Peter Posa: White Rabbit; The Very Best of Peter Posa (Sony)

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Peter Posa: Caravan
Peter Posa: White Rabbit; The Very Best of Peter Posa (Sony)

Last week, in anticipation of the success of this album, I was preparing a profile of Peter Posa -- yet to run -- and it was my pleasure to ring him back later and congratulate him. At 70 (71 next month) he had just deposed 18-year old Justin Bieber from the top of the New Zealand album charts.

Many people under 45 might be baffled by who this old upstart is (people under 25 are forgiven for never having heard of him), but Posa was one of the country's biggest stars in the Sixties, a career launched by his single Wheels but then thrown into the upper stratosphere with the 1963 single White Rabbit which sold around 100,000 copies (and even more when the album came out).

Posa laughed about that saying he thought "every second house had a copy".

Posa was a household name in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific (later he toured regularly in Japan) and the catchy, beautifully played White Rabbit -- recorded in one take -- with its distinctive echo became his signature.

Posa was however never part of the post-Beatles pop and rock world but made his career in supper clubs, national tours and on television. And was unusual by the standards of the day, a shy young man who simply played guitar. He didn't sing and a Hendrix-styled showman he wasn't.

He all but disappeared after a car accident in 1970. He suffered whiplash which was compounded by severe depression, he was hitting the bottle hard and, being a perfectionist, frustrated by his inability to perform at a self-imposed peak.  

But he was undeniably gifted and this collection of remastered material throws the spotlight on that.

Although White Rabbit was a country-pop, there was more to Posa than that and these 24 songs (four from the White Rabbit album) draw from rock'n'roll (Guitar Boogie), MOR ballads (Velvet Waters with pan-Pacific appeal, Mona Lisa), jazz (Caravan), country (his award-winning hit Nashville Express), pop (Dominique), Spanish styles (My Adobe Hacienda, Mexico), Scottish and Irish songs, and gospel (The Old Rugged Cross).

There are phrases and chords here ripe for DJs and samplers. 

Peter Posa hasn't released an album of new material since 2003 and it was a couple of decades before that for the previous one.

But at 70 he can kick back and enjoy the fact that this career overview has been so inclusive as to showcase his talents beyond the familiar classic White Rabbit.

And having knocked Justin Bieber off the top of the charts. Not many septuagenarians could pull that out of a hat.

There is an extensive Peter Posa interview/profile here.

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John Ringer - Aug 14, 2012

In the 1950-60s Waiuku had a functioning picture theatre, as I think most smallish towns did in those days. In between times it was the War Memorial Hall but as far as I can recall official functions were few and far between. Saturday matinee movies were a treat we fought hard to go to, mostly unsuccessfully because we were meant to be playing outside (for free and for the Vitamin D) and the money for sending a gaggle of kids to the movies was not always available. What has stuck firmly in my mind for over 50 years is 'White Rabbit'. It was the number one tune the theatre played until lights went out. I think he must have had only half a dozen records, because White Rabbit came on high repeat.

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