He wasn’t all that smart. But he was fit. Real fit. Oh, how fit mate? Well real fit – like there was this time right, he went to the gym for one of those tests, and they’re trying to measure his heart rate, see an increase, and he’s on the bike right. And he’s pedalling. And it’s going nowhere. Not a sweat, nothing. Just cool-as. And so you see he goes outside on the stationary bike. That’s right – they plug the cord in and chuck it out through a window and they let him enjoy the cool breeze and just tell him to keep biking. So he lights up a smoke. Nah, true. Just sits there on the bike pedalling and smoking his durry. You believe that? Nah. No way. And even though a few of the others seemed to be nervously chuckling, nodding along, letting him have his dumb story, which he’d obviously concocted on the way home – you had to tell him that it was pretty unlikely a gym would go to that sort of trouble, nor would they ever turn the blind eye to the cigarette. You felt almost as dumb as him when doing this particular round of myth-busting. But you were going to do it anyway. But you were not only a spoilsport. You were a faggot. And, since you’d obviously forgotten, you were told. And then the bogan from the couch – who everyone called ‘Bogan’ – woke up and joined in on the story. He reminded you that there was a famous athlete in the family and so it probably was true And that a cigarette would help increase the heat-rate and that that had been medically proven. And that who were you to disprove it – since you weren’t there. And that the reason you weren’t there was because you would probably have a heart-attack even walking into a gym. And so take that Jabba. And the Bogan also shouted “show us ya front-bum” to the girl who walked past right then and there. Just to prove he had not yet run out of things to say. Or to show that he in fact had. And then the two of them hatched a plan, borrowed your car. Got some beers. And, see, a fresh pack of smokes.
“I am the way, the truth and the Lord…”
If I were part of a Christian band (er, God forbid) that would be the name of my first album.
Sandals and robes flowing over a Marshall stack, screaming “Hello Jerusalem”; I’d be born (again) to rock. (to rock.)
It was so vivid. He’d woken up sure it had just happened – even though the action in the dream was taken from half a lifetime ago; half his lifetime to be specific. He was sitting there – in the dream – arguing with his mother about attending the end of year school ball. He had no interest. She told him he must. So he went. Took a friend along as his date. She had a boyfriend she didn’t want to take – he had a girlfriend he didn’t want to take. She was older, wrong school. No school actually. Well, his mother would have just said no class. So he went. He and this friend. They sat there, bored. Neither wanting to be there. And then a week or so later his girlfriend told him she too had attended a ball – actually. No biggie, just went along with a mate, since she couldn’t go with him to his. She went to a different ball – and had a ball. Fucked her mate too. Just for something to do. Well, it was better to do that, than just sit there all bored.
After the Spines had recorded our album, the Moon, we went about playing the songs live. That line up with Ross Burge, Wendy Calder, Neill Duncan and me became very forceful and rhythmic and could play to big crowds. We got some great support slots – Hunters and Collectors, the Go-Betweens, The Violent Femmes and we were asked to go to Christchurch to play with the Hoodoo Gurus and the Sneaky Feelings at the Gladstone.
When we got there we were met by Paul Kean who was doing our sound. He said the Sneakys had already nabbed the accommodation and the Gurus were in a flash hotel but we could stay with him – we were sorted but that’s the sort of guy he is.
It was just Ross, Wendy and me that gig – Neill often had other commitments. The place was packed to the rafters and pumping and we gave it heaps.
Something was wrong with my left hand; I was getting cramps between the thumb and index finger which made barre chords excruciating. Wendy called and launched into a song – Gillian which is all barre chords, about a million of them. I somehow flummoxed all over the fret board unable to apply any pressure, yelping out the vocals, and got through to the solo when the rest of my fingers locked up. There always seemed to be a group of guys at the Gladstone, up the front watching the guitarist – don’t know what they made of that. But it was OK, we even got an encore – I’m Losing Colour.
I get off stage in agony, my hand all gnarled up and someone called Rolle gives me a pill for the pain. Next thing I know, the guitarist in the Hoodoo Gurus likes the look of my Gretsch and wants to use it as his back up guitar….
I don’t care who you are – no one plays my Gretsch
They were great. That’s all I remember but apparently I made a dick of myself at the after party at their flash hotel….
We played at the Gladstone quite a bit after that, always good crowds.
One odd gig there we were playing Act Your Age and Neil was sitting it out, there was no sax part, I hear a sax, look around and there’s some strange dude playing sax into Neill’s mic. We all look at each other – WTF? I can see Neill peering out from backstage with a look of panic on his face, clinging on to his tenor. We finish the song and this guy just disappears into the audience….
A couple of weeks later back in Wellington. We are playing at the Clyde Quay Tavern and the same guy gets up in the same song and does exactly the same thing…
I’ve seen Neil Finn play a dozen times or more – reunions with Split Enz and Crowded House, shows billed as Finn or Finn Brothers (with brother Tim), and shows where it’s Neil and band – there was even that one time in the late 1990s where he allowed student pick-up bands in each town; a lucky chance to play a handful of songs with Neil. I never made it to any of the Seven Worlds Collide shows, sadly, but I’ve seen him in just about every other live context – and it’s always a great show. That catalogue really shows, he knows how to correctly exhume interesting album cuts while always playing to the strengths of his latest release.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Neil Finn show in New Zealand. Since the release of Dizzy Heights he’s been busy taking that album to the world.
In September we finally have the chance to hear and see these songs, road tested and tight no doubt. It’s a six-piece band that Neil will be leading – and the opening act for the tour is Bic Runga. It’ll be her first shows around the country since 2011.
Five shows for Neil and band:
Thursday, September 18, The Municipal Theatre, Napier
Friday, September 19, The Opera House, Wellington
Saturday, September 20, The Powerstation, Auckland
Presale for all shows commences midday, Thursday, July 24 with general on sale from midday Monday, July 28.
For more info go to neilfinn.com
I’m sitting there with my red Sony Walkman and I’m listening to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a compilation tape – Smash Hits. It’s fucking great. The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice. Purple Haze. Burning of the Midnight Lamp. Wind Cries Mary. All that great stuff. And we’re there visiting my grandparents. I’m just listening to my Jimi Hendrix tape. I’m reading a story in the Guitar World magazine that I took down with me. Friday night. The parents took me to see the grandparents. And I’m happy-as, got my magazine and an appropriate soundtrack. “What are you listening to?” my grandfather asks. There’s a pause – I’m not sure that I should say Jimi Hendrix. Not sure I want him to know. Not sure it’ll mean anything. God knows why I decide I shouldn’t say, fuck knows. But I go, “just a tape”. Well, dur. My mum sticks the toe of her shoe into the small of my back. She says “well, what tape?” And if she’s not entirely calling me a dickhead the toe of her shoe has already told part of me that I am. So I shrug and say, “well, Jimi Hendrix…” And then my granddad is off, “oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix. What’s your favourite song?” And I tell him I like Purple Haze and Fire and Foxy Lady and I’m naming the songs I figure he must know and then I say, “I quite like this Manic Depression too. I heard this story that he wrote this song all about how he wanted to make love to his guitar and was sad that he couldn’t ever do that. So he wrote the song instead. It’s a good song”. My grandfather has fallen asleep. But my grandmother decides to tag in. She says, “couldn’t he just take the strings off it? Or was it one of those electric ones I spose?”
“Say something now”, she said. And waited. In silence. “Say something now!” She screamed. The silence pummeling her, louder than anything she expected in return. “Say something now”, she begged. He walked away. His soundtrack was that silence.
Reports are coming in that Johnny Winter, 70, has died. Man, I loved some of Johnny Winter’s playing. I say some because I never listened to it all. The first real revelation for me – the real introduction to his playing – was hearing the Captured Live album. Oh man! A friend had the LP, said something along the lines of, “you gotta hear this” – you know, the way a good conversation about great music might start; the way the very best musical finds are discovered, passed on…shared…
We sat for 12 minutes listening to Johnny Winter destroy and reassemble Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. It wasn’t so much revisited as bombarded – the onslaught was incredible. That ferocious, relentless playing. But with such taste – and huge energy; a sort of higher-power style of guitar playing. There was just enough time for me to pick my jaw up off the ground after hearing that. Then I was off to buy my own copy.
I’d heard the name Johnny Winter prior to that experience. But that was the revelation. The Eureka Moment. That was it. The love affair. I checked out the debut solo album and Johnny Winter And. I checked out a few other things. Some really great stuff. I loved his voice too. Along with that shit-hot, hurtling-down-the-neck guitar playing.
But if Johnny Winter only did one thing of value – and it had a huge impact on my life, anyway – it would be the albums he played on and produced for Muddy Waters; reintroducing Muddy, giving him a new audience. And of course a new energy. I liked all of the albums that Winter did for/with Muddy but Hard Again was the one; is the one. Man, I’ve played this album to death. And I just never get sick of it. It was my ticket. It took me back through Muddy’s work and on through more of Johnny’s playing. It introduced me to a bunch of other blues albums. And there are times when I’ve all but howled at the moon with this album on in the background, the perfect soundtrack.
So, sad to hear of Johnny’s passing. He wasn’t well. And he had pushed it hard. For a long time. He had demons. And he tried hard to kill them – murdering parts of himself in the process. But he was one of those guys, you saw him play – he’d pop up here. And there. You’d hear him again on something new and he still had it. He seemed like he always would. You go back and play the best of his records – the work he did with others. The work he did on those fine solo albums. He fucking had it. Whatever it was he had he hurled it at ya. He could play the shit out of that thing. He blew my mind a few times.
If, at the end of the following exhaustive list, you the reader of these words feels unsatisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Late Night Random Writing is open, Late, at Night and we can Write, Randomly, back to you. Answering in earnest those questions both dear to you and feared by you. The fingers hover near the keyboards always; there’s not a lot of questioning going on, so we’re ready – standing by. We’ll be your help, when all else seems to harm. We’ll be your guide through the tropical rain-forests of well-watered thought. We’ll be on your side, or at least, by your side. We’ll be there when no one else is near, when no one else seems to care, when no one else would dare, when anyone else should fear, when you’re out of beer, or (most of the time) just to help complete a rhyme. We’ll be the dog that fetches the stick: throw your question wide and deep, we’ll catch, bound toward you with an answer in our soggy warm breathe, our noses clear, shiny, damp, our eyes alert with faith and trust. We’ll pick up the phone on the first ring at a time when you weren’t even expecting us in. We’ll fast-post everything. We’ll be your glass of water, aha. We’ll be the wind beneath your wings, o mighty reader, oh yes, wherever you go whatever you do – we’ll be right here waiting for you. Our explanations are simple, concise, detailed, brief – but, more to the point – they’re more to the point. We’re the compass you need as you navigate through uncharted thought and we’re always pointing north. If you screw this up now you’ll receive a further five notices sent every month, dispatched perfectly at six-day intervals. We’ll also add in our extra-challenging set of answers for those questions that you might by now, finally, be prompted to ask. Gems amongst them include ‘No’, ‘Not a chance’ and ‘Never’. And the answer to your very first question after reading this has arrived. Here below, for you all now, simple, honest and true. Here goes: Because.
Good news today – Courtney Barnett will play a show at Auckland’s Kings Arms, Wednesday, September 17, 2014.
The only sad news about this tour announcement is it’s one show only. Just Auckland. No Wellington show. Well, we don’t have any venues anymore now do we…our own fault I guess.
Great news for NZ’s Courtney Barnett fans today. Particularly those in or close to Auckland. And still time to check out her album if you haven’t already. The show should be fantastic. Get along. Let me know what it’s like.