Can you remember when, where and who took this photo?
Bruce Jarvis was the photographer and I’d say the shot was taken in 1976 or early 77. It’s the downstairs bar of the Globe Hotel that was on the corner of Wakefield and Mounts Streets in Auckland city. (Unknown barman serving Hello Sailor’s Harry Lyon, Rick Ball, Dave McArtney and Graham Brazier.)
Lisle Kinney, our bass player is missing, but this is Hello Sailor, post gig having a few quiets and getting some publicity shots taken. John Dix used one from the same session taken from the other side of the bar with me flippin’ the bird. My relationship to these guys endures to this day, although of course we lost Davey last year… but were brothers in arms.
Did your family encourage your musical endeavours, back in your formative years?
Yes, both my parents were supportive. I saved up and bought my first guitar when I was 8, but they got me an electric for my 12th birthday and dad made me an amp using a circuit I think he found in a Popular Mechanics; 15 watts with a 10×6″ elliptical speaker, covered red plastic stuff that people used to line drawers with. Sounded good to me!
At what stage did the Hello Sailor journey start for you?
My father was sent to England for work in the early ‘60s and the whole family went and lived there for two years. This was 1961-63 so right at the time the Beatles broke.
I’d already been playing for three years when we arrived and got that first electric there (Watkins Rapier… a ¾ scale Strat copy). When we arrived back in Auckland and I returned to Milford School, that’s when I met Dave whos family had moved into the area while we were away. We started our first band there with, another kid in the class, Craig Murray and I on guitars, playing mainly Shadows covers. Dave was on drums, I was Hank, Craig on rhythm and we played at the school dances, parties and for visiting rellies.
The McArtneys moved to Wellington so it was largely back to the bedroom for me for a year or so, but I started to sing once my voice broke and immersed myself in ’60s Brit Pop; Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Animals and Spencer Davis and The Loving Spoonful were big for me.
Typically, my mother encouraged me and sent me off to my first audition at the age of 15 when she spotted an ad in the local newspaper – “Wanted, guitar player and singer, 17-20, for working North Shore band. Good gear and transport essential…”
The band was The Legends and I got the gig. It was a Beatles line-up; two guitars, bass and drums. We all sang. They were a bit older than me, all working day jobs and quite busy with gigs most weekends. This was big time for me; a band with an actual drummer and bass player, a PA, gigs, money. Murf the drummer had the hottest Mark I Zephyr on the Shore… and I was in it!
We ended up with a residency at Surfside Ballroom playing to about 1000 teenagers every Saturday night with a few church dances and private functions thrown in on other nights. This was 1966.
In 1967 I was asked to join The Crying Shame as the singer. They were a bunch of mates from St Heliers and well plugged in to the city club scene. Their bass player Bob had left to tour with Fred Bower who was doing a pretty credible Hendrix thing. I said I’d join if I could bring the Legends’ bass player Mike (needed a bit of security I think… still just 16).
After a month or so Bob got replaced in Fred’s band, by Harvey Mann from the Underdogs, so he was back looking for a gig. Mike was planning on getting married so Bob moved back in on bass. Bless Bob, he turned me onto Motown, Atlantic and Stax soul and that was reflected in the repertoire along with a crop of Top 40 covers; Small Faces and the Young Rascals favourites.
The Crying Shame was a five-piece; guitar, keys, bass and drums, initially me on vocals. The guitar player seemed to lose interest so I moved onto guitar and vocals. I stayed with that band through my remaining year of high school and first year at Uni. We sometimes worked 4-5 nights a week, with double or triple gigs Friday and Saturday. The band appeared on C’Mon ’68 and played in the greater Auckland area venturing as far as Kawakawa, Hamilton and a season at the Mt over the summer. We did some recording but nothing was released.
I played with the Crying Shame through my first year at Auckland uni, but with gigs 4-5 nights a week, I failed everything so left the band to get a bit serious with my studies. I got a gig at a reception lounge down the road from my parents playing mainly at weddings with a few balls during the winter. It paid well and I learned to read charts for the Latin songs in the set that also helped my chord knowledge. Good money for a student and I did that for over two years.
Dave moved back to Auckland in 1971 and we met up again at UoA and moved into a house in Cracroft St, Parnell at the end of the year. Murray Grindley was our next-door neighbour. That’s where Dave and I really started playing guitar together a lot and developed our two guitars/one part thing. We did a few acoustic duo gigs and dropped out of uni to start a rocknroll band mid-1972. It was right around this time I met up with an old girl friend who became, and is still, my wife. Maggy and I decided to move to Otago.
Dropping out for me was accompanied by a decision to become a professional musician. I had been playing semi-pro since I was 16 and at 22 thought it’s now or never. I bought my L-series Strat from Kingsley Smith for $200, gave my father some money to bring me back an Orange amp and some Celestion speakers from London, so I was tooled up. I played with a pub band for a few months with Bob Taylor from the Crying Shame on bass and Trevor Thwaites on drums.
Dave moved into Mandrax Mansion with Graham and the jamming there started, but initially Dave didnt have an electric guitar. I was keen to get playing and living off music so I answered an ad; “Guitar player vocalist needed for professional touring band with management. The band was Beam and that’s when I became a professional musician.
Beam worked constantly and I had a summer of touring, working with most of the top TV acts; Angela Ayers, Craig Scott, Brent Brodie, Steve Gilpin, Mark Williams, Claire Raine… I met Shona Laing for the first time, and Mike Corless who we’ve worked with a lot over the years.
In between tours I’d call in to The Mansion sometimes taking the Beam rhythm section for a jam. Dave and Graham were buying bits and pieces of gear and it was one of these times they had a couple of speaker cabinets for vocals; one had ‘Goodbye Dove’ hand painted on it, the other one ‘Hello Sailor’.
Beam had run its course and broke up at the end of the summer of 74/75. Don Mills the keyboard player formed Think, Tony McMaster joined what had become Hello Sailor as our first bass player and to this day is our sound tech. What really kicked Sailor into life was Dave and I moving into an house at 520 Queen St in the city. We set the lounge up as a rehearsal room and spent most days working up a repertoire. Graham was working on the dust carts, I was working with the maintenance crew down at the railway yards and Dave something similar.
We didn’t have the phone on and I used to go up to the phone box on the corner of K Rd and Queen St with a piggy bank with 2c coins, my contact book and diary and try to hustle up gigs. Maggy was due to give birth to our first child in September so I seriously wanted to get the band working. We finally landed a three week run of gigs; four nights at The Trees Tavern in Tokoroa, followed by two weeks at the Leopard Inn in Napier.
Around this time we also started doing Monday nights at the Kiwi Tavern at the top of Wellesley St. The line-up was different to the electric band with no drums although by the end of our stint there we were using the electric band line-up with by then Lisle Kinney on bass and Graeme Turner on drums. We were starting to pull quite good crowds and the Globe Hotel approached us offering four nights a week (Wed-Sat), and Phil Warren Monday nights at The Crypt nightclub. So, we had gigs five nights a week often supplemented by Saturday afternoons at the Windsor Castle and a club gig after The Globe in the weekends.
We also started going away for tours of up to six weeks and regularly went away for a week to play the Cabana in Napier, White Hart in Nee Plymouth and Sandown Park in Gisborne. They were all good towns for us and each time we went the crowds got bigger. We released Rum and Coca Cola/bw Casablanca Holiday in 1976 and appeared on RTR and Grunt Machine. That all had an impact and by the beginning of 1977 we were getting capacity crowds just about everywhere we played.
Hello Sailor were considered one of Aotearoa’s finest hard working live bands. What are your recollection of some of the others around and the venues and residencies you played in that era?
As a students, bands like Highway and Space Farm used to play on campus, OK Dingy that became Dragon and early Enz. Ragnarok, Skylord, Father Time were all around and gigging regularly. Street Talk ruled The Windsor Castle in Parnell and The Inbetweens were the kings of the Auckland club scene.
Sonny Day had a fabulous band at The Crypt; Invaders rhythm section of Jimmy Hill on drums and Dave Russell on bass, Ron Craig on guitar and a very young Stuart Pearce on keys. Because were did Monday nights there (their night off) we could always get in and were regulars after our pub gigs.
On our first trip to Napier we went to The Cabana for the first time, to check out Skylord. In Wellington Midge Marsden and the Country Flyers were regulars at The Cricketers Arms and we always used to go the 1860 on Saturday afternoon when we were in town, to see the 1860 band. When we played Christchurch for the first time it was at the Aranui with Brigade, the resident band, that had Kevin Stanton on guitar and Paul Dunningham on drums, who both went on to MiSex and of course Paul was Coup D’Etat’s drummer.
The creative process of developing a live repertoire, how did that evolve over the years?
The focus was on developing an original repertoire but we were short so had covers to fill things out; Stones, Velvets, Bowie, reggae and some old soul songs. We have always included a cover or so in our sets even when we didnt need to, because we just loved the songs and have taken a certain amount of ownership of some of them, Sweet Jane being a case in point.
Recording put the focus on our songs and once they were released and gained radio airplay, we had increasing numbers of songs that our audience knew. Over the years some of them have become firm crowd favourites and of course are what give any act longevity. To that end weve never been precious about only wanting to play our latest stuff man and wanted to give people who come to hear the band what they expect… not to say we dont include a few surprises and are always working on new material.
Most of our songs come to band pretty complete with Graham and Dave contributing most, with me taking the George Harrison slot. The co-writes mostly had Dave and/or me working from guitar riff with Graham writing lyrics. Some coming out of rehearsal or sound check jams.
Dave was very prolific but was always careful to ensure the material he brought to Sailor suited the band and for the most part, kept Graham firmly as our singer. Dave and me singing a song or two added a bit of variety, but Graham’s a great front man and vocalist and we wanted to keep that focus.
I read that Hello Sailor was a band that for the most part, were left to their own devices, and gradually meandered their way into a legendary position. Do you think that no one giving you the key to the door in the early days was perhaps to your advantage?
We didn’t have any master plan, or any plan early on. We just wanted to have a band and play, and get paid enough to make a living out of it. Simple: rehearse, buy a van and a PA and get on the phone to hustle up some gigs. It’s for others to say whether were legendary or not, we don’t think about the band that way.
We’ve certainly been around for a while, maybe that’s legendary. It’s not quite true to say there was no “key to the door”. I learned a lot from touring with Beam and made some valuable contacts. The bands I mentioned earlier like Ragnarok were touring, usually playing a week at each venue and that’s what we started out doing.
When we were approached by Coca Cola offering a sponsorship deal of some kind, that’s when I came up with the idea of a one-nighter tour to promote our first album. I guess that helped establish the pub-circuit that became the norm and exists to this day.
What are your memories of Hello Sailor scoring the deal with Eldred Stebbing and the recording there of your two albums?
One night Ian Morris brought Rob Aicken to The Globe and he asked us to go into Stebbing Recording Studios to record some demos, with a view to making an album. Recording that album gave us Gutter Black, Blue Lady and Lying in the Sand, we toured the album and were seriously on our way.
Typically for a first album, it represented songs written over quite a period of time, although Blue Lady notably came along pretty late in the piece. The album generally though is quite eclectic and diverse and representative of the early band.
Our second album also recorded at Stebbing and with Ian and Rob was a far darker affair. We were playing a lot of shows and felt we were light on rocknroll songs. Quite a few of the album tracks were jammed out at sound check and road tested. Do The Silver Jive was a one take jam in the studio, including Graham’s vocal take with lyrics made up on the fly.
Our working relationship with Rob and Ian was effortless; we all got on really well and I dont remember a single moment of conflict. By the time we were recording the second album Th Dudes were surfacing so our friendship with Ian that started then lasted until his untimely and tragic death… Very sad.
The Stebbing family were very sweet, if a little paternalistic. Eldred was like dad, and Margaret used to come down with tea and biscuits. Vaughan took one of the photographs used on an album cover.
Back in those early days did you consider that music was going to be a career?
I was determined to become a professional musician. I dropped out of university to lead a creative life and wanted to earn a living doing something I loved. I dont think I projected that too far into the future… dont think many 20-somethings do. Just follow that dream bro!
When did Hello Sailor begin to develop a business structure?
I had been that guy in the band who got on the phone to book gigs since I was handed that responsibility at 17 when Jim Hoare left The Crying Shame in 1968. I just moved into that when Sailor started. As I’ve mentioned, I was recently married and about to become a father… Not saying I was desperate, but y’know, needs must! Over the years the band’s business structure became more formal and moved from being a partnership, through to a GST registered limited liability company.
Hello Sailor relocating to LA with manager David Gapes was a huge undertaking. What were the expectations and what was the reality once you arrived there?
Our attitude was a good ol’ Kiwi battler one: “OK, we’re going to show these Yanks a bit of South Pacific rock’n’roll.” We were well aware of David’s commitment in terms of putting his money where his mouth was and I don’t think we played a bad show in the US. Not to say there weren’t some crazy things going on, but when it came to show time we wanted to make a good account of ourselves. The band had been together for three years and we had lots of gigs and two albums under our belts so we were pretty match fit, blessed of course by having Rick and Lisle as a dynamite rhythm section.
Sailor’s time in LA comes across in Dave McArtney’s book Gutter Black – A Memoir, not as a failure but as something that defined you all as people and as a band. But as Dave says in the book, “the enticement to annihilation had begun – in retrospect how do you look back on the time spent there?
When we were in LA it was the first time I felt acceptance that being a musician was a legitimate thing to be doing. So for me, it confirmed that being a musician was okay, and that was what I was going to be.
While things didn’t work out as planned, and whole thing was all a bit loose from David down, we came really close to getting that major label signing. As anyone who’s been in the business for a while knows, that final step to success can be decided on a set of very fickle variables.
There can be plenty of if only and wisdom of hindsight conversations: Maybe we should have; partied less; taken a smaller entourage; lived in a more modest house; gone to NY &/or London and gone back to LA instead of going to Australia… I left my Chevy convertible outside Rick’s girlfriend’s place! However, I personally don’t have any regrets about that time. Might do some things differently if we had a chance to do it again, but we had a ball and played some great shows.
Tell us the story of Keith Richards’ house.
Keith and Anita had a place down the hill from us, closer to Sunset. It burned down and Dave and a few others went down once the fire had died down and the emergency people had left. They went through the smouldering ruins of the house and liberated a few of Keith’s belongings. These included a 10 speed bike, some of Anita’s clothes and several pairs of Keith’s underpants (major score for Dave!), quite a few tapes of obscure reggae recordings, a cassette recording of Keith jamming out song ideas with his kids and Jagger making appearances.
One of our American wide-boy mates snaffled that tape but a bunch of us listened through and heard ideas that would materialise on Rolling Stones’ albums. Dave also grabbed a notebook with song lyric or title ideas and used one of them for a song recorded by the Flamingos, Dying in Public.
Eventually the money ran out and the band returned to NZ and then headed to Australia, which was to prove to be the breaking point band. What events led to that decision and what were the options?
We started in Australia with a hiss and a roar, over-hyped as the Kiwi band that went straight to LA, the Graham turning down The Doors story. That worked to an extent but there was a backlash, not helped by some patchy performances. We ended up manager-less and in debt, but our agents stuck with us and our publicist came on board as a road manager. We scaled back our overheads with more modest production and crew and started to really build and audience.
Contrary to what the NZ Inland Revenue may have thought, we hadn’t really made any money that stuck to the band for a couple of years. I was living away from wife and daughter. Dave had a growing amount of material that werent Sailor songs. We had been living in each other’s pockets for about five years and I think we were just sick of each other and the life we were leading on the treadmill that was the Australian touring circuit.
Returning to NZ after Australia – how did the band call it a day and tell us how the band segued off into their respective solo careers?
We left Australia with debts and the plan was to return to NZ to play Sweetwaters and a short tour to pay them off, then call it quits. The decision had been made before we came home.
The last gig was at The Windsor Castle and a great show from memory. While I was at sound check in the afternoon I got a call from Neil Hannan who said he and Jan Preston were back from their stint in the US with Red Mole. They had heard Sailor was calling it a day and asked if I would be interested in starting something with them. I met up with them when they played a Uni gig in Auckland as Wolfgang and we agreed after a long night to call the band Coup D’Etat. We started recording at Marmalade Studios in Wellington with Steve Robinson and Ian Morris and flew Rick down to play drums on what were our first two singles, No Music On My Radio and Dr I Like Your Medicine. We eventually settled on Paul Dunningham on drums and finished the album at Mandrill.
Rick immediately slipped back into a club gig at Jillys. The band along with Rick, was Peter Woods on keys, Eddie Hansen guitar, Paul Woolright bass and Beaver vocals. Eddie and Peter left in quite quick succession to be replaced by Dave and Paul Hewson. Then Rick decided to get serious about establishing his clothing business and was replaced by Jim Lawrie. Time for a new band name – The Pink Flamingos. Dave had already started recording, initially with Rick on drums and me on guitar, but the addition of Paul on keys and his influence on Dave’s writing saw it really flourish.
Coup D’Etat was first cab of the rank post-Sailor and I used to go up to Jillys after our gigs to see the Flamingos and catch up. They sounded fabulous up there as club bands tend to when settle into the room and the PA.
Lisle joined DD Smash and Graham put Brazier’s Legionnaires together with Lez White (ex-Dudes) on bass, Simon (Bam Bam) Hanna on drums and Mark Manning on guitar. By 1982 Coup D’Etat had run its course and I joined, replacing Mark. We changed rhythm section with Paul Woolright and Lyn Buchanan, then Dave joined so we almost had a Sailor line-up. Since that time Graham, Dave and I have maintained some sort of band and since 1985 its been called Hello Sailor.
Dave writes in the book that the band returned from Australia undernourished, disillusioned, poor, unhealthy. It’s incredible that you all managed to survive it, what is the chemistry that enabled you all to achieve that?
I think you can put our physical survival down to the fact that we were all pretty strapping young fellahs. We had all been very fit and active in our late teens and early 20s and through some pretty serious party years would still put in maybe 20kms a week running. I kept that up until I was about 45, then my knees started to give out. So were tough ol’ buggers. Sadly Davey not quite tough enough to beat cancer.
Creatively we all just love to make music. It’s who we are and what we do. We came to the realisation that Sailor is our favourite vehicle for that. We are like brothers, including not necessarily seeing eye-to-eye. Maggy jokes about the over abundance of alpha males in the band.
During your time in Hello Sailor you have played with and supported a huge number of artists – who would you consider made the biggest impression on you?
Hard to pick when the list includes Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Elvis Costello, Psychedelic Furs, Marianne Faithful, The Eurythmics, Pretenders, Tom Jones, Roxy Music, Bo Diddley, Dr Feelgood and a host of wonderful kiwi and Australian acts. However, short of supporting the Stones, The Who was as close to realising some sort of schoolboy dream gig. Standing side of stage watching Pete Townsend with my son Johnny was a good one for the Lyon boys.
Your worst professional experience?
Most of the time I’d like to think I’ve got my act together at gigs but I was seriously out of order at the Sweetwaters show we played after coming back from Australia in 1980. A combination of far too much god-knows-what, not helped by the show schedule running late. This meant any sort of planned peak was a sorry slump by the time I stumbled on barely capable of doing anything let alone contribute to the bands performance. I spent the whole set desperately trying to sober up. We had Paul Hewson on keys who was well adept at a bit of out-of-it-ness, and even he looked across the stage at me disapprovingly. Good one Harry, 60,000 people…
Recording the last Sailor album – ‘Under A Surrey Crescent Moon’ – how much has the creative process changed for you over the time?
The creative process for SCM didn’t change much for us at all. Graham, Dave and I had various show and tell sessions sharing songs we had. We recorded some demos and then booked time at Roundhead to record the album. Aside from using ProTools as a recording medium, our process was pretty much unchanged from the way weve always recorded. We try to capture as much of the band live as we can, then work tracking the rest.
Dave had been writing his book on and off for a period of at least 10 years – what are your feelings about the book?
I’m really pleased Dave finished it before he died and that it has been now been published and released. He would have been tickled pink at the launch and had a few laughs about some of the goings on behind the scenes.
I think the book reads really well and in some sections I find the writing quite sublime. The description of his surfing days for example and the primal joy of catching a wave to the stains of Hendrix coming from the shore I find very evocative.
When the band was inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in 2011, Dave took it upon himself clear the air with Lisle Kinney, the original bass player who was omitted. What happened there?
Initially APRA invited Graham, Dave and me. We wanted to recognise the band and so included Rick, Paul and Stuart Pearce who has played keys for us for years. I thought this was pushing things a bit as I hadn’t seen other inductees bring past band members in. Frankly though, leaving Lisle out was a mistake, especially given his work before and after Sailor. It was brought home to me when I saw what Herbs had the whole whanau in – that’s what we should have done. Bugger!
Over the years you have developed and studied a number of different career options – tell us about that journey that lead to your current career in academia?
In the ’90s I spent quite a lot of the time surviving by doing duo gigs with Dave, then Hammond Gamble. It was great and I learned a lot about singing and the blues playing with Hammond. As the decade wore on some of our shows were a struggle and a few gigs from hell… yknow; “play something we can dance to… “dya know any Connie Francis… and the big 50 approached for me. So I was looking for something else.
Tony McMaster had been working for Tai Poutini Polytechnic, in the MAINZ faculty for some time. When Graeme Downes left there to go down and lead the BMus Rock major at Otago, Tony encouraged me to apply for a job. It was my first ever job interview and I got the gig.
I started out as a part time tutor in 2000, and a novice teacher. I went to night school and completed a teaching qualification that year, then embarked on a Masters degree from 2001, finishing that in 2004. By that stage I was a Head of Department and pretty happy doing that. When our boss left in 2008 I applied for that role and became the Director, then the Dean. It’s pretty much a business role and just recently I decided to step aside from it and move back to doing some teaching and working on strategic projects for MAINZ and the Tai Poutini.
What’s the most important thing you can pass on to a young musician intent on a career as a professional musician?
I can share my experiences through teaching them and hopefully help them understand what the industry is like and the sorts of skills and behaviours they need to develop to succeed. While I believe coming to somewhere like MAINZ can be really beneficial, ultimately when students leave its up to them to work hard and be ready for every opportunity that comes along. When you’re young though you don’t have much to lose, so I say go for it! Take some risks, have some fun, work hard and you never know where youll end up. One song can get you a long way.
What are your personal five favourite records – what songs still never fail to brighten your day?
My early favourites would be my first record, ‘Wonderful Land’, a Shadows’ EP, and the first Stones album.
These days it tends to shift and I make and change playlists, but the ones that get the most regular outings are my Soul, Songbook and Good Times ones with mostly old school songs I love… that I realize, looking at the list, are mainly American. They’re full of everything from The Lovin Spoonful, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Ry Cooder and Dean Martin, to Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Aretha, Ella, Billie, Sarah Vaughan, Corinne Bailey Rae, Al Green and Louis Armstrong, A Kiss to Build a Dream On.
What’s the best book about music that youve read?
I loved Chris Bourke’s Blue Smoke. Beautifully put together with great text and photographs, and it really filled in some gaps for me.
Few others worth noting; Being Billy by Julie Townsend is a Billie Holliday biography; Broken English, by Marianne Faithful, is one of the best rock’n’roll autobiographies, and ends with a Thai chicken curry recipe. And of course everyone should rush out and buy Dave’s Gutter Black, the book.
The best advice you ever got was…?
“Play, don’t worry. I think it might have been Ron Craig from Sonny Day’s band back in the Crypt days. I was a bit hung up on getting my sound together. Ron got up for a jam at one of our gigs late one night and played my guitar through my amp and made it sing, then dropped that little pearl on me.
In a more general sense there was a Chinese guy called Robert who worked at a copy centre I used quite a lot in the ’90s. We were waiting for a job to run through and he asked me how I was going, and I must have been a bit down and had a moan. He said, “Remember, always someone behind you.” I continued, “… yeah, but sometimes I feel I’m just banging my head against a wall.” He said (this is the one I like), “Keep banging; sooner or later break through.” Thanks Robert, that’s a keeper!
How do you define success?
I look back over my professional life and around me at my friends and family and feel pretty good.