Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

 |   |  1 min read

Neil Finn and Jim Carter: Blue Smoke (2015)

When the recording of Blue Smoke by the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette was released in February 1949, the Second World War had only been over for around three and half years.

The memories of loved ones who never returned were still fresh and painful, and in many homes -- even for decades after -- their photos were on lounge walls or the top of the sideboard. Or lining the walls of marae buildings.

The yearning and melancholy lyrics of the song -- which former Maori Battalion soldier Karaitiana had been working at off and on whle overseas and when he returned home -- captured the mood of the country and the thoughts of a young man sailing off to the unknown: "When I think of home I sadly sigh, I can see you there with loving tears in your eyes as we fondly said our last goodbyes . . . and as I sail away, with a longing to stay . . . "

As sung by 19-year old Pixie Williams they had a gently sentimental and empathetic feeling.

The musical setting of lap steel guitar played by Jimmy Carter lent a Pacific, almost romantic and wistful quality to the song.

Little wonder then it was so successful, selling over 10,000 copies according to some sources. It put into music and lyrics a deep feeling which pervaded the country in those post-war years. You can see a clip of the original song here.

Over the decades there have been many versions of the song but this year, in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli debacle, Neil Finn has recorded a very distinctive version and that same man who played lap steel guitar on the original -- Jim Carter, now 96 -- appears on the recording.

What Finn brings to his version is weary, reflective quality that the distance from both wars allows. It is suitably understated, as is Carter's playing and that leavens out the more romantic quality of the original.

And you can hear more about it in the clip below.

It is a different version of the same beautiful song and is available at iTunes and money from purchases goes to support the RSA.

You could do a lot worse than buy it, listen to it carefully . . . and take pause to reflect.

(For more on this song see Chris Bourke's excellent book Blue Smoke; The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964)

BlueSmoke_EmailSignature_RSA

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Something Elsewhere articles index

OLD FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS? (1999): But not in South Korea

OLD FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS? (1999): But not in South Korea

The undistinguished town of Kap'yong, 90 minutes' drive north-east of the South Korean capital Seoul, isn't on many maps. Even the young man at the desk in Seoul's Tower Hotel can't say where it... > Read more

SPOTIFY'S HQ IN SWEDEN: The quiet revolution

SPOTIFY'S HQ IN SWEDEN: The quiet revolution

The ambience of the Stockholm headquarters of Spotify – the world's fastest growing online music streaming service – isn't what you might expect. No skateboard-riding computer nerds... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

ANGUS McBEAN PHOTOGRAPHER, THE FIRST ICONIC BEATLES ALBUM COVER (2019): A snapper making it snappy

ANGUS McBEAN PHOTOGRAPHER, THE FIRST ICONIC BEATLES ALBUM COVER (2019): A snapper making it snappy

The Beatles' story is one of coincidence, chance, luck and irony. What were the odds of McCartney meeting Lennon and them hitting it off, of them meeting photographers in Hamburg who could... > Read more

TREASURES OF THE BEE GEES by BRIAN SOUTHALL (Carlton Books)

TREASURES OF THE BEE GEES by BRIAN SOUTHALL (Carlton Books)

If the Beatles were the greatest songwriters since Schubert as William Mann, the chief music critic of The Times, once asserted (in the very early Sixties, they got better) then what is to be said... > Read more