Graham Reid | | 5 min read
They are found at the back of cartons at record fairs, under beds in long abandoned houses and sometimes stored lovingly -- but rarely played -- in the collections of the obsessives. They are those great, and not that great, singles by Kiwi artists which existed either in limited pressings or were simply so awful the artists themselves tried to buy and destroy every copy.
They are Kiwi rarities, singles with an interesting story behind them -- often more interesting than the music itself. Here are a few examples, more as they come to light.
KINGS: She'll Be Right, S'all Good Bro, Don't Worry 'Bout It:
Tapping into Kiwi laissez-faire attitudes and aspects of local indolence, this 15 minute 12 inch single tried to link across the generations with references to common phrases from the past ("she'll be right" and the more recent, "s'all good bro") but by the time he got to his own contribution to the lineage ("don't worry 'bout it") he had forgotton what he wanted to say. The final five minutes were just instrumental with KINGS sometimes being heard to mutter "Ahh . . . yeah, nah . . ." A fortnight later he had another crack at it and just shaved off the first historical ideas and jumed straight into his own take with "don't worry 'bout it" . . . although in an unedited version which appeared on the internet he can be heard to say at the end, "Jeez bro', there's a shitload to worry 'bout when you think 'bout it, eh?"
SixSix60: The Devil Went Down to George Street: Few people know that before they became famous, Dunedin's Six60 were actually Satan-worshipping, baby-eating black metallers. As SixSix60 they recorded this one-off single inspired by the Charlie Daniels Band hit The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The fiddle part was played by a member of the NZSO who they had drugged up on P, which explains her furious playing style. Shortly after however they actually met Satan and he offered them riches and fame as long as they converted to the MOR/reggae religion. Which they did. But he now owns their immortal souls.
Anika Moa with Babymetal: Bubbas, Live at Budokan: While she was holidaying in Japan, a chance encounter between Anika Moa and local metallers Babymetal (three young poppets backed by a hard rock band) resulted in a day-long saki session and Moa joining the band onstage at Budokan that night for a thrash metal medley of material from her Songs for Bubbas album. Bootlegs appeared in Tokyo and copies now go for in excess of $500. Encouraged by this, Moa started a Crowdkicking campaign to raise funds to get her and Katchafire to Denmark for a festival there to record a live album . . . Bubbas, Reggae From Roskilde.
Lorde-Dobbyn: Call Me Royal: This ill-conceived duet seems to have been instigated by the New Zealand Monarchist League in the months before the 2014 visit of Prince William and his lovely wife Kate Middleton. It was well known Dave Dobbyn was angling for a knighthood at the time but quite why new 12-year old sensation from Hillsborough, Lorde (aka Ellie Hypenated-Something) got involved is a mystery. But lyrics like "call us royal and keep it that way" did seem to capture something of the pro-monarchy sentiment of the time, and got them a cover story on the New Zealand Woman's Weekly.
Aaradhna, Wake Up, Yeah-Nah: This previously unheard demo of her Wake Up hit recently slipped out via Simon Sweetman's excellent website Blog on the Tracks. Word has it it was leaked to him by United Future MP Peter Dunne. Sort of a South Auckland slacker anthem celebrating sloth, KFC and lying in bed with bottles of booze.
Dave Dobbyn; Welcome Home, Yeah Riiight: Those who were there when Dobbyn recently re-recorded his Welcome Home hit say it seemed he'd fallen off the wagon after being burned by financial advisors now living in luxury homes on the Gold Coast. YouTube footage -- since deleted -- showed a clearly angry and possibly intoxicated Dobbyn on Paratai Drive carrying a can of petrol and shouting profanities at builders working on the former home of an investment advisor while the soundtrack played this brutal and offensive song. Mr Dobbyn was unavailable for comment.
Fat Freddy's Drop, Wandering Hands: Some say this captured the band in their P-period, others are less kind. But this thrash-metal shout-out to kiddie-fiddin' teachers was only briefly released as a download through their website and instantly deleted when their manager woke up and discovered their website had crashed. It is said the song had over three million hits in 24 hours because it was leaked with a photo taken at five-year old girl's birthday party. Mr Freddy was unavailable for comment.
Ray and the Reptiles, She's a Gob: Ill-conceived project by John Baker (of Wild Things fame) who aligned Ray Columbus with the reformed Suburban Reptiles for this '87 punk version of She’s A Mod. Wreckless Eric covered it on his '89 comeback album. He didn’t come back.
D.D. Smashed, Outlook for Thirst Day: After the boozy Bliss, Dave Dobbyn briefly fell prey to commercial interests from breweries and threw his lot in with an Irish metalhead pub band. Liberally applied sponsors’ products resulted in this rather off-key single which Dobbyn later reworked to greater effect.
Chris Knox, Address to the Third Soviet Congress 1921: Those who were there say it was late and the background noise intolerable, so perhaps Chris misheard. But being a Beatles fan he felt he had to immediately record what he took to be the lyrics of a previously unreleased John Lennon song. The 37-minute cassette-only single began with unpromising line: “Comrades and fellow party members . . .”
Greg Johnson, Shave Yourself: Indulging his interest in things Brazilian -- body grooming, not the music -- Johnson demoed this interesting song with the chorus "first you shave yourself, then you shave the girl". Three days later when he sobered up he rejigged it to become "first you save yourself, then you save the world" for Save Yourself on the album Here Comes the Caviar. (Not the first time Johnson had changed a lyric: If I Swagger was formerly the inebriated and barely coherent If I Stagger).
Mika, Out in the Street: Genuinely inspired reworking of the old Alistair Riddell/Space Waltz hit but, naturally, given a gender flip. Released on the eve of the ‘81 Springboks tour with a flamboyant street parade to promote -- which regrettably clashed violently with a pro-tour march. All copies of the double A side single, being carried by lightly oiled boys, were destroyed in resulting melee.
Swingers, Counting the Sheep: Terrific folk-rock song hampered by lyrics that were clearly drawn from the band's rural isolation on a high-country run in the South Island. A move to Sydney saw a toughening up of the band’s attitude (the bagpipe solo was dropped) and lyrical rewrite. Remaining copies of this early version ruthlessly sought by Phil Judd and the Bats.
La De Das, How is the Air Up There '89: Ecologically-conscious former rockers reformed to rework their Sixties hit as a new-age plea to ban “spray cans and stuff because of the ozone layer and all that.” Picture sleeve single recently valued at $45 ($35 if record still in cover).
Mutton Birds, Karangahape Road (But Not That Boring Bit Up By the Sheraton): Somewhat limp follow-up to Dominion Road and not among Don McGlashan’s best. Two versions exist; collectors favour the one with 27-second euphonium solo after the words “and I’m lying in a coma, outside Verona.”
Elsewhere readers are invited to contribute their own Great Lost Kiwi Singles by using the Post A Comment option.