I always find myself slightly flustered by the oft-touted idea that the 1980s was a cultural wasteland. I use the word flustered rather than something stronger as it really matters but briefly — only when I see it written or said, and the moment passes.
However, matter it does and matter it does enough to drive me to put finger to key and finally put down the tale below. It’s something, as a part of my perhaps obsessive need to document things before we forget, that I’ve meant to do for a long time.
The story of the first New Zealand post-punk multiband trek through New Zealand, in 1981, has long been something I’ve wanted to write and document, and the full version (what appears below is the first part – if you want to read the rest it’s at the link at the end of the brief excerpt).
I guess if your reference points were Loverboy, Nena, A‑ha, US big hair rock, or Cold Chisel, the decade was justifiably a cultural disaster.
Happily mine are more likely to be the post-punk swell of 1979 onwards, as so perfectly documented in Simon Reynolds’ seminal book; the cuts and rhymes that came from the South Bronx and Harlem; Detroit techno; New York garage and no-wave; house and it’s psychedelic off-spring, acid house; the Minneapolis-St Paul rush that gave us Prince and the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis funk; Marcus Miller’s tough bass-driven productions which included not only Luther (himself part/driving force of the new soul revival) but Miles Davis’ final reinvention; the so-called golden age of hip-hop (Def Jam, Cold Chillin’, Eric B & Rakim, EPMD and more); Manchester/Liverpool/Glasgow/Bristol); the dubbed out downbeat of inner city Britain later in the decade; and the inventiveness of the New Zealand and Australian indie rush from 1980 onwards – which brings me back to The Screaming Blam-matic Roadshow…
The idea to take the three Propeller bands on the road together was mine, Paul Rose and Dave Merritt’s (the original Screaming Meemees manager) in March or April 1981.
Paul, who was also The Newmatics manager, and my partner in the label, and I put it to Tim Mahon, the Blam Blam Blam bassist (and de facto manager) in their shared flat in Brighton Road.
Tim came up with the name on the spot.
It was broadly accepted as a concept but remained just that until the Blams took it to the next level. It was their idea to tie the concept to the New Zealand Students Arts Council and utilise the network first set up in the 1970s by Bruce Kirkland (later US manager of the legendary Stiff Records and a mentor of the equally legendary Trevor Reekie). Don, as I recall, made the approach.
The idea that we would take three bands, three vans, three lots of crew and management around the country was potentially a logistical nightmare and a massive money loser.
For the rest of the story, including a bunch of never before published Blam Blam Blam shots (the one at the top is one) from Jenny Pullar, head here.