Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Rather than essay this second collection of Kiwi psychedelic songs from '67-'72 -- subtitled "Fantasies, Polka Dots and Flowers" -- why don't I just reproduce below the liner notes I wrote for it?..................
The exciting thing about this on-going series of psychedelic music from New Zealand in the late 60s and early 70s is not just that it brings back some great songs and weird productions.
It also opens a window on this kaleidoscopic period in Kiwi rock, one that has most often been written out of local music histories. I know of no book on Kiwi rock which mentions a band like The Top Shelf, here with the terrific post-pop track The World Really Turns, which to me sounds the equal of famed British rockers The Move from the same period.
Or the trippy Dizzy Limits from Wellington whose Mare of Tranquility is a phased and disturbingly stoned trip around the moon -- and sounds like no one else at all.
Or the Sceptres, Cleves, Salvation, the out-there and eccentric sound of Timberjack Donahue . . .
Here too are bands as adept with a wah-wah pedal as Eric Clapton (The Top Shelf again, on Time Beyond), could craft memorable r'n'b-based pop (Larry's Rebels' Coloured Flowers), and which wrote shining, melodic pop-rock (the gorgeous Good Clean Fun by Music Convention which I had never heard until now).
Some also wrote songs which became Kiwi classics, most notably Wayne Mason's Nature for Fourmyula which has been voted the best New Zealand song ever written.
Appropriately it closes this collection because it can't be topped for sheer atmosphere, and harmonious amalgamation of lyric and melody.
What this collection also proves is how ingenious New Zealand producers and arrangers were during this exciting period: check out the orchestration (and drumming) on the Dave Miller Set's ambitious Mr Guy Fawkes -- which is also saturated in phasing. Or the stacked-up horns on Fourmyula's Beatlesque Cozy Picture Theatre. Strange as it may seem at this great distance from that day-glo world, but back then we were listening to on radio -- and can now hear again courtesy of this series -- the woozy Dahli Mohamed by Timberjack Donoghue; the Avengers' glistening Everyone's Gonna Wonder which segues into short snippets that Ray Davies or Paul McCartney would have been proud of; Fourmyula's gorgeously intimate then anthemic Come And See Me; and The La De Das gritty Find Us A Way.
Yes, this was the music we grooved to when we finished every sentence with "maaan", wore beads, and looked like slightly psychopathic gypsies or people from backwoods. Or at least some did, others just quietly went their way in long buttoned down collars, had floppy hair swept across their foreheads and experimented with smoking dried banana skins for a legal high. (Didn't work. I know, I tried.)
Ah yes, those weren't the days.
Of course even the most rose-tinted spectacles -- and many of us possessed a pair -- cannot disguise the fact our homegrown paisley-pop also worked some familiar pop-rock changes: there is a lot of escapism in the lyrics, but there is also some dark stuff here (check out Smoke's moody Never Trust Another Woman).
You can't escape the sweet whiff of marijuana everywhere from the metaphorical Elevator ("put yourself on an elevator going high") to the Avengers' Midnight Visitations.
Then there are bizarre tracks like the life-threatening Bellyboard Beat which is psychedelic surf rock from the same band which did that lovely Good Clean Fun.
I wish I'd seen them at the time. They sound phenomenal.
How did these people -- all of them -- manage to do it?
I don't know.
But I'm real glad they did . . . . . maaan.