As far as I know this is the only shot of Freebass playing at Cause Celebre, or for that matter anywhere.
The Take Me Back gig has forced me to dig around a few old boxes of bits and pieces and I’ve found all sorts of stuff that I’d either forgotten or thought I’d lost. One of which was the one-off Karen Walker Box jacket which I wore last Saturday night and could’ve sold a dozen times or more. I mused about Trade Me-ing it but wiser voices told me to think better of it, so I’ll hang on to it.
However, this photo really jogged my ongoing paranoia that we are, in New Zealand at least, slowly losing so much of our musical heritage, even relatively recent stuff like the Freebass album I profiled a few weeks back here.
The disappearance of the Flying Nun catalogue is one thing. It’s mostly no longer available in any format, physical or digital, but the reality is that it likely will appear again at some stage, once Roger’s purchase of FN becomes a fact, or somehow someone knuckles down to sort it.
It has that sort of cultural momentum.
That’s great, but history has largely rewritten – or been rewritten – to exclude the other 95% of New Zealand audio releases from the pre-digital era which is a huge crime.
Just looking at the era I’m rather involved with, from about 1977 through to the the current day, although narrowing that down to the pre-1995 part of that span, there was a vast body of NZ music recorded for labels that were not Flying Nun. It’s not unfair to say that after about 1989 FN, was rather conservative in its outlook and that many acts moved mountains to distance themselves from the “Flying Nun Band” tag. In the North Island at least, much of the most innovative music from that era, and the music most needing urgent preservation in 2009, or in danger of forever disappearing into the abyss, appeared on labels like Pagan, Deep Grooves, Southside or on a raft of smaller indies and artist-owned labels.
Sure, large slabs of popular music are being archived in places like the Sound Archive in Christchurch, but unlike Australia, Canada, the UK, or just about any developed country, where efforts are successfully made to keep much of what has been recorded available to the public via reissues, digital and so on, much of what was released in New Zealand – no make that most – looks likely to disappear into the abyss in the not too distant future. The Sound Archive is focused primarily on radio and Maori archiving, rather than the history of our recorded music, thus they don’t always know what things are, or what they need to prioritise. An attempt to initiate a focused recordings and master tape archive was rather ruthlessly shot down by the last Labour Government.
It rather feels like time is running out for a lot of music and the history surrounding it – there is much which has already gone from the pre-77 era, which, given the disbursement and passing of many of those involved, it is – so I guess a large part of our musical heritage in NZ will quietly slip into the past forever in the years to come. If nothing is done and quickly.