While the majority of New Zealanders were struggling with prosaic things like supermarkets, and getting their hair to grow down over their ears, some of their fellow citizens were following the path less taken in 1973. In the pages of The Listener in 1973 Robert Keyzer appears to have been the journalist assigned to the “what-are-all-the-freaks-doing?” beat. He began his year at a festival in Wanganui called Serenity based on the Putiki Marae. The orgainisers’ main premise for running the event was,
that creative energy is a universal force existing in everyone, and capable of being expressed by everyone.
Expressing creativity was done in a number of ways at the festival, including creative energy workshops where people played games:
The game at the moment is for one of a pair to transmit specified whispered emotions purely by using the hands that rest on the back of the shoulders of the one in front. We are told to communicate feelings like hopefulness, joy, grief or hate. An amazing number of people guess exactly what is expressed. One girl is so affected she bursts into tears. Barriers are shot down non-verbally. You enter as strangers and leave as those who have shared a deep experience.
Also, you get a nice shoulder rub.
There was music, theatre groups, nude bathing, and Hone Tuwhare singing Pennies From Heaven. Later in the year The Listener reviewer Evan Roberts attempted a review of the work of one of the participants in the Serenity festival, Jack Body. The piece reviewed was called Silence and Me.
The composition was based on two sounds: first, buzzing or clicking of different speeds… and secondly a human cough accompanied at times by heavy breathing. In his introduction the composer said the buzzing was intended to be heard internally… while the cough represents the assertion of the self against the oppression symbolised by the buzzing.
I hope Evan didn’t take a date to this show because it sounds like a stinker.
Still later in the year there is a report on a new fad called yoga, and then Keyzer gives us a piece on transcendental mediation in which the following extraordinary “fact” is reported,
A study of nearly 2000 drug users in the United States in 1971 indicated that 98 percent of them stopped using or pushing drugs after two or three years of meditation.
As we all know, meditation was made compulsory in the USA after this and now that country has been: “Drug Free For 38 Years!”.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
But my favourite Keyzer piece has to be A Deeper Shade. This is an interview with Shade Smith, a New Zealand musician, that proves two related points about celebrity: it can easily delude the possessor into a sense of unmerited self importance, and it does little to inoculate against complete post-fame obscurity.
From 1971 to 1973 Shade Smith was in the band The Rumour. In 1971 they released La Amour est L’Enfant de la Liberte which was a huge hit (six weeks at number one). However, if we’ve learnt anything from looking at hit songs on this blog it would be that winning awards and being number one is no guarantee of quality. La Amour is garbage. As is their other hit Holy Morning. Still, awesome album cover.
Looks like they’ve got a good night planned.
The bloke sitting down is Shade. The one standing up is his twin brother Gerard. Shade and Gerard were from Huntly. It was Shade who was interviewed, something he apparently found difficult:
At best he is a reticent speaker, with strong ideas which he not only has trouble verbalising but puts reluctantly because of an awareness of the limitations of any one viewpoint.
Shade was a creative fellow who disliked school,
Shade thinks one of his recent songs, I Don’t Want to be Another You, describes his feelings about the education system…. he had to unlearn what he learned. [He] taught himself the piano – “I never wanted to learn anything the ‘right’ way again – wanted to feel it, to find the reality of things. Many people taught the piano don’t love it as I can.”
Ah yes, that educational trap called “the right way”. If only those calculus teachers could loosen up a bit and let their students find their own way into the reality of the derivatives of parametric equations. Nevermind, school didn’t crush the genius of Huntly who maintained lofty dreams,
He aims to change people’s concepts of words: “You’ve got to use words they know, but it has to be fresh.” To illustrate, he quotes the song title No Money On Our Trees, an almost surrealist image that comes from the well-worn “Money doesn’t grow on trees.
I love this: “You’ve got to use words they know”. They? Who are they? Other English speakers? And as for No Money On Our Trees being a surrealist image, last time I checked this would be a description of reality. For a groovy guy this dude is sure beginning to become pretty irritating. I suspect Shade’s description of the creative inspiration behind the single Holy Morning might also have grated on the feelings of a few friends:
At that time I’d been to a few weddings. The song is partly a reaction to these organised, unfeeling affairs.
Chur, bro. Mind you, Shade refers to his own marriage in this interview as “observing the condition that exists” which strikes me as something a scientist would say about rats in a cancer experiment. Anyway, let’s see what lyric masterpiece he came up with after witnessing the unfeeling weddings of friends and family:
I wrote the music first…. Then came the words, “Holy morning bless our years with streams of sunshine falling.”
Mind you he was good at bleergh. Check out the lyrics for Sunshine Through a Prism:
Have you ever seen the sunshine through a prism
Splitting colours cross the spectrum of your eyes?
Did you ever wonder how the colours shatter like they do
Then join together on the other side?
Um, yeah, I guess so. Why do you ask?
I have seen your child of beauty from the union
Spreading pleasure across the spectrum of your mind
When there’s someone in your life that makes you feel so warm and right
He’s the prism in the sunshine of your life
We learn that Shade’s given name was actually John, but he changed it by deed poll because,
“I didn’t want to carry all the writing non-abilites of the John Smith’s in the world.”
But why Shade? The answer is hilarious.
Before [the band] decided on a name, Shade wanted it to be called Shape, Shade, Colour and Noise. “No one liked the idea. I think they were insulted by their names, but I thought they were good characterisations.”
Yeah, I’m amazed this idea didn’t fly.
Shade’s split from The Rumour reveals further aspects of his humility,
“Rumour’s sound is built around Gerard’s voice….. I can’t create for that sound now.”
That sound? Dude, you’re talking about your brother. Apparently without irony the reporter then follows Shade to a recording session for his first solo single and reports:
The session became a laborious eradication of the odd flat note or lapse in timing. “The unfortunate thing about Shade,” admits Bruce Lynch, “is that he is not a singer – that creates all kinds of problems.”
You don’t say.
I suppose Shade was about to learn what kind of problems. By 1974 he was probably looking for a day job.