond me. His live cut of The Christmas Song, recorded at The Apollo in the mid 60s, is a lost gem too.

Tom Waits: A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis

From his '73 album, Blue Valentine, there was a push to get this to number one in Ireland in 2007, which given the lyrics would've been, uhh, a miracle. They didn't get there but they managed to get a huge blip in his sales in the region. I can think of worse records to hit the top spot at Christmas. And I could name a few....

John Cale: A Child's Christmas In Wales

From '73's gothic masterpiece, Paris 1919. This is Cale's lovely lyrical reworking of the Dylan Thomas short story of the same name.

Chet Baker: The First Noel

Yeah, it's well cheesy, and it's from his declining years and it was likely done for all the wrong reasons (see above), but I like it, and it's Chet.

Run DMC: Christmas In Hollis

Of course. It doesn't age too badly, and it's a record I play every yule season as a ritual.

Alexander O'Neal: The Little Drummer Boy

Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and long since deleted, this was taken from an album called My Gift To You. Side one, the Jam & Lewis side, was actually ok. This is like Fake with sprayed on snow. Side two sucked.

Darlene Love: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

The greatest Christmas record ever, end of story, no discussion. Phil Spector may be what he is, but, man, could he make a record. From the correctly famous '64 My Christmas Gift To You album, but you knew that, right?

Monday, December 21, 2009

And I hoped we passed the audition...

While the Beatles were busy re-inventing popular music as we know it, they still had time to send out a Christmas record every year.

Merry Xmas y'all

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I got a Rocket in my Pocket and a Roll in my Walk

I've been meaning to link to this for a while: Chris Bourke's rather wonderful and evocative obit, from 2002, for one of Auckland City's most vital characters of the last half century. With a huge soul, generous and straight up, he's very much missed..there's always a bottle of Ouzo at the bar for you, buddy...Phil Warren

Phil Warren, Impresario

Irrepressible, imaginative, energetic, brash, provocative, entertaining, Phil Warren had all the ingredients to be a classic demagogue. Instead he used his talents to further his passions: entertainment and the region of Auckland. The two connected often; he believed show business and politics were natural bedfellows. Both require the gift of the gab – and a natural charisma to encourage people to get out and vote for you. He knew the old gag – “politics is show business in drag” – and once put it to use when he booked Diamond Lil for a Labour Party conference. Besides all the acts he booked, all the local body meetings he chaired, in the early 1970s he altered the social fabric of New Zealand when he acted like a one-man lobbyist to change archaic laws that prevented licensed drinking after 10 o’clock. “I always vote for Phil,” an Auckland friend once said. “He’s the only politician who believes people should be allowed to go out at night.

[From Distractions]