Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Around the one minute mark, the band's singer-songwriter Alastair Riddell struts out of the dry ice – luscious long hair, mascara, lipstick, luxurious velvet shirt, silk pants, flamboyant scarf – then, close to the camera, lasciviously thrusts his overtly camp, sexual ambiguity directly into New Zealand homes with a salacious grin.
Here's someone come for your daughters, or sons, the one parents warned about . . . and took the song – with it arresting opening shout “watch out young love” and lyrics about a “wanton and chic” woman – to the top of the charts.
The debut album billed as “Space Waltz by Alastair Riddell” followed: courageously outré, musically ambitious homegrown glam rock along the Bowie/T.Rex axis.
Critics took it very seriously but were cool.
Hot Licks, a forerunner of Rip It Up, published a lengthy interview with Riddell and devoted two separate reviewers to the album.
Under the pseudonym “Blanx” wrote: “[Alastair] has the [Bowie] thesis off pat . . . but he rarely introduces an antithesis (another influence or even some of his own musical personality where'er it lurk) . . . so you're left with Influence Without Direction.”
However fellow critic Brian Thurogood – after forensic track-by-track analysis – concluded, “this album warrants a close listen by all . . . who like to keep up with significant, outstanding music. And if you really get off on good music, without all the intellectual crap, this will suit you too.”
Space Waltz – who split after that sole album – were in a similar space as the more theatrical Split Enz (Enz bassist Mike Chunn joining them on tour, keyboard Eddie Rayner in both bands) and were often unfavorably compared. Riddell declined to join Enz twice, replacing guitarist Wally Wilkinson and again when Phil Judd left. (Neil Finn taking the slot that second time).
The Space Waltz album – copies advertised in excess of $340 on eBay – which includes the stomping single, is a cultural touchstone, and -- located between ambitiously poetic glam and prog-pop, despite lyrical over-reaching – is still enjoyably transporting.
After Space Waltz, Riddell adopted an elegantly restrained style, played in Los Angeles and Britain but back home struggled when punk and Hello Sailor better captured the zeitgeist.
He left for Britain again, returned in 89, continued to make music and got into film-making. He joined a brief David Bowie tribute tour in 2016 with Jordan Luck, Finn Andrews, Rayner and others, the same year Fraulein Love -- the opening Bowie-cum-Roxy Music track on the album – was in Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Space Waltz were a bright, brief comet who left a classic single and vivid memories.
Now Riddell, drummer Brent Eccles, Chunn and Rayner – the original touring line-up – have re-formed for a concert. And have recorded a new album.
Watch out young love.
Space Waltz appear at The Others Way festival in Auckland, Friday September 17. The Space Waltz album is on Spotify here.