Archives for posts with tag: The Puddle

The New Existentialists are the Auckland ensemble of George D. Henderson (The Spies, The And Band, Mink, The Puddle). They have just released an album called “Poetry is Theft”. This one’s a proper album, as in, recorded in a studio. Last year they released an album called “Didn’t Have Time” which was a collection of works in progress rather than a proper, planned album release. Not that you would notice. Anyway, here’s the wonderful “Flavor of Love”:

Flavor of Love was an early 2000s reality TV dating show series , in which Flavor Flav (of Public Enemy fame) chose to not marry or date any of the winners from any of the three seasons over which twenty different ladies competed for his heart as they live together in a California mansion. It seems the unlikely inspiration for a gloriously wonky piece of underground NZ lounge pop, yet here we are.

Clearly songwriter George D. Henderson has been a committed viewer, investing emotional energy in the romantic outcomes of Series 3, episode 15 (“Parlez-Vous Flavor?”), but managing to turn the narcotic of reality television into a work of wonder; tender, romantic, and funny, from it’s opening refrain “She forgot how her love had been tested/ When he showed her the streets where he’d been arrested”.

The New Existentialists on “Poetry is Theft” are George D. Henderson (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Jamey Danger (bass, backing vocals), Ned Bycroft (drums, percussion), and Chris Heazlewood (synth). “Flavor of Love” here also has a beautifully melancholic brass contribution by Don McGlashan (Blam Blam Blam, The Muttonbirds).

When Bruce Russell (The Dead C/ Xpressway Records) explained in 1991 in a review in NZ music weekly Rip It Up: “that since the mid-70s George Henderson (poet, nutritional theorist, connoisseur of the esoteric) has been constantly engaged in an obscure but utterly uncompromising investigation-cum-pilgrimage through the ‘secret’ side of music, thought and the fine arts in this country” he could not have anticipated the investigation-cum-pilgrimage of this “connoisseur of the esoteric” would lead to “Flavor of Love”. But it has.

Our Day 19 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Interstellar Gothic” by The Puddle:

“Interstellar Gothic” was originally an And Band improvisation. The And Band (1981) were the Christchurch-based transition from Wellington band The Spies (1979) – captured in all their unhinged post-punk weirdness on “The Battle of Bosworth Terrace” archival album released on US label Siltbreeze Records a few years ago – on towards the eventual formation of The Puddle (1984 on) in Dunedin. But on this 1985 live recording The Puddle present the definitive version of the song.

As the bandcamp page for the album notes: “A week before recording “Pop Lib” in Dunedin in 1985 The Puddle toured south to Invercargill with The Chills, playing two nights at Invercargill venue The Glengarry Tavern. The second night, Saturday 20 April 1985 was recorded through the mixing desk direct to cassette tape…The multi-channel live recording is like a studio live-to-air in quality, painting quite a different sonic picture to the dense fug and crowd noise of both “Pop Lib” and “Live at the Teddy Bear Club” releases on Flying Nun Records.”

This live recording – and “Interstellar Gothic” in particular – captures the essential alchemy of that much talked about early line-up of George D Henderson on guitar and vocals, bassist Ross Jackson, drummer Lesley Paris and flute player Norma O’Malley (both also in Look Blue Go Purple at the time), French horn/ cornet player Lindsay Maitland, and keyboard player Peter Gutteridge (formerly of The Clean, at the time in The Great Unwashed, and soon to be Snapper).

When people mention “The Dunedin Sound” in the 1980s they conveniently forget the pinnacle of outsider avant-freak-pop that The Puddle represented during that decade. Another – quite different – exploration of the possibilities of that six-piece line-up is in the delicate and beautiful “Billie & Franz” here:

The New Existentialists

Our day 20 song for New Zealand Music Month comes from Auckland outsiders The New Existentialists, with the title track from an unexpected album of ‘works in progress’ called “Didn’t Have Time”

The New Existentialists are the Auckland ensemble of George D. Henderson (The Spies, The And Band, Mink, The Puddle).

Best to use the words provided to set the context for this release: “In 2019 The New Existentialists began recording demos for their second album during practices, raw unformed things that the world was never meant to hear. Ongoing curiosity saw these tracks added to over the subsequent months, and new ones recorded. When pandemic requirements prevented further band recording New Existentialist producer and synth-man Fraser completed the choicest tracks, leaving us a month later with this 10-track mini album. Quite unexpectedly, the New Existentialists had returned to the live-with-overdubs recording ethos of the early Puddle.”

The best music George D. Henderson produces is done in the moment, on the fly, on the edge, imperfect, unfinished.  That makes sense for someone whose lifelong aesthetic – whether by choice or, more often, by force of circumstance, has been about capturing the essential spark of music creation over creating a glossy audiophile music commodity.

That frustrates some of those who appreciate his art. As notorious NZ music critic curmudgeon Gay Steel once wrote of an album he liked by Henderson’s long-time band The Puddle. “I wish, however, [the] budget extended to a producer, and rehearsal time, and someone to sweat over the arrangements.” 

For the perpetual outsider of NZ rock, his recordings – as The Spies, The And Band, The Puddle and now The New Existentialists – have usually been made under various financial, physical, practical and temporal constraints and exist as the product of their circumstances. Fittingly, that is also the theme of this song “Didn’t Have Time”

In 1991 Bruce Russell (The Dead C/ Xpressway Records) explained in a review   in NZ music weekly Rip It Up: “While his career may be largely unknown to the majority of even those well informed insiders reading these pages, the fact is that since the mid-70s George Henderson (poet, nutritional theorist, connoisseur of the esoteric) has been constantly engaged in an obscure but utterly uncompromising investigation-cum-pilgrimage through the ‘secret’ side of music, thought and the fine arts in this country. The most obvious expression of this has been in music… Though all too often better appreciated by other musicians than by the public, George’s music is at heart pop. Those who snapped up The Puddle’s 1986 EP “Pop Lib” will know that he has few peers in NZ for a catchy melody or an incisively pithy lyric, as well as a unique guitar style and a talent for off-the-wall arrangements.” 

Henderson, now in his 60’s, and making music for over 45 years, is still questing for esoteric knowledge like a curious child trying to understand the universe and his place in it. In the process he’s still finding new corners to turn and ideas to explore in his lifetime “investigation-cum-pilgrimage through the ‘secret’ side of music” and in the process still creating weird and wonky and wonderful literate pop and rock music.

NZMM 2020

 

 

LBGP_2017Day 5 of 31 Days of May for New Zealand Music Month and we are still in Dunedin to revisit the quietly influential Look Blue Go Purple with “Circumspect Penelope”, a track from a new (released today) double album called “Still Bewitched” compiling their three EPs along with a side of previously unreleased live tracks.

Look Blue Go Purple filtered the spirit of 1967 psychedelic folk rock through the more contemporary influences of the post-punk make-your-own-sound freedom of The Slits and The Raincoats and the 1980s Dunedin scene they were part of. There’s some more background on the band and this album in a recent Otago Daily Times article.

There’s a tendency from some to view Look Blue Go Purple as a group somehow distinct within the Dunedin scene. Yet this overlooks the involvement of most of the musicians in a variety of other bands before, during and after Look Blue Go Purple’s reign from 1983 to the end of 1987.

Drummer Lesley Paris had been in a band called the Craven A’s with Terry Moore (The Chills), David Kilgour (The Clean, Great Unwashed) and Peter Gutteridge (The Clean, Great Unwashed, The Puddle, Snapper) prior to Look Blue Go Purple. She was the powerful rhythmic glue that held the early line-up of The Puddle together for 5 years from 1985, while Norma O’Malley wove farfisa organ and flute through The Puddle’s spidery psychedelia, all at the same time Look Blue Go Purple were in existence.

Puddle_1985_Invercargill

The Puddle in 1985 – L-R George D. Henderson, Lesley Z. Paris, Norma O’Malley, Peter Gutteridge, Ross Jackson & Lindsay Maitland

After Look Blue Go Purple Lesley continued with The Puddle then played in Buster and Olla. Norma O’Malley formed Chug with Alf Danielson, Kathy Bull played bass in Cyclops with Peter Jefferies and Denise Roughan was in the 3Ds. And that’s just the immediate post-LBGP highlights.

As an added bonus, “Circumspect Penelope” also has one of the very best Dunedin music videos ever, by regular Flying Nun Records video-maker Pat O’Neill:

The cover of 'Pop Lib' by The Puddle, released on Flying Nun Records in 1986. “99.9% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Jane From Occupied Europe’ by Swell Maps. 99.9% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Oar’ by Skip Spence... 100% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Pop Lib’ by The Puddle… make that 150%.” Luke Haines, Sabotage Times, 2012

The cover of ‘Pop Lib’ by The Puddle, released on Flying Nun Records in 1986.
“99.9% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Jane From Occupied Europe’ by Swell Maps. 99.9% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Oar’ by Skip Spence… 100% of people on the street are unaware of ‘Pop Lib’ by The Puddle… make that 150%.”
Luke Haines, Sabotage Times, 2012

This blog is named after, and in honour of, a 1986 mini-album by The Puddle which was released on Flying Nun Records. Despite releasing “Pop Lib”, then the albums “Live at the Teddy Bear Club” (FN172, 1991) and “Into the Moon” (FNCD164, 1992), and finally a 7″ single “Thursday”/ “Too Hot to be Cool” (FN278, 1993), The Puddle never appeared on any Flying Nun Records compilation until “Time to Go – The Southern Psychedelic Movement 1981-86” last year (2012).

The song included there was “Junk” – a song that Puddle frontman and songwriter George D. Henderson used to introduce at the time as ‘a song about non-medical use of pain-killing drugs’. I hated that song, the sentiments it expressed and saw the damage that drugs (self) inflicted on him and others. So I guess it is ironic indeed that the first, and only, song from The Puddle on a Flying Nun Records compilation is the one I hate the most. It is also the least psychedelic song on that remarkable, damaged “Pop Lib” record. Pain killing drugs – “Junk” – are not psychedelic.

Around that time George D. Henderson was interviewed for Dunedin University student magazine Critic. The interview must date from 1987 or maybe even April 1988, as “Pop Lib” was released in 1987 and Lindsay Maitland died in 1987. The photograph used must be from 1986.

The interview ranges from early life in Invercargill, through Wellington and Christchurch scenes, including being banned from playing all venues in Christchurch and seeing The Clean play in 1981 (“the support band were terrible and I just kept wishing they’d finish so I could see The Clean who I’d heard so much about. As they came off stage and then went back on I realised that I had been watching The Clean”). It also covers the origins of The Puddle and the name, how “Pop Lib” was recorded and mentions “Junk” and some of the fall out from that life-style. Plus some other rather eccentric views.

Here it is:

The Puddle_Critic_1986