Nick Bollinger is a writer, musician, record producer and host of RNZ’s The Sampler.
His new memoir Goneville is both a coming of age story and an insiders take on the 1970s New Zealand music scene.
Read an extract from 'Goneville' and listen to the previously unreleased Mammal track 'Play Nasty' here.
It was around age three that his obsession with music started, Nick says.
“My parents finally gave me a wind-up gramophone and a stack of 78s and I would amuse myself for hours winding this thing up and putting my records on. It was before I could read, but by studying the labels I could remember which ones I liked and which hones I didn’t like. And I’d put them into different piles and things.”
Blerta, the experimental '70s band helmed by musician and actor Bruno Lawrence, seemed alluringly anarchic when he was younger, Nick says.
‘Freedom St Marys’ was the B-Side of their big hit ‘Dance All Around the World’ – “the Trojan horse that was crafted to get them through the door” – and the highlight of the band's live shows for him.
“It’s, to me, what Blerta was really about. It is a song about freedom, about rejecting society’s norms. And Bruno Lawrence’s drumming on this song is like someone breaking free. It’s amazing that the centre holds.”
At age 18, Nick was asked to join Rick Bryant’s band Rough Justice.
“To me it was like being an offered an apprenticeship.”
He toured with them for two years before the brand broke up. A few years later Bryant set up Rick Bryant and the Jive Bombers.
“He’s extraordinary. I’ve never known anyone else like him.”
Nick’s next selection – the 1973 track 'Wait' from the band Mammal – was written by the guitarist Robert Taylor, who went on to join Dragon.
“This is the version of Mammal that I first heard as a 13 year old and was blown away by – especially the singing.”
A founding member of Mammal, RNZ’s Simon Morris, later joined the band Tamburlaine and wrote Nick’s next selection – ‘The Raven and the Nightingale’.
“It feels to me like an old English folk song that’s been rocked up a bit.”
Nick says his final track, ‘Sunshine’ by Dragon, is in some ways the theme song for Goneville.
“This is not a sunny song, this is a lament, really. It could be about a number of things, it could even be about drugs. It’s somebody singing who can almost see their own destiny and it’s the price they’ve paid."
Goneville is an actual town just outside Whanganui where New Zealand’s first rock’n’roll star Johnny Devlin was born, so is arguably the birthplace of New Zealand rock’n’roll, says Nick.
“It’s somehow every small town that every unknown rock band has ever played in."
Goneville the book is partly a tribute to lost opportunities, he says, "acknowledging people who perhaps never reaped the rewards that I think were due to them”.