Graham Reid | | 2 min read
As the Warratahs embark on a 25th anniversary tour, it is timely to look back at this New Zealand band which brought country music into fashionable rock circles, and connected with that mysterious place known to city folk only as "the heartland".
But why not look back further?
Back to a band which had future Warratahs' singer-songwriter Barry Saunders and bassist-songwriter Nick Theobold in its first line-up. And they -- the Tigers -- were a very different sounding group.
The Tigers were the first local band signed to EMI and their debut single Red Dress got very favourable reviews: "One of the few tunes around now that you can sing along to, a very necessary quality in a good pop song" observed Ian Stuart.
They played around Wellington then took to the road hitting high schools ("We go down best with kids," Saunders told Salient magazine. "The single could be around the 13-year old age group") and to fill out their set of originals they played covers of Southside Johnny songs, the old hit North to Alaska and . . . Paul Anka?
They toured with Jon English and Baxter Funt (you can look them up), Saunders admitted "there's nothing we'd like more than to have a top 10 hit" (an unfashionable position to adopt in the post-punk New Wave era) but the single stalled at 28 on the charts.
More singles followed this one (All Night, recorded in Sydney), another future Warratah Wayne Mason (formerly of Fourmyula) joined the line-up, an EP appeared in a slightly risque cover (with Red Dress on it), there was an album in the works and . . .
My story runs out at this point, and I think the Tigers did too.
Not for want of trying on their part though. They toured everywhere from Invercargill to the Te Kuiti community hall.
But Saunders was a pragmatist.
"We have to get into the habit of looking at ourselves as others see us," he told Rip It Up. "You might be playing in front of 200 people at Kawerau and think you're John Lennon. But you're not, and there's a million people in the world doing the same as you."
True, in so many ways . . . and listening to the chugging powered-back pop of Red Dress now you can hear why so many people, reviewers too, liked it. It was catchy and memorable. But at the time a million other people were doing the same.
Now, the Warratahs however.
When they arrived in the mid- late Eighties there were not a lot of people doing that.
Or even now. But them . . . again.
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