THE VOLUME EXHIBITION IN AUCKLAND: Exit through the gift shop

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Jesus I Was Evil, by Darcy Clay
THE VOLUME EXHIBITION IN AUCKLAND:  Exit through the gift shop

Because I was involved in the exhibition Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa currently running at the museum in Auckland – 60 years of popular music from 50s rock'n'roll to Lorde – people sometimes ask what I'm most pleased about.

Well, I say, the fact that Volume exists at all is very pleasing . . .

But aside from Chris Knox's famous TEAC tape recorder, the huge dot-painting cover for his album Croaker (which was languishing dustily in a spare bedroom in his house) and the three Split Enz costumes which immediately come to mind, there are almost too many things to mention.

I was brought on board early last year as the museum's Content Advisor, which meant – after meetings with museum staff, people from Recorded Music NZ who were prime movers behind it and some advisory panels – I wrote the guiding document about what should be in the exhibition.

Big ask, big task and it took a lot of enjoyable research – who knew Deep Obsession were the first local band to have three consecutive number one hits? I mapped out timelines, narratives and the focus on individual artists or bands.

309466_571x800Of course, not everyone could be included and you'd need as much space again just to cover the whole Flying Nun story or hip-hop culture.

But we did our best to be inclusive, to have interactive areas and get objects which told a story. What the story behind Andrew (Mockers) Fagan's pink bunny suit is we leave to your imagination, but there it is . . . alongside gold discs, hundreds of photos, special guitars and equipment, Dalvanius' famous hat and the shoes Lorde wore to the Grammys.

The shoes are really funny.

The exhibition is the result of months of work by many people and artists were extremely generous with their art and artefacts, as you'll see when you go. And you should go, because this is the soundtrack to our lives in Aotearoa New Zealand.

308968_800x800I didn't see it all in place until opening night and, frankly, I was delighted. When you have so much emotional investment in something like Volume you want it to be right and most often you can only see shortcomings.

But the feedback has been very positive.

And since that opening night I've also rethought what pleases me about it. This sounds stupid, but it's the gift shop at the end.

Aside from a tidy selection of New Zealand vinyl, books and posters, there are badges, coasters like tiny records with classic singles titles on them, tea towels with quotes like “There is No Depression in New Zealand” and much more.

308974_800x1200There's also the must-have box set of handsomely packaged CDs covering the decades.

I had very little hand in the selection of the tracks so came to these fresh and pleasantly surprised.

The series begins with Johnny Cooper's Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll from 57 which was this country's first original rock'n'roll song and Sandy Tansley's Resuscitation Rock (which some claim beat Cooper by a few weeks) and comes right up to Six60's White Lines and Marlon Williams' Dark Child.

There are big hits (She's a Mod, Out in the Street, Computer Games, I Got You, Poi E, E Tu, Not Many, Brother, Royals and so on) but there are many other gems too.

The Fair Sect's I Love How You Love Me with bagpipes (!) gets me every time, as does the Scavengers' terrific True Love (“Met her outside the IGA . . .”), Dead Flowers' catchy Plastic, Dam Native's Behold My Kool Style and Nesian Mystik's Nesian 101.

There are tough truths – Riot Squad, French Letter, In the Neighbourhood – alongside pure pop and rock like Push Push's Trippin', the Chills' Heavenly Pop Hit, Emma Paki's still moving System Virtue and True Bliss' Tonight.

And Darcy Clay's Jesus I Was Evil.

Can 195 songs sum up our musical history? Of course not. But these sets, with liner notes and images from the exhibition, make a damn fine stab at it.

You gotta hear the Fair Sect and the Maori Troubadours' Shakin' in the Shaky Isles and Head Like a Hole's Hootenanny and . . .

Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa is at the Auckland War Memorial Museum until May 2017. It is free. The link to the gift store is here


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Where Else - Nov 22, 2016

The track listings for the individual Volume albums (1950s-60s; 1970s; 1980s; 1990s; 2000s) add up to 181 tracks. The box set has 195 tracks. Is there a bonus CD or DVD included with the box set? GRAHAM REPLIES: Actually we are both pretty bad at maths! My calculator tells me the total is 183 tracks (no bonus stuff in the box). Apologies.

Steve M - Nov 24, 2016

What a fantastic project - a wonderful way to recognise some of our important New Zealand musical culture and folk history. I wish it wasn't just locked into being at Auckland.
I have a rather special, not-unrelated, little item in pride of place at home: a copy of the original Stranded in Paradise book, not only signed by John Dix, but many years later, my daughter met Chris Knox while he was fronting a TV show on community arts projects and showed him the book, citing how I always go on about how important this stuff is. Wonderfully, he drew a cartoon self-portrait next to the photo of him on the very first page - something to treasure.

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