Dance Prone and Invisible Mile author David Coventry in conversation

I was staring out a window
I was standing by the sea
Standing by the sea.

Grant Hart From Zen Arcade by Hüsker Dü


We are totally stoked to announce an exclusive interview with Dance Prone and Invisible mile author David Coventry, in conversation with his friend and fellow New Zealand musician Greg Cairns.

David had a rich and fascinating career in the New Zealand music industry before taking a right-turn and becoming an award-winning author. His first book, The Invisible Mile, is about the rigours of cycling in the Tour de France, and his second novel is about the hard core punk scene in America (you’ll hear more about this in the video). At first glance you might think these themes are poles apart, but — as David discusses — not so far apart as people may think.

In Dance prone David captures lightning in a jar by describing the psychological, physical and visceral experience of playing live in front of an audience — a remarkable feat many authors have tried and with a few notable exceptions have largely failed.

David and Greg in coversation is entertaining, insightful, wide-ranging and free form. It encompasses many topics, including David’s writing process, life on the road, and first hand recollections of legendary New Zealand bands, gigs and musicians, not to mention the genius of Husker Du.

We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to both David and Greg for such an entertaining, frank, and insightful behind-the-scenes conversation.

Watch the full extended  version of their discussion below:

David also put together a Dance Prone Spotify playlist.

You can catch David at his upcoming Verb Wellington Festival event on the 8th of November.

Below are just a few of the Bands and albums mentioned in the David’s  interview:


Dance prone / Coventry, David
“During their 1985 tour, two events of hatred and stupidity forever change the lives of a band’s four members. Neues Bauen, a post-hardcore Illinois group homing in on their own small fame, head on with frontman Conrad Wells sexually assaulted and guitarist Tone Seburg wounded by gunshot. The band staggers forth into the American landscape, traversing time and investigating each of their relationships with history, memory, authenticity, violence and revelling in transcendence through the act of art.” (Catalogue)

The invisible mile / Coventry, David
“The 1928 Ravat-Wonder team from New Zealand and Australia were the first English-speaking team to ride the Tour de France. From June through July they faced one of toughest in the race’s history: 5,476 kilometres of unsealed roads on heavy, fixed-wheel bikes. They rode in darkness through mountains with no light and brakes like glass. They weren’t expected to finish, but stadiums filled with Frenchmen eager to call their names. ” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

This is Memorial Device : an hallucinated oral history of the post-punk scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and environs 1978-1986 / Keenan, David
This Is Memorial Device, is a love letter to the small towns of Lanarkshire in the late 1970s and early 80s.It follows a cast of misfits, drop-outs, small town visionaries and would-be artists and musicians through a period of time where anything seemed possible, a moment where art and the demands it made were as serious as your life.  Written in a series of hallucinatory first-person eye-witness accounts that capture the prosaic madness of the time and place.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ready to fly / Verlaines

Doolittle. / Pixies (Musical group)
“After 1988’s brilliant but abrasive Surfer Rosa, the Pixies’ sound couldn’t get much more extreme. Their Elektra debut, Doolittle, reins in the noise in favor of pop songcraft and accessibility. Their most accessible album, Doolittle’s wide-ranging moods and sounds make it one of their most eclectic and ambitious. A fun, freaky alternative to most other late-’80s college rock, it’s easy to see why the album made the Pixies into underground rock stars. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Horses. / Smith, Patti
“It isn’t hard to make the case for Patti Smith as a punk rock progenitor based on her debut album, which anticipated the new wave by a year or so: the simple, crudely played rock & roll, featuring Lenny Kaye’s rudimentary guitar work, the anarchic spirit of Smith’s vocals, and the emotional and imaginative nature of her lyrics — all prefigure the coming movement as it evolved on both sides of the Atlantic. Smith is a rock critic’s dream, a poet as steeped in ’60s garage rock as she is in French Symbolism.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Evol. / Sonic Youth

The last few titles are not currently available from our collection, but we hope to have them available very soon!

The Frozen Borderline, by Nico.

Land Speed Record, by Hüsker Dü.

Zen Arcade, by Hüsker Dü.

Johnny Cooper, ‘The Māori Cowboy’

Johnny Cooper, hero of early New Zealand rock’n’roll, died earlier this month in Lower Hutt, aged 85.

Born in 1929, Cooper grew up on an isolated farm near Wairoa. He was gifted a ukulele by his uncle, who played saxophone in a Gisborne dance band. He began playing along to 78s, and would play in woolsheds to entertain the shearing gangs.

portrait
Johnny Cooper in the early 1950s.
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: PAColl-10069-18-08

Cooper won a scholarship to attend Hawkes Bay’s illustrious Te Aute college. After attending for a time, Cooper was desperate to leave. However, his elders were insistent that he stay in school. So Cooper boarded the train to return to school from Wairoa, and instead stayed on-board and ran away to Wellington. This resulted in Cooper being disowned by his parents: “They said, you’re on your own.”

Cooper stayed in a boarding house and got a job at Karori cemetery. On Sunday nights he sang at cinemas and suburban halls. He dug graves during the day, and met bass-player Willy Lloyd-Jones. In 1953 they formed The Ridge Riders with guitarist Ron James and Don Aldridge on steel. The group wore cowboy style outfits and became known at talent quests and live shows on radio, with appearances in Wanganui and at Linton and Waiouru.

On Sundays they recorded in Alan Dunnage’s Island Bay studio, inside an old shop. A duet by Cooper became the number one 78 of 1954; Look What You’ve Done produced a double-sided hit. Cooper had written most of the song in a day: “I heard someone say ‘look what you’ve done’ and thought that was a crazy thing to say, that it would be good to sing something like that.” The song became a continual request for The Ridge Riders: “Shearing shed or anywhere, every party you went to in that period that was all you heard them play.” The song became a well-known Kiwi party song and was famously sung by Jake and Beth Heke in ‘Once Were Warriors’.

In 1955 Cooper started a solo career in rock’n’roll at town hall jamborees. He made New Zealand music history by becoming the first singer outside of the United States to record a rock’n’roll song when he recorded Rock Around the Clock with a group of Wellington jazz men at HMV’s Lower Hutt studios in 1955. As a country singer, Cooper had originally balked at the idea of recording a rock’n’roll track, and had said “What’s this rubbish? I’m not singing that.” Within a year Cooper was touted as the “undisputed king of rock’n’roll whose record sales are now far in excess of a hundred thousand.” Cooper also recorded New Zealand’s first original rock’n’roll song, Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll in 1955.

poster
F W Larcombe Ltd. Harry Fagin proudly presents New Zealand tour Variety round up, headed by Johnny Cooper, H.M.V. recording and television star. Johnny Cooper rocks ’em! Regent Theatre Greymouth, Wed Thurs Fri Oct 2, 3, 4. Larcombe Print [1957]. [Posters collected by Charles Cabot, for variety, comedy, and music-hall shows and performances in New Zealand. 1950-1959].. Ref: Eph-E-CABOT-Variety-1957-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22699643

Cooper’s musical talent saw him travel around the world, leading three concert tours during the 1950s to entertain Kiwi troops in Japan and Korea.

In 1957, The Ridge Riders drifted apart and Cooper started holding talent shows around small towns, including Give It A Go! Through this, he coached some of New Zealand music’s well-known names, including rock’n’roll idol Johnny Devlin, Midge Marsden (who played in Bari and the Breakaways) and the Formulya, whose song Nature was to be judged the greatest New Zealand rock song of all time.

Cooper moved into entertainment promotion in the 1960s. Good friend and fellow musician Midge Marsden says he did not so much fall from the limelight as ease himself into the shadows. “His private life was exactly that – private.”

Cooper, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, died at his home early in September.

Neighbours of Johnny Cooper knew him as a friendly pillar of the community, who tidied the area and mowed lawns for free. Friends knew him as a warm, modest and humble man, and hold many fond memories.

Syndetics book coverBlue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Chris Bourke.
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. The accompanying audio CD wonderfully brings to life the engaging text, underscoring seminal moments in New Zealand’s musical history.” (Syndetics summary)

Early rock & roll from New Zealand. Vol. 5 & 6.

Pie cart rock ‘n’ roll : New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll 1957-1962.

Waiata : Maori showbands, balladeers & pop stars.

New Zealand Music Month Events This Week

NZMM2014_RGB_VertTo celebrate New Zealand Music Month we’re hosting a series of free performances with fantastc Wellington Musicians.
This week we have events in Newtown and Central, here’s the low-down:

Thursday 22nd 12pm at CENTRAL LIBRARY
Amiria Grenell plays in the Young Adult area.

Friday 23rd 5pm at CENTRAL LIBRARY
Andy Gibson plays in the Young Adult area.

Friday 23rd 7pm at NEWTOWN LIBRARY
A re-united Harriet and The Matches (Amiria Grenell/Jessie Moss) play the Newtown Library.

Talk: Pixie Williams, The Voice of Blue Smoke

image2
Pixie Williams, c1951

If you haven’t already, come along to the Central Library to see our Pixie Williams: The Voice of Blue Smoke display – it is looking (and sounding!) fabulous.

To round up the display, we will be having a talk on Tuesday 1 October at 6pm. Chris Bourke, author of Blue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964, will be speaking on the significance of Pixie Williams and Ruru Karaitiana’s hit ‘Blue Smoke’; New Zealand’s first pop song. Come along and learn more about the iconic New Zealand track and the woman behind it, as well as the city at the centre of the song’s production – Wellington in 1948.

Syndetics book coverBlue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Chris Bourke.
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the Kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. The accompanying audio CD wonderfully brings to life the engaging text, underscoring seminal moments in New Zealand’s musical history.” (Syndetics summary)

You can place a reserve on Pixie’s album, Pixie Williams: For the Record, below:
For the record : the Pixie Williams collection, 1949-1951.

Wanted: Stories of New Zealand women 1820 to 1890

Follow my tears posterDo you have stories of women in your family who lived in New Zealand in the 1800’s?  If so, we want to hear from you!
New Zealand singer-songwriter Rachel Dawick is collecting stories from all over New Zealand, which will then be used to create a new album of songs and a national resource for libraries.

“Researching into the songs written in the 1800s in NZ revealed a large gap in terms of those by women. It was a musical history dominated by men and therefore providing only half a story. If there weren’t the songs then the next best thing would be to discover the stories and write the songs myself.”
Rachel Dawick.

Write down the stories and drop them into your local Wellington City Libraries branch by 18 May or email them to us at enquiries@wcl.govt.nz
with  ‘Rachel Dawick Stories’ in the subject line. Please note that stories provided to us are unable to be returned.

nzmmFrom 14 April – 14 June, Rachel will also be travelling throughout New Zealand, performing in local libraries, while she collects the stories.

You will get your chance to see Rachel perform in Wellington when she will be giving two free live performances on Wednesday 18 May at Central Library (12-1pm) and Ruth Gotlieb Library, Kilbirnie (3.30-4.30pm).

Want to have a listen before the event?  Check out Rachel’s previous albums on our catalogue, or listen to an interview with her via RadioNZ.

follow my tears events

Listen to NZ musician Tama Waipara on our radio show podcast!

Wellington City Libraries has a monthly radio show on Radio Access. For a recent show (27th November, 4.00 – 4.30) we interviewed Tama Waipara, singer/songwriter behind the 2009 release ‘Sir Plus and the Requirements,’ – a beautifully realised concept album rich in pop hooks and delicous arrangements.

Listen to the Tama Waipara interview here

Tama talks generously about his inspirations, lyrics and songs and the 35 minute interview includes 6 songs from his 3 albums so far.
Below are the albums featured in the show:

TAMA2Sir+Plus and the Requirements

2331191Triumph of time

10321441Leaving Paradise