Writing in Elsewhere

Books, authors, spoken word and poetry which may appeal to the curious spirit of Elsewhere.

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

SET THE BOY FREE, the autobiography by JOHNNY MARR

25 Nov 2016  |  3 min read

Sometimes a simple, bare fact can make you stop dead. Like this one: Johnny Marr was 23 when the Smiths broke up. As he writes in this unadorned and often flatly emotionless autobiography, “I had no idea what I was going to do”. It's a measure of the depth and detail of this 420 page book that the first third is of his life before the Smiths formed in '82, the central... > Read more

I Want a Heartbeat, Johnny Marr 2012

NEW ZEALAND TOP 20 SINGLES OF THE SIXTIES compiled by WARWICK FREEMAN

3 Nov 2016  |  3 min read

This may be the silliest, most obsessive but singularly important book on New Zealanders' music listening and buying habits in the Sixties ever written. And it is just lists. But what Freeman has done is, by using an interesting mathematical formula (more of that in a minute), determined just what the top selling singles were – even in the era before the charts started in... > Read more

GRANT & I: INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE GO-BETWEENS by ROBERT FORSTER

7 Oct 2016  |  4 min read  |  1

In his delightful if lightweight film That Thing You Do, director Tom Hanks puts at the centre of the story a Beatles-inspired pop band in the Sixties. In their search for a name they hit on “the Wonders”. But in a bid to be different they spell it “the Oneders”. Which works for them. But not for outsiders. A promoter pronounces it “the... > Read more

Slow Slow Music, by the Go-Betweens

BLOOMSBURY SOUTH: THE ARTS IN CHRISTCHURCH 1933 – 1953 by PETER SIMPSON

6 Aug 2016  |  4 min read

By happy chance, it was on a three-day break near Christchurch when time became available to be immersed in this highy readable, well researched and beautifully illustrated book. And by further coincidence the re-opened Christchurch Art Gallery had exhibitions which incuded works by some of the name players – Rita Angus, Evelyn Page, Louise Henderson and Doris Lusk among them... > Read more

IN LOVE WITH THESE TIMES by ROGER SHEPHERD

7 Jun 2016  |  3 min read  |  1

Just as Simon Grigg did with his excellent How Bizarre (nominally about the story behind that remarkable global hit out of Auckland), so too does Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd here extend himself beyond a mere account of his engagement with the label. Although subtitled “My Life with Flying Nun Records”, Shepherd's view takes in the surrounding social, geographic,... > Read more

THE MANY DEATHS OF MARY DOBIE, by DAVID HASTINGS

24 Jan 2016  |  2 min read

As with many compelling stories – from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood through film-noir – this one begins with a murder. And from it, both backwards and forwards, the narrative unfolds with compelling pace and attention to detail. For this was not just any murder. The killing of the Mary Dobie of the title occurred at the crossroads of cultures in New Zealand in the... > Read more

VIVID: THE PAUL HARTIGAN STORY by DON ABBOTT

4 Dec 2015  |  2 min read

Although Paul Hartigan's art practice has roamed across a number of media and styles — from distinctive representational Pop Art painting through tee-shirt and poster designs to Polaroids and beyond — it is his neon work which is the most familiar to the general public. At the interface of art and commerce, his signs in Auckland for the Las Vegas strip club, the... > Read more

CARDS ON THE TABLE by JEREMY ROBERTS

23 Nov 2015  |  2 min read

Pity the poets. While musicians bemoan the fall-off in sales, for decades poets have had to accept that selling 200 copies of a collection is actually a pretty good result. Most have to do with considerably less than half of that, unless they have a very big extended family. And in the poetic landscape there are the Big Names whose work can be acclaimed but largely unread (the... > Read more

HOW BIZARRE by SIMON GRIGG (Awa Press)

22 Aug 2015  |  5 min read  |  2

The first time I heard OMC's massive hit How Bizarre outside of New Zealand was in Tokyo, the second time I caught the clip on MTV Europe while I was in an Amsterdam hotel gearing up to go and see Michael Jackson. But the third time was the most interesting. I was in bar in Miami Beach chatting with an out-of-state tourist when How Bizarre came on the screen above us.... > Read more

Angel in Disguise

WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC, a memoir by PHILIP GLASS

18 Jun 2015  |  4 min read  |  1

Recently when interviewing Princess Chelsea (aka Chelsea Nikkel), the conversation turned to how cheap is to make and put out music these days. She laughed and said she'd done her album "for nothing" because she'd recorded it at home, and that CDs were cheap to get printed. Vinyl was different of course, but overall it was a fairly inexpensive process. She then, unprompted,... > Read more

Ayers Rock; Uluru Song, from Hydrogen Jukebox w Allen Ginsberg

THE GREAT LEADER AND THE FIGHTER PILOT by BLAINE HARDEN

27 Apr 2015  |  4 min read

About 15 years ago when I was engaged in some serious journalism of the international political kind, I had lunch with a fellow from Asia 2000, these days known as the Asia New Zealand Foundation. They had assisted me in travel to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea – financially, opening political and economic doors to get interviews – and over (Chinese) yum cha I brought up... > Read more

TRANSFORMER; THE COMPLETE LOU REED STORY by VICTOR BOCKRIS

17 Dec 2014  |  4 min read  |  2

When Lou Reed – who is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year alongside Joan Jett, Ringo Starr and others – died in October 2013, there were the inevitable potboiler books attempting to sum up the man, his music and motivations. But the book to wait for was always going to be this one by Bockris, the “poet of the New York underground”... > Read more

HELLO GIRLS AND BOYS! A NEW ZEALAND TOY STORY by DAVID VEART

7 Dec 2014  |  2 min read

This Wednesday at Art+Object in Auckland there is an auction of vintage toys. These aren't Star Trek collectibles still in their plastic wrappers, but much loved and played-with toys from the Twenties to the Sixties. So among them will be famous brands like New Zealand's own Fun Ho! alongside Dinky from Britain and toys from Germany . . . and of course, “Boy oh boy! A Lincoln... > Read more

A BETTER LIFE FOR HALF THE PRICE by TIM LEFFEL

8 Nov 2014  |  4 min read

Those of us living in one of the most expensive cities in the world – that would be Auckland, New Zealand – are invariably drawn to those television programmes on the lifestyle or travel channels where people go looking for homes overseas. That's where you see a solid, five bedroom brick home with excellent plumbing on the... > Read more

JIMMY PAGE by JIMMY PAGE

20 Oct 2014  |  4 min read

Ever since his death in 1970, there's been speculation as to what direction Jimi Hendrix might have gone in had he lived. For every opinion saying he'd have got into jazz fusion (maybe with Miles Davis who at the last minute had pulled out of scheduled sessions) there's the view he would have got into politicised funk-rock to capture the increasingly volatile times. He might have... > Read more

Black Mountain Side

THE GREATEST ALBUMS YOU'LL NEVER HEAR edited by BRUNO ARTHUR

22 Sep 2014  |  2 min read

Rock culture is littered with albums which were never released (either at the insistence of the artist or the record company), sidelined in favour of other projects or simply existed in the world of rumour. There have also been albums released which were not what people initially believed they were: Canadian band Klaatu for example who got a long way when people thought they were the... > Read more

THE PROBLEM WITH MUSIC IN NEW ZEALAND AND HOW TO FIX IT by IAN JORGENSEN

5 Aug 2014  |  4 min read  |  3

The memory is indelible. It was the early Nineties and there was a local band I wanted to see play at a bar in Auckland. After work I went home, ate, muddled about and went to the venue at 10.30pm. There was a drum kit set up and guitars in place. But no band. About 11.15 two guitarists arrived and went to the bar where they chatted with friends and had a couple of... > Read more

THE WHITEHALL MANDARIN by EDWARD WILSON

1 Aug 2014  |  2 min read

Consider how ripe the political pickings of the late 50s and early 60s are for anyone writing a spy thriller. There is cigar-chomping Castro in Cuba helming a people's revolution, the young and sexually voracious JFK in the White House as the Bay of Pigs and missile crisis swirl around him, Vietnam as a war zone is hotting up and US military advisors are flying... > Read more

RUPERT MURDOCH; A REASSESSMENT by RODNEY TIFFEN

4 May 2014  |  2 min read

Because media baron Robert Murdoch is such a polarising figure – from a bottom-feeder driving down news content to the lowest common denominator to “Rupert is magnificent” from Margaret Thatcher -- the subtitle here is canny. Few at either end of the spectrum want their firmly held prejudice about this man tested by a reassessment of his character and works. Yet... > Read more

GUTTER BLACK; A MEMOIR by DAVE McARTNEY

28 Apr 2014  |  3 min read

A few years ago when I was in Australia interviewing the re-formed Cold Chisel, I took a chance afterwards to talk with their songwriter Don Walker, who had written an exceptional, literary and darkly poetic memoir, Shots. I wanted to ask him about something which had been troubling me quietly for a number of years: Why was it that so many Australian songwriters – Paul Kelly,... > Read more