The Axemen's Y2K Blog

Mark Thomas aka Sharkface [by SS]

Posted in cultural studies, music, NZ bands by sue selams on March 20, 2010

After The And Band/Perfect Strangers:

I met Mark at Pyrmont Squats in Sydney somewhere around 1982. He jumped through my window because he heard me playing Bob Marley on my record player and wanted to listen as well. That was the beginning of a wild adventure for the next 14-15 years.

Mark was a wordsmith rather than a great musician (in my opinion)…he was a good guitarist though and loved to entertain people with his music. I was drawn to his enthusiasm to life and I liked what he was doing musically because he was different. Different to musicians I had met before him because he wasn’t trying to be Bob Dylan or Neil Young , but was very experimental…(eg; making a beat with a typewriter’s clicking keys) which is something I discovered about most of the Kiwis I met in Oz, they all seemed to believe in themselves in that their creativity was as relevant as, if not more relevant than anything that was in the mainstream.  I was from Papua New Guinea and the music there was very mainstream or traditional PNG, so this was very refreshing to me.

Blase Plag 1983

Not long after meeting, Mark and I set off in a Holden station wagon and started to make our way around Australia, busking wherever we needed to. First stop 1983 at a small tobacco  farm in a place called “Smoko” in Nth East Victoria, where we picked tobacco  and recorded poetry and music in our caravan with a Washburn steel string and a cardboard suitcase as a drum. That was the beginning of “Blase Plag” (Blase Plaguerism) whereby we did similar things to what George H was talking about in one blog – reading from HP Lovecraft or excerpts from other books while making bizarre sounds.

Next stop was Adelaide for a year, 1984.

Mark still wrote a lot but played very little and was becoming more and more interested in politics and became a real crusader for the underdog. The two of us became very involved in the Unemployed Movement whereby we ran a radio program (giving tips to  people  on how to survive on the dole), a soup kitchen and a gourmet restaurant for the unwaged and we became advocates  at our local Community Centre.

However amongst the serious stuff Mark still managed to “do his thang” and was constantly developing new personas with which to perform by. His favourite one at the time was donning a tradespersons jacket and a yellow hardhat. He would carry an old leather doctors satchel that had a hammer and lots of nails. He would then walk down the main street and hammer a nail into each telegraph pole (they were all wooden back then) until he got to the end of the street ,and would then walk back removing each one, and putting them back into his satchel, as he went. I was usually following – at a distance – and filming the reactions of people.

At our “Gourmet Restaurant” ,Mark would wear a plastic Moose head on his back and serve people backwards. One evening we heard rumour that a Health Inspector was coming to dinner, but  we wouldn’t  know who it was. Mark was unimpressed with the method of spying, so he served our pet kitten (alive) to each table with the food to weed the guy out. It worked and the Inspector closed the kitchen down. That was the impulsive person that he was.

Adelaide produced “The Tickled Pinks” which was Mark, myself, Peter Hall Jones and Briar Humphreys – a one-off recording/cassingle about drunken debauchery.

After Adelaide came Perth for a  year – 1985.  No music was made in Perth, just solid politics….anti nukes, aboriginal land-rights, peace, youth rights and socialism was flavour of the year.

Mark went back to Wellington,New Zealand early 1986. I followed a few months later and Mark had  already  established  himself in the music scene he’d left behind some 5 or 6 years earlier. Kevin Hawkins was now Screamin’ K Hawkins, Jessica Walker had Electric Church, Jude Horner and Merlene (?) were the Geisha Girls. There was the Brothers Gorgonzola and Sparky’s Magic Baton. Many people’s names I have forgotten so I have not mentioned them in the bands. Please forgive me if I have forgotten you.

Citizens of No Land (CONL) 1987-8

Our band was Citizens of No Land (CONL), which was Mark Thomas, Mark Crawford and myself on guitars, Lisa Beech on Violin and Flute and at one stage Anna Meihana backing vocals. Most of our songs were original numbers and were largely protest songs.We weren’t a commercial band and we played mostly at benefit gigs for minority groups or for causes.Mark always said at the beginning of each gig ;”We are Citizens of No Land, because the ownership of this land is based on Colonial Oppression, therefore we fight oppression in the hope that we may become,Citizens of This Land.” http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams#p/a/u/0/tog6K8n88mM

Soaring Eagle 1990-2

Following Wellington we moved to Marlborough and lived in various houses. Our two sons , Anton  http://www.myspace.com/antonpatuthomas and Ringo were born in Blenheim, and so was  Soaring Eagle. This was an interesting body of work as it was largely Mark playing solo and experimenting a lot with poetry/rap/and rhyme. All of it was recorded on our old ghetto blaster at home and is interspersed with talking kiddies and saucepans clanging because daily life had to go on around the creative endeavours.

Sharkface 1993-96

It was in Nelson that Mark became known as Sharkface both on and off-stage. He was well known amongst the literary circles as a performer and poet who never held back his words and thoughts and presented them in a way completely unique to Mark.

In 1993  he released  a Cassingle (No CD’s yet) called Voices from the Village Idiot with his band Manic Blather (Nathan Judge on bass, Richard Lambert drums, Mark gat and vox).

Live at The Art Centre, Nelson

1994 saw Mark as part of a theatre group  under the direction of Kim Merry (now deceased) and Donna Chapman through the  Nelson Community Arts Centre and Creative New Zealand. That year also saw him in a short film produced by the Nelson Media Studies Group of Nelson Polytech, called Jude goes to Whakatu. He also provided the backing track. This can be seen on  http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams#p/a/u/2/QFUkC88u6kA

Mark played with many different Nelson muso’s. He had a very sharp mind and could pull off spontaneous raps easily which made him a  great entertainer. A video performance of him with a few of the local Maori fellas called “Sharkface at The Watchtower” is on you tube @   http://www.youtube.com/user/nasusselams

1995 was Crimson Blood Spit which was with Nathan Judge again as bass player and a variety of drummers.

1996 I had formed my own band Morrigan http://www.myspace.com/eusselams and Mark and I were just discussing having a joint gig. Sadly it never came about. He passed away March 16th 1996.

In 2001 I produced, with the help of Dave White, a compilation CD of Mark’s music called, Sharkface – The Farces of Vitriol. This was a selection of music from each era that I had known his music, dating 1980 to 1995. It has been distributed to National Archives, National Library and Radio New Zealand, so it remains a recorded part of New Zealand musical history.

OCCULT FIGURES – MEETING THE PERFECT STRANGERS

Posted in blather, cultural studies, NZ bands, Photograsps by steve mccabe on November 9, 2008

[reprinted with kind permission of the auteur, Duane Zarakov, from his extant blog, http://www.geocities.com/duane_zarakov/]

OCCULT FIGURES – MEETING THE PERFECT STRANGERS

Perfect Stangers

Perfect Strangers

For my last year of high school I had to go to a private boarding school in Christchurch where pretty much the only music the other boys ever listened to was Led Zeppelin, the Doors, the Stones, & Pink Floyd. (This was in 1980, 21 years ago as I write this, but I bet if you went back to the same place today you’d hear the exact same shit echoing down the same halls, played by the sons of the same guys). I hated all those bands then, ’cause they just seemed to stand for all the stuff I figured rock’n’roll was supposed to be opposed to – conservatism, conformity, stuff like that.

By this stage of my life rock’n’roll music was about the only thing I cared much about, so the heavy teen alienation vibe of being at a new school (when I didn’t much even want to be at school at all) was double ’cause of being surrounded by other “rock fans” who if they heard me listening to the kind of stuff I liked (the Stooges, the Saints, the Ramones, whatever residual British punk rock still seemed good by that time, whatever stuff I could find that seemed weird, some ‘60s rock… I can’t remember what else exactly) they’d go “What’s this shit?”, & it’d seem like the criterion for stuff being “shit” was mainly “I didn’t get told this was good by my creepo big brother with the expensive stereo” or something. You know, “We can’t like this ’cause it isn’t part of the accepted canon of rock’n’roll” sorta shit. Yeah well I loved rock’n’roll too, but I was looking for something as far away from this kind of fossilised shit as I could get.

Anyway – one Sunday, wandered into the Arts Centre – that was just down the rd. from the school so if you know yr way round Christchurch you know which school I’m talking about : Christ’s College – & I heard the disjointed, discordant strains of a kind of music I didn’t exactly know already but had maybe been waiting to know – oo-ee-oo, spooky! – coming from the Centre Gallery – OK, in I went. The scene in the hall confused me somewhat, though – there were a few spectators, but the band at the far end of the gallery didn’t act like they were giving any kind of public performance – not that I’d’ve known for sure what that was supposed to be like, I’d never really seen any rock shows in my life (see footnote) – but it kind of looked to me like I’d wandered in on a band just dicking around with a few of their friends hanging out. I went outside again & listened from out there for a while. Anyway, that was my 1st sighting of the Perfect Strangers, a group & a sound that was to have a profound effect on my subsequent life. I can’t remember too many specifics of that 1st encounter other than that it was a heavy flash (like, Shit, I wanna be in a band like this), but simultaneously completely unsurprising ( i.e. I immediately knew that I had been looking for something like this & expecting to find it pretty soon).

img_4131-mick_abps_poster_800

Poster for "the gig", Records Records, Dunedin (photo: Mick Elborado)

There were 2 bands playing, although members of each seemed to wander in on each others’ performances at random. Neither sounded anything like any kind of Punk Rock that I was familiar with, apart from in terms of abrasiveness – the trio that had been playing when I 1st went into the place were the Perfect Strangers, who played some kind of disjointed primitive blues (with loud guitar – meet Bill Vosburgh); the other group, The And Band, were more, I dunno, psychedelic. I don’t remember what all my reference points were back then (I was 17, I was from Timaru. I’d heard more arcane sounds than probably any other 17 year old from Timaru in 1980, but still we can safely assume I didn’t know shit as far as things to compare this to went), but I know I thought , OK , early Pink Floyd.(& was right). (Bands that I hadn’t heard yet but soon would & I’d go, “Hey , it’s the And Band!” – The Fall, Alternative TV, Red Crayola, Faust, Slapp Happy, Can [actually I mighta heard them already, can’t recall exactly.])

A big deal thing about seeing these bands was, I realised, that accidentally wandering in on ’em like that was the only way I could’ve found out about ’em. I don’t think they were ever even mentioned in RIP IT UP or the local papers, they were apparently banned from all the pubs that bands played at then (not that I, as a boarder at a private school, had much opportunity to attend pub gigs) (that was supposedly the derivation of their name – Abused And Banned, which is what happened to ’em when they did get to play at a pub) – they only played free shows, mostly unpublicised – as underground as it gets. But as it happened, another Sunday a few weeks later I was walking by the river in Oxford Tce when I recognised the And Band there on the old band rotunda – Mark Thomas ([now] deceased) was wearing plastic devil horns attached to his forehead & spouting bile at the straggling “audience” – the only ones who stuck around were me & a couple of boys who looked about 13 & were obviously drunk as shit. (& that was the 1st time I ever saw Stevie McCabe).

Little Stevie McCabe - The hottest thing on four legs

Little Stevie McCabe - The hottest thing on four legs

Once again both the And Band & the Perfect Strangers played, & once again it was sometimes difficult to tell where one ended & the other began – Mark Thomas was in both, playing drums & sometimes singing with the And Band & also augmenting the Perfect Strangers trio as vocalist & crowd-stirrer (not that there was a crowd) – I couldn’t tell if he was meant to be in the band or whether he’d just gotten carried away & couldn’t leave the stage when the And Band set finished.

None of the other members were anything like as extroverted as him, but in their if-you-don’t-like-it-fuck-off demeanour all manifested righteous sullen cool. I’d definitely located the, I dunno, something like the Sex Pistols of my scene (‘cept of course I didn’t even have a “scene”). I only got to see the A.B./P.S. double-bill again 1 more time that year (at the Centre Gallery again, I found out about it from a flyer in the Public Library, but over the next few years this music would keep sort of turning up as a mysterious link to people & things that would loom majorly in my life & I’d find out more about the mysterious AND BAND & PERFECT STRANGERS. Not much more tho’, they’re still pretty mysterious. Part #2 soon & I’ll tell you more (their record, people I met later that knew them, how I met Bill Fosby & played in his band[s], stuff like that).

Perfect Strangers at their seminal Band Rotunda gig. L-R Bill Vosbergh, Richard Uti,Helm Ruifrock, Mark Thomas

Perfect Strangers at their seminal Band Rotunda gig (1980). L-R Bill Vosburgh, Richard Uti, Helm Ruifrock, Mark Thomas. (Photo by Stuart Page).

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

Posted in music, NZ bands, Photograsps by steve mccabe on October 14, 2008

By George D.Henderson
http://blogs.myspace.com/georgedhenderson

Reprinted by permission of the author
First published Friday, February 02, 2007

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

If The Perfect Strangers were only the blues-jam outfit implied elsewhere, I’d not be writing this story. The thing is, that Bill Vosburgh and Mark Thomas were two songwriting naturals; Mark, as an instinctive “singing fool”, Bill, as a precocious master of all techniques. More than that, the core trio of Vosburgh, Richard Uti (drums) and Helm Ruifrok (bass) were artists, from art school (while The And Band were all language and philosophy rejects), and Bill Vosburgh (William Wallace Vosburgh III) in particular soon came to see his music and painting as part of a larger “great work” in the Magickal tradition.
It was from Bill that I first learned how to write a song around a corny, clichéd phrase or a simple riff. He first brought the vernacular to my attention; a relaxed wit and self-deprecating honesty in love songs, with a simultaneous awareness of the larger, metaphysical picture, was his forte. As in this example, Self Interest:

I’d like to tell you ’bout a girl that I knew
But I can’t remember much about her
I just remember what I wanted from her
And how it broke my heart when I couldn’t get it,

Which was written in 1981 long before I’d written anything comparable. His style, and this song in particular (which The Puddle played often in the early years), opened my eyes to what was possible in a song. Nor do I know where it came from; his major influences seemed to be The Stooges and the MC5. The Smiths were only beginning their career, and Orange Juice were years away from New Zealand.

It was 1980 and I living in Wellington, playing in The Spies and living in a squat in Bosworth Terrace with Susan Ellis, who later became my wife and the mother of my child, when Bill Vosburgh came to stay; he was a friend of Peter Hall-Jones, who was a friend of my brother and myself and a guest at this party. Bill charmed Susan and I as soon as he arrived. Borrowing Susan’s pastels and drawing hundreds of short curved lines in different colours all over the page in no apparent pattern, he eventually created a vivid landscape with donkey (my memory says it was a representation of Sancho Panza, but I may be deluded) in a pointillist style. That he was an artist and, at 17, a prodigy, was obvious. Bill was roped into our equipment-stealing exploit and helped us carry the Revox home, but fortunately, by the time we were arrested he was back in Christchurch and his part escaped notice.

When the Wellington scene lost its appeal, and Chris Plummer left The Spies for Shoes This High, Mark Thomas went to Christchurch to stay with Bill, and soon Susan and I followed, together with Richard Sedger.

markthomas

Mark Thomas in Armagh St, Christchurch circa 1981 (photo by Bob Noxious).

This move would involve me in a scene that university life in Dunedin and punk rock squatting in Wellington had not prepared me for. Living near the centre of the city, there was nonetheless something commune-like about the way our increasingly intoxicated lives focussed on our art. One of the first things I did was to buy a second-hand reel-to-reel tape recorder (which came with tapes of born-again Christian sermons, to be taped over piecemeal as we created). Bill had only just formed The Perfect Strangers; his first bass player had been John Halvorsen, who left to form The Gordons along the same Detroit-punk lines that Bill preached; to me The Gordon’s earliest songs (on the Adults and Children E.P.) show clear signs of Bill’s influence. The art students that formed his band were drummer Richard Uti, a Polynesian prince, and Helm Ruifrok, a mild mannered Dutchman, senior to the others, whose highly, but subtly sexualized landscapes hang in cafés throughout the South Island. Bill and Helm’s exotic art student girlfriends Ita and Besa were also a revelation; Besa, Turkish with a piercing singing voice, would soon go to Cairo and become a Moslem fundamentalist ahead of her time; Ita was dark, mysterious and quiet. She seemed moody, but who wouldn’t be with Bill as a partner and me as a houseguest? The opposite of Susan in every way except child-like beauty, Ita attracted me in a way I dared not think about and thus terrorised me greatly for some time.

The internet articles on The Perfect Strangers/And Band axis tend to suggest that the latter were the more disciplined, but in fact The Perfect Strangers were the tighter band. Bill’s many songs in their first set included A Haunting Refrain (“The lover did his dreadful deed and vanished out the door”) with its gorgeous riff of descending suspended 4th arpeggios, Life Goes On, with its catchy 2 note chorus and obvious similarities to early Gordons (this was the first song I watched being written), the Peter Gunn twelve bar Man (“You know that God created him, and he’s alright”), which had been written early one morning, inspired by the sight of a long-haired league player jogging past the window on a training run, the faux-disco/punk crossover rave-up Dance You Fuckers Dance, the Lovecraftian Curses, and the intricate The Man Who Knew Too Much. This early set’s piece de resistance was Robbie. Taking the melody of The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond as its bass line, Robbie (chorus: “Robbie, och aye och!”) was a reggae song hailing the mythical return of the Scottish diaspora “We’ll never have to borrow money again/ when we return to Highland Zion evergreen”, with Robert the Bruce in place of Haile Selassie. Even the musical mechanics of songwriting was something Bill attacked more confidently and knowledgably than I did.

As Bill’s facile approach to songwriting influenced me, so our experimental and literary approach to music influenced him. The first example of this to be recorded was probably The Dunwich Horror. Bill took for lyrics a monologue from the H. P. Lovecraft story, the part that begins “They’s prints in the rud, mis’ Corey – great raound prints as big as barrelheads, all sunk daown deep like an elephant had been along, only they’s a sight more nor four feet could make!” That last phrase made the chorus; “They’s a sight more nor four feet could make!” The song turned on a loping bass riff, the kind of simple but compellingly syncopated figure that became Helm’s trademark, with Richard Uti’s drumming for the first time evoking his Pacific island heritage, evoking tribal drumming and a nocturnal bacchanal around a bonfire, while Bill’s fuzz guitar snarled, squealed and bit.

The Dunwich Horror and the later Self Interest were, tho only lo-fi demos, proof that The Perfect Strangers could have made a fascinating and original pop record if they were ever allowed to. But no sooner did they hit on the formula for success than things began to go wrong. Success on the terms available in Christchurch, 1980 just wasn’t what Bill wanted in any case. The Narcs, later The Great Divide, were an example of what the city really wanted, and the arrogant, immature and opinionated Perfect Strangers secured a support slot, only to fall out with The Narcs’ management and be sacked before the second night. As there were only a few rock venues in Christchurch at the time, all managed by the same promoters, who were supportive of local music but very protective of their hard-won niche in the business, this behaviour was commercial – and artistic – suicide.
From now on, both The Perfect Strangers and The And Band (the two bands were not easily separated in practice) could only play together in the daytime, at a few unlicensed venues; twice at the Christchurch Arts Centre, once in the Band Rotunda by the Avon, and once at the controversial Four Avenues alternative school. The second Arts Centre gig was disastrous; an intoxicated Richard Uti clambering over the equipment in front of a silent audience of Pacific Island elders, sent there because of concerns that their future king was losing the plot. He was packed off back to the islands to dry out – and he was one of the lucky ones, like Besa, who got out in time to recover the pattern of their original lives.
All of us (I think) drank to excess at times, and when we could afford it we bought pot from The Gordons. We also found San Pedro cactuses and tripped from time to time (it was on such a trip that I wrote Interstellar Gothic* and recorded the And Band songs on the E.P.). In the summer we stole and bled poppies, which indirectly led to my hospitalisation and introduced me to a drug called Doloxene (dextropopoxyphene), a mild (but very toxic) opiate which had an amphetamine-like effect in small doses. Others became addicted to codeine products, and from time to time we drank antihistamine cough syrups. Mark Thomas, who replaced Richard on drums, drumming for both bands and fronting the later Perfect Strangers line-up, was especially prone to excess and was the first of us to go on methadone, an experience that he turned into songs. If Bill showed me how to write songs, Mark encouraged me to create them out of the minutiae of everyday experience, including relationship dramas and drug taking, and to be brutally honest in the name of humour. *(from a cassette called “AND BAND – against the odds.”)- Stu K.

The extent to which I was imposing on people I hardly knew amazes me today. “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” Were it not for Susan, who always found us flats, food and money, I must surely have died long before. My unawareness or suppression of unwelcome truths was surely at an all time high in those days.

A typical morning at Bealey Ave. might go like this; I awake to find Bill or Helm making coffee, and turn on the tape deck to listen to the last night’s recordings. Deciding what to keep (most things), I turn on Bill’s amp and plug in the guitar that Susan and I bought on HP, and which I still have today. Soon I have a pattern I like, and play it to Bill who sits down at the Farfisa and taps out a few notes, or suggests a lyrical theme with a few clever lines. Helm comes and sits by the drums, Mark walks in and takes the microphone, and I start the tape rolling. Before breakfast, while the girls are still showering. Later in the day we’ll add overdubs and I’ll talk Susan into dubbing more organ, or let Richard S. play his clarinet.

Every flat we lived in had its own vibe, its own particular sort of creativity associated with it. Worcester Street is where Susan and I, with Mark and Richard made super 8 films. The flat near the Police Station is where we wrote, with Bill and Lindsay, the surrealist and parodic stories that became the MKULTRA collection, published on Susan’s Gestetner press. The old warehouse in town, The Perfect Strangers’ practice room, our last stop before leaving altogether for Dunedin, is where we sniffed ether, mixed with the homeless and mentally ill riff-raff of the City, and stopped feeling special and invulnerable. This was where the music first began to sound like noise to me. Almonds and Crocodiles, the only real collaboration between the members of the then And Band, Mark, Susan and I, was written there, but could only be turned into a real song later, in Dunedin with The Puddle. But this is not a story about The And Band.

Gene Autry the singing cowboy by Bill Vosburg

cover art for MKULTRA: GENE AUTREY by Bill Vosburgh

The road trip that Bill, Ita, Susan, Mark and I took to Able Tasman National Park in the Morris 1800 that Bill got from his parents is forever etched in my memory. We left Christchurch drunk and hung over from cough mixture. On the busy motorway north, Bill, driving wildly, clipped a Holden Monaro while overtaking. When the irate gorilla driving the big V8 pursued us, he drove up onto the grassy centre plot in a reckless overtaking manoeuvre, then cut across all four lanes to make a surprise exit down a country back road. It was like a car chase from a movie, our little car dicing with the traffic; exhilarating. Safe from our pursuer on the gravelled country road, Bill had an asthma attack; without medication, the girls talked him down in the back seat while Mark took over. This was a mistake; Mark, always macho, had envied Bill his turn at the wheel during the chase, and now he was determined to see how fast the little 1800 could go. I can remember him reading the miles-per-hour from the speedo; “80!” “90!” “A hundred!” and then the car lost control in the gravel, spun round once or twice, and, missing a power pole by inches, smashed backwards into a fence post. We had whiplash problems for some time to come, but we all knew we were lucky to be alive. The post had driven the car’s body into the back wheel so that we couldn’t drive away, but a farmer drove up in a tractor and fixed it with a crowbar. He told us that the night before two drunken motorists had stopped for a swim in the irrigation ditch and one had drowned. We figured that, if we were still alive, it was because death had already been satisfied on that road. We drove more soberly to Takaka, and camped on a beach in the park. In the morning we saw a pod of whales enter the bay. The water was clear and warm, and little octopuses scuttled over the kina-encrusted rocks. We stood on a rock, threw in a baited hook and, in seconds, pulled out a flat silver fish six inches long. The hooks didn’t even need bait; we pulled in several of these fish using only hook and line, and cooked them in tinfoil over our fire. They were delicious.

The Perfect Strangers soon lost the pop focus that I admired so much and went off in search of something more authentic, organic and bluesy. Bill Vosburgh had always wanted to be Ron Asheton from The Stooges, and he pulled this off with his later band Christchurch. He often seemed to take his painting (and his magick) more seriously than his songwriting. I remember him painting one large canvas, mixing menstrual blood and semen with his paints, and praying quabbalistic prayers for inspiration. He would psych himself into altered states and, especially when the wrong drugs were added to the mix, the resulting mania could be terrifying (or, more often, annoying). Sidelined for frequent repairs, Bill’s psyche has had to calm down considerably since those days. His superb jazz piano playing is always a pleasure to hear. He had a profitable business at one time playing high-end cabaret as Celia Pavlova’s accompanist, and one of my ambitions is to record a set of my songs as arranged by Bill. Bill still plays with Helm occasionally. The other day I watched a video of Charlie Parker; while the other guy took his solo, you could see Charlie’s face as he fingered his sax; I was amazed to see that the sly little movements of his eyes and lips were pure Bill. Bill, who has long played sax, idolised Bird, but I don’t think he had ever seen a video of him to copy, and, though I have seen the video, I know that I couldn’t copy those facial expressions to save myself. Spooky. Mark Thomas went to Australia and became a communist. He recorded two songs with The Puddle during the sessions for the Into The Moon CD, Peter’s Plague and Abo Hunt. In Nelson he became Sharkface and fronted a rock band that I can remember playing a superlative cover of Iggy’s Dirt when they supported The Puddle in 1993. Mark died a few weeks later [1996 - S. S.] of a drug overdose. He had a classic baritone rock voice, lived life to the full, had an irresponsible and violent side that concerned his friends; he was truly self-destructive and infuriatingly perverse, yet he was the most naturally creative of songwriters and the best male singer I have ever known.

Perfect Strangers at their seminal Band Rotunda gig. L-R Bill Vosbergh, Richard Uti,Helm Ruifrock, Mark Thomas

In this picture of The Perfect Strangers, taken by Stuart Page at the Christchurch band rotunda, Bill Vosburgh Plays guitar at left; that is probably me adjusting the P.A. with my back to the camera; Richard Uti is behind the drums; Helm plays bass behind the Farfisa, and Mark Thomas is on the right. Mark sports a small pair of horns. These latex horns were made for him by Helm, and wearing them necessitated constant shaving of his scalp and reattachment. He wore them for many years. They served to accentuate his natural faun-like features, and to warn all-comers of his Panic character. Later in life, he grew dreadlocks and became much more obviously Maori.

(Click here for a Perfect Strangers track off “Thunder at the Rotunda” cassette and more recordings & photos of The Perfect Strangers here.) –A Kit Wok Wuss

There are no digital copies of The Perfect Strangers’ music extant. Live cassettes of poor quality exist, and the original reel-to-reel tapes of mixed And Band and Perfect Strangers recordings, which exist among a scattered collection of reels many of which, re-recorded onto second hand tape in the first place, have deteriorated beyond salvation, will be a major project to search and transcribe. The very rare And Band/ Perfect Strangers EP will be transcribed from vinyl to MP3 one day soon.

The Gordons (13 Feb 1981) Back to front: Alister Parker, John Halvorsen, Brent McLachlan (photo: Evening Post)

Here’s a live recording of The Gordons playing “Adults and Children” from a cassette of Roger Fogorelli’s (probably recorded at “Billy The Club” or “Last Resort” in Wellington around 1980).

The Gordons “Adults and Children”

George with Bolex at the Deans Ave party 1981 (photo Stu)

George with Bolex at the Deans Ave party 1981 (photo Stu)

Bill Vosburgh and Buddy Holly, Cashel Mall (opp. Ink Inc) ChCh 1985

Bill Vosburgh and Buddy Holly, Cashel Mall (opp. Ink Inc) ChCh 1985 (pic Stu)

The Puddle at ChCh Tech gig, c.1984 (pic Stu)

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