Monday, April 17, 2006


Went to a really warm spirited and enjoyable Easter luncheon yesterday in Point Chev. This was a heartening break from sitting or lying in bed with antibiotics. Our host made a succulent roast leggalamb and an amazing chocolate tort. There were many other scrumptious offerings in between. Before we ate some of us had a recurrent but nonetheless overdue moan about the state of the press in this country. This was brought on by the clichéd coverage of the Rolling Stones ('Lock up your grannies'). I gave up regularly reading the NZ Herald in my first year here, 1997.

I can be a whingeing pom, I'll admit, but why do you think we whine. There's no way around it: NZ mainstream media lack worldliness and style. There are few if any public intellectuals that regularly contribute to the newspapers. Kim Hill and Linda Clark are considered media intellectuals. The press and TV put most energy into sport, celebrities and anyone caught sucking the teets of the system that week. The coverage of food fares better than that of the visual arts. With few exceptions, the music writing is either banal or designed for catalogue shopping. Reviews and features are beholden to the record company press pack or what the British and American papers have already said many times. NZ music feature writers don't bother to think about the contradictions in a recording artist's work. What the music says about the broader world is rarely examined beyond the throwaway 'issue' soundbite. Kerry Buchanan is a rare exception. For the most part it's all about hyping the latest CD. The visit of foreign noteworthies always brings out the worst in our media. The snivelling reporters want them to sign up for NZ Tourism & Export. 'Oh please, let them like us, so that we know we are worthy, even though we're not so sure ourselves'. Thank God Above, that we were spared the visit of U2.

At home on Linwood last night, I could hear the roars of the Western Springs crowd and the hum of the amps. The park is only a ten-minute walk away. When I stepped into the back garden for a while and sat on the steps of the deck, I could see a triplet of Nuremberg spotlights pointing up to the sky as the band crashed into 'Let's Spend The Night Together'. Then I went to the front steps of the house as the band kicked off 'Jumping Jack Flash'.

Don't get me wrong. I like some of the Stones' songs. Though I prefer The Beatles. Sympathy For The Devil warrants serious respect. But in most cases, I'd rather listen to the covers than the originals: Otis Redding, The Residents and Devo versions of Satisfaction, for example. The Flying Burrito Brothers with Wild Horses. Laibach on Sympathy for the Devil. Better still, Germania with their version featuring Mick's voice after their hell's angels bouncers went a-killing at Altamont. I like serious deconstructions like Fennesz's Paint It Black. Let's hope that Cat Power covers 'Miss You' one day.

My favourite depictions of the group that once dreamed it was Muddy Waters' band at Chess appear in a succession of paintings by Guy Peellaert in his book Rock Dreams with Nik Cohn. Here the Stones of the 1960s are leather queens and Nazi paedophiles. In the latter vision, Keith still manages to sip a cup of tea like a proper English gent. No wonder these dudes once owned the film rights to Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange. Can't you just viddy them as droogs.

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