A Tribute to Sir Howard Morrison

Sir Howard Morrison passed away today. His work with the Howard Morrison quartet in the 1950s and 60s was groundbreaking, highly entertaining and sometimes bloody funny.

Songs from The Howard Morrsion Quartet have featured in a number of previous Counting the Beat episodes:
'George The Wilder Colonial Boy' is in True Crime Stories (mp3)
'My Old Man's An All Black' is in Rugby Was The Winner On The Day
'Mori the Hori ' is in What's On The Governor General's Ipod
'The Battle of The Waikato is on I've Been Everywhere Man (Round Hamilton)

And here he is performing with a reunited Quartet only a month ago.

Sir Howard Morrison - a true entertainer



This episode features songs that include the indigenous language of New Zealand - Te Reo Maori.

In the 1950s and 60s Hawaiian music was a big influence on many NZ musicians, most notably some of the Maori show bands who were bringing together waiata and rock'n'roll. One of the first songs in this mode to hit the big time was 'Haka Boogie', written by Lee Westbrook and sung by Morgan Clarke with The Benny's Five in 1955. The song was recently covered by Labretta Suede and the Motel Six on an EP of covers of the band's favourite New Zealand songs, Loon-A-Tiki.

There seems to have been an increase in recent times of the number of songs featuring the Maori language. Jess Chambers' Silver Scroll nominated song 'Island' is one of a bunch I've noticed that feature Te Reo. Chambers has a Kiwi father but an American mother and lived in California until 2002, so it's nice to hear her embrace her NZ roots. 'Island' comes from Jess Chambers and The Firefly Orchestra, an excellent album that has perhaps been overshadowed by her contribution to The Woolshed Sessions.

The Ruby Suns are another kiwi band featuring a Californian, Ryan McPhun, who moved to New Zealand in 2004. The Ruby Suns song 'Tane Mahuta', arguably has taken Te Reo to more listeners around the world than any song other than the National Anthem sung before rugby tests. The song was a big hit in the music blogosphere last year, featuring on many many sites around the world. The version of the song I play in the podcast is recorded live, literally in the streets of Paris, and comes from The Blogotheque, a site featuring videos of bands playing in the French capital. They said of the Ruby Suns, "they came from a land of beaches and barbecues, sandy hair, and old, patch-colored pickups. They were bound to engulf Paris with sunlight". I highly recommend checking out the clips posted on the video page.

Everyone in New Zealand knows Poi-e, the massive hit 1984 hit from The Patea Maori Club. This was a rare occurrence of a Maori language song topping the charts, sitting at number one for four weeks. The song was written by linguist Ngoi Pewhairangi with music by Dalvanius Prime who intended the song to be a way of instilling pride in young Maori. After initially not being able to secure a release Prime eventually formed his own label to get it out - and it went on to be a true kiwi classic. There are a number of remixes of the song about including a live version by 4-Corners and P-Money, a house mix by Soulforce and the one I feature in the podcast by The Beatworms, which you can download here. The original video is on the video page.

To close I have another early amalgamation of Maori music and rock'n'roll. 'Poi Poi Twist was released by Rim D. Paul and The Quin-Tikis in 1964. Rimini Paul was a leading light in the Maori show band scene on the 1960s working with The Quin-tikis, The Hi-Quins, Howard Morrsion and Kiri Te Kanawa. Paul contributed the title track to the 1966 NZ movie Runaway. You can see him perform an excerpt of that on the films trailer which is available on the video page.

Download the Counting The Beat - Rock'n'Reo podcast

Don't miss the next episode of Counting The Beat: Counting The Beat Podcast RSS


7" Singles

There's been lots in the media lately about the return of vinyl and while there are elements of the usual media beat-up there is some local activity that backs up the hype. The Kingsland Vinyl Appreciation Society and Midium Records are two labels that have been releasing albums on vinyl and now NZ music website and promotion company Cheese on Toast has just broadened their activity venturing into the release of music with the launch of a 7” singles club. Each month Cheese on Toast will launch a split 7” featuring two up and coming local acts. The singles are launched at a live event with most of the limited release singles being sold at the gig. The first in the series featured poet/MC Tourettes backed with The Drab Doo Riffs – a band fronted by Karl Stevens, formerly of Supergroove. Tourettes has released two albums and The Drab Doo Riffs have an EP coming soon.

Motivated by the arrival in the letterbox of my very newest 7" single I went rummaging for a few of my old 7" vinyl faves. One I dug out was 'Simpleton' by Cyclops, a Dunedin superband of sorts from the early 1990s. The band featured Bruce Blucher formerly of The Alpaca Brothers, Kathy Bull of Look Blue Go Purple and Peter Jefferies of Nocturnal Projections and This Kind of Punishment along with Ande Richardson. During their brief career they produced some devastating live shows, a couple of singles on American labels and a collection of most of their recorded work, Goat Volume.

Sandra Bell started her musical career in Auckland in the early 80s melding poetry and music but after a shift to Dunedin in 87 she became immersed in that city's music scene. She formed a relationship with Peter Jefferies, who was the drummer in Cyclops. Following the break-up of that relationship Bell released a dark collection of songs on a double 7” single Chord backed by a collection of some of Dunedin's best like Alastair Galbraith, Look Blue Go Purple's Norma O'Malley and Sean O'Reilly.

A single with a strange back story is The Flakeheads' 'Anaesthetic in my Head'. It was recorded on a single microphone straight to cassette, lathe cut on acetate and released in a limited edition of less than a hundred, yet it ended up being named Single of the Week in high profile UK music magazine Melody Maker in January 1997. The guest reviewer, Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker' said "this is good, it's real".

King Loser are one of the great NZ bands, always a risky prospect live they could be phenomenal or a train wreck, but they released a clutch of classic NZ albums. Given the precarious nature of some of the personalities and relationships in King Loser frequent break-ups were inevitable. King Loser guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Chris Heazlewood had songs spilling from him so in the breaks he recorded a handful of singles as Heazlewood and Cash Guitar. In 1995 Heazlewood released a single on Flying Nun that is one of my favourite kiwi singles – 'Badge or Medallion'. Chris Heazlewood's solo work was later compiled on a CD titled Cash Guitar.

The Coolies were a three piece all-female punk rock outfit came from Manurewa in South Auckland who seemed to define the term Riot Grrl. They played short, sharp chaotic sets with everything turned up to 10, an approach pretty well captured on a late nineties single released on Girl Alliance. The band returned in the new century releasing a a still raucous, but more dance orientated album in 2002, and returning to the Auckland live scene. They are reportedly working on a new album.

Shayne Carter's band Dimmer has just released a new album, Degrees of Existence and it's one of that bands best. The origins of Dimmer lie in the mid nineties when Carter was casting around trying to find musical direction after the break-up of the Straitjacket Fits. One of the early incarnations of the band featured Chris Heazlewood and they were incredible live. However it wasn't until 2001 that a Dimmer album was released meaning much of that early music never saw the light of day. However in 1995 Dimmer did release a debut single that I would rate as my favourite NZ single of all time. Still a highlight of the Dimmer live show that single is 'Crystalator'.

Download the Counting The Beat - 7 inch singles podcast

Don't miss the next episode of Counting The Beat: Counting The Beat Podcast RSS