Goodie & the Pretty Things
The imperial trinity of Kings, the Regent and the Majestic theatres offered a good night out to Gisborne and East Coast residents in the 1960s.
Pubs closed at 6pm, television broadcasts were limited to a few hours a day and new music took weeks if not months to reach New Zealand. Queues for a night at the pictures when movies like Goldfinger, or Zulu, finally got here stretched around the corner.
At the same time, The Beatles’ pop-rock was gaining traction before British act Pretty Things brought its proto-punk behaviour to Gisborne during a two-week tour of New Zealand . . . and the town was never the same again.
“In 1965, while other British groups set their sights on America, the Pretty Things invaded New Zealand, a culturally sheltered colonial outpost 12,000 miles from their home,” said Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine, Andrew Neill and New Zealand rock’n’roll historian John Baker in their book called Don’t Bring Me Down . . . Under: The Pretty Things in New Zealand, 1965.
“A disparate bunch of art-student malcontents, brought together in one unholy collision of no-holds-barred 60s rhythm and blues and self-expression, the Pretty Things were the most extreme band of their day.”
The band’s lead singer Phil May died aged 75 from complications following hip surgery on Friday, but local man Peter Goodwin (better known as Goodie) recalled the Pretty Things 1965 concert at the Gisborne Opera House.
Goodwin was 15 years old when he and a mate went to see the rock act whose lead singer was described in Gisborne Photo News as “Looking more like his hairy ancestral cousin than a modern human being”.
“The era was almost pre-Beatles,” said Goodwin.
“We were growing our hair like The Beatles but they weren’t that long-haired really. They had those basin-cuts.”
May, on the other hand, was a tad more hairy.
“It reached down to my arse,” he told Louder magazine in 2015.
“But our clothes also brought us a lot of attention, especially from labourers. John (Stax) had a Jimi Hendrix perm and a pair of yellow trousers that made him look like a walking dandelion.”
“I think they had one hit and that’s why I went to see them,” said Goodwin.
“They had a bottle of whisky and passed it around on stage and smoked cigarettes. The music was raucous. It wasn’t heavy rock, it was just noise. It was music we didn’t — at that stage — listen to. We thought it was a bit of a laugh.”
Legend has it one band member tried to set the stage curtains alight.
“For many, the Pretty Things were the highlight of the evening, not because they were better performers than their fellow artists, but because of the crudeness of their act,” said a Gisborne Photo News story.
“Shambling around the stage, dressed in sloppy unmatching clothing, with cigarettes hanging from their lips, they hammered out their unusual music while their ‘vocalist’ went through a routine similar to that of a person throwing an epileptic fit.”
Needless to say, the band enjoyed considerable infamy during their fortnight in this colonial outpost.
“It really was about five young guys on the road with the rest of the country, apart from the kids, completely against you,” says May in Don’t Bring Me Down . . . Under.
“It was like being a platoon behind enemy lines.”
For some reason, English pop singers Eden Kane, and bare-footed Sandie Shaw (Always Something There to Remind Me; Puppet on a String) toured New Zealand with the Pretty Things.
“Currently rated as one of Britain’s top pop artists, Sandie Shaw sang pleasantly although suffering from laryngitis,” reported Gisborne Photo News.
“She received £3000 for the ten-day tour.”
But whether Shaw was the main act or support, Goodwin cannot remember.
“Everyone loved her. She was pretty cool. She was more Top of the Pops than the Pretty Things, I would have thought.”
Even so, Goodwin’s own hairiness attracted attention.
“I came out of the concert and these girls were running around and said ‘are you out of the band?’”
“We had the same hair-dos.”
While the evening did not end for Goodwin and his mate in the manner rock stars have become accustomed, it was a good night out anyway.
“We went to the pie cart after the show for a peas, pie and pud.”