A series of reunion shows next week will bring back memories of 30 years ago when punk hit Auckland. Troy Ferguson looks back in anger at the local revolution's 10 most memorable moments
Occupying the second floor of an old stone building in Durham Lane West, Zwines was ground zero for Auckland punk and its offshoots. Though other venues occasionally hosted punk gigs, the first and only club dedicated solely to the new music opened in February 1978. Zwines was decorated by resident band the Scavengers - mostly with spray painted slogans declaring their own greatness - and this battered chic was embraced by enthusiastic club-goers eager to contribute. Opening night saw the pinball machine destroyed by somebody landing on it from the mezzanine while the jukebox lasted just one night. The Scavengers' farewell show in October 1978 saw the venue "redecorated" by the band and audience. According to the Scavs' Johnny Volume, "We were presented with a bill for damages that we laughed about all the way to Australia - I seem to remember it was $87! Destruction was cheap in those days."
The Revolution Is Televised
In the 1970s, television musical content with any relevance to the young could be counted in minutes - so when there was primetime coverage of the movement in June 1978 it was a victory for the Ak punk underground.
The Scavengers, the Stimulators, the Assassins, the Idle Idols and some key scene faces headed to the capital in a bus for a show at the Wellington Town Hall, accompanied by reporter Neil Roberts from
. Yes, the Sex Pistols signing a contract outside Buckingham Palace had been broadcast on the news in late 1976 with an item filed by Dylan Taite. But the
story was the first significant exposure of the local punk fashions and music. Though the editorial tone was a little naive and Roberts fell victim to the odd wind-up from the bands, the piece showing the Zwines scene hitting the capital's town hall indicated punk had arrived.
Reptiles in the Sun
One of - if not the - first Auckland punk groups, the Suburban Reptiles released New Zealand's first 12-inch single with
in early 1978, and appeared on television with the clip to their second and final release,
Saturday Night (Stay At Home)
. It must have seemed quite logical, then, for the band to be added to the bill of a free Albert Park concert, a regular summer event popularised by the hippies in the late 1960s. Of course, these concerts were still largely attended by hippies, who received a jolt when the colourful and futuristic Suburban Reptiles shattered their daisy-chain reverie, putting a rude end to the 1960s eight years after the decade supposedly finished.
Anybody Can Do It
Of course, though the idea was that anybody could join in, the notion that shambolic bands with more moxie than ability were welcomed on to stages has been overstated. Nonetheless, there is the exception proving a victory of true style over substance. "The Idle Idols were the ultimate band for me - their looks could kill, and their music was disastrously excellent," recalls Zwines regular Yvette Parsons. "Please can I time-travel back to see them one more time?"
Formed by scene face Jamie Jetson after being shown the E and A barre chords by the Scavengers' Johnny Volume, Jamie recruited the other Idle Idols members by spotting people "with charisma and style" in the streets. The four-fifths female line-up played sporadically at Zwines, the Classic cinema, and even travelled to Wellington for the punk show in the Eyewitness item. In terms of creative fashion sense alone, the group were the scene's shining stars.
The Enemy Invades
The Auckland punk scene was not particularly parochial or regionally insular. On the strength of a "ferocious-sounding demo tape", The Enemy were lured from Dunedin to Auckland with the promise of shows. When they arrived, there was actually only one gig booked. They didn't get paid for it and vocalist Chris Knox vented his frustration on the headlights of the Mk2 Jaguar owned by the hapless promoter. Knox recalls the Auckland punk crowd initially seemed quite stand-offish to their southern cousins - until they saw The Enemy play. After that, doubts were dispelled; and the group fast became one of the most popular bands of the era, before morphing into the even more popular Toy Love. Though that band split on the brink of greatness, Chris Knox has continued carving his own path to local and international acclaim.
The Great Xmas Ceasefire
"Going down the club every Saturday night, looking for some disco ducks looking for a fight" - The Terrorways,
Short Haired Rock And Roll
The animosity between the punk patrons of Zwines and the disco fans downstairs at Babe's has become so entrenched in popular history, the stories of running of the gauntlet past the disco crowd to reach the Zwines door have taken on the characteristics of epic and legendary battles.
However, Christmas 1978 suggests that The Terrorways' finest tune didn't tell the whole story. As Terrorways' drummer Kerry Buchanan recalls, "In December we decamped, and like the World War I soldiers, had Christmas together with our enemies. We played our songs, they played theirs, co-mingling as one whenever Bob Marley came on ...
The Fatal Cup of Coffee
It's a stone cold New Zealand classic, but Proud Scum's
is one of the most pointed and venomous punk songs to emerge from Auckland. A plea to former guitarist John Atrocity to hurry up and "jump off Grafton Bridge", the tune really rubs the poison in with a spoken intro describing John's difficult birth, with Mrs. Atrocity "in labour for three weeks" due to John having "the biggest pair of ears anybody had ever seen". For all its nastiness, the song is quite humorous: even more so in light of the recent revelation from author Jonathan Jamrag that it was inspired by an incident so dire, heinous, and unforgivable that a grudge is still held nearly 30 years on. Shock horror - John Atrocity's exit from Proud Scum was due to an argument over a cup of coffee.
Set The House Ablaze
A Saturday afternoon show at Parnell's Windsor Castle in 1979 confirmed that Proud Scum and The Superettes were indisputably two of the city's hottest tickets. During Proud Scum's set, a fire mysteriously broke out onstage but the band played on, ignoring the flames and, seemingly, everybody else remained entirely unfazed.
"The band kept playing as the flames reached six feet high, and no one was putting the fire out," says the Superettes' Jed Town. "I leapt behind the bar, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the stage with foam. Everybody dispersed, and the police and fire brigade arrived to an empty, smoked-filled room. Nothing more was ever said about it".
AK79: The Album
The record may have marked the end of an era, but its legacy has impacted far beyond the small scene which spawned it: even Steven Van Zandt - Silvio Dante of
and Springsteen's E Street Band guitarist- is a fan. Too cohesive to be a various artists' compilation, yet too varied to be anything as ordinary as a punk collection, each band contributed two songs, and thus
plays like six separate 7-inch singles pressed on to one 12-inch LP. The Scavengers, Proud Scum, the Terrorways, Toy Love, the Primmers and the Swingers offered a vivid snapshot of the Auckland underground circa 78-79, but it is an astonishing timeless document.
may well be one of the most widely heard albums produced in New Zealand - and the irrepressible, youthful creativity captured within the grooves certainly make it one of the finest.
AK79 reunion show featuring the Scavengers, Proud Scum, Terrorways, the Spelling Mistakes and The X-Features (originally The Features).
Monte Cristo Room, 53 Nelson Street, Auckland
Fri Nov 21 and Sat Nov 22
Real Groovy and undertheradar.co.nz