|L to R: Chris Parry (The Cure's manager and MD of Fiction Records); Robert Smith; Murray Thom (MD of CBS NZ); Cure bassist Simon Gallup; Terry Condon (MD of Stunn Records and NZ subsidiary Reaction Records); Cure drummer Lol tolhurst; Trevor Reekie|
By Richard Thorne
Being NZM's 20th birthday we thought it was an opportune time to turn the mic on our 'Moments' column curator Trevor Reekie. He spends hours, nay days, each issue cajoling other musicians into digging in their 'best-forgotten photos' drawer, then revealing the story behind their chosen historical document.Moments Like These is a firm favourite among NZM readers, providing an excellent forum for scurrilous subjects to rewrite their potted histories.
Trevor was part of a cabal that included Murray Cammick, Roger Shepherd, Simon Grigg and a few others who kept the spirit of genuinely creative Kiwi music alive in the perilous days of the late '80s and early '90s. He has played in bands that include Car Crash Set, survived 10 alcohol-fuelled years in the Greg Johnson Band, released solo albums under the moniker of Cosa (Nostra) and still records with Trip To The Moon. Anyone who has met him will know that Trevor has a closet that doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. It's full of enlightened vampires and dark souls all looking for the exit. NZM just needed to find an excuse to get a confession from him…
Richard Thorne poses the questions.
Tell us about the picture Trevor. Who took it, where and when was this?
I have no idea who took the photo but I suspect it was on CBS's tab. I always thought of this picture as the wrong place for the right people. It was taken backstage at the Auckland Town Hall on the opening night of the Cure's 'Faith' tour on Friday 31 July, 1981. The band are clutching gold discs for their first two albums - 'Three Imaginary Boys' and '17 Seconds'. NZ was one of the first countries to really breakThe Cure and CBS had a lot to do with that.
The band were on a massive world tour, and the NZ leg included two nights in Auckland, two nights in Wellington (two shows each night), and on the 6th of August they did two shows at the Christchurch Town Hall.
(I know the dates 'cos I'm a diary freak.) Then continued the tour taking in Australia, Canada, France and the UK where the tour finished in London December '81. They must have just been raking it in if the NZ shows were anything to go by.
And how was it you came to be hanging in such exalted company? Did you have a proper job back then?
Proper job? Apart from the one I've got now I'm not sure if I've ever had a proper job. I'd just returned from overseas and started working for Terry Condon at Stunn Records and the newly formed subsidiary, Reaction Records. My job was pretty much to do everything involved in running a label (bar distribution). Terry had set up the labels and was moving to Australia.
A big part of the job was liaising and working with CBS and making sure we were always in their face. The rest of the job description was artist co-ordination, tour management, indie promotion and trying to get radio play. You have no idea how hard it was to get airplay in the '80s. In those days you got around radio by building relationships with key retailers.
Terry needed someone to live on next to nothing and at the same time run these labels when he left. I got that job and I loved it. I'd only been back in NZ a few weeks. For a while I had a part time job at Record Warehouse to subsidise the pittance I was earning at Stunn. Simon Grigg and his Propeller label was the main indie at the time. Flying Nun was just about to release the Clean's 'Tally Ho' later that year. Festival Records were really active with local releases and CBS was probably the only major label doing much stuff locally. It was a very interesting and musically vibrant time.
To add some more local perspective on the period; in June 1981 Dave Dobbyn had just started DD Smash and was on tour supporting Dave McArtney and the Pink Flamingos (when Paul Hewson was in the band). Terry Condon also managed the Flamingos. Most of Dobbyn's band came from the band Lip Service that Terry had released on the new Reaction label which he'd started with Glyn Tucker at Mandrill Studios.
Terry Condon was an enigma, a real record company guy before there were record company guys. He is a chapter to himself! (See John Dix's 'Stranded in Paradise'.) I just tied up a lot of the loose ends, took his furniture and tried to plug all the gaps when I inherited these two labels after Terry moved to Australia in late 1981. Terry was truly a 'wild card', he could talk a dog down from a meat wagon!
What of the history of the others in the photo?
Terry Condon had started off in the music industry in the late '60s working for the major labels in Wellington around the same time Wayne Mason et al were in the Fourmyula. Chris Parry was the drummer and a driving force behind that band. Terry relocated to the UK and worked for a number of major labels over there. He was real good at it. When the Fourmyula relocated but failed to crack the UK Chris left the band and was introduced (so I believe) into the UK music industry by Terry.
Chris Parry went on to be a powerbroker in the English record business - he signed (and produced) the Jam when he was at Polydor! He came close to signing a number of other acts, including the Pistols. He's a real smart cookie and an even better record company guy than Terry. Chris signed The Cure (management and recording rights) to his new Fiction label back in September 1978. You see how powerful and smart he was? From the get-go he was as much a part of The Cure as Robert Smith. Those first two Cure albums were produced by Parry and The Cure grew through relentless touring in those early years.
By 1981 Terry Condon was back in NZ and had started Stunn Records, and through his connection to Parry licensed the Cure for Australia and NZ. They were Terry's trump card! Murray Thom is another enigma. He had just been made MD at CBS NZ. He'd replaced John McReady (who was a legend) and Murray would have to have been the youngest MD in the history of the local record business. CBS licensed Stunn for NZ. Murray knows a hit when he hears one. There is a shit load of connections in that little back stage room… that mouldy little room with terrible wallpaper and harsh neon lights.
Stunn released most of the Fiction label catalogue which included the Associates and the legendary Cult Hero (a Cure off-shoot) single. I threw clean sacks of those singles away and now they are worth a fortune on the collectors' market.
So did you get to spend any quality time with The Cure?
The Cure had arrived the night before and we had introduced them to the industry at an informal 'lunch' (liquid/ chemical) at the Rhumba Bar in the afternoon. I don't know how the band were still standing! Robert Smith is an incredibly hard person to get to know or even converse with, and that was a big part of the enigma that he projected on stage. They were very English, aloof and 'cool' when it was 'cool' to be English and aloof. Lol was dead friendly with both feet on the ground. Simon always seemed to be off somewhere else!
It was a time I don't remember with absolute clarity - there were some 'incidents' but I never kept that sort of diary. My job was doing a lot of the run around and set up for the tour. I do remember going to the White Heron Hotel (Room 809) in Parnell to pick up the band the morning after this gig. There was a lot of fruit thrown around the place (a courtesy pack from CBS), lots of bottles and full ashtrays, a hugely irate cleaner from the motel, and Robert Smith looked like he may have slept face down on an ironing board. But, as I say, recollection is a bit hazy!
I remember driving hundreds of miles to catch that tour in Wellington and being gobsmacked for two or three hours. Best gig ever. How was it for you?
They were great shows, the band were confident and just finding their glam/goth roots! The audience went nuts. NZ had already embrace the Cure. But to be quite honest that's about as much as I can remember and I didn't actually see much of the shows from an audience perspective. There was a never-ending series of things that needed to be done every night; from dealing with guest lists to being courier, designated driver and general shit-kicked sweep up guy!
Here's their set list though: The Holy Hour, In Your House, The Drowning Man, 10.15 Saturday Night,Accuracy, The Funeral Party, M, Primary, Other Voices, All Cats Are Grey, At Night, Three Imaginary Boys, Fire In Cairo, Play For Today, Splintered In Her Head, A Forest, Faith.
What are you and those other three Kiwi high rollers up to nowadays?
Terry Condon I lost contact with after he moved to Australia. I heard a lot of things but I don't know how true they were. He gave me a break when I needed one and I learnt a lot from him. Murray Thom ran CBS in Auckland for quite a few years and after he left he did a bunch of successful music marketing projects including the 'Piano By Candle Light' and 'Expresso Guitar' albums. He is a marketing genius. He started Personalised Plates (I think) and is still active in music and marketing. Chris Parry is probably as wealthy as Robert Smith. They are all light years wealthier than me.
I went on to help build Reaction Records with Glyn Tucker (a mentor who let us loose in hisMandrill Studios - we used to live there), which produced Danse Macabre, the Mockers,Marginal Era (including the old RWP theme) and Car Crash Set. Then I set up Pagan Records in 1985 (at that time a subsidiary of Mirage Films until they went into bankruptcy), and later Antenna in 1995.
After 2000 the record industry sort of left me, so now I stand on the sidelines cheering everyone on and documenting much of it as a freelance broadcaster for Radio NZ National. I still make records but only stuff that really interests me. Last year I helped produce the Nigel Gavin album, compiled a 'world music' album for EMI, and released a new Trip to the Moon album with my good friend Tom Ludvigson. I consult a lot of stuff as well and generally decline any compensation for those services, mainly 'cos it's for broke ass musician friends.
Does the local industry look any better from the outside looking back in?
It would be really easy to say no - not only because the whole industry is under reconstruction, but because it has never been easy here. We have traditionally been victims of distance and scale, so in many respects it's a snafu paradigm. There's as much heroism as there is hedonism in our local music industry history.
In most cases what takes place at an industry level doesn't affect many musicians and songwriters because NZ is a place where the motivation is more what you become from your music as opposed to what you get for your music. What always attracted me to NZ music is that we celebrate a point of difference. The 'industry' has never really been comfortable with that point of difference. That was the mandate of the 'indie' sector.
But I also believe that now is as good a time to be a musician as any, maybe more than ever before because we now have a history that is worth celebrating and a future that is self-determining. As always the motivation is in the belief. So in some respects I don't really align myself the 'Industry', even though I was part of it for many years.
There is a new breed of young Industry players who are incredibly switched on and they are generally people who are at a grass roots level. Once upon a time one would have said an 'Indie' level, but 'indie' has become very hard to define these days. These are the people who are going to determine the new model (in my opinion) for the industry. Now that the downloading dust is beginning to settle I'm beginning to think the solution for the new model is going to be to cut a deal with the ISPs. If that's the way it goes, the music fan will get better quality music sitting at home and won't mind paying a reasonable price for it. Copyright is not a dirty word, and it has to be protected. Musicians and songwriters are a precious jewel and they gotta eat too!
Of that lot in the photo whose life would you rather have had?
I read somewhere that life rarely turns out like the movies. Real life includes disappointment. But I nurture the hope that things will work out. It's the little surprises and triumphs that seem to keep me going. Ahakoa, he iti, he pounamu (although it may seem small, it is precious). A good mate of mine who was in NA told me that God doesn't close one door without opening another, but it's hell out in the hallway. I'm real glad he told me that cos we've all been in the hallway… and it's being out in the hallway that tests, measures and builds 'character' so when that next door opens you enter as the person that you have become. I'm lucky enough to think that I wouldn't trade my hallways for anyone else's!