UNEARTHING THE PAST FOR THE PRESENT AND FUTURE (2024): Seldom, or never, heard Kiwi rock from the Seventies

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Bloodsucker, by Littlejohn
UNEARTHING THE PAST FOR THE PRESENT AND FUTURE (2024): Seldom, or never, heard Kiwi rock from the Seventies

To paraphrase the philosopher George Santayana, “Those who didn't hear the past are condemned to listen to it on repeat play”.

Or something like that.

The fact is, the archaeologists of local rock just keep digging.

Last year we had previously unreleased 1990s albums from Auckland band Crash and Boom Boom Mancini, the pre-Bads Britain-based band of Dianne Swann and Brett Adams.

Christchurch's Leather Jacket Records mixed reissues (Playthings, Solatudes) and new releases (Vorsen, Ringlets, Sundae Painters) with the Riot 111 collection 1981! of provocative political rock from the Springbok tour period and Shakin' It Up at the Nicoberg from Palmerston North's thrilling Grim Ltd, recorded live in 1966 at their final gig.

That unexpected album was the work of archivist Grant Gillanders whose long-running Frenzy label exhumes 1960s and 1970s singles and albums for compilations.

Last year Frenzy delivered the never-released 1975 album by Auckland funk-rockers Inbetweens and the compilation 46 Years by Cimeron who only released one single. In 1977.

This year the label is out the gate quickly with a hard rock-cum-psychedelic funk collection Sonic:12 Bloodsucking & maneating tracks from the Sonic vaults 1971-1972.

sonicWellington's Sonic studio – in Island Bay then Mt. Victoria – was run by Alan Dunnage whose preference was for recording choirs, MOR singers, country artists and church services, supporting his studio by night work as a typesetter at the Dominion newspaper.

However Sonic's low cost appealed to hirsute rock musicians who kept the studio viable, so fiftysomething Dunnage brought in Edd Morris (to become Eddie O'Strange so he didn't compromise his position at NZBC), a more enthusiastic and sympathetic producer.

The Sonic collection is bracketed by Littlejohn, a band fronted by singer/writer Corben Simpson and which later had Bruno Lawrence on drums, a musical precursor to Blerta when joined by members of Sons and Lovers also represented on the collection.

The Littlejohn opener is the hard funk Bloodsucker but the closing ballad Have You Seen a Man Cry? was Simpson's ace. His first songwriting effort, it went top 20 then won him the 1971 APRA Silver Scroll.

The version on the compilation is the full band re-recording and it's still an impressive piece of pop songcraft.

Between those two points are Benjamin Gardner's chunky rocker Maneater which can't quite settle on a style (and is crippled by distracting studio effects) and two other hard driving tracks by Wellington Battle of the Bands winners Blitz St. Fuzz: Beautiful You with all the stomp of the La De Da's and Hard Times.

Maneater, by Benjamin Gardiner

Fat Gypsy's I'll Still Be Laughing and Shotgun on my Shoulder feature 19-year olds Ray Battersby and singer Doug Rogers (later a producer/engineer at Auckland's Harlequin Studios). The Rogers Battersby Legend appear with the mainstream pop of Bullfrog.

Other songs come from Spann, Sons and Lovers, Bluebrick and – the last band to record for Sonic – Stille Ripple with the folk-rock Loner Postponer. It ended a year of Sonic's diverse productivity.

Dunnage went back to what he knew recording an album of Salvation Army Hymns, and O'Strange started his own Strange label.

And so a vein of local rock was tapped and has now been excavated.

Another small seam from the early 1970s was glam rock, spearheaded by Space Waltz and the glam-proggers Ragnarok -- both given vinyl reissue in recent years – and by Mark Williams (in attire and eye-liner more than in his soul-pop).

Christchurch's Odyssey – in Ziggy/Kiss make-up, lurex, silk and flares – made an instant splash, appeared on television's Grunt Machine in 1975 camping up Velvet Underground's White Light White Heat and Lou Reed's Vicious, and opened for Reed in Christchurch.

oddTheirs wasn't an easy path.

As Odyssey drummer Jeff Stribling told local glam-academic Ian Chapman (aka Dr. Glam), “Glam came out and all those [muso band] guys just attacked you and said, ‘You’re not musicians, you’re just dressing up.’

“It was all really exciting. But the worst part of it was the shit we took from the other bands.”

If the Sonic collection sounds time-locked, there's enough power-pop (their treatment of Buddy's Holly's It's So Easy) and attitude (Prostitute) on Rock'n'Roll's Alright! – compiled by Gillanders and fellow archivist John Baker – to pull it closer to Stones' strut and early Strokes, although they also default to MOR (Baby).

Influenced by Slade's boogie (Ball and Chain) and Sweet's pop as much as the Bowie/Bolan glam axis (Rock'n'Roll's Alright), Odyssey's glam career – just one single released, a cover of the Easybeats' Sorry included on the album – was brief, although as a three-piece they later tapped into nascent punk (Pogo is part Ramones, part parody).

Southbound_Records_Logo_v2So two albums which take us from 70s grunt rock to punk rock and the changing of the guard.

Oh, incidentally a compilation of Instigators' ska-punk is coming soon.

More rock excavated.

Can you dig it?

These albums are available on CD and limited edition vinyl. Odyssey on pink vinyl.

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