16 Dec 2018

Songs that Slipped Out

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 16 December 2018

Inevitably, William Dart reaches the end of the year and there are a number of tracks that he couldn't include in previous programmes. Now's the time to make amends and he features songs by Bobby Vee, fleaBITE, Wendyhouse, and Alastair Galbraith & Jackson Harry.

fleaBITE's "Bite Me" album

fleaBITE's "Bite Me" album Photo: Stephen Templer/fleaBITE

Can I be presumptuous and suggest that, deep down inside most of us, there’s a youngster occasionally clamouring to come out.

And at this time of year, with Santamania imminent, it’s futile to resist. Especially when there’s such a lot of delightful Kiwi music for the young. In fact, last year I had no qualms in devoting an entire programme to it. And the best, like traditional pantomime, works on two levels, appealing to the juniors as well as their minders.

Some will remember Robin Nathan as one of the fearsomely funny trio that traded under the name of When the Cat’s Been Spayed. Since then, she’s put a lot of energy into young people’s music, with such enterprises as Fatcat and Fishface and, more recently, fleaBITE.

fleaBITE’s new fourth album, Bite Me, is her best yet, especially with Janet Roddick, David Donaldson and Steve Roche of Plan 9 along for the ride, bringing with them a vast storehouse of instruments to boost the enchantment factor. And they get off to rattling good start in "The Skellingtons of Wellington".

Robin Nathan knows and obviously relishes the almost surreal scramble of a youngster’s mind, in which free association can be a customary procedure.

A song about viruses gives rise to some nonsense scat singing; one about a slug gets Jeff Henderson making suitably lowdown slimy and sluggy noises on his saxophone.

Henderson and drummer Chris O’Connor add to the boppy fun of "Fatty Ratty Party", with Shannon Williams gleefully setting up a killer food order from the local takeaways. It's the sort of party fodder that’s enough to make my arteries seize up, fueling a song that, with a hip, bluesy beat, does for rodents what Louis Wain did for cats with pen and brush.

I mentioned this music working on numerous levels. And I suspect that more sixty-years-olds than six-year-olds will hear The Beatles song "Good Morning" in the opening of "Nice and Nasty", a wry tale about horsey power politics on the farm, with Janet Roddick doing some cluckoratura from the chook pen.

There are some more bizarre and wonderful sounds from the duo Wendyhouse, that is Daniel Powell and Bryce Galloway, otherwise known as E E Monk and Mr Pudding, on their new album, Banana Wine.

This provides a good read as well as a good listen. There’s an hour of music in 24 tracks on the CD, enclosed in a quirky A5 ziney comic, presenting the songs’ lyrics in the form of deftly drawn little stories.

With a title randomly nicked from T.C. Boyle’s novel The Terranauts, you might expect more than a few references to the parlous state of our world. And, despite the music’s toytown post-punk style, these two men are very serious.

It’s their first full-length album for 13 years and, they tell us that it’s been 8 years in the making. They strum and celebrate their luckiness on the first track, but it’s us who are the lucky ones.

Phil Ochs is a man who’s often on my mind, a tragic figure who suffered from being too principled for his times, a vulnerability that led to his eventual suicide in 1976, at the age of just 36.

His Pleasures of the Harbour was one of the finest albums of Sgt Pepper year, featuring such poetically and emotionally charged sagas as this:

It’s cheering that, here and now, in Aotearoa New Zealand, Ochs has been remembered in a whimsical lo-fi take on that song by Dunedin’s Alastair Galbraith and Jackson Harry.

I’m not so used to hearing the very explorative Galbraith in simple song mode but this is a charmer.

There’s a certain hesitancy, a feeling of a search being undertaken, that I find extraordinarily touching. A San Francisco flower-power lament from half-a-century ago rises up, Phoenix-like, in the gentle jingle-jangle of a new Dunedin home.

To hear the complete programme with much more music than presented here, including  a never-before-released track from the 60s singer Bobby Vee, click 'Listen' above.

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title
(Label)

'Wait Your Turn' (Fauntleroy et al) – Rihanna
Rated R
(Def Jam)

'To Susan on the West Coast Waiting' (Leitch) – Donovan
The Great Donovan
(Rajon)

'Instant Girl' (Crawford) – Bobby Vee
C’mon, Let’s Live a Little
(Master Classics)

'Today' (Royer/ Cohn) – Bobby Vee
The Sun Shines on My Street
(Teensway)

'She’ll be coming round' (Fullbrook arr Cowan) – Tiny Ruins, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra / Tianyi Lu
APO Concert recording
(RNZ)

'The Skellingtons of Wellington' (Nathan) – fleaBITE
Bite Me
(fleaBITE/ Border)

'Fatty Ratty Party' (Nathan) – fleaBITE
Bite Me
(fleaBITE/ Border)

'Nice & Nasty' (Nathan) – fleaBITE
Bite Me
(fleaBITE/ Border)

'Lucky' (Powell/ Galloway) – Wendyhouse
Banana Wine
(Wendyhouse)

'Friends' (Powell/ Galloway) – Wendyhouse
Banana Wine
(Wendyhouse)

'Nothing' (Powell/ Galloway) – Wendyhouse
Banana Wine
(Wendyhouse)

'Reason to Live' (Powell/ Galloway) – Wendyhouse
Banana Wine
(Wendyhouse)

'I’ve Had Her' (Ochs) – Phil Ochs
Pleasures of the Harbour
(A&M)

'I’ve Had Her' (Ochs) – Alastair Galbraith, Jackson Harry
Love for Phil Ochs
(Independent Woman)