Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

The best The Wiggles ever sounded is right now

10:53am 12 Feb 2016


I tell ya, though you won't believe me, the Wiggles DVD never sounded and looked so good - it's a joy, a great way to start this Friday morning. Oscar was allowed to choose it after saving his pocket-money up. I've endured this DVD many times - but today I enjoy it. And not because the four-year-old boy is doing well with riding his bike and learning to make his bed and sometimes remembering to "pack his manners" when he goes places...

Wiggles worship has been a tough stumbling block in this house. And we've been told we're not alone. Wiggles

But today that little yellow-covered DVD brings some sense of joy.

It's been a good week - a decent podcast-record is in the can so that's the next episode sorted, a British journalist got in touch - he's putting together an oral history of David Bowie and wants to quote from something I wrote about one of Bowie's albums, the Roscoe Holcomb reissue hit the spot, there's news that Bruce Springsteen has written his autobiography and it will be out in just a few months and a copy of Alexander Hallag's excellent book of photographs arrived on the doorstep. That all makes for a good week. Those are big wins in my world. Chump change to anyone else perhaps - but those are the sorts of things that make up a good week for me.

But there's one thing that made it the best.

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New shows popping up all the time...

11:32am 11 Feb 2016


The good gigs - surprise shows, particularly! - keep getting announced. By the time you read this you'll likely either have your tickets to Prince or you won't, and even if you don't care several people you know well will care hugely; today's newsfeed is going to be clogged with boasts and commiserations around that topic. 

There aren't many people that can announce a show three weeks out from it happening, have tickets go on sale just a couple of weeks before and crash sites as people scramble for tickets. Yes, I know I've talked about that already this week.

But there are plenty of great shows this year - including some more interesting pop-up and "Surprise"-type events.

It's just been announced that Jaz Coleman will perform a one-off spoken word show at The Classic in Auckland on Sunday, February 28.Shh...

You could, therefore, in the one city in the one week see Prince, Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, Simply Red, Jaz Coleman and Sleater-Kinney pretty much all in a row. And that's just to name a disparate handful. The Violent Femmes too...and there must be a dozen more...

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Talking Stranger Music

11:02am 10 Feb 2016


When I was a kid I used to copy out the words to my favourite songs - I'd hand-write them, to begin with it was an excruciating transcript: play/pause/rewind/play/pause/rewind - and then when I realised that some of the original LPs had lyric sheets (most of my tapes, to begin with anyway, were ones I'd copied from the records my folks owned) I'd use those. I'd still copy them out - sure, I might sit and read through the lyrics as I sat under the headphones, listening to Icehouse's Man of Colours or Terence Trent D'Arby's Hardline or Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut or anything by Pink Floyd and everything by The Beatles but I'd still write the lyrics out, commit them to paper. I wanted "my own copy" of the words, just as the dubbed tape was "my own copy" of the music.Folder

My dad won a typewriter in a sales contest - and I used to think I was flash-as in my room at night after dinner, or sometimes straight after school, typing up lyrics I'd written out, listening to tapes.

It was - I see now - pre-blogging; essential prep.

I had a manila folder with these typed-out lyrics - everything I listened to that I liked: Schnell-Fenster and Split Enz, David Bowie, Suzanne Vega, Bob Dylan...

Some were genuinely profound, or I thought so at the time - others were just songs I liked. I wrote out all of the lyrics to every song on Appetite for Destruction. I also tried to transliterate Los Lobos' music from La Bamba.

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On the news of Prince finally touring NZ

10:45am 09 Feb 2016



Friday's post had just been hung up to dry and then then news no one expected (ever) arrived. Prince would play in New Zealand. His first time here. His Piano & Microphone Tour - meaning it's just Prince at the piano playing a range of his songs - he's done this as a component of shows before. It's now a reinvention, Prince's new tour is a solo show.

By Saturday morning it was official, just one New Zealand show, mid-week, in three weeks' time even! Purple Reign - by Vera Bucsu

And now we know that the ticket prices are a hefty $390 to be up close and personal. With some $99 tickets available too - presumably you get to catch a flickering of the light off his afro for that. There's another price of around $220 too...
He's playing a 2000-seater. And the tickets go on sale this Thursday, by then just two weeks out from the show.

Well everyone seemed to want to talk about it on Friday, and then over the weekend. It really is big news. And even first-time readers here would probably know I'm a huge Prince fan. They should be able to guess that because he's one of the most important forces in music. One of very few people making music who can live up to - and transcend -  the genius tag.

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Beer with me...

08:21am 05 Feb 2016


Beer and music - we're told, so often, they go together. The craft beer fellas have all aligned themselves with music, sponsoring gigs, even naming beers after bands. And anyone with a rock'n'roll story of a gig from 20 or 30 years ago often adds in some yarn about being boozed, sozzled, tipsy...or if they weren't someone was, the band on stage perhaps, or everyone else in the bar. Perhaps it was so cheap that it just crept up on you. There was no salted-caramel beer flavours then...only if you were super-hammered might you end up with butter in your scotch...Blackout

We put up with late stage times on school nights because the only way the model works - if it even works - is for the bar to get in some time selling beer first (and then after).

We put up with hefty prices - or moan about them while still consuming.

We put up with impaired performances.

We put up with a lot - because of beer and its impact on music.

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