The Proprietor - NZ Edition
The Prop grooves in NZ
Ladies and Gentlemen! Because he is an egotistical maniac, who can basically do whatever he wants, because this is his blog, The Proprietor reserves the right to have as many as he wants! So here is the first -- The Prop's top NZ toons. Well, today, anyway. Love NZ music, and there is so much to love. SO ... get dancing NOW!
Top Ten, New Zealand Edition
Why do I love NZ Music? Why not? Why do I love NZ mountains, painters, wine, people, pies, rainy days ... it's what we have, it's what we hear, it's who we are, it's how we sing, it's the voice we bring.
And because it's from our place it always has another dimension -- call it pride or ownership or empathy or gratitude or what you will ...
Everybody's Top 10 will have a different approach, and this one is really more of a sampler than a top 10 perhaps -- a sampler of the kind of NZ music I love. And here are some of the reasons why -- and if they are a bit personal, I make no apology -- there are few things more personal than musical choice. In no order of preference ...
Top 11 Tunes
Misty Frequencies - Che Fu
My favourite Che song. Just how beautiful and expressive is his voice in this strangely atmospheric song. I've followed him since his work with Supergroove in the 90s, and when I was asked by National Radio in 1999 to choose a song to be played for New Year's Eve and the new Millennium, this was the one -- I felt it was of the moment, and looked to the future ... our Pacifika future.
I first met Che at a launch for the Labour Party campaign in 2005 -- I normally steer well away from politics, but that year I came out for Helen Clarke because I felt National under Don Brash was intent on steering NZ down a dangerous neo-con Donald Rumsfeld far right track, and so, somewhat uncomfortably, I stood and spoke on the stage in Auckland.
Brash had also made remarks that many felt were divisive -- he was undoubtedly hoping for traction by stirring up latent racism among white New Zealand. If there is one thing I loathe, it's a politician who seeks to divide us rather than bring us together as a people. So maybe that's why Che was there singing for Labour, just as I was speaking for them.
This was familiar to me, I remember the politician-driven hysteria about Polynesian immigrant ‘overstayers' in the 70's, the police dawn raids -- it was a horrible and I thought shameful time. Very like the absurd current Australian hysteria (again driven and fuelled by politicians) about the tiny trickle of the most unfortunate people on earth -- the so called boat people.My view is if people are willing to risk everything, even their very lives, to bring themselves and their families to your country, let ‘em in. You could not ask for better motivated immigrants.
Immigrants invigorate and enrich a country. Here is a case in point -- we are immeasurably enriched by that wave of island immigration in the 70s, and artists like Che and Oscar Kightley are proof positive of that - a generation or two on.
Now when I see Che, we kind of beam delightedly at each other, not entirely sure what to talk about, but I love being in his company -- he is a man with a great heart. And I feel enormously privileged to say he has sung just for us -- at my home and at a Two Paddocks party as well. And he sings so directly and sweetly from that great heart, that I always tear up.
Luckiest Man Alive - Finn Brothers
Tim and Neil Finn are, it goes without saying, Living National Treasures. We love their solo work and projects, but somehow together I always feel the sum is greater than the parts -- Lennon McCartney, the Everly Brothers -- they are not alone in this.
Tim is one of my dearest and closest friends. And this song, beautiful in itself, is very personal to Tim (although I have never discussed that with him), and curiously for me as well. And here is why.
Some years ago we were at dinner in Sydney with a bunch of friends. There was a very attractive and vivacious girl sitting nearby, and I thought she was great. I was pretty sure Tim did too, when we all met backstage a couple of days later after a Finn Brothers show (where my wife had done the hula on stage to “Niwhai”) and I asked him straight up the next day when he came around for coffee if this was so. I was right, he did.
Now this is not a thing I would normally do, but given Tim's shy and recalcitrant nature as well as the current adriftness, it was clear a little shove could be called for.
I insisted he seize the moment, nothing ventured etc, and call her and ask her out. Tim was abashed and appalled. I found the phone book, and looked up the number -- with luck, only one Marie Azcona in Sydney, and she was listed. Tim still dragged his feet. I brought him the phone. Tim was virtually curled in a ball by now. I dialed the number, she answered...and Tim had to speak. He asked her out. And she said yes.
Fifteen years later, theirs is perhaps the happiest and most successful marriage partnership I know. Two great kids too...
Luckiest Man indeed.
I have a thing about the songs that Tim writes on a piano rather than a guitar, and I'm fairly sure this is one of them -- I particularly like them. The chorus of ‘Luckiest ‘ is so great, you just want to sing it another two or three times, and I think the track could last another 3 minutes easily with one more guitar solo from Neil...but it's not to be. When they toured it 3 or 4 years ago, I'd say to Tim -- extend that sucker, but they never did.
Anyway, a great song about finding love, and not being adrift any more.
As Close As This - Muttonbirds
No icon discussion would be complete without the amazing Don McGlashan, and from his huge body of work with Front Lawn, Mutton Birds, and his solo self, I think this is my favourite album -- Rain, Steam, and Speed. I never fail to find it completely exhilarating. And this particular track I heard him play in a little pub on the west coast, just because I requested it.
We've worked together on a few things, he also composes for movies, and he did the score for Dean Spanley, directed by our mutual friend, Toa Fraser.
Guilty - Annie Crummer
Annie Crummer, one NZ icon, singing something written by another: Dave Dobbyn ... an irresistible combination.
Annie is gorgeous, and I love listening to her on a long journey through an empty landscape. And Dave is a lovely fella, who has written more iconic NZ songs than anyone else. ‘Welcome Home' -- a great sentiment and a great song. Dave went to the same school as the Finns. Which probably means nothing more than we live in a small country.
Like many of us, he's struggled with one or two things over the years, and I reckon that has only given his work even more depth.
I last saw Annie as a killer queen in the Queen musical, and she tore the roof off. I also strongly recommend her Dad/s record Songs from a Suitcase, gorgeous strummy south seas stuff, which Will brought with him under his arm in one of those earlier migrations we were talking about, and there is Annie on harmonies, along with the next iconic kiwi.
And No More Shall We Part - Bic Runga
Bic has also sung for/with us on numerous occasions, and I am very fond of her. She is an utterly unique talent.
And she is one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Men have to look away, and catch their breath when she walks in, and I am one of those. She is also an interesting mix of steel and feather gentleness, it seems to me. Like every great artist, she has complete conviction about what she does and her own voice.
This is actually atypical of her -- it is a song written by Nick Cave, and she is backed by the Christchurch Symphony. But once heard, you can't really get it out of your head.
At our last party she sang, at my request, Take a Walk on the Wild Side. She smoked it. I have a recording of it. I should bootleg it and make a fortune.
Superman You're Crying - SJD
I know nothing about SJD, and have no idea why, but I play him all the time. I sent him some wine once, but I never heard back, so some courier probably had a party instead.
Not the Girl You Think You Are - Crowded House, Neil Finn
Sometimes Neil writes a song that just takes your breath away; you think, my god, where the hell did that come from, what left field, what strange hitherto unseen cloud did that emerge from? And this is one of those. There is nothing like it.
Who is he talking to exactly? In that strangely hypnotic 3/4 waltz time?
I brought it to the attention of Gaylene Preston when we were rehearsing Perfect Strangers, and we used it in the weird kind of seduction scene in the island batch ... and because it's such a strong song I still love it despite all the takes, and hearing it again and again.
Bryan Brown and I now mark each decade with a big party, and at the last two, Neil and Tim have played, so generously. They come from Te Awamutu and were schooled in family sing-a-longs and parties, and wherever they are, out comes a guitar, and you sing. I can manage a decent harmony now and again, and if pressed or pissed, I'll get out the ukulele. Only play with the best! We all should sing more -- it's good for you.
Bathe in the River - Mt Raskil Preservation Society
Written and produced by Don for Toa's first film Number 2. A sumptuous gospel number that was remarkably moving in the movie, sung by a great choir with Hollie Smith in the lead. Love it. Don is the renaissance man of NZ music.
Poor Boy - Split Enz
There is a school of thought that early Split Enz, pre-pop Enz, was the real thing, and somehow they sold out or some such nonsense. Like Pink Floyd were never any good without Syd. Bollocks.
Split Enz caught fire with True Colours, a helter-skelter screaming stunning rock record that blew away all and sundry, including me.
Poor Boy is definitively Tim Finn -- neurotic, driven, crazed, inspired, delirious and delightful.
On My Mind - Kora
The sound of Aotearoa right now is undoubtedly Dub, and wherever I am in the world my ears prick up when I hear that NZ sound in a bar or somesuch. I don’t pretend to know much about it, but my reading of it is it started when reggae and cannabis sativa took root in the bush clad hills of the North Island (seeds scattered by Bob Marley in the 70s), later got mixed in someone’s bong with some hip hop and jazz and dance music and mutated into this NZ soundtrack which has become so distinctive.
Not at all sure what to pick of it, there is a wealth of talent out there - my godson for instance plays horn in the great Fat Freddie’s Drop - but I like Kora, and this song will get you moving, or nothing will.
Get up you dancers, and shake that thing!
Not Your Girl - Bonus Track --- - Fur Patrol
For air-guitar enthusiasts -- best ever thrasher . Turn it up to max.
Anyway, those are what are in my car this week, and always. What about you?
God Defend New Zealand.