Hard News by Russell Brown


He might be crazy, but he's not dumb

I have known Jordan luck for many years. I met him some time shortly after I wrote my first review for Rip It Up, covering a rather strange gig at Lincoln University by The Clean and his band, the (as they were then) Dance Exponents.

Later, I accompanied the Dance Exponents on a South Island tour memorable to me mainly for the fact that in the bar of the Golden Eagle in Greymouth after they'd played, I met my old girlfriend from primary school and we walked to her place as the sun was rising. It would be ungentlemanly to reveal exactly what we did the moment we got in the front door, but suffice to say we did not bother with the cup of tea that was the ostensible reason for the visit.

Still later, Jordan and I shared a flat in Parnell, near Mandrill studios. Flatting with Jordan could be a health hazard. Once, a nice woman came around to conduct an alcohol use survey -- she was pretty startled as she wrote down the numbers.

But those aren't the reasons I'm pleased that Jordan became the first inductee to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the Silver Scroll Awards last night. I'm pleased because it's richly deserved. Jordan has, over the years, demonstrated a remarkable ability to get into the hearts and minds of successive generations of New Zealanders with his songs.

No, it's not as if I sit around at home listening to old Exponents albums, but one of the better evenings of my life was spent watching the All Blacks' dazzling victory over the Lions at the Wellington Stadium. The Lions fans were in full voice from the start, while we locals wandered awkwardly, as we do, through our dreary national anthem. But, shamed by the British, the New Zealanders began to sing along to the Kiwi hits that played through the stadium PA during breaks in play. And then, on one song, we sang so happily and mightily that the Lions fans actually joined in. The song, as if you couldn't guess, was 'Why Does Love Do This To Me?'.

I'd guessed whose name Mike Chunn was going to announce by the time he'd concluded his speech last night, but clearly Jordan himself hadn't. I turned around to look at him after the announcement and he looked genuinely shocked. Then he got up to the stage and, typically, couldn't talk about himself but burbled out a list of other musicians he thought deserved the honour.

He's a hell of a nice guy who writes pop songs so enduring that kids who weren't born when some of them were written still bawl them out as they guzzle their drinks. He might be crazy, but he's not dumb.

Speaking of which, the Mint Chicks 'Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!' didn't win the Silver Scroll last night, and neither did my pick, SJD's 'Beautiful Haze'. The winner was Brooke Fraser's 'Albertine', a song I'd struggle to even recognise if you played it to me. It wasn't helped last night by being performed by Ddub, who bear out every unflattering perception about barbecue reggae. "They make the Black Seeds sound like King Tubby," growled the chap next to me.

The best covers were Tyra and the Tornados' take on 'Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!", which wound up to a scorching crescendo, and Eight Foot Sativa's version of OpShop's 'Maybe', which was almost unrecognisable, but good noisy fun. (Another notable performance took place in the men's loos, where I was fortunate enough to hear The Braz recite a lyric poem containing the lines "They're coming to arrest me on Tuesday … Under a Surrey Crescent moon," his voice resonating off the tiles.)

There were speeches, of course. I missed the Prime Minister (I was outside interviewing Jordan for the radio show), but I'm told she sounded quite chirpy. Arthur Baysting had a grump about the ISP takedown provisions in the Copyright Amendment Bill that might have astonished Internet NZ, and also revealed that Corben Simpson and Geoff Murphy had come to APRA to request a change to the writing credit on Blerta's 'Dance All Around the World', which still earns rights money. In the middle of the song, there is a poem by Margaret Mahy. They wanted her to have a songwriting credit, which means she will also derive income from performances of the song. She is, apparently, chuffed about it.

The entertainment closed with Blam Blam Blam and a horn section belting out 'There is No Depression in New Zealand', which made everyone happy (look out for a King's Arms reunion show soon), and from there it was a party like it always is at the Silver Scrolls. Musicians and the people who love them crowded the bar and roared away to each other while people got up on the second stage and attempted to play songs. I caught up with a lot of people and I think I did quite well to be out the door not too long after midnight. But I am not, as you might have guessed, on top form this morning ….

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