Hard News by Russell Brown


Memories of the attic press

The old 80s Rip It Up crew got together for a few drinks last night. There were a few no-shows, but it was so nice to see everyone again - Babs, Sheryl, Murray, and, not least, our old designer Ian Dalziel, who I haven't seen for 16 years, and who is one of the nicest men I've ever met.

I came to Rip It Up as deputy editor in 1983: the Darby Street days. We had the loft in a creaky building where a shiny bank tower now stands. The Denis Cohn Gallery was on the first floor, as was Geoff Steven's office, and on the next level up was Snake T-Shirts, then a busy factory for mostly music-themed shirts.

There's a story to how I was hired. When I sent RIU my first review (an overly impressionistic account of a show at Lincoln College featuring The Clean and the Dance Exponents), unsolicited, to Murray, he recognised the imprint of my typewriter and the Christchurch Star copy paper as being the same as those of an indignant letter I'd sent Murray the year before, mustering all the pomposity of youth to condemn RIU as "a paid advertisement for the New Zealand record industry".

So he chuckled, ran the review, and then a few more, and towards the end of The Year In Timaru, I heard through Debbie Harwood, who was managing the Exponents, that he wanted me to apply for the new post of deputy editor. So I wrote away, and Murray came south and, for the first of many times, bought me dinner. Turns out I nearly blew it when, thinking I was doing the right thing, I welcomed Murray by putting on Orange Juice's version of Al Green's 'L.O.V.E.'. As much as John Campbell loved the Sound of Young Scotland, Murray loathed it.

But it went well enough that Fiona, who was visiting, and I accompanied Murray to Dunedin for The Clean's last show at the Cook. We met the young enfant terrible Shayne Carter. I got the job.

I must have been the youngest person in the building when I first arrived at Rip It Up, but people were very kind to me. I was invited along to the Monday Night Problem Drinkers' Club, regaled with ancient tales of rock 'n' roll excess and generally looked after.

I feel privileged by the opportunity I had in those three years to conduct some memorable interviews - Nico, John Cale, Malcolm McLaren, the Birthday Party - along with one or two best forgotten (Andy Summers from The Police). I got to write some crazy tracts on the road in New Zealand and Europe, and I was there to document some exciting times. I have fond memories of the way that when the going got tough, Murray called dinner, and the effect of the whole experience was such as to infect me with the independent publishing bug and ruin me for corporate life.

Anyway, Ian knocked up a highly collectable folder of occasionally embarrassing period photos of the crew before during and after my time: Chad Taylor, wee Paul McKessar, Chris Bourke, Angela Jonasson, Peter Thomson, Stefan Morris, Mark Philips, Trevor Reekie, John Pitcairn, Simon Grigg, Harry Ratbag, Yoh, Michael Pearce, Babs Baker, Sherl Morris, Ngila Dickson, Terence Hogan, Dave Perkins, Kirk Gee Simonde, Chris Mauger, Donna Yuzwalk, Murray and Ian themselves and, of course, the old Bedford van that I used to drive around town dropping off bundles of the paper (there weren't any pics of Paul Luker, apparently). It's quite a lineup. Ian labelled it Rip It Up Annual 1980s Reunion No.1, and I'm certainly up for next year.

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