|Hostage to the beat - front cover. Published by Tandem Press|
History never repeats, but it may come back to haunt you. In his follow-up to When the Rock Got Rolling, his tribute to Wellington's rock scene in the 60s, author Roger Watkins pays homage to the movers and shakers in the Auckland music scene during the 50s and 60s, an era as wild as it was weird.
A history lecturer at Welllngton's Victoria University and a musician during Auckland's rock 'n' roll years, Watkins new book, Hostage to the Beat: The Auckland Scene 1955-1970, is an alphabetically ordered retrospective that begins with The Acton and ends with The Zodiacs There are also dozens of other imaginatively named outlets like Feet Beats, Velvet Bubble, The Fair Sect, Hi-Revving Tongues, The Steam Packets and, best yet, The Four Fours.
The writing and attention to detail make it clear that Watkins is passionate about the music of his day. He's also pissed off it's been universally forgotten.
"Fundamentally, I'm really cheesed off that that period of our social history has become invisible," he chides. "I mean, so many contemporary musicians have no idea who Larry's Rebels or The Underdogs were. Or even who Johnny Devlin was. He was New Zealand's first rock and roll rebel, he was New Zealand's Elvis. And no one even knows about him. It's a real shame.”
|Peter Posa and friend. Porbably something to do with his album called White Rabbit|
It's Watkins' opinion that musicians today have nothing on their 60s counterparts. For a start, they have no political or social motivations to spur them on. In Auckland in the 60s shock value counted enormously. It was an age of unspeakable matricide and the incomprehensible notion that teenagers had sex.
Thanks to limitations in technology, it was also a time when talent counted as much as image, maybe even more. "The technology and the equipment didn't exist in those days," explains Watkins.
"Technology these days allows people that might not necessarily have the natural, raw talent as musicians, to create music.” Gaining precious airplay on radio and television is another burden contemporary bands have to contend with. But before the advent of music videos and Casey Kasem's Top 40, things were different.
If you were in a band the DJ was your friend, Somebody who had your best interests at heart. Somebody like Paul Holmes, perhaps, who fronted a rock show called Gruntmachine.
"Radio was a completely different beat," raps Watkins. "A lot of those jocks in the 60s saw the bands live, compered their shows, knew the bands personally. Nowadays radio is all programmed by computer, there isn't even anyone there. So it's much harder to get airplay. I think the bands now have it much harder. The 60s were a much more personable time. It was a people's time."
|The Brew, left to right - Doug Jerebine. Bob Gillet, Tom Ferguson, Yuk Harrison, Trixie Willoughby|
It was, argues Watkins, the definitive era in rock and roll throughout the world. "The 60s was a renaissance. Everything changed in the 60s. In New Zealand there was a staggering amount of recording done and there were a phenomenal number of bands.
“The music still stacks up today. It was loads better than anything that was coming in from elsewhere. The funny thing is that New Zealand music from that period is now in demand by collectors in Scandinavia and Germany. They recognise the vitality that was lacking In the British and American recordings But no one in New Zealand even knows this stuff exists.''
Republished here for archival purposes only - non-commercial use.