Sunday, 26 March 2017
Bang Bang/Sucide Ride/We're Getting Nowhere/In The Morning/Especially For You/Green River/Reach Out/Tilda Jane/Mistake/Southern Magic/Here We Come/Mirror Don't You Weep
Butler were one of few all-Maori rock bands. All four members were originally from Rotorua, but the band actually formed in Christchurch in 1970. Predominantly an underground group, they played their early gigs at the Open Door, before moving into Trevor Spitz's nightspot Aubrey's. Having built a strong Christchurch following, the band took stabs at other South Island centres, returning to hometown Rotorua in 1971. From there they began building up a North Island following, proving popular on the University circuit with their combination of originals and Led Zeppelin / Wishbone Ash covers.
Some television exposure followed with a spot on 'Happen Inn', 'Popco' and 'Free Ride'. This was fairly rare for an underground group and even with this they never really gained much pulling power.
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The creation of Butler was both spontaneous and unconventional. A typical New Zealand rock band circa 1970 would comprise high school pals or early twenty-something Pakeha males, jamming in a garage or rehearsal space. The bonds between the four members of Butler were forged in the tobacco fields of Motueka and a drop-in centre in Christchurch. Butler comprised four Rotorua area born and raised Maori teenagers. The original (and only) line-up comprised Steve Apirana (guitar, vocals), Heidi Warren (guitar, vocals), Angel Adams (bass), and Hori Sinnott (drums). Apirana started playing guitar at age 15, and a year later he and Warren (who was a year younger) decided they'd start a band. Their dream, however, only coalesced with these jams in Christchurch. "We approached the guy who was running the centre and got him to open it up on a night it was not normally open so we could practice," Steve told Cross Rhythms. "Three days later, the son of the minister offered to be our manager. Here we were, a band formed in three days, nowhere to play, only a couple of instruments, but we had a manager!"
This fast-growing reputation led to an invite to appear at the now-legendary Ngaruawahia Festival in early 1973, alongside such other fledgling New Zealand bands as Dragon and Split Enz. "Back then everyone was getting record deals," notes Apirana. "Our manager asked around for a deal and Pye took us up on it. They put us on a new label, Family. I think John Hanlon was the only other artist on it."
Butler's disenchantment with the record and the label grew as time went by. "It took them 18 months to release it and by then we’d progressed more into prog rock and bands like Wishbone Ash. We weren’t even playing many of those songs on the record." An initial single had a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival hit 'Green River' as the A-side, but it fared poorly. "The label never really got behind it," Apirana laments.
On the Butler album, nine group originals nestled alongside covers of 'Green River’, Cher's hit 'Bang Bang’ and the Four Tops classic 'Reach Out I’ll Be There'. Despite the album's failure, Butler remained popular on the touring circuit, and they opened for such visiting groups as The Average White Band and Osibisa. By 1976, Butler were hoping to make another album, one that better captured their improved musical chops, but internal and philosophical differences within the band deepened, causing them to call it quits in 1977.