Graham Reid | | 9 min read
On a Wednesday afternoon in July 1979, Iggy Pop was sitting comfortably cross-legged in a Parnell hotel bar, with a tall drink and a cigarette.
The loosest rock star of the late ‘60s and ‘70s was surrounded by an assortment of "scribes, DJs and other assorted layabouts" as Colin Hogg later wrote in the Auckland Star. Pop was at the White Heron Hotel, meeting the press.
The event was captured in fifty black and white photos by Bruce Jarvis that were recently uploaded to the Auckland Libraries Kura archive. The idea of Iggy Pop landing in late 1970s Auckland immediately grabbed me, and I wanted to find out more.
Pop burned through New Zealand in July 1979, on a brief promotional tour for his New Values album.
The video TVNZ filmed for his single I’m Bored is the best known artefact from this visit. The clip opens with shots of the Beehive, still under construction. Pop shadow boxes down Bowen St.
The action shifts to the cramped interior of a bar, where a gathering of (mostly) hip, bemused Wellingtonians drink and look on as Pop mimes the song, dances around the room, gets in a few faces, and lashes out after a drink is thrown over him.
Another story from this visit placed him at an Androidss gig at the British Hotel in Lyttelton, where the band’s set included versions of Iggy Pop songs. Although the Androidss had a whisky with Pop between sets, he declined an offer from vocalist Arthur Manawatu to get onstage and sing The Passenger.
The Jarvis photos of the stylish Pop in Parnell told another story.
The images were also a glimpse inside the long-gone White Heron Hotel, with its exposed brick walls, the railway carriage in the bar, the low cane chairs and potted plants.
A bow-tied barman mixed drinks from the top shelf, and served up tall cans of Lion Red. The ashtrays overflowed.
Among the debris on the glass-topped tables were the press releases and stories, photos of Pop, and on the walls, posters and record sleeves for the New Values album.
Perhaps to make up for the lack of outrageous behaviour, Jarvis had also photographed the remains of the food and drink; ravaged trays of mince savouries and sausage rolls, and near empty bowls that had been heaped high with potato chips and roasted nuts.
The more I looked at the photos, the weirder the event looked
What did the press expect?
What did Pop make of it?
As Colin Hogg wrote in the Auckland Star on Friday July 13 1979 under the heading ‘An Iggy Occasion’ : “ 'Beware', ” screamed the invitation, 'Iggy Pop is coming to town.'
"The question was could the diminutive Ig hold his 'madman of rock' image suitably upright on his short shoulders. As it turned out, he didn’t even bother to try.
"Ig, or Jimmy Osterberg as his Mum and Dad used to know him, just curled up in a chair and talked and talked with a faraway look in his strange eyes, a Marlboro in his hand and a stiff bourbon within grasping distance.’ "
In one photo, a glowering figure I recognised as Terrorways vocalist John Hunter looked like he was trying to avoid being photographed. I began to speculate.
Was Hunter on the guestlist, or did he crash the event with another attendee in the same frame, Auckland punk scene face and 1ZM radio programmer John Doe?
It was puzzling that Murray Cammick, the editor of Rip It Up and a photographer in his own right, was photographed by Jarvis holding a tape recorder, not a camera. There was a series of photos of journalist Colin Hogg, his notepad at the ready, seated at Iggy’s right hand.
In another frame I recognised Roger King, manager of the Record Warehouse in Durham Lane. And there was my friend Andrew Topping from Radio B, seated and smiling at the edge of a larger group, all transfixed by Iggy, who sits cross-legged on the carpet.
Eager to hear more about this bizarre but historic event, I messaged Topping, and got in touch with Cammick, King, and Hogg.
No one remembered anything about it.
Cammick recalled photographing Iggy in his hotel room earlier in the day, but had no recollection of the press conference, or why he was holding a tape recorder.
Amnesia about The Day Iggy Came To Town was becoming a theme.
Fortunately there were others with sharper recall.
After getting his start as a press photographer in New Zealand, and capturing some landmark early 1970s gigs at Western Springs -- Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones -- Bruce Jarvis travelled to the UK and found his Stones photos opened doors on Fleet St to freelance work.
On his return to Auckland he set up a photo processing laboratory, continued to photograph gigs, and picked up work covering record company events among many other assignments.
"I covered the Iggy press conference as a freelancer" Jarvis told me. "As a press photographer, I’m always looking for a front page picture."
What was the atmosphere at the event? "It was pretty relaxed, the record company had laid on food, and half a dozen journalists and photographers were there."
What were your impressions of Iggy? "He was very quiet. Not the wild man of rock, totally the opposite. At the press conference, he was sitting cross-legged on the floor! I had already seen him earlier in the week, walking by himself from the Art Gallery, across Lorne St towards Queen St."
This relaxed impression of the event, and of the low-key Pop, is shared by DJ Bryan Staff, who hosted a free-format evening show on 1ZM, and played a lot of punk and new wave.
One odd detail about Pop has stuck in his memory.
"I was at the press conference, I remember his shoes. He’s wearing shoes that Americans call ‘Mary Janes’, little black shoes that have a strap across them.
"I thought they were particularly strange. But it was just a regular press conference, it might as well have been anybody."
Staff interviewed Pop at 1ZM later that evening.
"When he spoke to me that night he was more relaxed, and it was one of the easiest interviews I’ve ever done. I knew a lot about him, which made it easier.
"We had a joint on air together, and he stopped talking halfway through and he said 'hang on, I’m not making much sense, I’m just rolling something here that I shouldn't be rolling.’
For journalist Pattrick Smellie, meeting Iggy Pop has remained a vivid memory.
In 1979 he was attending Auckland University, and went to the press conference with a group of friends from Radio B.
"We were terribly excited," he told me. "It was the very first journalistic experience I ever had."
How did you hear that Iggy was in town? Was B starting to get a profile as the New Wave was starting to break?
"The invitation probably went to Radio B because of the listenership, as much as one existed, because the station was only on-air for a month or so each year. Most of the time we were blasting music into the quad. We were playing that kind of music, and we were all pretend punks.
"That was the time of New Values, and Kill City, which was a great album. We would play Search and Destroy over the quad speakers and people would say ‘what the fuck are you doing, this is horrible!"
The press conference was scheduled to start at midday. It was, as Smellie recalled, "the most unlikely time of day to see Iggy Pop".
Daylight, however, seemed to have put Pop in a good mood. Smellie is still disbelieving at his memory of how Pop "walked straight up to me, and started talking. And I thought 'Fuck! How did that happen?’
"I just thought I was going to be a bystander, but he completely engaged with me and Ruff (Rosemary Hutt).
"I had a tape recorder, and we had a completely vapid conversation, as far as I can recall. Ruff said something like 'What's it like being in the back of beyond?' and Iggy replied 'Well it feels pretty central right now'."
Sounds like Iggy was flirting with Ruff, perhaps? "That’s entirely possible!"
Somewhere, Smellie tells me, he still has the tape of the conversation.
"For such a small guy, he had a deep gravelly voice, an oddly rich voice from such a small frame. He was pleasant to chat with, but it was phatic communion of the worst sort. It boiled down to: 'what the hell are you doing here, and why are you so amazing?' "
What else did Pop talk about? "His collaboration with David Bowie, and the extent to which that Bowie was effectively a calming and artistic influence on him. We were expecting this kind of hell-raiser, and he was projecting 'I’ve gone to Berlin, I've cleaned my act up, been working with David Bowie, and I’ve done The Idiot and Lust For Life'. "
Smellie laughs as he reflects on the image of his younger self and friends, paying court to Iggy Pop.
"Looking at the photo now, I’m slightly appalled by how ridiculously young I look. And soft. And corruptible."
That may be true, but I suggest to Smellie that unlike most people at the event, you and your friends look like they are into Iggy.
"As much as anything, it felt like he had come to talk to us just to piss everyone else off. I wasn’t a trained journalist, just an enthusiast, and I was gobsmacked that I was talking to this guy, who was like a God to me."
Smellie can clearly see the chasm between the image and reality. "For a guy whose reputation was so wild, and who I knew, if he took his shirt off then his chest would be cut up, he was basically acting very normal, and conversational. That was the bizarre part, he was so friendly."
All photos. Ⓒ Bruce Jarvis. Used with the permission of Bruce Jarvis and the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections: https://kura.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz/digital/
Jonathan Ganley‘s photographs have appeared in a number of books including Matthew Goody’s Needles and Plastic – Flying Nun Records 1981-1988, Ian Chapman’s The Dunedin Sound – Some Disenchanted Evening, and Shayne Carter’s Dead People I Have Known. His work has also been published in the music magazines Rip It Up and Volume as well as online at The Guardian and at the New Zealand music history website AudioCulture.
CRUSH: Photos from Post-Punk Auckland by Jonathan Ganley is available from Flying Out Records, at 80 Pitt St, Auckland, Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden and Flying Nun Records in Auckland and Wellington. The book is also available online from each of these retailers.
Softcover: 275mm height x 220mm width, 120 pages. 136 photographs of 33 local and international bands and musicians, from the years 1982 to 1990: $70 (incl. GST)
He has also contributed to Elsewhere with images of Thurston Moore, Nick Cave, Television and others, as well as essays and interviews in the photography realm (see here).
His photoblog Point That Thing features a selection of his past and recent music images. CRUSH – Photos from Post-Punk Auckland is his first book.
Twitter: @pointthatthing / Instagram: @crushpostpunk / Facebook: @crushpostpunk