Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Waves - 1975 - Waves

Clock House Shuffle/Wornout Rocker/Thoughts From Venus/Waterlady Song/Letters/The Dolphin Song/Arrow/Ocean - Neon Song/Elouise/At The Beach/ Waitress/Castle Gates

In the early 1970s Auckland Technical Institute art and design students Graeme Gash and Kevin Wildman formed Rosewood, an acoustic folk-pop trio, with Geoff Chunn, gigging regularly at an Auckand venue and also at the 1973 Ngaruawahia Music Festival. Rosewood disbanded when Chunn left in April 1973 to join Split Enz as drummer.

Gash and Wildman continued to meet to play guitar and work on their vocal harmonies, mixing with other Auckland musicians at the Parnell Rd home of Geoff and Mike Chunn. Gash recalled: "One day David Marshall crashed our jam; we were gobsmacked. He was great. We snapped him up. Michael Matthew was hanging out with a bunch of musos we knew, and we cajoled him into accompanying us on the bashwalk to glory."

Adopting the name Waves, the band—with Gash, Wildman and Marshall on guitar and Matthew on bass—played at folk clubs, cafes and eventually at Auckland Town Hall, His Majesty's Theatre, the Maidment and the Mercury, playing soft rock and singing four-part harmonies. They avoided the pub circuit, as Gash explained: "They wanted something to drink to, not think to. So we needed venues where the intricacies of our music would be heard." The band had three writers, with each member excelling at singing or guitar-playing. Gash said the band felt proud playing original New Zealand songs. "Back then it wasn't particularly popular to front up and play all your own music. People tended to get a little bored with that."

With continued performances, the band sensed a building excitement and air of anticipation. "Split Enz had embedded themselves into the national psyche, or at least the leading edge of it," Gash said. "Hot Licks was championing a lot of local work. Radio stations like Hauraki were into doing their bit for the locals as well. Hauraki were great in those days; they used to do Buck-a-Head concerts. Big venue, one dollar for two bands." 

 In 1975 Roger Jarrett, the editor of local music magazine Hot Licks, introduced the band to Kerry Thomas and Guy Morris, co-owners of the magazine and Direction Records, a retail chain and independent record label. On 7 July 1975 the band began a five-day recording session for their debut album at Stebbing Studios in Jervois Rd, Ponsonby, across the road from the eight-bedroom colonial villa where Waves members lived. Gash recalled: "Before walking through the front door of Stebbings, we’d prepared, done a lot of practice and a lot of live work with the material, so we knew it back to front. Let’s face it, we’d been living across the road getting ourselves ready for this moment for about a year."

Thomas arranged expatriate New Zealand producer Peter Dawkins, then living in Sydney, to return to Auckland to produce the album. Gash said: "Dawkins had five days, and he marshalled us through the procedures in a most efficient fashion. That was his job, and he did it well. He was tough though: one of our friends wasn’t cutting it quickly enough with his solo, and Peter made me go into the studio and fire him on the spot. We freely availed ourselves of notable contributors. Some—Mike Chunn, Mike Caen, Roy Mason—were personal friends; others—Vic Williams, Murray Grindlay, Mike Harvey, Paul Lee—were introduced to us in the studio." He told The New Zealand Herald: "We were in a world we had dreamed of being in. It was a mix of excitement and terror."

At the end of the week, Dawkins flew back to Sydney with the finished tapes to mix them. "No doubt, in his world this was standard procedure," Gash said. "However what it did was disengage us from the process. When the mixes came back to Auckland, we didn’t understand them. They were not the way we heard ourselves. We voiced our desire to remix the album. Almost miraculously, Kerry Thomas agreed, and gained my gratitude forever. We kept Peter’s mixes of "Waterlady Song" and "Arrow"; the rest the band remixed at Stebbing’s with (engineer) Phil Yule, and that is what appeared on the album."

The album was released in October 1975, reached No.7 on the album charts and became one of the best-selling albums by New Zealand artists of the 1970s. Three singles were released—"The Dolphin Song"/"Letters", "Arrow"/Clock House Shuffle" and "At the Beach"/Waitress".

The success of Waves attracted the attention of major record labels and in 1976 the band—now with a drummer, Rex Carter, and new bassist Michael Mason, who replaced Michael Matthew—entered Mandrill Studios in Parnell to record their second album for WEA Records. Some of the songs followed the folk-rock style of the debut album, while on others the band began to explore a new direction with electric guitars.

Gash said: "We were producing it ourselves, and it was all ourselves; unlike the first album, there were no guest performances. The rhythm section was jelling nicely, the songs and the playing seemed a step up and we felt much more relaxed and in control of the process than we had previously. Things were looking pretty good." But with just a few solo overdubs to complete and on the verge of mixing, the band was told that label boss Tim Murdoch didn’t like what they had done and had ordered that the multi-track tapes should be recorded over.

Studio boss Dave Hurley allowed the band to copy a rough mix of the tapes before it was wiped. "That is the only record we have of our endeavours, an entire album’s worth of work," Gash told NZ Musician magazine. "We had worked hard. It deserved better. Maybe we just weren’t tough enough; certainly, after a few good blows to the head you start to wonder what it’s all for. The second album being wiped just prior to the mix broke our hearts."

In July 1977 the band recorded one last song, "Vegas", at Mascot Studios and delivered it to Murdoch. "It was some of our best playing," Gash said. "Almost unbelievably, the plug was once again pulled just prior to mixing."

In 1981 Gash produced a solo album, After the Carnival, while Marshall became a member of Lip Service in 1980 and Martial Law in 1984.

1 comment:

  1. Just finished listening to this tonight, what a classic 70's album - and geeze' - how much do they sound like CSNY?
    THanks for the share mate