Derailing the terrain

This is a postcard-size reproduction of the large (A0) classroom poster prepared in the early 1990s by Axemen for use in NZ schools. Stevie was barely out of school himself when the band’s first few gigs took place in Dunedin in 1983, but when he moved into gainful employment later that year as a screenprinter, there was a younger-still McCabe within spitting-distance, clutching his drumsticks and singing up a storm, waiting for the call to step up onto the world’s stage and join the Axemen in their utopian South Dunedin of the mind . . .

a South Dunedin of the mind
Map #23: a South Dunedin of the mind

Introducing Little Stevie McCabe’s little brother, Even Littler Jeffy McCabe

Jeff played alongside 15-year-old Steve in the Spiderwebs, based in the Hell Farm Party Shed, where they made up songs, rehearsed and recorded. They supported Steve’s band with Pete Rees, the Gorillas, when Virg and Bernie Smith and Lisa Preston attended a live gig at the shed in the summer of 1982. The team here at Y2K hasn’t yet uncovered any Spiderwebs tapes from the various vaults and stashes at their disposal, but plans to undertake a careful search that may involve a bus trip in the near future.

Jeff next joined Steve & Bob’s pre-Stu proto-Axemen when they recorded the SCENES LIKE BEADS cassette at Hell Farm early in September of 1983. He sings his own lyrics on the following songs from that set. . .

the flames!
I ran through the flames
We weren’t playing games
I ran through the burning forest
All day long
—Jeff’s vocals are on fire; Bob & Steve play along on guitar & trumpet.

jack the ripper
Jack the ripper took off his slipper
He pushed me from the back and I shouted, “Look at that”
—Jeff profiles the infamous Victorian killer to an incongruously jaunty South Dunedin reggae rhythm supplied by Steve & Bob. It must be getting late in the day at Hell Farm, since the TV is on and Fawlty Towers can be heard in the background.

831022-dugongstones
The next three songs all come from a session recorded at Hell Farm on October 22, 1983, featuring Jeff-Steve-Bob calling themselves The Dugong Stones. They recorded 7 songs. Two days later the Axemen with Stu on drums and drum-machine played their single live gig at Hell Farm (the band was about to get its first taste of the Christchurch pub scene, from which it would barely return alive), sharing the Party Shed’s concrete floor with The Dugong Stones as they played their one & only show. Jeff mostly drummed for the Dugongs, as he does on the next two tracks, but he returns to sing his own lyrics on the third. . .

the dugong or sea cow
the dugong or sea cow

auntie anti

heaven-sent from hell

monster on the loose

crystallized dugong semen
dugong stones: crystallized dugong semen

Jeff returned as a guest on the MICK’S DANCEFLOOR (MIX) album, playing a recorder & singing another of his own lyrics, “In A Forest,” recorded again at Hell Farm in early November. This time Stu drums while Bob & Steve add guitars to Jeff’s typically spooky tale of what befell him and his greyhound dog in a tree-filled space. in a forest

831131-micks-dancefloor1

In January of 1984 Jeff’s political sensibilities were awakened as he took part in the Axemen’s BIG CHEAP MOTEL protest album project, joining the band onstage at Hagley Park to add his inimitable drumming to the instruments & voices raised in defiant opposition to a blatant display of soulless big-money sexism. Not yet 10 years old, he rocked the complacent anti-consciousness of Chri$tchurch corp(se)orate capitali$m like he was 10 feet tall.

Jeff continued to appear infrequently with the Axemen throughout 1984, for instance at the England St and Carlyle St hall gigs, a series of Saturday & Sunday shows at unlicensed venues which became something of a focal point for the many underage innercity punks with often diverging concerns, briefly united in the cause of celebrating the marriage of noise, humour & multiple viewpoints which the gigs embodied at their best. The “something for everyone” quality of the hall shows is evident in the following roll-call of bands & performers who took part: Scorched Earth Policy, All Fall Down, Gillmen, McGoohans, Connossieurs, Octopus Ink, Toerag and others (apologies to those not named; Y2K will update this list when further information arrives).

Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster
Stu's full-colour screenprinted England St Hall poster
Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster
Colourful hi-res version of Stevie & Stu's Carlyle St Hall poster
Kawowski's absinthe
Kawowski's absinthe

At a rehearsal for the Carlyle St Hall gig in September, Jeff’s next two songs were recorded. Stu K was in Absentia, the mystical Mexican village. Jeff, Stevie & Bob are joined on both tracks by Gordo Nodrog Baird, bass, & Al Rite, sax.

i don’t have the energy
—Jeff’s awareness remains strong; his lyrics combine canny punk nay-saying with a self-deprecating shrug at the #1 pitfall injuring punks of all stripes, apathy.

the little green man (from bardamaloo)

This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration
This rare excerpt from Jeffs notebook gives some insight into his inspiration

—Long before notions of lo-fi & no-fi became ideological hobbyhorses, Axemen adopted the preferred homonyms sci-fi, psy-fi & sigh-fi to telegraph (1) their enthusiasm for science-fictional alternatives to the moribund hegemony, (2) their faith in the telepathic potential of musical communication, and (3) their willingness to inhabit a sound-continuum conducive to expressing the pleasures & pains (sigh!) inherent in all life-choice interactions. Jeff’s unsophisticated nod to the alien constitutes a “welcome, come on in” to the once-feared “other” and deftly fuses the diverse elements at play in the Axemen collective sci-psy-sigh-psyche.

adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004
adult Jeff on his wedding day, 2004

So thanks again for the music to Jeff McCabe; he may have been the littlest of the Axemen, but his contribution was huge.

The missing years

dsc04770aWhen Bob left Christchurch to join Stu in Auckland in the late 80’s (by this time Stu was starting to fall apart) Steve decided he would join the french foreign legion. Being a long time advocate of gun proliferation and a big fan of french food, it seemed a good idea at the time.

The escargot, the triple-cream deserts, the frogs legs, garlic bread and fine wine, all this and guns as well, it seemed a dream come true.

Initially it was. Steve laughed off the “there’s no AK-47s in foxholes” posters as he wolfed down the crepes, croissants and voule-a-vents that were liberally sprinkled around the recruiting office under the omnipresent tricoleuer flag.

re are no AK47s in Foxholes
There are no AK47s in Foxholes!

Steve’s buddy Screamin’ k Hawkins begged him not to go, singing a (sadly, unrecorded) version of “Billy, don’t be a hero” with a chillingly brilliant segue into “Please Mister, Please! (Don’t play B-17)” and a reprise of “The nite Chicago died” thrown in at the end [I can still hear the plaintive “…and there was no sound at a-a-a-all… but the clock upon the wall!” <tick> <tick> <tick> <tick>]

Screamin' K. Hawkins - Photo by Stu (from The Kenny Everett Years)
Screamin' K. Hawkins - Photo by Stu (from "The Kenny Everett Years")

Damn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell!
Damn the Statute of Lovingness!
Damn the Statue of Liberty, it stands for nothing!
Damn the Torpedoes!
Damn, Damn, Damn!

Brushing off the nay-saying of his nay-sayer friends, {and the neigh-saying of his horse friends}, McCabe glibly signed up for the standard 5-year service agreement with the foreign legion. Fortunately, being fluent in french he was able to put a tick in the “no,thanks” box saying “I agree to lick the butt of the current prime minister of France, on demand, and in perpetuity, as requested, and possibly {but not necessarily} in public”.

post: A Bit Cell Sec Em Vet Ti

The Spies Who Loved Me

George Henderson’s move to Wellington was notable for many reasons, including the formation of the band THE SPIES, sharing  Chris Plummer with the legendary Shoes This High.

The full lineup of the Spies consisted of:

George Henderson - Guitar, Voice, Organ
Susan Ellis – Organ, Piano, Voice, Guitar
Chris Plummer – Drums
Richard Sedger – Bass, Clarinet
Mark Thomas – Drums, guitar, additional folly (special guest)

Note the tradition of folly artist has been a kiwi tradition beginning with (notably for rock bands that is) BLERTA and SPLIT ENZ, the ENZ’s Noel Crombie being effectively a non-participating (spoons and tambourine solos excepted) musician but an intense and integral part of the band, being hugely influential on their ‘look and feel’ and the concept (long before it was widely fashionable) of having a specific ‘image’ for the band. Note this had been done in a general sense with bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, but this was on a much more general level, promoting ‘good boy’ / ‘bad boy’ imagery in a more or less generic way, ie suits = good, leather jackets = bad. Crombie’s whacky haircuts and stylish, well-constructed yet quirky suits gave the band their own dignity, their own character / look and feel, over and above any intrinsically ‘kiwi’ characteristics the band may otherwise have exerted had Crombie not have been a part of the mix during this period.

The addition of a clownish entity to be an integral part of the live show was widely accepted amongst the band community in New Zealand at this time, and The Spies (and the Axemen in later days, taking on Brent Hayward (STH, Smelly Feet) and Davey G (Gestalt, Marty Source and the Source, EOE) as interpretive dancers in the 90-92 period) were no exception; Mark Thomas making the move to Wellington specifically to fulfill the role, horns and all.

To this day it is saddening to me that such a talent was taken from us too soon, as is of course the case with Screamin K Hawkins, gone forever but in no way forgotten. I can still hear him raspilly singing “I want My Pension” right into my ear, his scraggly beard rubbing against my cheek and the occasional relic of spit clicking on my eardrum…. take me back to Africa…

post: Cab Clevis Mete Title

I post, i post , i po-tiddly-oh to Post

A Pasty faced Geezer responds to “Bob Brannigan Remembers Why He Got Into Rock’n’Roll”

What the hell happened here?

Maybe there was a time before the Axemen existed, before there was a Steve, a Bob and a (holy) Stu but surely this is accepted as almost an irrelevance[1] as what was to come afterwards rendered any previous existence irrelevant. Of course the discovery of other life forms in future years such as the Dragans of Wellington, the Faigans and fabled Hamiltons of Christchurch spell out the facts that the axemen were far from an isolated case in being a brilliant group of impoverished musicians living in the cheapest possible flats in a moderately affluent city by choice (‘yeayarr, we are the real deal muddah, some of us workin’ some of us out on da street, some jus bein’ the niggahs we are and livin our life widdout da man holdin us down!Shee-it!)

A Time, a place for us which ultimately deserves its own history…

The effective axemen particle synthesis principle

The effective axemen particle synthesis principle

…not to mention the recent discovery of the Anti-Axemen Universe

To avoid confusion future references to the anti-Axemen in this article will be referred to using the following terminology:

  • Antithetic elements shall be referred to using scientific notation – eg The antithetic AXEMEN shall be referred to as the AXEMEN’ OR the <~AXEMEN> OR the !AXEMEN OR the (AXEMEN) depending on context… MAKE IT SO!

[1] The Big Bang

The Perfect Strangers: “Not To Be Taken”

Not many recordings have survived of seminal early 80’s Christchurch band The Perfect Strangers. This 8-song cassette selection entitled “Not To Be Taken” was most likely compiled by the late Lindsay Maitland (Crazy Olé! and The Panthers cornet / french horn player). “Not To Be Taken” comprises one side of a cassette, the other being entitled And Band “Outhern”. The tape was given to Stu Kawowski at George Henderson’s N.E.V. pad, Dunedin around 1983/84 (from memory). The SX70 Polaroids here are from a 1980 gig at the Centre Gallery in the Christchurch Art Centre.

Read more here The art and magick of The Perfect Strangers, Chch 1980-1982

1. Options Statement

2. Far Eastern Rhythm Section

3. The Realm Of Solar Gravity

4. Days

5. I Know

6. What is it

7. Garden Of Electricity

8. Listen, The Light

Perfect Strangers live at Christchurch Art Centre 1980. L to R Bill Vosburgh (guitar & vocals), Mark Thomas (vocals), Richard Uti (drums), Helm Ruifrok (bass).
The Perfect Strangers live at Christchurch Art Centre 1980. L to R: Bill Vosburgh (guitar & vocals), Mark Thomas (vocals), Richard Uti (drums), Helm Ruifrok (bass). (photo Stu)
Mark Thomas of Perfect Strangers plays solo, Christchurch Art Centre, 1980 (photo Stu).
Mark Thomas of The Perfect Strangers plays solo, Christchurch Art Centre, 1980 (photo Stu).

“Far better than the Beat Poets!”

Man these guys are way out
better than Ginsberg and Kerouac ever did
these guys were on the road before the road was the road
can you dig it?

so, we pulled up 6:15AM at the diner and all i had was two quarters in my pocket

The tank was on empty and me and Joe had no idea of where we were heading.
I looked over at the tips jar and the waitress shook her head slowly.

I knew that her three children and two-bit husband depended on that tip money but I also knew that by the time I walked out of that joint i would have a free cup of coffee, a full breakfast and the contents of that tip jar, maybe the girl as well – just because thats the kind of bastard I am – the lowest of the low – a beat poet.

Joe suddenly stepped up and grabbed one of the complimentary biscuits off the table, tearing off a corner and, chomping down on it in his haste , recklessly knocking over the cups of tea which had been set out for the homeless, burning one of them who liked it strong and black, “Like my men”.

“Hey Joe – where you going with that bun in your hand?” I called out with the obligatory nonchalant tone expected of such an obvious setup line.

Pointing at me pointedly with his one good pointy finger Joe nodded and said “Pull this, asshole”

I pulled his finger and he twisted it 70 degrees and said “You don’t know shit mutha now order me a beer and I want it on the table with that waitress right their feeding it to me with a teaspoon!”

He then pointedly strolled out nibbling on his bun, after ordering my beer and tipping the waitress generously – “Buy a new pair of pants for your kid – or at least change his diaper for godssake” he sniffed.

Pointedly the joint stopped jumping
A yellow breeze hawked by
This bun wuz made for eating
here’s mud in yer eye (gobbles bun)

The waitress sauntered out, more sultry than she was before.

“it’s my smoke break” she sneered

Joe nodded and kept walking.

Back in the diner I continued in my role until the silence was crushed.

“My name’s Pam but they call me Pammy because its cuter”
“You think?”
“No I don’t think cuz its cuter”
“Probably for the best”
“Mmm-hmm, its cuter…I got your beer teaspoon, sweetie” she winked.

Now you’re talking, I thought.

Following her back into the bar I couldn’t help but notice her ass – sexist and un-pc as it is I couldn’t help placing it on a scale and it easily achieved a 9, 10 being reserved for professionally photographed and retouched tennis players in a public place, maybe scratching the crack to give an extra couple of leverage points.

Sidling back up to the bar, I put my bib on.

Rolling her eyes, the waitress brought the spoon over and dipped it into the glass, scratching her ass purposely.

“You know I’ll have to leave this with you once it starts getting busy” she said, matter-of-factly.

Proclaimers – Arkansas

The Proclaimers - tonite only
The Proclaimers - tonite only

I looked around the bar and, seeing the “Tonight – The Proclaimers – Gays and Scots welcome!!” poster in the window I smiled glibly.

‘Teaspooned beer till closing time’‘ ran the ticker in my head.

AFF – Testing their mettle

Steve, Bob and Stu were jogging round the band rotunda as usual on a chilly but glorious crisp Christchurch day, tossing around a genuine cowskin rugby ball red and black of course being the Canterbury colors, with a faded PineTree Meads signature on it indicating it had been around, dropping it to the foot on more than one occasion to give it a solid punt.

Waving to George who had moved into the rotunda for the season, (“Its warmer in here in midwinter than Jetty Street in a high Dunedin summer! – Och Aye!” he jested, sniffing his singlet and grinning approvingly). Pulling out a razor from his pocket, he half-heartedly gave his icy beard a good hard scrape.

“Never works!” he chortled, tossing the razor onto the tidy pile of used needles to his right. “I’ll clean that up later” he thought as the pack of stray dogs rifled through the stack, one of them grazing his nose and running off with a hapless yelp, leaving a tiny trail of blood as it ran.

Punting the orb deftly to Stu, inadvertantly over his head to be collected by the always toned Brannigan in his one good hand, Steve squeaked (in his best meek Steve McCabe squeaky voice) “How long has it been since we really tested our mettle, boys? Seriously?!”

“How about that great tea tasting gig when we tried all those varieties of green teas?” piped up Kawowski.

Effortlessly hurtling the ball to McCabe in a rainbow-like arc, Brannigan replied, “Nah , that was when we tested our nettle!”

“And the time we brought those four Liverpool lads over in 1964 for that nationwide music quiz and put them up on stage with a quizmaster and grilled them on Guiness Records?”

Brannigan, heading the egg-shaped ball as if it were a balloon while shaking his head like a stern schoolmaster noted “No, no, no, that was when we tested the Beatles – don’t you remember anything??”

“Not even when we pulled off all the colorful fleshy parts of a flower and subjected them to drops of iodine to see if they would change colour?”

“For goodness sake, that was when we tested our pet…”

Just then, the Punt instructor stepped up to the lads and said “Party of Three? The X Men? Basic punting skills? Booked for 3:15 PM?” pausing and then snootily looking down and winding his watch.

Dropping his shoulder in acknowledgement he winked and said ” ‘Op in the old dragon and moat, chums you’re up for a right ol’ time fox and hunting up the ol’ blackbird and raven kidneys ‘n’ liver! Stone the thorns and rose, I bet you don’t even know what the tower and bell I’m lamb and porking about!”

Scratching their heads, the lads climbed into the punt.

“Wish I could come up with a better cockney rhyming slang for this contraption” mumbled the punt-master, shaking his head as he insterted his huge pole into the murky Avon depths, thrusting the fullness of his weight into propelling the logjammer faster, faster into the now-stirring current.

McCabe reclined and brushed aside his wispy shoulder-length hair – he hadn’t had it that long for a while but kept growing it as the girls loved it. It didn’t even really need mussing up at this point yet he did it anyway just to rouse his buddies and invoke the memory of their legendary cohort, Dragan Stojanovic.

“Whose mettle is being tested here?” mused McCabe to himself. The thought naturally drifted across to his fraternal time-twin Brannigan who tossed back the thought rejoinder “Whose mettle is it anyway?” to which McCabe had no immediate comeback, much to Brannigan’s delight.

Glowering in the mid-afternoon Christchurch sun, at once chilling in its traversion of the ozone-starved atmosphere which hovered over the flat city known locally as the plains (reminiscent of the ill fated and way too early deceased Tattoo character Herve Villechaize – his nemesis mr Rourke was much favoured for being knocked off in the later years of the series but this was not talked about in open conversation – Villechaize’s battle cry ‘The Plane! The Plane!’ would be a constant reminder of the utopian flatlands in the axemen’s later days – the pesky git – curse him and his catchy catch-cry these things have a habit of catching on in their own catch-as-cats-can way -)

(Can someone Please go add some detail to this reference to Catch as Cats Can:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039253/)
Plot:
An emaciated canary, singing like Frank Sinatra, is getting on the nerves of a pipe-puffing parrot…

User Comments:
Amusing action with funny spoof characters

TBC

Calve Betels Titmice

reclining rockers at Writhe Recording 1987
McCabe & Brannigan: o'dubbin' vox on their ass: Writhe Recording 1987 (pic Stu)
Kawowski reads the Evening Post with his toes 1986
Kawowski reads the Evening Post with his toes 1986 (pic Lesley MacLean)
Cuba St Festival 1986
Dragan Stojanovich guitarra a solas con los dientes: Cuba St Festival 1986 (pic Stu)