Friday, April 11, 2008

Connections part III

What follows merely kneels at the robe of award winning posts by my band members…but at least I am back.

Christchurch, the jewel of Canterbury and current home to errant Squids, is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. A quick scan through the city's most famous progeny contains several New Zealand cricketers and rugby players, a couple of architects, the inventor of the “successful Britten racing-motorcycle” and two musicians. One of these musicians, as I have blogged previously, is the spiritual father of Squid Ink, Max Merritt (the other is Bic Runga but she can go and get fucked). Max, most famous for wrongly harmonising his own song Slippin' Away, spent his early rock and roll life in thrall to Bill Haley and Elvis Presley and spent much time in the Lovely Lads and the New Originals before coming to the attention of New Zealand's king of rock and roll Johnny Devlin (Kiwis are thoughtful to ensure that their famous people often have names that make full use of the flattened vowel in their name). Devlin, at the height of his fame in 1959 spoke enthusiastically to promoter Harry M Miller (who was highly active in Auckland at the time) who took up Max as an act.

Harry had started out as a musical promoter and during the 1960s he marshalled tours by the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and Louis Armstrong. Harry Morris Miller has however since made a fine career out of acting as agent for all manner of notable people…some more infamous than famous. Reality TV stars are often his stock and trade but recently Schappelle Corby has used his services echoing the same move by Lindy Chamberlain(whose real first name is, pleasingly, Alice). Lindy suffered a wrongful conviction for murdering her third child, Azaria. At this point I considered making use of Lindy's adherence to the 7th Day Adventist faith to continue my connections but instead I plump for the dingo whom Lindy blamed throughout for taking her daughter.

The humble dingo, like many kiwis, is wrongly thought to be Australian. In fact this wild dog, descended more recently from the wolf than domestic dogs, can be found throughout South East Asia and made it to Australia as the local furry squids of the first people to walk across the land bridge to Australia. Dingoes on the whole are a little smaller than their lupine cousins in the north which is consistent with Bergmann's Rule which states that within a species body mass tends to increase along with the latitude at which an animal lives. Basically, as it gets colder you need to get bigger. The keen of mind will have spotted that wolves and dingoes share a genus, Lupus but not a species (surely an opportunity for some crossbreeding for infertile off-spring!!) but the rule still holds in this case. This seems to have been the key contribution to biology from an accomplished academic career for Christian Bergmann who hailed from the pretty hamlet of Göttingen. You would have to work very hard to be more central in the modern state of Germany to beat Göttingen…it is smack bang in the middle. As well as producing and educating Bergmann, Göttingen also gave us the resting place of the redoubtable Max Plank and the birthplace of Herbert Grönemeyer.

Herb has weighed in with a formidable recording career as one of Germany's most successful recording artists selling millions of albums in the German speaking world and being the only German artist to be asked to contribute to MTV's Unplugged series. We all know him better as the actor who played the journalist in Wolfgang Petersen's absolutely fantastic film Das Boot. As the journalist he makes the inquiries of the crew throughout the film that give the audience an insight into what life was like in a world war II u-boat. Having dedicated himself to a tremendously successful recording career in the intervening period he re-appeared in this year's Anton Corbijn directed biopic of Joy Division and Ian Curtis. I didn't spot him at first but he plays the unsympathetic GP who over prescribes nasty medication to Ian for his epilepsy.

This was Cornijn's first attempt at movie direction (and he does a lovely job) as he is normally a photographer who dabbles in music video direction. His most successful music videos include Personal Jesus, the award-winning Heart-Shaped Box and much work for our favourite Dutch band, his countrymen Golden Earing. His photography, and art direction, of U2 is for what he is most renowned. His photograph on the cover of the Joshua Tree album of a tree from near the Joshua Tree National Park prompted the band to so name their album. The album was American focused and the National Park is a potent symbol of the American dream and more specifically the American rock dream. Gram Parsons did not die at the Joshua Tree National Park as is sometimes thought but his manager did burn his body there after unlawfully making off with his body. Gram is remembered as the premier exponent of cosmic American music or country rock (a mantle which I think more rightly rests with the magesterial liquid-paper heir, Mike Nesmith) through his solo albums and work with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He has inspired many, acheiving far greater popularity and album sales posthumously. Among those inspired are the proprietors of The Flying Burrito Brothers Cantina and Tequileria on the corner of Armagh St and New Regent St in…Christchurch.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Almost exclusively about pianos

For many years I have been living in a very nice terrace in an inner-city suburb which served me admirably for many purposes. It was a great area to live: walking distance from the CBD, good cafés, a cracking good local pub, a quiet, tree-lined street, a comfortable and elegant house. Almost perfect.


Sadly, the house had no free interior wall that my piano could stand against. It could not fit in my bedroom as it was filled by my bed. It could not fit in the living room as its one solid wall had a table against it. It could not fit anywhere.

I missed my piano. Being able to sit down and play through a sonata at will was a joy and I missed it. Strolling past my piano, I was able to just plop myself down for a second and extemporise a whimsical melody through some different keys and then go on about my day.

Well, life in merry Squidtown moves on and I now live in a house blessed with a spare room and a few days ago some professional piano wranglers moved my piano into my home. For the first time in four years I have my dear Kawai upright by my side.

Colour me cheerful, I entertained a lady with some Eisler, I charmed her with Chopin, I beguiled her with Beethoven, I shocked her with Shostakovich, I let the lucky lady luxuriate lengthily in the likeable lure of Liszt.

It is woefully out of tune after many years of neglect but that should soon be rectified. Hurrah!

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