Grahame Sydney

Grahame Sydney - painter

Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight in the Two Paddocks Dayglo Disco (not so much psychedelic décor, more bilious, if seen in the light of day), direct from our kitchens where he’s been helping the short-order cook, a man who has made a most distinguished career painting a once little known corner of New Zealand, and made it famous as a result.

The Maniototo, a profoundly empty seeming landscape, eerie and beautiful , is now commonly known as Grahame Sydney country.

Graham Sydney paintingIn fact, he not only has defined that landscape, he is now part of it -- if you see a stringy, gnarly looking geezer painting en plein air among the tussocks, it’ll be him. Either that, or it’s a telephone pole, they are easily confused.

So here he is, a very old companion of Two Paddocks (and an avid drinker of our best, the bastard) ... the Prop has been kind enough to be his friend since 1968, Otago University, and well remembers Syd’s first of many rash pronouncements at that time (“Impressionism is shit!”) ... he is also a good keen man when it comes to music (the Prop and Syd have gone far too late far too often arguing about songs) and what is more is a pretty fine uke player, having had a Kamaka concert ukulele given to him by yours truly ... the jams, the jams ... Let’s give a big Two Paddocks cheer for our friend, our neighbour, our old mucker ... he’s dry as a biscuit and very funny ... we rate him here in the Dayglo ... give it UP for ...Mr ... Grahame SYDNEY!!


Reading through your previous contributions I am struck by a) the frequency of selection of B Dylan, and b) the vast chasm which separates me from Josh Kronfeld.  Not only have I never heard of any of the music he selected, I've never even heard of the MUSICIANS, if indeed that's what they are.

I too would have included a B Dylan, but having noted a short-list of about 45 songs vital to my very existence on a daily basis, this below is a random grab from that necessary bunch. In no particular order:

Top 10 Tunes

  1. Last Chance Texaco - Rickie Lee Jones

    A brilliantly extended metaphor, delivered with the delicacy and strangeness which marks all of her work. A gloriously idiosyncratic soul, whose career has roamed across standards and original material in an unmistakable style. True artistry.
  2. Across The Borderline - Ry Cooder

    From the great Get Rhythm album. Cooder's music is the soundtrack to my life in many ways, there from the early 1970s, a guitarist and session man to an endless list of greats (check out his Wikipedia!), selfless promoter of roots and world music, genius slide/mandolin/lead electric ... you name it. Cooder does it better. Is there a more beautiful film score than his Paris, Texas work for Wim Wenders?
  3. Swinging on a Star - Oscar Peterson Trio

    On the Live at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival album. Correctly identified as God amongst us, Peterson astounds me every time, no end to the surprises and pure genius by the chunky-fingered big man on keyboards. Fascinating to hear him muttering and murmuring as he performs, quite out of time to the extraordinary games his fingers play.
  4. Promised Land - Johnny Allen

    I know very little about him, but saw this on Jools Holland's great Walking to New Orleans doco many years ago, and have never forgotten it. Dim, red bar-room, drinking, lurching crowd. If I could be a stage performer, I'd love to be just like Johnny doing this one. Chuck Berry's song, of course.
  5. Beside You - Dave Dobbyn

    This song lounges permanently in one corner of my heart, and has done for years. Dave has helped we Kiwis know ourselves. Best version is the Together in Concert: Live with Tim Finn and Bic Runga.
  6. The 12th Man Boned - Billy Birmingham

    I listen to lots of comedy while I work or drive, The Goons, Garrison Keillor, Spike Jones and His City Slickers chief amongst the many. But no one makes me laugh out loud, to the point of tears even, than the utterly brilliant Billy Birmingham in any of his 12th Man releases. One cannot watch or listen to cricket commentaries without hearing him, and I treasure it.
  7. I Can't Make You Love Me - Bonnie Raitt

    From the Road Tested DVD. It must be love: I've got everything she's done, and that's plenty. What a woman, what a guitarist, what a voice! I flew to Auckland to see her performing. Roger Hall and I were sitting in the second front row. We felt a little old in that audience, and Roger whispered half way through the concert, "Let's throw our long-johns at her!"
  8. Valentine's Day - Steve Earle

    From the live album Together at the Bluebird Cafe with Guy Clark and Townes van Zandt. A love song which says it all. While not thrilling as much to Earle's heavy hard-rock material, gentler items like this are small miracles of tenderness.
  9. How Mountain Girls Can Love - Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder

    My guilty pleasure, Bluegrass. I've always loved it - lock-tight harmonies, incredible instrumental skills, "cabin-in-the-holler" nostalgia (not that any of us ever had a cabin in the holler...!). Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder playing live are almost unbelievable, and his mandolin dexterity defies understanding. Oh to be able to play and sing like that! Fascinates me, that.
  10. I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (to See My Baby) - Tom Waits

    The Small Change album is crammed with gems, but I select this. It could have been one of dozens, Waits has done so much I love and listen to weekly as I work: his music builds a world so graphically its almost filmic.

All a bit predictable, on viewing it.

Had I space I'd have included Jesse Winchester, Loudon Wainwright III, Joni Mitchell, John Martyn, Little Feat, Marc Cohn, Django Reinhardt, John Williamson, Louis Armstrong, Randy Newman, Kid Creole and the Cocoanuts, Paul Simon, Bruce Hornsby.


Well, dammit, we can’t argue about any of that, much as we love fighting with Sydney, an impressively tasty songlist, and we love every track there. And one excellent surprise there, my Sydney neighbour, the extraordinary Billy Birmingham [(the12th man) -- caveat for North Americans  --  you kind of need a working knowledge of cricket commentaries in Australia to get a full grasp on what genius Billy possesses. As for Sydney himself, if I called him a genius, that would spoil an unbroken run of forty plus years of being blisteringly rude about each others’ work, so I won’t. But here are a few images that will give you an idea of what the man does  -- you decide. And follow this link for more...

Grahame Sydney paintings

Oh okay, I will grudgingly admit through gritted teeth, he’s a great artist. But don’t tell him I said so. Oh there he is now, back on the floor doing that awful dance thing he does... Let’s give a big Dayglo cheer for the Maniototo Marvel himself...Grahame Sydney!