THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE by RITCHIE VENUS

 

Ritchie Venus c. 2000 AD (timeless)
Ritchie Venus c. 2000 AD (timeless)

In 1988, Little Stevie McCabe and I spent most of May and part of June in the United States. The purpose of our trip was partly to perform, and partly to make and renew contacts on behalf of the record companies we represented (Sleek Bott and Onset Offset). We were both trying to get albums released by American companies, partly to overcome the problem of getting New Zealand records pressed, and also because the records of both of us attracted more interest in the U.S. than they did in New Zealand. Indeed, it always amazed me that I could get things reviewed in New York and Boston without difficulty, but not in New Zealand!

Stevie McCabe + bird, the Coromandel
Stevie McCabe + bird, the Coromandel

Before the trip, I had a number of expectations. For a start, I was under the impression that New Zealand music was currently sought after in a manner somewhat akin to the British Beat boom of the Sixties, although on a much smaller scale. I was surprised to find how much smaller a scale the interest was: most shops were as reluctant as the New Zealand ones to stock records released by small independent companies. The fact that New Zealand pressings were not sealed in cellophane didn’t help. One New Orleans, shop that had in the past exhibited enthusiasm for New Zealand music, had become disillusioned because it had not sold.

 

guns of mt roskill
guns of mt roskill

Few, however, gave the impression of having ever been remotely interested in any of it. The stock excuses were that the records had to be released through an American company, or that a shop could not buy records from anyone who did not have a vendor’s licence.

The latter had no apparent basis in law, as there were some shops that would buy stock from us, although sometimes they would take it only on a sale-or-return basis (“on consignment”) as in New Zealand. Onset Offset never received any money from such deals!

 

 

 

Ritchie's Slide guitar rule
"One Slide to rule them all " - Ritchie's Slide guitar rule

Onset Offset having received requests from American critics for records and tapes to review, I expected a greater interest from critics than one found in New Zealand, where a review copy sent to a publication occasionally resulted in a review, but was more likely to end up in the nearest second-hand shop. In this, I was not disappointed: my experience of American critics of independent records was that they generally turned out to be enthusiasts keen to build up their own collections in return for constructive and encouraging reviews in the magazines for which they wrote. Of particular note in this respect were Byron Coley of “Forced Exposure” and Fred Mills of “The Bob”.

Looks like a million bucks
Looks like a million bucks

As a performer, I expected the remuneration to be better than in New Zealand. While I was aware that New Zealand audiences were well known for their lack of response, I had no particular expectation of American audiences. As it happened, I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm with which our performances were received. Americans, it seemed, understood what New Zealanders do not, i.e. that if a performer receives no encouragement in the early stages of a performance, it is almost impossible to build up any momentum, with the result that when the audience fails to indicate its approval or disapproval, the performance is likely to become more and more mechanical as it proceeds, leaving both the audience and the performer dissatisfied.

 

Zombies, New Orleans
Zombies, New Orleans

Whereas New Zealanders will sit like zombies waiting for the performer to win them over, Americans give one the benefit of the doubt and display enthusiasm from the start, which greatly affects the quality of the performance they get. As far as the money was concerned, however, it proved to be no better than in New Zealand. In San Francisco, where we performed and also worked for a promoter putting up posters, we were promised more for both than we actually received. Everyone in the music business there seemed to be perpetually insolvent, especially when it was time to pay performers.

 

VenuVenus and McCabe - Tour Poster designed and printed by Steve McCabe
VenuVenus and McCabe - Tour Poster designed and printed by Steve McCabe

My final expectation was that while there was likely to be more competition in America, there would also be more opportunities. What I found was that there was indeed infinitely more competition in the form of an unbelievable number of bands, most of which seemed incredibly well-rehearsed and displayed an energy that would probably have been frowned upon in New Zealand alternative music circles in those days. At the same time, however, each city seemed to have the same number of venues as a typical New Zealand city. While almost every band I encountered had a record out, there existed a similar situation to that in New Zealand where one could be revered by many who would do anything for you except buy your records.

Neither of us eventually found American companies to release our records, but we made valuable distribution deals, which at least ensured that our records would continue to be available in the United States.

 

"...one had to try to look intimidating..."
"...one had to try to look intimidating..."

As a performer, I am bound to say I would prefer to be in America than New Zealand. Nevertheless, in other ways I came to feel it was a nice place to visit, but an undesirable place to live. The ever-present beggars and hustlers were a nuisance, especially in New York, where one had to try to look intimidating to discourage as many of them as possible, and where any attempt at friendliness to a stranger was likely to be perceived as an attempt to get money from him/her. Also, despite being well armed at all times, I seldom felt very safe in the city centres, which seemed full of suspicious-looking characters.

 

"I was frequently impressed by the friendliness of people of all races"
"I was frequently impressed by the friendliness of people of all races"

On the credit side, I was frequently impressed by the friendliness of people of all races. Indeed, the racial problems we heard about were not as apparent as I expected. While I was there, I never wished I was back home, and my experience with Customs upon my return made me wish I had not bothered coming back: overzealous Customs officers seemed to think that anyone carrying a guitar case was a drug smuggler, and in a (fruitless) search for drugs they dismantled my guitar, went through my baggage and clothes, and took my souvenirs.

– Post by Ritchie Venus, Rock’n’Roll Idol, ruthless businessman, artefact collector, rnr analyst, film and popular culture historian, writer, singer, songwriter

Caffeine Madness – Vas Deferens’ tribute to Dragan’s Neon Picnic Tribulations | mouse fukkas!!!!

Vas Deferens 20th Anniversary Gig
Vas Deferens 20th Anniversary Gig

Caffeine Madness

three-duddle-bugs-c-dragan-stojanovic

jelly-roll-mota-c-dragan-stojanovic

dyke-parties-duddle-bugs-c-dragan-stojanovic

angel-of-harem-duddle-bugs-c-dragan-stojanovic

20000-miles-by-duddle-bugs-c-dragan-stojanovic

today-duddle-bugs-c-dragan-stojanovic

I'm Bob Geldof - Welcome to the Neon Picnic
I'm Bob Geldof - Welcome to the Neon Picnic

The Axemen were supposed to play the Neon Picnic, back in ’88.

I was realy looking forward to playing at the legendary Sweet-waters site. I was not lucky enough to have been at any of those fore mentioned events.

The headline act was supposed to be The Big O (Roy Orbison) so you can imagine how much I was Looking forward to seeing him in person and perhaps even meeting him, but alas it was not to be.

I have no idea of how it failed nor do I care. It did fail and these peace loving hippies who clapped at this other peace loving hippy who chased me and beat me up must have thought that it was my fault it failed. All I did was in my hung over state, the following morning, walk in on them peace loving house-truking(mouse-f**king) dirty hippies and asked where the coffie was.

author Stojanovic participates in drumkit therapy session at Cherry Farm following the disastrous Neon Shitcake incident
Author Stojanovic participates in drumkit therapy session at Cherry Farm following the disastrous Neon Shitcake incident

How was I to know they were having a meeting about their miserable failure, I mean  they were not even saying anything, they were all just sitting around in silence.

Perhaps if I had ESP I could have figured it out. After the asshole beat me up it cheer up those horrible hippies and they all clapped as if they actualy achieved something. All they achived that morning was my eternal disgust at supposed ” live in harmony hippies?’

I guess everyone needs a scape-goat. What they needed was a bath and then perhaps people would have taken them seriously and not just hurried them on pretending to say yes just to get them out of sight (and smell). So the Neon Picnic will always be known as the Non Picnic.

Caffeine madness, dragan chased by hippies in tank
Caffeine madness, dragan chased by hippies in tank

The portrait of Johnny Segovia

The Picture of Johnny Segovia
This eery Portrait of Johnny Segovia which still remains at 1000 and such and such Colombo Street, ageing daily at twice the normal rate, has kept the real mr segovia alive and kicking (and gigging) for years - hell may have no fury as to whether his weatherbeaten and leathery friends who are no more leathery and weatherbeaten than him have any resentment about the deal, he made the deal and is still the most fantastical guitarist there is, i weep when i hear him every time

In the bathroom of the Clifford flats in Colombo Street Christchurch, tiny but complete with actual bath, number 1000 and something and housing some of the most dynamic musicians and artists in the city at this time (around 1984) lies still to this day a faded and weary print, the last remaining remnant of the way Johnny Segovia would have looked had he not stopped looking his age when he turned 25.

In photo after photo since this time Segovia’s appearance in real life is virtually and spookily unchanged, an uncanny throwback to his 60s roots, still looking the same today as when he graced the stage with legends such as the new zealand elvis, Johnny Devlin, and the master himself, Ritchie Venus. The haunting print itself reveals a greyed, withered image, frail as a mountain goat on an alp pass, weak at the knees and trembling like a forty-year-older version of himself. This is the price to be paid for doing a deal with the devil and becoming the legend that is johnny segovia.

The print itself is now faded almost beyond recognition, each day the hair gets a little greyer, the wrinkles a little deeper, the horror of the image reflecting what might have been had the great one not pledged his troth to the king demon, diablos himself, the great wanderer, the king of the mix, monsieur el demono, il diablo, the five headed monster, the sulky beast, the kidder of all kidders, the goat with no head, the fleeceless lamb, the white nigger, the bleached blackman, the go with the flow te aro flow know what you know but take what you have to go to and fro, to and fro, hey ho let’s go!

Tables turned, as scary as it may be, no matter his fame and prowess in the bedroom, all the fame and adulation, it all comes down to the Markie spirit and the legend which will live on forever, the little kiwi battler who thinks he’s an Aussie, the nigger who thinks he’s white, the rocker who effortlessly plays country, the trailer trash who can’t pull a trailer… the guy we wish we all could be but most of us are too scared to try.

The Scapegoat - for those about to rock
The Scapegoat - recently sacrificed for those about to rock

For those about to rock, we salute you.

Johnny Segovia, the scapegoat for which there is no equal except for the umbilical scapegoat of Mephistopheles (depicted at right) – Holy Saints I can’t believe that’s not yak’s butter!

post: Tab Emetic Tics Level

TIMES NEW VIKING ~ hot trio on Siltbreeze/Matador rock out at SxSW in Austin, Texas

Times New Viking is a lo-fi indie rock band from Columbus, Ohio. The line up consists of guitarist Jared Phillips, drummer Adam Elliott, and Beth Murphy on keyboards. Murphy and Elliott share vocal duties. They are currently signed to Matador Records and were formerly signed to Siltbreeze Records. They have released three records: 2005’s Dig Yourself, 2007’s Present the Paisley Reich, and 2008’s Rip It Off, which NME gave an 8/10. Rip it Off reached #17 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.

SXSW ‘Siltbreeze’ Showcase 13 Mar 2008

TIMES NEW VIKING outside Sound on Sound Records SXSW ’07

Saturday, 3/17/07. Bleached out, sounds amazing. Penultimate song of the set, “Let Your Hair Grow Long.” We got sunburned.

Times New Viking on MySpace

Sounds like: Breath in: snuff a line speed, a half hour jump on your cheap amplifiers, salad yet once a half hour with you yet cheaper guitar against the wall. Write eleven popliedjes, lay the emphasis on cryptic and forget everything your song teacher you ever learned has. Seek your neighbor girl on and tell her that your musics will make. Lay her emphatically from that she must not try to sing. Stick, now that you it really are, also just your tongue between her lips till you certainly are that they that rather has not. Give her then you eleven popliedjes and (optioneel) a guitar. Question her these eleven popliedjes with you together to not to sing, expect of it surplus. Mess what with the buttons on the amplifier, let the hamster of your neighbor girl also once over the strings run, sign the head of the father of your neighbor girl on the skins of a Bears Smit drumstel, call her feather ten-year-old little brother and lay from that its father him really real hatred. Breath out: and voila, Yourself Summoned. Sounds good? Sounds in it really yet better. Blessed with a delicious dose ADHD-spontaneity and a fine nose for popmelodieën know Tim New Viking on Summoned Yourself a particular charming pot borrow-fi garagepop down to dump. A kind of contemporary version of The Shaggs, but then without the implicit family tie. More a neighbor boy-neighbor girl tie thus.

Times New Viking – Dig Yourself

Available Formats: CD / Vinyl LP / iTunes
Price: Vinyl LP $15.00 (U.S. Postpaid) / $9.99 iTunes

Times New Viking – Present the Paisley Reich

Available Formats: Vinyl LP / iTunes
Price: Vinyl LP $15.00 (U.S. Postpaid) / $9.99 iTunes LP

The Spiderwebs in Beijing (you are not a hero until you have visited the great wall)

Jeff and Steve McCabe, photoshoot, Tianenman Square
Jeff and Steve McCabe, photo-shoot, Tianenman Square
In 2007 Jeff and Steve McCabe decided to reform their family two-piece and do a tour of the hotspots of Beijing, long a stronghold of their Asia-Pacific fan-base.

At the same time Steve, a long time poster aficionado, wanted to study and practice the art of the communist propaganda poster, the better for indoctrinating the uninitiated back home in Godzone.

Peking Ducks Wings Welcomes The Spiderwebs
Peking Ducks Wings Welcomes The Spiderwebs

Spiderwebs Dragons Arms poster
Spiderwebs Beijing Dragons Arms Poster

We were met at the airport (pre-Olympics, a barn-style affair populated mainly by peasants with their hopeful blackboards “Mr Smith” , “Ms Jones” etc., the more ambitious of them adding “China world tours” or “Trans Europe Express” to add credibility to their cause) by Mao’s former mistress Mao Gon Get Sum (her by-line: “Oh yeh another thing, I just luv klaftwerk, can you get me on the next tlain to eulopa?”)

Spiderwebs - Shanghai Workingmens Club Poster
Spiderwebs - Shanghai Workingmens Club Poster
Hearing her voice reminded me of my failures in the past, especially the way they accented themselves whenever an emotional/important bit came up – i dunno how it does it but it do. now thats just getting tacky, fool.

Anyway, Mao Gon took us the very next day to the aaaaal right honky tonk women market in downtown beijing (simply ‘southside’ to locals)

To be continued…

THE WORD IS OUT etc.

THE AXEMEN IN DUNEDIN
2-3 MARCH 1984

SUMMARY

The Axemen performed three times in the weekend, writhing, inciting and typically incredulous they made no new friends and many shady enemies, their calloused hands bleeding and cutting and scarred from the tortuous anachronisms that are is their Wall of sound, their particular(ly) seedy breeding ground, a kind of William S. Burroughs of the NZ rock set, an oh-so-shallow silhouette of the festered world they infest and poke around in, no more here than there, no more there than here, giving nothing away but blind frenetics, shenanigans, bagels and festoons of fatty skin, hating every note more as they play it, yet pouring out their love even as gladly, as they rid themselves of their consciences and collective consciousness against a skeletally conceived backdrop of bizarre and feelingless, but yet feeling, love, love, love + hate.

So the law wins again, hah, the Axemen still lose and nothing never changes, don’t you forget it, even as the grass grows under your table and on your lawn, law’s long arm is ever reaching to pluck it.

axemenwordisout2textenhanced

Ah Ya The Infamous Nax Tour

axemennuxvomica_ngaruacave_takakahill_crop800This series of shows took place over the top of the south island and the west coast during Jan 1986 and involved a decrepit and terrifyingly brakeless commer van, copious quantities of opium tarbrew and ether …

Nux Vomica and the Axemen on tour together …Were we all in the one van? I cant exactly recall .. Nux Vom at that time was Lawrence Lens guitar and vox (also demented super8 documentarian of the Axemen phenomenon), myself (intrepid sole female chauffeur and yamaha electone player) Philip Alron Hubbard on bass and Chris Smallfry on drums and that guy Pete [Gorman] from EOE on 2nd guitar .. and Mr Al Right sax player extraordinaire .. And the Axemen Steve, Bob, Stu and Gordy B and Mr Al Right sharing sax duties with both bands … plus a PA and all the gear for both bands . All squashed into one not very big van …We played to approx 8 drunken bogans in Richmond after we werent allowed to play in the public bar as arranged …. We played in Takaka after a horrifying ordeal involving brake failure coming down the Takaka Hill ( thanks Dad for that driving lesson that included the stuff about handbrakes and low gears when experiencing braking issues) . In Takaka the hotel owners missus asked me “Are you doing some dry cleaning dear?” when she ventured upstairs to tell us that our dinner was ready and the scent of ether was wafting out from several of the rooms some of us were staying in. “Yes Ma’am” I remember replying , “I’m just cleaning the boys’ jackets for tonight’s gig.”

We played in Greymouth which was a blast and the aftermatch function was even better.

LISA PRESTON

Shoes This High – STH 7″ EP (Recorded 21.12.80)

In 1986 Stu Kawowski succumbed to the magnetic attraction of “The North.” At first he thought it was the Wellington effect, so he ventured up there for a few months, and moved in with The Skeptics for a while, first at Nick’s pad in Brooklyn, and later crashed at Writhe Recording, their studio cnr Walter & Vivian Sts. About a block away was an upstairs flat at the end of (and simply known as) “Kensington Street.” Here could be found the talented Walker sisters, Jane & Jessica, Tracey Walsh, and some other guys, all of whom had been in bands, were in bands or hung out with bands. Jane had been in Toy Love, Tracey had a band called The Yellimin, and Jessica had been in a band called Shoes This High.

shoesthishigh_sml
Shoes This High (Dec 1980) Back L to R: Brent Hayward, Chris Plummer. Front L to R: Kevin Hawkins, Jessica Walker (pic Peter Avery)

Flashback #1 to sometime around 1980/1981:

Kawowski was still a “band virgin” (unless you count his several years snare drumming for the Marlborough Boys’ College and Blenheim Municipal Brass Bands… hmmm I thought not) but he was into some cool music at that time: Can, The Fall, Pere Ubu, Joy Division, Swell Maps, Capt. Beefheart… So not long after, when he found himself wandering around Wellington in the Willis St area, he somehow recognised a beautiful distorted, energetic sound bouncing off the walls of the empty twilight city. After walking around a few corners he finally discovered its origin: There, in a dimly lit, near empty hall, were four skinny musicians frantically rehearsing some amazing music on stage. None of them objected to his presence, so he was able to stay and enjoy a private audience with one of New Zealand’s best bands of that era, Shoes This High.

Shoes This High - STH (1981) 7" 4-track EP (STH 001-A, STH 001-B)
Shoes This High - STH (1981) 7" 4-track EP (STH 001-A, STH 001-B)

1. the nose one

2. Foot’s Dream

3. a mess

4. Not Weighting

sth_label640

shoes-this-high-stf-rear-cover_640

Five years later, Kawowski was visiting Kensington St, he entered the house, was walking down the hall when suddenly a knife came whistling out of a side door a few metres ahead “THUNK!” and stuck into a life-size silhouette of a person painted on the wooden wall. “DONK!”, “WHAM!”, “THUNK!” as three more throwing knives landed in the figure’s heart, followed by “DING” as a Kung-Fu star split its forehead between the eyes. Satisfied that the barrage of sharpened circus cutlery was depleted, Kawowski bravely entered that door and came face-to-face with the martial arts expert: Jessica Walker, Shoes This High bass player.

In 1987, the Axemen convinced Flying Nun Records to do a second album. They cut a deal with The Skeptics, that allowed them to take advantage of their newly built 16-track studio Writhe Recording, the outcome being “Derry Legend”, the follow-up to their debut double vinyl “Three Virgins” (1985). The Axemen had already released several cassette albums on their own Sleek Bott label,  but those vinyl releases effectively enjoyed the Flying Nun ‘stamp of approval’ in addition to their international marketing and distribution network.

 “Mourning of Youth” (1987) – AXEMEN

(Steve’s ageless dirge reveals a prone McCabe at Chippendale Hall, Dunedin 1987, coins on shut eyelids, candles melting into offering hands, unattended cigarette smoking between his lips, 1957 Isle of Man Golden Jubilee TT races flicker across his corpse-like demeanour.)


For McCabe’s “Mourning of Youth” composition, he’d mentioned that a viola would sound good in there, so before you know it, the master knife-throwing, catgut stroking Jessica Walker was enlisted to lay down some wailing and plucking that, says Stu, “had all of the hairs sticking out on the back of my neck!” (This harrowing, haunting track was also selected by the late Kurt Cobain for one of his personal mix-cassettes track-listed in his posthumously published diaries.)

mourningofyouth_kurt_800
p236 Kurt's diary "Mourning of Youth" on a mixtape playlist

Flashback #2

By the time the Axemen and Kevin Hawkins crossed swords paths in Auckland, while day-tripping there during their sojourn at the Whangarei Buskers Festival in December 1985, Shoes This High had disbanded, Fishschool was no more and Kev had metamorphosed into the proudly homosexual Screamin’ K. Hawkins, collaborating with various musicians credited as “& His Walk-In Lovers.” While “love at first sight” doesn’t exactly describe the relationship that existed between Kev and Bob Brannigan (though given Bob’s growing interest in psychic phenomena at the time, “love at second sight” is peculiarly apt), the older rocker charmed the pants off the repressed rebel and touched him in ways few men hitherto had, and none since.

Soon the gay guerrilla planted his seed in the young punk’s garden of earthly delights and romance blossomed. The pair pashed in public and back in Christchurch camped inside Kawowski’s Rolleston Ave foyer, staging a mini bed-in a la John & Yoko, only way gayer and with no international media attention. “We even had sex in the backseat of the Starliner,” boasts Bob, “en-route between Christchurch & South Dunedin. Thanks to Kevvy’s gift of love, at last I was able to laugh at the atmosphere of stultifying despondency that permeated NZ intercity bus-services in the mid-80s.”

Despite growing health problems, Hawkins continued to use drugs on top of his prescribed withdrawal medication, frequently blacking-out and injuring himself; this behaviour frightened Bob and the couple parted acrimoniously. “I used to joke with him, saying If you die, I’ll fucking kill you! We had a falling-out and he went back up north, no contact for about a year, then he died. It was like a beautiful fairy story gone terribly wrong. But what a guy! A total magician.”

Flashback #3

“Around the end of 1986,” Stu recalls, “I remember running into Croatian Axeman extraordinaire Dragan Stojanovic busking in Manners Mall just near McDonalds (one of his regular Wellington busking haunts). He told me that Kevin Hawkins had just died but that he’d seen him the previous week, and that Kev was over the moon ‘cos he’d fulfilled one of his lifetime dreams: Fucking someone in a cemetery. En route downhill from Victoria University after some event up there, he and his companion wandered through the remains of the desecrated old cemetery, and did the deed against a gravestone.”

(BTW if anybody knows where Dragan is can they please ask him to get in touch with AXEMEN – email or comment on the blog…)*

    -Saki Tuskwow & Ann Gribabbon

    *P.S. we found him shacked up with his sister Sonja in his brother’s house in the Hutt 🙂

AXT-MÄNNER: Schwarzemänner

Diese Deutsche Grammophon Freigabe von Neuseeland’s AXEMEN (AXT-MÄNNER) in Synchronisierung mit neuem amerikanischem Präsident Barack Obama’s-historischer Aufstieg zur Energie in der ausfallen Nation von Amerika. Schließt die Liede ein ” Ich möchte black”, ” Furcht vor einem schwarzen planet” und “weißes Wedding”.

 

– Ask I Tusk Wow

“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.

Pre-1983 (Year Zero)

Cook's flawed map of New Zealand Click for larger view (actual size - this may take some time to download on slow connections)

Before 1983 (known as ‘Year Zero‘ by Axemen devotees in a misguided homage to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge which The Axemen took years to dissociate themselves from [this stemmed from the unfortunately badly misquoted comment by Steve who, having been asked by a women’s Magazine what his favourite make-up was, proclaimed “I like the Estee Lauder Eyeliner, but I love the Garnier Rouge”]), travel between Dunedin and Christchurch was considered difficult and treacherous, mainly due to the continued use of Captain Cook’s long since discredited map showing Chistchurch as an Island and what is now known as the South Island being divided into two Islands, which Cook called the “South Island” and the “Souther Island”.

When Cook first mapped New Zealand in 1964 (just in time to allow it to be added to the Beatles tour) he inadvertantly spilt the coke he was about to snort onto the (still wet) map he had just finished drawing. Being a frugal man not inclined to waste, he snorted a line right through the middle of the South Island (sucking up a part of the Southern Alps along with the snow), and got so wasted he forgot to later draw it in again. Being a rather backward nation at the time and intensely patriotic monarchists for the most part, the kiwis simply accepted that “The Queen’s Esteemed Map Drawer, Fake Captain and Lande Surveyor” could not be wrong, and stopped all road travel between the two “Islands” without even checking whether Cook was right. Such was their intense belief that many families living in the land area known as ‘Cookes Channel’ separating the South and Souther Island were declared ‘missing, presumed drowned’ and were actually believed to be Ghosts or “Channel Spirits” when they appeared in the surrounding towns.

(As an interesting historical footnote, some of these mischievous spirits would take advantage of their newfound status by going into town covered in flour, walking into the pub and scaring off the locals and drinking themselves into oblivion before staggering home the worse for wear; to this day a liquor is distilled in Timaru known as “Cook’s Spirit” with a group of very pale gents depicted on the label and the motto “it’ll turn you white as a ghost.”)

Full-scale travel between the lower reaches and higher echelons of the South Island was not resumed until the late 70s when a small boy wandered across “Cook’s line” which had been roped off by villagers to stop hapless travellers crossing into the area marked by Cook as volatile and highly dangerous seas (even going to the extent of erecting lighthouses on either side).

Once he emerged a couple of days later on the other side, some of the brighter villagers realised Cook’s Channel was a palpable nonsense and, after declaring the whole thing a farce and reopening the road, started the anti-monarchist United Island Republic movement, whose primary goal was (and still is) to break New Zealand away from its ties with the UK Monarchy, and ideally dethrone the British Queen and replace her with a flagpole (See The New Zealand Flagpole Movement).

Posted By Little Stevie McCabe

The Axemen – Bus boys from way back

The long association of The Axemen with the buses of Otago probably began with their featuring role in Wilma McCorkindale’s seminal book on the subject, Otago Road Services Ltd – A Brief History.

While researching the book McCorkindale became fascinated (some would say obsessed) with these ‘frequent flyers’ and would chat with them for virtually the entire journey between Christchurch and South Dunedin, which by 1983 was a regular occurrence.

The venerable 1968 Starliner coach which ferried the lads and served as tour bus, writing room, coffee wine drinking establishment and muse became the Axemen’s second (and in Bob’s case, first) home throughout the mid-80s, and was later featured in the Axemen’s short-lived New Zealand version of the long-running British TV Series “On the Buses.”

The programme, though critically regarded as a Pinteresque masterpiece, became yet another casualty of Rogernomics, New Zealand’s pathetic but ruthless imitation of Thatchernomics and Reaganomics—this type of sycophantic replication of dumb-ass overseas trends continues to this day unfortunately, reaching a possible new low recently with New Zealand versions of “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Weakest Link” and “American Idol” (brilliantly re-packaged as “New Zealand Idol”).

On The Buses with the Axemen
On The Buses with the Axemen (TV Series 1983-84). Promo shot circa 1983 courtesy South Pacific Television - Kiaora Kiwi and Cat!

To say these programmes are a crock is doing a harsh disservice to crocks everywhere, and perhaps the Axemen’s brief glimmer in the spotlight as TV stars was its only redeeming feature; but I digress.

The demise of the show did have one lasting benefit – it gave the lads much more time to concentrate on honing their songwriting, performing, spray-painting, screen-printing and self-promotion skills, and forced them to extend their minds further.

The Bus Association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen Points of Interest
The Axemen bus association continues today - Tour Groups still take the bus around Christchurch to visit various Axemen "Points of Interest"

Through experimentation with early blends of coffee wine (brewed by Steve and locally known as ‘Co-Wi’ [pronounced ‘Kowhai’ like the native New Zealand flower], which McCabe was always trying to perfect), alongside other powerful psychoactive agents, the songs really began to flow at this time, and the legendary banter and verbal interactions which were the staple of the show now became the Axemen’s trademark—many a club manager or promoter remember ruefully being on the sharp end of one of the lads’ papercut-on-the-eyeball retorts.

Posted By Little Stevie McCabe

Knock-Knock Who’s-There Smell-Map

Map 1 here shows the whereabouts of various members of the
Axemen in the first few months of the band’s existence.

PHOTO-ESSAY: A LITTLE BIT OF YESTERDAY

South Dunedin, home of the South Dunedin sound

South Dunedin – home of the South Dunedin Sound.

Maureen of the Empire Tavern
about to burn life-size effigy of Little Stevie McCabe.

<– South Dunedin | Starliners (so-called) | Christchurch –>

<–Alpha Centauri | Starliners (actual) | Eta Tandoori–>

Christchurch, 1983

Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!
Enjoy Christchurch graphic by Stu pre-dated the try-hard Absolutely Wellington campaign by at least a decade!
Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski
Christchurch's Disco Queen Mere Nihoniho at Caledonian Hall '77 by Kowalski

*

Accompanying this photo-essay are some more tracks recorded live at the Star & Garter on 4-11-83:

cassette recorder

untitled (sounds
like fiery jack)

get down

9 candles on the cake

a little bit of yesterday (johnny cash)