In the light / of a thousand smiles

What to say about Ian?

One of my old­est and best mates, Peter Urlich, who is of course absolute­ly shat­tered by the news, and was so close to Ian, has said it so much bet­ter than I ever could or have the right to say:

At this moment I’m wait­ing to wake from a ter­ri­ble dream. I have just lost my old­est and dear­est friend, Ian Mor­ris. The cru­el fact is that only in these moments, do you tru­ly realise how impor­tant a mate like that is. If I were a house, one side of me has just col­lapsed. Ian was one of the foun­da­tions of me. He pos­sessed a tal­ent that I was in awe of; he had a stag­ger­ing intel­li­gence that had few equals; his mind was scalpel sharp but his heart was soft; and we shared a sense of humour that I thought we would trade until we were wiz­ened old men. (I recog­nise these attrib­ut­es also in David Joseph Dob­byn). The two of them found each oth­er in Form 1, Sacred Heart Col­lege, 1968 — a pair of slight­ly ner­vous fresh­men, who only had music to fight off the bullys. And I found them at the same time.. Thank God! I can­not begin to accu­rate­ly describe what those two men mean to me. And now one of them has gone.
Ian, I loved the way you played gui­tar, I loved the way you played with my boys Joe and Stan: I loved your immac­u­late taste in music.
I cher­ished that we were so in tune that we did­n’t need words.Thank you for all of your wis­dom. I can’t remem­ber when you were actu­al­ly wrong. Thank you for your the fact that you would have for­giv­en me any­thing. That goes for me too. And thank you so much for choos­ing me to be your lead singer..

Ian was a mate. I think he was a mate to many. I knew him fair­ly well but we were not close, unlike Peter. We talked often online, most­ly of music and peo­ple we knew. He was fun­ny and very wit­ty. And opin­ion­at­ed.

It was a friend­ship that went back to the mid sev­en­ties, to the years before Th’­Dudes when he, Peter & Dave were play­ing around, try­ing to form bands and just play and make music.

Which is, despite oth­ers hav­ing bet­ter words, why I’ve writ­ten this. For all the eulo­gies of Ian as a song­writer and mem­ber of an icon­ic New Zealand rock­’n’roll insti­tu­tion, per­haps his great­est musi­cal con­tri­bu­tion has been over­looked, that as per­haps the most impor­tant record­ing engi­neer and pro­duc­er of his gen­er­a­tion.

The num­ber of records that car­ry the name ‘Ian Mor­ris’ in the cred­its just stag­gers (and the list at that link is huge­ly incom­plete) and defined a whole decade. From Hel­lo Sailor’s first two albums, Gra­ham Bra­zier solo, DD Smash, Greg John­son, The War­ratahs, Pop Mechanix, Dave Dob­byn, Naked Spots Dance and much much more.

Ian was per­haps New Zealand’s first prop­er ‘pro­duc­er’ as we know it now, pro­duc­ing a record rather than being, as most were before, an exec­u­tive engi­neer (and to be fair, there were many very good exec­u­tive engi­neers) and inspired many oth­ers.

An Ian Mor­ris pro­duc­tion was notice­ably and iden­ti­fi­ably an “Ian Mor­ris” record. They had a sound and it was a sound that worked. For me, he pro­duced the only album by The Scream­ing Meemees. The ses­sions were uproar­i­ous — rather out of con­trol and bour­bon soaked. It was at these that he met Kim, his wife.

I talked to him sev­er­al times over the years about remix­ing these, as recent­ly as a few months ago — it was his idea, as he felt the album was unfin­ished and did­n’t want to leave it that way, although I guess that’s the way it will now stay.

How­ev­er, when we remas­tered Par­adise for dig­i­tal release late last year, the remas­ter­er, Alan Jans­son, no stu­dio slouch him­self, was blown away by the audio depth and qual­i­ty of the record­ing (also a trib­ute to the orig­i­nal engi­neer, Steve Kennedy) of the orig­i­nal which still sounds as vague­ly ahead of its time as it did when released.

So thanks Ian, and bye. I liked you huge­ly. I respect­ed you as much. Cheers.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Gary Steel
October 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Per­haps the most impor­tant record­ing engi­neer and pro­duc­er of his gen­er­a­tion.”
Spot on, Simon.

Tweets that men­tion In the light / of a thou­sand smiles :The Opin­ion­at­ed Din­er —
October 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm

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October 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Nice Simon… I think Ian real­ly had a pro­duc­tion stamp on what he did..

Love­ly tal­ent­ed man ..

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