Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poi poi twist

I went to the book launch for Blue Smoke last night. The evening featured a college jazz band, and speeches, of course. And music.

Author Chris Bourke was introduced by Tim Finn, who talked about some of the magnificent stories that he'd discovered from reading the book. Then Chris spoke, starting by saying "It's my party, so I may cry..."

He talked about some of the people who had helped him with the book, some of whom were there, like one elderly gentleman Chris introduced (I figured out it was Dennis Huggard, after referring to the acknowledgements), who had been collecting press clippings on jazz in New Zealand since he was young teen during the 2nd World War, and had over 9000 manilla folders full of them. Or another chap (Jim Warren, I believe) who had provided him with copies of Playdate magazine, which Chris explained to the young folk in the room, was a magazine published by movie house Kerridge Odeon, and had film reviews with jazz reviews in the back (written by Warren). Chris never saw it in his house, as he said the title Playdate was deemed to close to Playboy!

The venue for the book launch was the Gus Fisher Gallery in Shortland St, which has been home to York St Studios, TVNZ, and before that Radio NZ. Chris talked  about walking down to the launch via Greys Avenue, past the former site of the Picasso (a venue), and other sites where clubs had been. He was particularly glad the launch was happening in that space, as it had been home to Radio 1YA,  a station his mother had performed on with a choir.  He mentioned all the dancehalls that used to be in the main centres, with dances happening 6 nights a week. Even in Taranaki, there were over 200 dancehalls, said Chris, "...and if it wasn't for them, many of us wouldn't be here today."

He also talked about people he'd met along the way, who were no longer with us, like Prince Tui Teka. He also made mention of his former flatmate, Ian Morris, and told a few stories about him.

Then the formal part of the evening wrapped up with Simon Lynch taking over the keyboard and leading everyone in singing Blue Smoke, followed by Tom Sharplin taking the mic and singing Hoki Mai. A rousing singalong for a great book. And then people carried on....

Review of Blue Smoke by Graham Reid (NZ Herald/Elsewhere).
Blue Smoke, available online from Mighty Ape ($49.99)

Chris Bourke, at Blue Smoke book launch. Love the shirt!

The opening blurb in the book quotes a song lyric... "It's a Maori melody, come along and twist with me, Poi poi and twist the night away..."

Chirs talks in the book about various local spinoffs of the hit song The Twist (which NZ band the Keil Isles had a big hit with here, as radio decreed Chubby Checker's original was too noisy to play), and mentions one of the best was Rim D Paul and the Quin Tikis doing a song called Poi Poi Twist, which features that lyric.

I've got a version of that song by the Maori Hi Five (done on the HMV label, with Hippy Hippy Shake on the flip - this went to #4 on the Swedish charts in 1962, apparently), another showband of the same era. I've digitised the crackly old 45, and here it is below. Enjoy.

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