Edition: August 11, 2010
Rock-n-Roll Exhibition: SIMON GRIGG
:: Playlist, intro, song descriptions, and some of the photos, written and handpicked by Simon Himself ::
As a kid growing up in suburban Auckland in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s good music was very hard to find. The commercial radio was awful, dominated by mainstream pap with a couple of hours of harder edged rock’n’roll late at night.
Then came pirate radio and the underground and it opened a whole new world of adventure to me. Radio didn’t have to be pap. I starting hunting out the sounds I was hearing on my radio under the blankets late at night when I was supposed to be asleep, most especially the bands that were making the sorts of raw garage rock’n’roll in my hometown. By age 16 I was sneaking out and was a regular, under-aged, fixture at the various clubs and bars where bands, most of whom were never recorded, played.
It was a short step from there to the forming my own band and then my own label. It set me on a journey I’m still enjoying.
I’ve always liked to be challenged by music and almost everything here pushed the boundaries of contemporary music at the time they were released. And they are tunes…every last one of them.
01. The La De Da’s – How is The Air Up There
A bunch of first generation punks from the formless western ‘burbs of Auckland, their first single was on a tiny local label in 1965, after which, driven by their wild live act, they were signed to the Eldred Stebbing’s legendary Zodiac label. Their second single flopped but this, their third, produced by John Hawkins, was a massive hit and has a reasonable claim to having the best into of any single ever. Screaming out a big fuck you, this got no radio play but the kids loved it and it sold and sold. They turning into fairly respectable psychedelic rock band after this and guitarist Kevin Borich became, and still, is an Australasian Rock legend.
Year Released: 1966
02. The Bluestars – Social End Product
These guys went to the same school as me, although clearly quite a few years earlier, where they formed this garage band. Social End Product, their second single, begins with a searing lead guitar solo leading into a tale of teen social alienation over a primitive stomping rhythm. It’s obvious that they can play, but only just…which after all is really all you need to make a killer record like this. Much compiled over the years around the world, this song is a classic of its genre. Original copies sell for huge money now.
03. The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Of the hundreds of musicians I’ve worked with over the years, every one has admitted a debt to The Beatles. Lennon was perhaps the first alt-rocker and this tune, from Revolver, can arguably lay claim to being the first time the world heard prototype cut & paste electronica, twenty years before DJ Shadow. Almost everything that we now take for granted in the studio, The Beatles did first, or least opened the door that allowed others to walk through. In the end they were as much a social revolution as a band and yet the music, like this, still holds up.
04. The Stooges – No Fun
One of the endless stream of bands who appeared in the wake of The Beatles was The Iguanas from suburban Michigan, featuring a young James Osterberg. He was hijacked from that band by another band, but took the Iggy nickname went with him. There was a killer DJ mix by one of my heroes, Frenchman Laurient Garnier, playing tribute to Detroit. Ploughing through some deep techno, it stops and then drops into this monster from their first, John Cale produced, album tying all that is Detroit together. As much Motor City as Motown or Techno, The Stooges rearranged the sonic levels of the world.
05. David Bowie – All The Madmen
Long before Tin Machine there was The Man Who Sold the World, the third Bowie album, a major flip after the light hippie pop-folk of his earlier work. The first album with the band who would become The Spiders From Mars, most notably Mick Ronson, who arranged it, this was a much darker affair, hard and lyrically obtuse (the fade on this ditty about insanity seems to ask the listener, in fractured French, to ‘open the dog’). This was the beginning of my love affair with David Bowie. I lay on the floor at night repeatedly listening to this with my headphones on over and over for a year or more. I’ve bought everything he’s done since and it’s fair to say that he changed the way I look at and listen to music…but, then, a few of these records did just that…
06. Richard Hell & The Voidoids – Blank Generation
New York punk arrived and I had found my spiritual home. I lapped this stuff up and still treasure all my early, battered, 45s, including this, which like the Bluestars earlier, was a short bratty ode to urban alienation, from the man who not only defined the look of 70s punk, but in this song, its whole ethos. Another hero, and another two and half minutes of perfectly formed noise.
07. Wire – Mannequin
In July ’77 I bought the live UK punk document, The Roxy London WC2. It was messy and much of it was disposable, but one band stood out, Wire, a bunch of clearly too arty for their own good Londoners whose first three albums are absolutely indispensible artefacts of the era and marked the point where punk divided into two camps, the more basic, often thuggish rock ’n’ roll primitives and those that realised that the true punk ethic was that you could do anything, as long as you pushed at the boundaries. A gorgeous, almost Beatlesque, single that has stood the test of thirty years. Love it.
08. The Saints – (This) Perfect Day
A killer Australian band from the dreary wastes of Queensland, which we New Zealanders are proud to say was initially produced by one of us. Recorded after they moved to London, and shortly before they split for the first time (they reformed back in Australia in the 1980s), this is the superior 7” recording, as compared to the normally heard album take, and was a minor chart hit not only in the UK and Australia but across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand. They can also claim to have one of the best EP titles ever: Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow.
09. The Buzzcocks – Love Battery
Has any band since the 1960s had a more impeccable, more concise, run of perfect power pop singles than the Buzzocks? If so, I can’t think of one. Not only did they kick off the whole indie recording scene with Spiral Scratch, but they, more than any other band, inspired another whole generation of pop tinged garage bands in New Zealand, including a bunch I happily signed to my labels in years to come.
10. Gang of Four – Armalite Rifle
This is where punk met funk and the pointers towards the future moved just a little. It’s hard to overstate how influential these guys were. Simply put, they invented the large parts of the independent musical landscape going forth to the 2000s. A protest song about the Irish troubles, this is the vastly superior 1978 Fast Records recording which as far as I know has never been on CD – Blow your head off/blow your guts out/I disapprove of it/and so does Jon goes the lyric.
11. Suburban Reptiles – Saturday Night Stay At Home Night
The first band I was ever involved with and New Zealand’s first and perhaps greatest punk band. I formed this band in early 1977 with a friend…I couldn’t play an instrument so I became their manager. As much about pure style as substance, this was their second single, produced by Split Enz’s enigmatic founder, Phil Judd. A roar of multitracked guitars pushes the listener into a dense punk wall of sound that would do Phil Spector proud and a strident, defiant, vocal from Zero.
12. Johnny Thunders – You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory
Tragic, wasted, and intimately dead from it all, Johnny was rock ’n’ roll lived to the ugly edges and yet through it all he managed to make some wonderful, wonderful music, including the solo album, So Alone, which includes this extraordinary rock ballad. I bought this new in Sydney on the day of release and I’ve played it almost daily ever since…
13. The Clash – Bankrobber
I was doing a radio show in the morning, when I heard Joe had died. I had this, the extended version, in my bag and I simply put it on, turned the mike off and cried. I loved The Clash more than words could say and I loved Joe Strummer. Without whom….
14. The Features – Victim
The fifth release on my Propeller label and perhaps my favourite release ever. Jed Town, who hemmed this brilliant band, was and still is a genius and the moment his voice drops in, at 1.14 is my favourite moment in all rock ’n’ roll. I’m so fucking proud to have released this single.
15. The Birthday Party – Nick The Stripper
I licensed this off the Australian label, Missing Glass, and we sold large numbers around the world… Our copy had an exclusive non LP B side. The albums sold not quite as well for us but it was worth it simply to give me an excuse to go across to Melbourne where I saw them live, in their home ground. Nothing, and I mean nothing, I’ve ever seen was as intense as a young Nick Cave onstage in Melbourne in 1980 and 1981.
~ Watch the classic video of Nick The Stripper here
16. Tall Dwarfs – Nothing’s Gonna Happen
I kicked off two things with this release—my new label Furtive which had this single by the former Toy Love members as it’s first release, and inadvertently, the whole low-fi sound which Flying Nun took around the world. But we did it first… so there…
17. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – Scorpio
I saw these guys live in London in the early 1980s and they were outrageous. When hip-hop came along it completely changed all the rules. It was the new punk and kicked off the huge changes that would make the 1980s one of the most inventive decades since rock ’n’ roll began. Nothing ever sounded the same and the stylist and rhythmic earthquake also shook the rock and post-punk underground which would never look back
18. New Order – Everything’s Gone Green
The greatest British band of the post punk era, bar none. This tune, the first time I heard it, made me stop—it took my breath away. A radical mashing of the UK indie ethic, Joy Division and the new NYC underground (see Grandmaster Flash above).
~ Watch the concert version of Everything’s Gone Green here. Live in NYC, 1981. Bernard Sumner was so young!
19. Bored Games – Joe 90
Thoroughly retro when it arrived, but what the hell. Mostly, New Zealand rock ’n’ roll settled into a fairly retro period from about 1982 to 1987 and I rather lost interest for a period. Whatever, I love this record; it’s so, for want of a better word, catchy. Pure jangly pop that sounds like it was recorded in 1977, from the guy who went on to lead the mighty Straightjacket Fits, Shayne Carter.
20. The Screaming Meemees – Stars In My Eyes
The third to last single released on Propeller and another I’m pretty proud of. These guys were young North Shore kids from Auckland who I managed and recorded. This was their last release and a bit of a killer if I say so myself. Indie dance pop when that word was not a dirty word.
21. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding
Elvis first covered this Nick Lowe song around 1979 but I thought I’d offer up this live take, recorded in Germany in 1983, which I kinda like despite the cheesy organ. I’m a huge Elvis Costello fan and acquire, often in several formats, everything he releases. To me he’s the seminal songwriter of his generation. Other people of course hate him…they have yet to come to terms with the fact that they are wrong.
~ (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, Elvis Costello duet with Nick Lowe, Tokyo, 1987; watch the concert here
22. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
I was tossing up which of the Liverpool bands I’d post here but most of the Teardrop Explodes songs I really like are morose ballads, so I thought I’d put forward a morose up-tempo song from Ian McCulloch and crew. We all got rather drunk one night in Ubud and as we drove away from the restaurant, a big moon came over the hill and this, the 12” mix of the song came on. Chilling…
~ Watch the classic video here
23. Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It
Another life changing moment. The new underground house out of Chicago hit me like a runaway cement truck in 1986. As the rock’n’roll scene seemed to have begun endlessly repeating itself, along came this mutant electronic punk, from the garages and tiny labels of the US underground and changed the way the world made music forever. Middle America never understood it but the rest of the planet leapt at it. The first night I bought this 12” home I played it over and over for about six hours before I finally dozed off. A motherfucker of a record…
24. EPMD – So What Cha Saying
I loved the second wave of hip-hop, the so-called Golden age. EPMD made rough and ready, sample heavy singles using technology we would laugh at now but made them sound special even from this far out. This was from their second album, much loved by me, Unfinished Business. Hip Hop changed heavily after this, it lost it’s innocence as it moved west and added guns and gangsters to the mix.
25. The Headless Chickens – Gaskrankinstation
Flying Nun’s most interesting act, and one of the few from Auckland, with a harrowing tale of boredom and angst edging on madness, which is anything but boring. Chris Matthews’ and band dramatically meld contemporary electronica with Iggy. A huge favourite. No Fun for the 1990s.
26. 808 State – Cubik
Techno punk from Manchester, the heart of creative Britain. This seared out of speakers and across dancefloors worldwide in 1990 as house and techno took hold.
27. Kraftwerk – Radioactivity [Francois K Mix]
I have to have Kraftwerk here but I decided to use a 1991 remix from the genius that is Francois Kervorkian. Kraftwerk were perhaps the most important band to record anywhere over the last thirty five years, and the world would sound completely different without them. They influenced everyone, even people who had never heard of them.
28. Nathan Haines – Earth Is The Place [Francois K Edit]
I signed Nathan in 1994 as the first act on my new Huh! label. The second signing was OMC who took How Bizarre around the world for me, selling 4 million records and giving me my first US number 1. This track, from a 1999 album, was a huge anthem in the clubs of NYC and appeared on countless compilations worldwide that year. A massively talented musician who might still take the world by storm. This is the US club re-edit.
29. The Others Requiem – Hot Vs. Cold
Three young guys from West Auckland who I signed to my Joy label and released a double album with three years back. The album, Something Error Happens was, I thought a masterpiece and had the same sort of punk attitude and DIY ethic that my first releases on Propeller in 1980 exhibited. Give these guys a year or two and they will do take the planet.
Note: Simon is the guy who formed and managed Suburban Reptiles, one of New Zealand’s first two punk rock bands (the other was The Scavengers), in 1977. He founded Propeller Records in 1980 & managed The Screaming Meemees. In 1982 he was awarded the Record Industry Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to the New Zealand Recording Industry. In 1986 he opened The Asylum, the first House music night club in Australasia, located in Auckland. 1996 – 1997, his label, Huh!, took the world by the storm via OMC’s single How Bizarre, reaching number one in 15 countries. He also hosted two radio programs, BPM, and Extended Play. BPM, New Zealand’s first dedicated dancefloor-aimed radio show, ran for 17 years. He moved to Bali in 2005—this was how I met him and become best friend ever since. In 2009 Simon moved to Bangkok.
:: If you wanna listen to the songs, go to Big Audio Dynamite on your right and pick the playlist ::
– September 01: Muhammad Marzuki (a.k.a. Kill the DJ, founder of Jogja Hip-Hop Foundation)
– September 08: WHAM! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD, MAN! ~ First anniversary edition of The Block Rockin’ Beats
– September 15: Jimi Multazham (vocalist of The Upstairs and Morfem, radio announcer of Trax FM)
– September 22: Santi YZ (manager of Koil, senior account executive Rolling Stone Indonesia)
– September 29: Dewa Palguna (ex-judge of Constitutional Court, art enthusiast)
And more exhibitions in October/November/December by Veroland, Alfred Pasifico, Nasta Sutardjo, Mian Tiara, Belinda Kazanci, Samack, Oppie Andaresta, etc
See y’all again next Wednesday!
Boozed, Broozed, and Broken-boned,
*subject to change
The Block Rockin’ Beats
Curator: Rudolf Dethu
Every Wednesday, 8 – 10 PM
The Beat Radio Plus – Bali, 98.5 FM
120 minutes of cock-melting tunes.
Zero horse shit.
Rad-ass rebel without a pause.
Shut up and slamdance! ï»¿