Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Festive and Unconflicted

The music post here is usually a break from politics, but I was amused this morning by Prime Minister John Key's declaration that he would be forsaking Waitangi tomorrow for somewhere "festive and unconflicted" to spend Waitangi Day – because it immediately suggested one of those "By coincidence that's the title of my forthcoming album" jokes of which I will never tire.

And, indeed, when Key was among party leaders set a cultural questionaire in 2011, he declared his favourite music not to be that of any particular artist, but "easy listening music". Festive and Unconflicted sounds like a great easy listening album.

Of course, the PM's expressed preferences have moved around a little over the years, or between elections. In 2008, he professed to be a fan of Nesian Mystik and OpShop, but when pressed on his favourite OpShop tune said: "You, know, their big hit... hmm... well I don't know them by name, I just know what I like to listen to." In 2014, he told a group of schoolkids, improbably, that his favourite music was now One Direction.

But it is all about theatre. Helen Clark's goverment might have provided crucial support for New Zealand popular music, but each year at the Music Awards, she basically pretended through gritted teeth to enjoy the music itself. It manifested in the speeches – or, rather, The Speech, which she insisted on writing herself (over the entreaties of advisors) and delivered a little more loudly and less convincingly each year.

Not every senior politician can be a Grant Robertson – who, when asked for his favourite music will likely respond with a Top 10, a two-hour Spotify playlist and an offer to write a series of blog posts – and that's a reasonable reflection of the public itself. Not everyone is lost in music.

But I will say this: when I noticed and greeted James Dann in the crowd for Battles at Laneway on Monday, I turned around to my buddy and said: "That was Labour's candidate in Ilam at the last election."

"Wow," said my friend.

Indeed. Should James eventually achieve higher political honours, the Parliament's knowledge of the works of Lady Gaga and Grimes will have increased considerably. There are others in the House: Jacinda Ardern is famously a DJ and, I'm told, National's Chris Bishop has his roots in goth.

Actually, where am I even going with this? I'm really not sure. But ... Vaclav Havel. There was a politician who knew the power of music to disrupt, rather than soothe and sedate. He might sometimes have been festive, but I don't think he was ever much a fan of the unconflicted.


Speaking of Laneway: Jackson has yet again taken some great pictures of the performers and the punters.


A bit of a video feast this week. The BBC three-partner Music Moguls is on YouTube. Episode two, on producers, is narrated by Nile Rodgers and it's really interesting. It includes Tony Visconti's recreation of the way Bowie's 'Heroes' was built up from the original bare-bones band recording:

There's also Part One, on managers, and Part Three, on music PR.

The Phoenix Foundation have a nice live session for Findspire Studios in France. ("Bonjour, nous sommes le Phoenix Foundation ...")

And thanks heaps to Public Address reader David for the tip on This Is Ska, a remarkable 1964 BBC documentary featuring everyone from Byron Lee and The Dragonaires to Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster and Stranger Cole.

The comments on this blog have some useful detail on the film, including this:

If the presenter looks vaguely familiar to anyone, that's probably because it is Edward Seaga who later went on to become Jamaica's fifth Prime Minister (JLP - Jamaican Labour Party). But in the 60's Seaga was a music promoter and the owner of the West Indies Records Ltd (WIRL) label which he sold on to Byron Lee (the band leader in the video) in 1968. Most non-Jamaican reggae fans' overriding memory of Seaga will be from the 1978 One Love Concert when Bob Marley got Seaga and his rival, Michael Manley, to shake hands on stage in front of the whole nation.



Still mo' Bowie. A remix of Big Daddy Kane's 'Good Times', with 'Sound and Vision' mashed into the mix. Free download with a bit of account-following palaver.

This week's Lontalius album teaser. Official site here.

And ... there was going to be more, but HearThis has packed a sad and is throwing up database errors. So later for that ...


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

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