Writing in Elsewhere

Books, authors, spoken word and poetry which may appeal to the curious spirit of Elsewhere.

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL by MICK WALL

14 Nov 2017  |  2 min read

The cover is awful, the subtitle misleading (“The Larger Than Life Story of Meat Loaf”) and writing by the prolific rock journalist Mick Wall sometimes reads like a potboiler knocked off at speed. But for all that, and especially for those who don'y know the backstory of the fraught relationship between Meat Loaf and songwriter/creative director Jim Steinman, this is a... > Read more

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

BIG PACIFIC by REBECCA TANSLEY

10 Nov 2017  |  3 min read

There are maps which show us our world in different ways; the size of countries relative to population or poverty; the planet at night so we can see where people huddle under lights and so on. But few views are more dramatic and a reminder of our place on Earth than if you turn a globe so that just about everything you see is the Pacific Ocean. Over to one edge there is a sliver... > Read more

AUTUMN OF LOVE by DAVE ALLEN

21 Oct 2017  |  5 min read

Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit pop music museums and exhibitions around the world – and Elsewhere as seen them in Tokyo, London, Seattle, Sweden and Oslo – will attest to how quickly trends in popular music travel. Within weeks of Elvis breaking out in 1956 there were copyists and those adopting rock’n’roll in Mexico, Whakatane, Tokyo, Scandinavia and... > Read more

TEENAGERS; THE RISE OF YOUTH CULTURE IN NEW ZEALAND by CHRIS BRICKELL

21 Jul 2017  |  5 min read

Sometimes when I am talking to my university students about the rise of rock'n'roll in the Fifties – the first musical genre to specifically target teens – I tell them, just to get their attention again, that my parents were never teenagers. They look bewildered and so I explain: my mother in Scotland left school at 14 and my father in this country at 15, and both went to... > Read more

THE PRE-HISTORY OF SKIFFLE (2017): On the origin of a short-lived species

6 Jul 2017  |  10 min read

As with so many historic moments, at the time it was mundane . . . but became culture changing. This one was something as ordinary as this . . .  By all accounts July 6, 1957 was an unseasonably warm day in Liverpool, even for summer. It was the time of galas, garden parties and fetes. In the middle-class suburb of Woolton, St Peter's church was hosting a popular fete... > Read more

Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan

DYLAN JUNKIE by JEFFREY PAPAROA HOLMAN

4 Jun 2017  |  3 min read

Someone clever and possibly French once said something along these lines: the truest response to a work of art is to create another. In a slight variant of that idea, this collection of astute and sharply observed poems is Christchurch writer/teacher Holman's response to Bob Dylan and the man behind the music, but just as often the myth and the mystery of Dylan's art which has... > Read more

BLADE NZ; TRAVEL STORIES FROM THE ROAD by MATT EARLE

25 Mar 2017  |  2 min read

Well, someone had to be crazy enough to do it, to rollerblade the length of New Zealand. And that task fell to the self-appointed Matt Earle and his pal Josh who cracked onto this somewhat hare-brained scheme – they began at the start of winter and Josh particularly had few skills on the wheels – but they did have the smarts to film their adventure. Their seven-part... > Read more

NEW ZEALAND JAZZ LIFE by NORMAN MEEHAN

10 Feb 2017  |  3 min read

Presented like a piece of jazz – themes laid out and explored, then space for soloists to let their distinct voices be heard – this tight 240-page paperback is an important and very welcome addition to the small body of literature on recent New Zealand jazz. Chris Bourke's excellent Blue Smoke; The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918 - 1964 and the University of... > Read more

AMERICA'S QUEEN; THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS by SARAH BRADFORD: Nice'n'sleazy does it

20 Jan 2017  |  4 min read

Writers of trashy, salacious and titillating novels about the rich and famous -- Jackie Collins comes to mind -- must despair when biographies appear which reveal the moneyed and mediocre to be more tawdry, venal and sleazy than even those of their vivid imaginations. Consider this litany of sexual intrigue and incestuousness from the higher realms of power: President John F. Kennedy had an... > Read more

GONEVILLE by NICK BOLLINGER

10 Jan 2017  |  4 min read  |  1

Although they are never going to challenge the unassailable supremacy of cookbooks and the lives of people who play sport for money, there has been a discernible increase in the number of books about New Zealand music in the past few years. It's almost as if publishers have belatedly realised what most others know: that popular music has great stories, odd characters and an important... > Read more

Lawdy Miss Clawdy, by Johnny Devlin

SET THE BOY FREE, the autobiography by JOHNNY MARR

25 Nov 2016  |  3 min read

Sometimes a simple, bare fact can make you stop dead. Like this one: Johnny Marr was 23 when the Smiths broke up. As he writes in this unadorned and often flatly emotionless autobiography, “I had no idea what I was going to do”. It's a measure of the depth and detail of this 420 page book that the first third is of his life before the Smiths formed in '82, the central... > Read more

I Want a Heartbeat, Johnny Marr 2012

NEW ZEALAND TOP 20 SINGLES OF THE SIXTIES compiled by WARWICK FREEMAN

3 Nov 2016  |  3 min read

This may be the silliest, most obsessive but singularly important book on New Zealanders' music listening and buying habits in the Sixties ever written. And it is just lists. But what Freeman has done is, by using an interesting mathematical formula (more of that in a minute), determined just what the top selling singles were – even in the era before the charts started in... > Read more

GRANT & I: INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE GO-BETWEENS by ROBERT FORSTER

7 Oct 2016  |  4 min read  |  2

In his delightful if lightweight film That Thing You Do, director Tom Hanks puts at the centre of the story a Beatles-inspired pop band in the Sixties. In their search for a name they hit on “the Wonders”. But in a bid to be different they spell it “the Oneders”. Which works for them. But not for outsiders. A promoter pronounces it “the... > Read more

Slow Slow Music, by the Go-Betweens

BLOOMSBURY SOUTH: THE ARTS IN CHRISTCHURCH 1933 – 1953 by PETER SIMPSON

6 Aug 2016  |  4 min read

By happy chance, it was on a three-day break near Christchurch when time became available to be immersed in this highy readable, well researched and beautifully illustrated book. And by further coincidence the re-opened Christchurch Art Gallery had exhibitions which incuded works by some of the name players – Rita Angus, Evelyn Page, Louise Henderson and Doris Lusk among them... > Read more

IN LOVE WITH THESE TIMES by ROGER SHEPHERD

7 Jun 2016  |  3 min read  |  1

Just as Simon Grigg did with his excellent How Bizarre (nominally about the story behind that remarkable global hit out of Auckland), so too does Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd here extend himself beyond a mere account of his engagement with the label. Although subtitled “My Life with Flying Nun Records”, Shepherd's view takes in the surrounding social, geographic,... > Read more

THE MANY DEATHS OF MARY DOBIE, by DAVID HASTINGS

24 Jan 2016  |  2 min read

As with many compelling stories – from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood through film-noir – this one begins with a murder. And from it, both backwards and forwards, the narrative unfolds with compelling pace and attention to detail. For this was not just any murder. The killing of the Mary Dobie of the title occurred at the crossroads of cultures in New Zealand in the... > Read more

VIVID: THE PAUL HARTIGAN STORY by DON ABBOTT

4 Dec 2015  |  2 min read

Although Paul Hartigan's art practice has roamed across a number of media and styles — from distinctive representational Pop Art painting through tee-shirt and poster designs to Polaroids and beyond — it is his neon work which is the most familiar to the general public. At the interface of art and commerce, his signs in Auckland for the Las Vegas strip club, the... > Read more

CARDS ON THE TABLE by JEREMY ROBERTS

23 Nov 2015  |  2 min read

Pity the poets. While musicians bemoan the fall-off in sales, for decades poets have had to accept that selling 200 copies of a collection is actually a pretty good result. Most have to do with considerably less than half of that, unless they have a very big extended family. And in the poetic landscape there are the Big Names whose work can be acclaimed but largely unread (the... > Read more

HOW BIZARRE by SIMON GRIGG (Awa Press)

22 Aug 2015  |  5 min read  |  2

The first time I heard OMC's massive hit How Bizarre outside of New Zealand was in Tokyo, the second time I caught the clip on MTV Europe while I was in an Amsterdam hotel gearing up to go and see Michael Jackson. But the third time was the most interesting. I was in bar in Miami Beach chatting with an out-of-state tourist when How Bizarre came on the screen above us.... > Read more

Angel in Disguise

WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC, a memoir by PHILIP GLASS

18 Jun 2015  |  4 min read  |  1

Recently when interviewing Princess Chelsea (aka Chelsea Nikkel), the conversation turned to how cheap is to make and put out music these days. She laughed and said she'd done her album "for nothing" because she'd recorded it at home, and that CDs were cheap to get printed. Vinyl was different of course, but overall it was a fairly inexpensive process. She then, unprompted,... > Read more

Ayers Rock; Uluru Song, from Hydrogen Jukebox w Allen Ginsberg