Two dozen in the chilli bin and one in my hand…

I’ve been to Welling­ton heaps this year. I like it lots.

I’d not done Welling­ton much for of a decade until 2011. In fact my last vis­it to the city (aside from a sin­gle point­less — to the utter­ly hope­less Indone­sian embassy, for a visa I lat­er found I didn’t need — 3 hour vis­it) was in 2002. I used to come through six month­ly or less before that, most­ly on band, label, NZ on Air or polit­i­cal busi­ness but then the rea­sons dried up and I didn’t any­more.

And then I didn’t real­ly go south of the Waika­to, not from intent but more cir­cum­stance.

The result was I guess I rather Auck­lan­dized, and then I moved to an Indone­sian island and had no real rea­son to vis­it the cap­i­tal, the Indo Embassy jaunt being the excep­tion.

Of course, I laughed at Damian’s wonderful/infamous “I lived in Welling­ton and sur­vived to escape” sto­ry in Metro — and so I should have as it was freak­ing hilar­i­ous. How­ev­er I always felt — qui­et­ly and with a lit­tle, very lit­tle, unspo­ken shame — that I was doing so as a con­temp­tu­ous Auck­lan­der, not just because it was sim­ply a mighty fine piece of very fun­ny writ­ing. That pissed peo­ple off when it real­ly shouldn’t have.

It’s that endur­ing­ly ridicu­lous ‘they hate us, so we’ll sneer back’ thing that plagues the AK vs. the rest fractured/fractious rela­tion­ship. It’s odd too: most­ly I see Auck­land as a city that is a lot small­er than it thinks it is, and Welling­ton as a city that stands rather taller than it humbly thinks it does. Of course,  there is noth­ing wrong with either self-view, but if I’m hon­est the two places men­tioned most by peo­ple I’ve met liv­ing in Asia who have been to New Zealand, are Queen­stown and, yep, Welling­ton.

You went to Auck­land?’

Yes.’

And..?’

Welling­ton was very cool…’

Sor­ry Auck­land, but nobody real­ly notices you: your har­bour is pret­ty but the most of the bits sur­round­ing it — at least the bits a vis­i­tor might see — are a bit shit. Welling­ton has bet­ter drink­ing holes, bet­ter har­bour­sides, more inter­est­ing eat­ing options (our good ones — and there are lots — are most­ly a long, long way from any­where a tourist might go. The aver­age vis­i­tor doesn’t ven­ture a bus to Domin­ion Rd) and sim­ply bet­ter sur­round­ings.

Which kin­da in a strange way brings me to The Ene­my and Toy Love. I was think­ing about Auck­land arro­gance, that being as good a word as any, and how it worked all those years back. To be more exact, I was stand­ing in Real Groovy last Sat­ur­day on Toy Love Day, hav­ing pur­chased the all the vinyl and the DVD, and in front of me were hun­dreds of peo­ple — kids most­ly who’s par­ents were like­ly still in school when The Ene­my first arrived in Auck­land.

But thir­ty-four years back is where I was men­tal­ly: the day The Ene­my came to town, the black van pull up out­side Taste Records and this crew tum­bled out, into the store where they asked ques­tions and intro­duced them­selves. They’d just arrived and it was antic­i­pat­ed. We knew they were com­ing you see. In those days of pre-elec­tric com­mu­ni­ca­tion, we relied on Rip It Up magazine’s region­al roundups to tell us who and when acts from oth­er regions were on their way. And Rip It Up warned us that The Ene­my were com­ing. And we sneered. A punk band from Dunedin com­ing north to show us how it was done. Sure…

And, with­out going into the much-repeat­ed nar­ra­tive once again, they did: The Ene­my, these cousins from the dis­tant past turned us on our col­lec­tive punk heads, or at least some of us.

It’s maybe worth paus­ing a moment to clar­i­fy that…

The nar­ra­tive has become some­what skew­ered there and his­to­ry has been a lit­tle reworked in the years since. It’s true The Ene­my fig­u­ra­tive­ly tossed the most­ly unin­spired — until then, it would change — sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion of punk bands in Auck­land in the air and reworked them on their way down, forc­ing them to write songs if noth­ing else, but it’s easy to for­get that the oth­er great sin­gle of the punk era — The Sub­ur­ban Rep­tiles mes­meris­ing ‘Sat­ur­day Night Stay At Home’ — owed noth­ing at all to the Dunedin influ­ence, arriv­ing in August 1978, and nei­ther did the bulk of The Scav­engers’ out­put, which more or less exist­ed as it appears on their posthu­mous long play­er and on AK79, by the time The Ene­my arrived.

The Ene­my were amaz­ing — it’s hard to over­state how amaz­ing — but they cer­tain­ly didn’t invent or even com­plete­ly trans­form an already thriv­ing AK punk scene.

And it could be argued — and I will — that when Toy Love arrived in 1979 they were as much an Auck­land band as any­where else, feed­ing from the scene that they were both now part of and had matured great­ly from that encoun­tered by The Ene­my when they arrived. Where­as The Ene­my were bru­tal, almost ruth­less in their approach, Toy Love had smoothed the edges a lit­tle, per­haps not inten­tion­al­ly, but very much notice­able at the time and slot­ted quite per­fect­ly into an Auck­land scene that was fast mutat­ing from punk to a more inven­tive post-punk spread. They were not out­liers as much as they are now por­trayed as such.

The oth­er irony, as a friend brought up at Real Groovy the oth­er after­noon, was that Toy Love in mid-1980 were no longer any­thing like the under­ground act we now see them as. By that time they were the biggest main­stream draw­card in the coun­try, and indeed that the recent live album is called Live At The Glue­pot says way more to us who were around at the time than it does to a more recent lis­ten­er taint­ed by the mythol­o­gy: the sim­ple fact is that none of the oth­er bands from the punk or post-punk scenes were wel­come at the Glue­pot as per­form­ers or audi­ence. Put more clear­ly, the alter­na­tive crowd was pret­ty much banned en-mass from the place that album was record­ed. Toy Love’s Wind­sor Cas­tle fol­low­ers could not get into The Glue­pot.

Live At The Glue­pot is an album record­ed away from their fan­base and in a fair­ly alien envi­ron­ment: the band play­ing to a crowd in a tra­di­tion­al way, rather than the intense crowd inter­ac­tion that was the norm in their home venues.

Of course none of that should take any­thing away from the fact that a) Toy Love were nev­er less than an extra­or­di­nary musi­cal phe­nom­e­na to wit­ness as I did count­less times, peak­ing I’d argue late in 1979, and b) the place they found them­selves in mid 1980, when that live record­ing was made, was a place they real­ly didn’t want to be and they’d already des­ig­nat­ed a self-destruct timer which in ret­ro­spect you can hear in the wind­ing vinyl grooves of that long­play­er.

And if I was, for some odd rea­son, request­ed to nom­i­nate just one sin­gle live musi­cal ‘thing’ — gig doesn’t work for these as they were ful­ly crowd inter­ac­tive — as the — insert what­ev­er word you require here but great­est does it I guess — I’ve been a part of or wit­nessed in the last forty odd years, the gob-smack­ing­ly joy­ous extend­ed fam­i­ly event that was Toy Love at the Wind­sor Cas­tle on Sat­ur­day after­noons in the sum­mer of 1979 is it with­out ques­tion. I used to beg for the sequed Yum­my Yum­my Yum­my into Pos­i­tive­ly Fourth Street (1910 Fruit­gum Com­pa­ny into the hal­lowed poet no less) and almost always got it.…

Best live band. Ever.

No ques­tion.

As an aside — and my own lit­tle part in the sto­ry — I can claim two things. First­ly Paul Kean remind­ed me at the Music Awards that I used to make the tapes they played before and dur­ing live sets. I’d com­plete­ly for­got­ten the request I’d get to pro­vide these. Sec­ond­ly, I can claim to have sold the first ever Toy Love record — it was a released on a Fri­day by the record com­pa­ny, which meant in shops on the Mon­day. How­ev­er, I was man­ag­ing Taste Records (as above) a small store in Par­nell and Ter­ence Hogan was my Sat­ur­day staff mem­ber. As impos­si­ble as it now seems, the two of us manned the only record store open in Auck­land on a Sat­ur­day — and we were required to close by 1 pm by law!

That Sat­ur­day Ter­ry, who of course not only designed the TL art­work, but also was design­er in-house at their label WEA Records, arrived with a cou­ple of box­es of Rebel / Squeeze and, play­ing it over and over, we sold the lot to the kids gath­er­ing for the impend­ing Sat­ur­day after­noon down the road.

If you’ve been under a rock and not seen it, here’s the neat new Jeff Smith-direct­ed video:

8 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Samuel Scott on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM

As a Welling­ton­ian who vis­its Auck­land often I can hon­est­ly say I love both cities.

Samuel Scott on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM

Just as I love punk and the tacky prog that it set out to destroy!

Simon Grigg on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM

Samuel Scott: Same. Hav­ing a bit of a Welling­ton-fest at the moment.

Samuel Scott on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM

Have you been to Fisherman’s Plate on Bond st? Best Viet­namese in the coun­try.

John­ny Bon­go on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM

the first ‘punk’ record shop i went to in AK was Rock’n’Roll down­town some­where, but it dis­ap­peared when i startde fre­quent­ing town more often… kin­da glad i missed the ear­ly days, seemed quite vio­lent!

Nigel Rus­sell
November 05, 2012 at 04:11 PM

I’m with you Simon, Toy Love on a Sat­ur­day after­noon at the Wind­sor, nev­er bet­tered ! They used to do a blind­ing ver­sion of “What Goes On” too

Simon Grigg on Face­book
November 05, 2012 at 05:11 PM

Samuel no, but I will. Thanks for the tip. The best in AK is in Otahuhu

Ian Dalziel
November 29, 2012 at 02:11 AM

Hell, even Toy Love drum­mer Mike Doo­ley wasn’t allowed into the Glue­pot, on the night of the live record­ing — I think it was that night, or maybe it was before we went to Oz, blur­ry mem­o­ries — the bounc­ers wouldn’t let him in with his nor­mal drum­ming steel-cap boots on, we had to race off and get some sneak­ers…

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