Feels So Good…

Nick Hanson

As part of a rather spo­radic and over­due reis­sue pro­gram the sec­ond ever release on my (and Paul Rose’s) Pro­peller label, The Spelling Mis­takes’ Feels So Good (or Feel So Good — as per the front cov­er — nobody is real­ly sure which it was exact­ly) has been rere­leased by New York punk, pow­er­pop and post-punk label Sing Sing Records, who have gone the extra mile to ensure it sounds bet­ter than it ever has.

This was the sec­ond sin­gle from the band, the first being the noto­ri­ous Reena (although it came out after the sec­ond when the band had signed to Pro­peller), a song writ­ten about for­mer Bass Play­er Keith’s girl­friend Rachel, but changed at her under­stand­able request. Rena Owen  — then a boot-girl although lat­er of course an actor of some note — offered her name instead and so it was there­after and forever­more.

The inter­net needs a extend­ed decent bio of this band and one may be on the way short­ly, how­ev­er this isn’t it.

Formed in ear­ly 1979, The Spelling Mis­takes drew from two ear­li­er Auck­land sec­ond wave punk bands, Get Smart (from whence came broth­ers Nick (vocals) & Julian (drums)) and The Aliens (Kei­th Bacon on bass, and War­wick Fowler on gui­tar). Fowler and Julian Han­son were both song­writ­ers and their tunes made up about 60% of their reper­toire, with the bal­ance being var­i­ous cov­ers.

Kei­th Bacon left a month or two lat­er to form The Secret Agents and was replaced by a 17 year old Sel­wyn Col­lege stu­dent, Nigel Rus­sell, who’d been in a band called Retrox that nobody remem­bers.

As the orig­i­nal Zwines crowd dis­persed and the venue became most­ly dom­i­nat­ed by night­club tourists who’d heard of the venue via the media, The Spelling Mis­takes began to play venues that were  out­side the nar­row range Auck­land punk bands had played ear­li­er — sub­ur­ban halls, pubs, under­age clubs etc.

Sad­ly the worst of the Zwines crowd —  the boot­boys — fol­lowed them and they were soon banned from just about every venue in Auck­land despite the decent con­tacts their man­ag­er, Lar­ry Young (who also booked a bunch of venues and the huge­ly in-demand Toy Love), had.

That they also slagged off almost every band they played with, them­selves, Lar­ry and just about every­body else in town on a series of increas­ing­ly hilar­i­ous posters (and even a small book­let or two) that were instant­ly col­lec­table, didn’t help (a few are on this page, oth­ers are here).

As far as most venue own­ers were con­cerned The Spelling Mis­takes were untouch­able.

Enter the 1980 East­er Rock Quest at The Wind­sor Cas­tle Hotel in Par­nell. The venue was booked by Lar­ry and the Spelling Mis­takes were thus entered in a two day bat­tle, fol­lowed by a final, which, giv­en the num­ber of post-punk bands lin­ing up, was guar­an­teed to fill the place.

Three things fell into align­ment: The Spelling Mis­takes need­ed a record deal (although to be fair, just about every NZ band need­ed a record deal as there were round about none going in those pre-indie days), I’d just start­ed a label to try and solve that prob­lem and The Spelling Mis­takes were on my short­list of two bands I want­ed to launch with (the oth­er was The Fea­tures), and the prize was a day’s record­ing at Hugh Lynn’s Mas­cot Stu­dios in Eden Ter­race.

Spelling Mistakes at The Station Hotel

Rea­son­ably, giv­en their pro­file and their songs, The Spelling Mis­takes were in with a chance. But chance wasn’t some­thing that either Lar­ry or myself want­ed to reply on, so the judg­ing pan­el was select­ed on their overt SM’s friend­li­ness. Over the three days there were five or six of us. I was on the pan­el each day, as was super­star radio and TV DJ Bar­ry Jenkin, with Rip­per Records’ Bryan Staff and John Doe both putting in a day or two each, plus John Dix and Hugh Lynn.

By the end of the last day The Spelling Mis­takes were clear win­ners. There was one more band to go — from Welling­ton (the only band from Welling­ton to enter) came the odd­ly tagged The Ambi­tious Veg­eta­bles. They’d been late to the show and missed the pre­vi­ous two days of heats — they were slot­ted straight into the finals. And shit, oh dear, they were good. Real­ly, real­ly good.

The Spelling Mistakes

How­ev­er, it wasn’t to be — we had too much invest­ed in get­ting The Spelling Mis­takes into the stu­dio, and Lar­ry quick­ly arrived at the judg­ing table with a tray of beer jugs. After some six hours of judg­ing with freeflow beer on hand that day, we were tee­ter­ing any­way. This pushed us well over the edge and The Spelling Mis­takes were declared win­ners. I have no idea whether the result was manip­u­lat­ed or not, but that — I think — was the intent of those last few jugs.

The Ambi­tious Veg­eta­bles went back to Welling­ton, changed their name to The Mock­ers and all was well.

The Spelling Mis­takes entered Mas­cot a cou­ple of weeks lat­er and — with Fane Flaws from The Croc­o­diles on the desk as pro­duc­er (and Steve Crane as engi­neer) — they record­ed (but didn’t mix) the Feels Good A side with­in the allot­ted day’s stu­dio time.

The next day Fane mixed the A side and mas­tered it, at the same time speed­ing it up a lit­tle.

The Spelling Mistakes

We still had no B side, so the next day, with no more free time, I spoke to the stu­dio man­ag­er Pat Crowe, who agreed that he’d advance us a few hours. The band went back in the next night and with Bar­ry Jenkin record­ed two more tracks, I Hate The Spelling Mis­takes, and Hate Me Hate Me.

I left late in the evening think­ing it was done, but found out the next day that the band had reworked the tracks until the ear­ly hours.

Pick­ing up the mas­ter tapes lat­er that day I was giv­en an invoice for close to $1800 (the oth­er sin­gle I’d record­ed at the same time  — The Fea­tures’ City Scenes — had cost under half that with no free stu­dio time).

I’d tak­en Bryan Staff’s advice and cob­bled togeth­er a deal with Ode Records to man­u­fac­ture these for me and a cou­ple of weeks lat­er had fin­ished copies — with the pub­lish­ing some­how cred­it­ed to Ode Music (!) and a huge scratch across the front sleeve — some­where between my place and the print­ers some­body had etched a line on the art, and you can see it to this day.

I sold the sin­gle in to retail­ers around Auck­land and — bang, with­out warn­ing — it entered the NZ chart at 29 the next week. It was a WTF moment, but I knew we’d sold the sin­gles — one record store had re-ordered three times in two days.

With­in hours of the chart I was con­tact­ed by some­one at RIANZ, the folks who put togeth­er the charts, ask­ing if I’d done mali­cious things to the chart returns, which were man­u­al­ly com­plet­ed in those days and noto­ri­ous­ly both inac­cu­rate and rigged. The prob­lem was that New Zealand records — inde­pen­dent NZ records with­out prop­er dis­trib­u­tors more-so — sim­ply didn’t chart at all back then, even those we now think of as clas­sics of their era.

Oth­er retail­ers rang me, as they’d been called too. It was num­ber 10 in Auck­land (there were city charts in those pre-net­worked days)!

A cou­ple of days lat­er I had a call from a guy at Phono­gram — would I be up for putting the sin­gle on the next vol­ume of Sol­id Gold Hits? They’d pay us $2000 upfront — and I instant­ly saw a way out of the stu­dio bill. The studio’s Pat Crowe, tall and large of girth, an impos­ing fig­ure who famous­ly liked to cross-dress (and also man­aged their sis­ter secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny and Mojo’s, a Trans­ves­tite strip club), want­ed his mon­ey and was ring­ing dai­ly.

I’d tak­en to hid­ing out the back of the store when I thought I saw him com­ing.

Feel So Good

I stood in the record shop I worked in — Taste Records — with the cheque for $2000 grin­ning. A hour lat­er the Phono­gram per­son returned — they’d heard the record and hat­ed it. I was hand­ed back my mas­ter and the cheque was stripped from my hand.

The first press­ing of the sin­gle — 500 copies — sold out in the first week or so and I only had the mon­ey to cov­er anoth­er 250, thus it was delet­ed when we’d sold some 732 (the oth­er 18 were band and my prom0s, plus one to Radio B).

We still owed the stu­dio about $1300 (I’d used the few dol­lars I had in hand from sales to pay a bit, plus my record store wages) and the band had almost no earn­ing pow­er as they were banned from just about every­where. A few gigs out­side Auck­land, and the odd show in the city at punk-friend­ly venues like XS Cafe pret­ty much broke even.

Feel So Good

To add insult, I went to Ode, who were han­dling most retail­er invoic­ing. The deal I had under­stood (and to this day am still sure of) was that I would pay Ode 15% to cov­er their admin — I would then pay all costs. Instead I was giv­en a 15% roy­al­ty (no idea where the pub­lish­ing went) and told thank you.

$160.

Thir­ty two years on, you can buy it at the above link (or most good record stores) and save your­self some US$250 on eBay (unless you real­ly want an orig­i­nal)…

11 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Jonathan Grif­fiths on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 03:06 PM

Nice one.

Jonathan Grif­fiths on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 03:06 PM

Nice one.

Cliff ‘Skeats’ Grav­elle on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM

At last we have it in writ­ing. Twas a rort

Rachel McCarthy on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM

I get Face­book mes­sages from peo­ple I don’t know say­ing they are delight­ed to “meet” the famous (infa­mous?) Rachel!

Cliff ‘Skeats’ Grav­elle on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM

Oh my Gawd Rachel.…is it real­ly you!!!!!!

Rachel McCarthy on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM

Ha ha — yes, alive and kick­ing and still in Lon­don town!

Cliff ‘Skeats’ Grav­elle on Face­book
June 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM

Haven’t seen you since 1980 some­thing or oth­er… will drop you a line on anoth­er chan­nel and catch up

Chris Noo­nan on Face­book
June 22, 2012 at 08:06 AM

My copies arrived today — love the label art­work!!! will file next to the orig­i­nal — the prob­lem with a few of the orig­i­nals going for high prices on ebay, is that their are peo­ple out there who jump on copies and put them on ebay expect­ing a for­tune. most­ly they go for 100 or less but they are then lost to NZ col­lec­tors. Not quite sure why the mis­takes seem to have a huge fol­low­ing in the states…perhaps some­thing to do with the boot­leg that was released up there many years ago. Any­way — when’s the next one Simon?

Simon
June 22, 2012 at 09:06 AM
– In reply to: Chris Noonan on Facebook

There are a cou­ple of 7“s in the pipeline but nei­ther are 100% con­firmed. Also work­ing on a 24 track Class of 81 reis­sue, with 12 more lost sin­gles and unre­leased tracks from that year. Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans seem to love this record. I can’t say I’m unhap­py about it, but it’s an odd sin­gu­lar focus.

dave hold­en
August 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM

the amer­i­cans know of the band thru out­ra­geous for­tune, the song is on the intro, the video clips you have on youtube are mine and one has had 9000 plus vis­its direct­ed from out­ra­geous for­tune youtube video link!!
also have footage of reena on stage with the spelling mis­takes 1998 reunion!!

Phil Lam­bert
February 05, 2013 at 05:02 AM

that sawn-off lit­tle bas­tard Julian Hansen is a fan­tas­tic song­writer still. a cou­ple of years ago he released an album thru Pow­er­tool Records NZ under the name of LOST UNIVERSE..a low-fi affair but the songs are true gems..he wrote and record­ed the all the tunes at his scuzzy flat in New Lynn,Auckland, and played all the instruments..tragically the album was nev­er pro­mot­ed and sank with­out trace..

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