Red Alert

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Happy birthday Woody

Posted by on July 14th, 2012

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie would have turned 100 today. Woody is one of my heroes. He pretty much invented 20th century folk music and was a true radical.

He had an extraordinary influence on so many artists. Bob Dylan more or less became Woody in the early years of his career. In recent years a small industry has developed, celebrating Woody’s music. Have a look at this classic Bruce Springsteen version of This Land from 1985. Springsteen performed it again, with Woody’s contemporary Pete Seeger at President Obama’s inauguration. Billy Bragg and Wilco have brought a swag of Guthrie’s songs to life, putting music to lyric sheets from the archive. Steve Earle, who appears in this Democracy Now studio discussion on Guthrie’s life, wrote a great account of Guthrie’s legacy in the Nation back in 2003, and has just published a novel and an album inspired by the same.

Here’s an excerpt from a tribute in the Guardian:

Guthrie was born 100 years ago today, on 14 July 1912. His family broke up amid arson, death, poverty and madness, and he left his Oklahoma home at 18 to begin a lifelong habit of taking to the open road. His overriding inspiration was always the plight of the disenfranchised, and he lent his voice to the dustbowl refugees of the 1930s depression. His politics also extended into the wider world and he joined the marines in the second world war to fight the rising tide of fascism. With the famous logo written on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists”, he wrote hundreds of anti-Hitler, pro-war and historic ballads to rally the troops. But he never lost sight of the practical, human dimension and also wrote songs about the dangers of venereal disease. No subject was taboo.

Forty-five years after his death Guthrie’s voice remains clear and sure, not least because his strong moral values were infused by a wry sense of humour. He wrote great songs that could be understood and enjoyed by everyone, he knew the value of a good one-liner, a storyline and a catchy melody, and he never wavered from his mission to mean every word. Here are his thoughts on the effectiveness of song in spreading ideas: “There’s several ways of saying what’s on your mind. And in states and counties where it ain’t too healthy to talk too loud, speak your mind, or even vote like you want to, folks have found other ways of getting the word around. One of the mainest ways is by singing … No matter who makes it up, no matter who sings it and who don’t, if it talks the lingo of the people it’s a cinch to catch on, and will be sung here and yonder for a long time after you’ve cashed in your chips.”

This weekend there is a three day Woodyfest in New York, and another one in his birthplace of Omekeh, Oklahoma. And the Smithsonian have put out this amazing looking book and CD set.

I am sure if Woody were alive today he’d have been playing at one of the Aotearoa Is Not For Sale marches around the country.

Filed under: history, music

Happy New Year everyone

Posted by on December 31st, 2011

Counting our blessings as we move into 2012.

It’s been a hard year for so many New Zealanders. But we are a plucky country.

There’s lots to be done this (next) year. Let’s take more care of each other. Life’s too short not to.

I’ve chosen three songs to mark the occasion. Happy New Year x

Christmas songs #5

Posted by on December 24th, 2011

Acknowledge the previous song. Hard to beat. But Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks are a formidable duo. And it is Silent Night.

Happy Christmas everyone. Am rethinking Red Alert a bit. Will post some thoughts next week.


Filed under: music

Christmas songs #3

Posted by on December 23rd, 2011

By special request and it’s worth it. Paul Kelly: How to make gravy

Hat tip: rat

Filed under: music

Christmas songs #2

Posted by on December 23rd, 2011

This one’s a bit nicer than the last. I love the Cranberries. Like the song too.

Filed under: music

Christmas songs

Posted by on December 23rd, 2011

Well it is Christmas. And as we did it last year, I thought a few songs wouldn’t go amiss.
I’ve got a few odd ones. The first is Jim Morrison’s version of Jingle Bells. I am a serious Doors fan. First time I’ve ever heard this though. Suggestions welcome.

PS: think my eyesight needs checking. It’s a copy, but does sound liike JM

Filed under: music

Bring down the curtain

Posted by on September 23rd, 2011

There appears to be an on-going vendetta against workers in New Zealand’s entertainment industry.

Sure, the NActs are happy to line up beside local artists at events like the Rugby World Cup, but their actions are spelling doom for many of our most talented.

First, there was the decree from on high that all NZ entertainment workers are “contractors” and have no right to challenge their status under New Zealand law. There was the shameful spectacle of our government depriving New Zealand workers of rights in order to bow to Warners and Co., along with the ugly denunciation of anyone who dared speak out against this move as “hobbit-haters”.

Now, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced that New Zealand has cleared the way for overseas actors and musicians to come here whenever they feel like it, even if it’s at the expense of New Zealand entertainment workers. His policy changes mean that those representing actors, musicians and other entertainment workers no longer have to be consulted when overseas acts want to come here. Understandably, the Screen Directors Guild of NZ is expressing concern about the implications of the moves to alter the process for the entry of temporary entertainment industry workers into New Zealand. They say it is potentially damaging to the local screen and entertainment industries.

My old union, the Musicians’ Union did its best to promote New Zealand music, but they never stood in the way of overseas performances unless it meant New Zealand musos would be disadvantaged. It was their job to stand up for New Zealand talent and they did it responsibly.

Labour’s spokesperson for Immigration, Ruth Dyson, and Arts and Culture spokesperson Steve Chadwick say the change could mean that roles in local productions could be filled with overseas performers and that these pressures, along with strife in Public Broadcasting and local playhouses, such as Downstage, put at risk many New Zealand careers.

John Key’s justification for changing the laws around the Hobbit was to protect New Zealand jobs, yet his Minister of Immigration has opened the door for all and sundry.

Our proud record of cultivating NZ identity through the Arts, fostered under the leadership of Helen Clark, is faltering.

Who hates who now?

Webb Ellis worth two minutes

Posted by on September 19th, 2011

Listen and laugh

National Party Blues

Posted by on August 15th, 2011

At the National Party’s Conference Party on Saturday night Natties were supposed to dress up in 1930’s gangster costumes (very appropriate I thought) and they hired some of NZ’s best to play for the gang. I don’t blame the musos for agreeing, because they need to making a living.  But Facebook comments and suggestions were not so discreet once followers found out who the band were playing for.  Here’s a sample:

  • Make sure you throw a shoe!
  • Just remember they are innocent victims of being born rich, and dumb, a dangerous mix.
  • Into the Jaws of Death rode the xxx… good luck brave fellow
  • There must be some sort of modal weapon that you can subtly employ?
  • If you hit just the right low frequency, and hold it, they should all spew.
  • Subtly change all of the rhythm into charge of the light brigade – and shoot them all with your laser “peace and money for all” guitar… let me know how that goes for us.
  • ABBA: “Money Money Money”
  • The Beatles “Little Piggies”
  • Sadly the fabled “brown note” (between 9 and 20Hz) doesn’t work, although you may be able to induce some anxiety.
  • Sell out Saturday
  • “Depression Blues”:
  • Crank out some old school metal for them man… for whom the bell tolls!
  • Hope you didn’t try too hard (to bite your tongue, that is).

And there’s heaps more. I’m giving no clues about the origins of the Facebook comments, because these are musos who need the money.  Even though they are part of NZ’s wonderful musical talent pool, beggars can’t be choosers and if they kick up a fuss, they might be next on the hit list for John Key’s removal of rights for performers.

But it seems like National Party shindigs are not popular gigs in the NZ Music scene.

Musicians need to eat and while they might play the tunes, they are definitely not in tune with John Key and his mob.

On such a winter’s day…

Posted by on June 5th, 2011

Don’t know what the day was like in your town, but it was a winter’s day in Dunedin.

This is such a great song. Who knows what tomorrow will bring…

Thanks to the The Mamas and The Papas for California Dreamin’…

New Zealand Music Month: Last Day

Posted by on May 31st, 2011

When I was living in New York a decade or so ago, it seemed Dave Dobbyn was a bit of a soundtrack for the Kiwis we kicked around with. I am sure its a similar experience for many Kiwis overseas. I was not actually a great Dave fan before I went away (too much exposure to DD Smash I think) but I have come to be a fan. Welcome Home is a great song, but this is the song the evokes the best of Dave for me, and the best of New Zealand, that we are there for each other through thick and thin. (or at least we should be….)

And appropriately from the opening night of NZ Music Month last year at Mighty Mighty in Wellington.

New Zealand Music Month #8 – For Trevor

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

As John Rowles heads out on his farewell tour, it seems the Mum from Second Hand Wedding is not the only John devotee out there. Our very own Trevor Mallard is a fan. So for you Trevor, here he is in his hey-day. (Actually he looks pretty cool in this vid.)

New Zealand Music Month #7

Posted by on May 23rd, 2011

Been a bit slack with the posts in Budget week last week. This is Stereo Bus who found a really nice pop sound in the late 1990s, off the back of the super talented Dave Yetton from JPS. They got a bit of exposure, but I kind of feel they were never given the credit for two very good albums. I understand Dave Yetton has reformed the band this year, so keen to hear what that is sounding like. And no its not Kris Faafoi in there, its his brother Jason! Enjoy.

New Zealand Music Month #6- Anything Could Happen

Posted by on May 20th, 2011

After the Budget, I think this is an appropriate song. The iconic Clean looking young and sounding great, and even some shots of old Christchurch if I am not mistaken.

New Zealand Music Month #5

Posted by on May 14th, 2011

Last year I featured Lydia by Fur Patrol in the NZ Music Month videos ( a song distinguished by being a favourite of Marian Hobbs and having my old flatmate Simon on the drums). Anyhow, since last Music Month the voice of Fur Patrol, Julia Deans has put out a brilliant solo album, Modern Fables. If you have not heard it, take a listen. Her vocal talent is on show at its absolute best. The single from the album, A New Dialogue, combines both her beautiful tones with some clever songwriting. Enjoy, if you haven’t already.

New Zealand Music Month #4

Posted by on May 10th, 2011

A bit of retro sounds from The Mockers. It is Tuesday still, just, so this kind of feels appropriate. This song was HUGE at my Form 2 social (along with We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister.) Its aged a little bit (ok, quite a bit), but tell me you don’t feel like just a little dance….

Andrew Fagan was pretty cool, and when he ended up in a relationship with Karen Hay, it was as close to celebrity as we got in those days. And they are still happily together mixing it up on Radio Live.

New Zealand Music Month #3

Posted by on May 8th, 2011

Still buzzing (almost literally in the case of my ears) from the Shayne Carter gig on Friday. Here is an interesting little combination involving, among others, him, Jon Toogood from Shihad and Ladi6, who we featured last year. (and what looks like Gary Sullivan from Dimmer on drums?) Its a great sound, combining three great Kiwi music talents. They are called The Adults, and the song is Nothing to Lose. It was released quietly about a month ago, but appearently there is an album in the works. UPDATE: Album out in June.

New Zealand Music Month #2

Posted by on May 7th, 2011

I always knew I could never see one of my favourite bands play. The Double Happys had ended, all too soon, with the death of Wayne Elsey, just as I started high school. But Shayne Carter carried on making fantastic music, with Straitjacket Fits, and Dimmer. last night he played a back catalogue gig in Wellington.

In case anyone thinks NZ Music Month does not work, they put up the full house sign tonight. It did feel a bit like a sweaty orientation gig 20 years ago. But it was fantastic. The Double Happys songs stood out for me, especially Needles and Plastic and Some Fantasy. Thanks Shayne, and here is one that was played tonight, and will be familiar to many

New Zealand Music Month

Posted by on May 1st, 2011

Its that time of year again, for New Zealand Music Month. Its been another good year for Kiwi music, and judging by the gigs already up on the website, there are loads of opportunities to get out and enjoy and support New Zealand artists this month. Its been launched down in Christchurch today, with the terrific Lawrence of Arabia and others.

I am not going to do a post a day as per last year, but we will be putting up videos throughout the month to celebrate current and past Kiwi artists. As with last year your suggestions are welcome for any bands you would like to see or for us to highlight.

To start with a bit of nostalgia and nationalistic pride (and for May Day there are a few shots of protesting workers) and you might be familiar with this from the telly, but its Minuit, with their song Aotearoa

All fair and square at NZ on Air?

Posted by on January 26th, 2011

In Christmas week, NZ on Air released – some will say dumped – a long-awaited report reviewing its approach to funding and encouraging local music.

For 20 years, NZ on Air has been funding videos, albums and singles for NZ musicians. It can claim some of the credit for the fact that about one in five tracks played on NZ radio stations these days is local music.

Yet music industry critics say NZOA’s $5m+ music funding is too focused on commercial radio’s prescriptive formatting requirements which do not favour our cultural interests or diverse local content/talent.

In a well-argued submission to the review, Christchurch recording studio owner Rob Mayes pointed out that NZ on Air operates under the Broadcasting Act, with its primary function “to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture..” (Like what the TVNZ Charter required before a demand to simply ramp up the dividends)

The line from NZOA in the past has been that the Broadcasting Act told them that they needed to ensure that material was viewed by the widest audience possible, so songs with potential for commercial radio play had to be the priority. They bulk funded student and access radio (modestly, eventually) as an attempt at balancing this situation.

But sometimes NZOA seems out of tune. Take last year’s $50,000 bash for a couple of hundred people in Auckland from the music industry to celebrate NZOA’s 21st birthday. The budget was several times that for the television celebration. (Jonathan Coleman, who attended, was later shamed into saying it looked bad and he would ask questions. We still await the answers…)

Then there is the curious case of NZOA funding an album – $50,000 as well as four $5000 video grants – for Annabel Fay, daughter of Sir Michael Fay.

Ok, you might argue NZ talent deserves funding even you happen to be the daughter of a multi-millionaire sadly remembered for his profit-mining of Tranz Rail and the Winebox inquiry rather than his support of the first NZ America’s Cup challenge. (Judge that yourself and note how state funding supported a visit to Cuba to shoot the video – supporting NZ industry?)

However,the Broadcasting Act, section 39, suggests NZ on Air must consider whether a project seeking taxpayer help has secured other funding.

There was enough other funding to chopper a bevy of commercial radio jocks to Sir Michael’s Great Mercury Island for wining and dining to promote his daughter’s album. Among them, unwisely, was NZOA’s music programme manager Brendan Smyth, who some will credit with having done a great deal to promote NZ music (even if others say it’s too commercially focused.) Smyth has also not won Mainland friends. The March funding quarter of last year saw 55 of the 56 recipients of NZOA’s largesse from the North Island. Smyth reportedly stated South Island artists were “possibly just not good enough.” Hello? Anyone heard of The Feelers? Chris Knox? Haley Westernra, The Exponents, Bic Runga, , Dukes, Fur Patrol, Lawrence Arabia, Op Shop, Shapeshifter, Scribe, Salmonella Dub…

Truth is some well-established groups do well again and again from NZOA while no-names miss out. The Feelers have had $370,000 over the years. As John Drinnan  reported, the review, authored by former EMI CEO Chris Caddick, found NZOA’s “relaxed approach could potentially lead to misuse and wastage of fees.” Chief executive Jane Wrightson’s response was that things have been tightened up “and if people want things to be tightened further we will do that.”

Hmm, is there a stable door here?