Chris Knox: KnoxTraxFine (thokeitapes cassette/download)

 |   |  2 min read

Chris Knox: KnoxTraxFine (thokeitapes cassette/download)

At the time of this writing it has been just over seven years (June 2009) since Chris Knox had his massive and debilitating stroke.

In that period he has largely been a man of good cheer despite not being able to speak beyond a few words (he understands visitors and friends reasonably well) and -- being afflicted down his right-hand side -- has taught himself to paint with his left hand.

He has performed a few times in the past years (and recorded with Rackets) but the effort takes so much out of him it is unlikely he will ever do it much, if ever.

For those who know him the double tragedy is that not just that the music has stopped coming but that acerbic wit and humour is now trapped inside his head. As I said to him early on however -- when I was one of a roster of caregivers -- at least now I can get a word in.

Chris laughed very loudly at that. He saw the irony and knew it was just a joke.

knox_1_copyThere has been a modest reissue programme of Knox solo and Tall Dwarfs albums and that -- sporadic though it is -- looks to continue.

But this cassette/download release through Thokei Tapes out of Germany is a real gem of little known songs or rarely-heard pieces.

Knox was profligate with his gift and so over the decades would be approached by various artists and indie companies for songs, and he was most obliging.

So here are 22 Knox songs which appeared on various New Zealand and international labels/compilations/split 7" singles and so on.

So unless you have such enjoyable obscurities like the Nun cassette Roger Sings the Hts ('91), the God Save the Clean CD tribute ('98) and Under the Influence ('02), the Powertools comp Here Come the Bulletholes or singles from Forced Exposure magazine, and CD comps from Holland and Germany (among others) it is likely you will never have heard of these songs.

Naturally his love of the Beatles is here in reinvented covers of Baby Your A Rich Man (from an '87 Walking Monk cassette) and Lennon's Mother (from the One Fell Swoop EP, '95). And he offers an idiosyncratic take on the Fall's Hip Priest (from a '04 tribute).

But of the covers it is his utterly tortured reading of Abba's SOS ('95) which is the most extraordinary. I use it to terrify university students when I play the poppy original and this version in which Chris finds the raw pain of the lyrics and drags it out screaming. 

But across these often lo-fi recordings -- most done at home -- it is Knox's irrepressible sense of a simple but effective melody in his own songs which shines through.

Anyone with a love and appreciation of pop music (of the angular, minimally-realised kind) or Knox's unique style should eagerly grab this. There's even a "wedding" version of Not Given Lightly.

It is available from bandcamp here on limited edition cassette or as a download. Cheap too . . . and in good news, Chris got paid for this. I checked.

It's legitimate, and bloody good . . . and of course kinda sad. 

SOS by Chris Knox (1995)

Share It

Your Comments

Ash - Aug 23, 2016

Excellent. I was an acquaintance of Chris's 50 to 60 years ago when we attended the same schools in Invercargill, and Chris and his Mum and Dad lived just around the corner from us. I well recall Chris's rapt reaction when the White Album was released.
I hadn't previously heard Chris's version of SOS, but it is stunning, and certainly brought a tear to my eye, and also comparisons with John Lennon's "Mother".
Thanks for your great blog.

Tom - Aug 25, 2016

Very good. You've heard the recent Portishead version?

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

This is the Kit: Moonshine Freeze (Rough Trade)

This is the Kit: Moonshine Freeze (Rough Trade)

The previous album Bashed Out by the acclaimed UK alt.folk singer/writer and banjo player Kate Sables (aka This is the Kit) was a frustrating affair. Round my way the cry was always “turn... > Read more

Steven Graves: Matter of Time (

Steven Graves: Matter of Time (

American journeyman musician Steven Graves gets some good comments in the US for his socially aware music, and its rootsy Americana parameters which are broad enough to encompass Neil Young and Bob... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere



Aside from Stevie Nicks whose fan base is loyal and huge (but whose last album In Your Dreams was patchy to the point of being often awful), few people these days would care much for what former... > Read more

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Spread the Love (Stony Plain)

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Spread the Love (Stony Plain)

Blues guitarist Earl opens this typically free-wheeling, jazz-inflected instrumental album with a swinging treatment of Albert Collins' burning Backstroke -- then gets into a low mood on Blues For... > Read more