Pearl. Remember Pearl? Can’t say I did, but given that the Wellington duo released an album (‘No Ordinary Day’) and several ‘adult contemporary’ radio singles a decade or so ago, plenty of middle-ageing Kiwis will.
Part self-discovery adventure, part life coaching session, part music industry insight and no doubt a large part sanative exercise, Blame It On ABBA is a charmingly honest tale of Lisa Nimmo’s personal and very unusual journey into (and back out of) the NZ music industry. From never-even-wanted-to-sing-on-stage-before 32-year old radio advertising salesperson to songwriter and support act for the (2006) NZ concerts of both Eric Clapton and Elton John within seven hardworking years – it is quite some tale of bravery, determination and achievement.
It’s also a tale of out-of-nowhere personal and professional success, balanced with the aspects of cold hard reality that inevitably chased down Lisa, her vocal partner Shelley Hirini and life partner Chris, who was the musical shell of Pearl. No matter the genre, NZ is a very tough market to sustain any kind of musical career.
Lisa Nimmo didn’t write this for consumption by those operating within the local music industry, but with so much of the industry’s post-millennium inner workings on display, it’s a surprisingly consuming read. With 18 years between the beginning of the Pearl ride and release of this ‘tell-all’ many of the industry types have shuffled on, but it’s still rather fun to read who they were and how they responded to the challenges Pearl (well the very driven Lisa mostly) presented.
It’s not an expose and the obvious omission of some key sequences, names and details is a little disappointing. Offsetting that are the retrospectively honest and instructive personal revelations of how any duo/small creative team works and over time becomes dysfunctional. Self-belief, enthusiasm and naivety can work wonders and in Pearl’s case they really did, making Lisa Nimmo’s childhood dream a reality and her book an easy-reading, fun and inspiring journey in itself.