Behind The Rock

15

 

THE LAND OF THE WRONG WHITE CROWD

 

 

 

JON: “This is sorta like Melbourne, isn’t it?” I said to Leon as we cruised down Queen Street, which I guess you could call the main street of Auckland. “Nah it’s just the trams. It’s nothing like it.” “Well, Hobart then, or would you believe, Julia Creek? It’s different anyway.” “Hey there’s some good looking tarts here- ooooaaahh! Just look at that!” yelled Nosmo, pointing and dribbling at the same time from the back seat. Michael craned his neck for a better view.

   We were in a Ford Zephyr Zodiac. Zodiacs never came to Australia, so this one was very interesting for me. I’ve always been a keen car freak. It belonged to Jim Haddleton (Kiwi pronunciation - Jum Hairdleturn). Jim was a very pleasant man and so was Graham Dent, his partner. They were in charge of General Artists, the mob that “Done brung us over ‘ere”.

 “This is Customs Street,” said Jim, We’ll stop here and I’ll show you the Shiralee. You’ll be playing there Friday night. Then we’ll go and have a cup of coffee and I’ll take you to your flats.” “Flats?” I thought. Thus should be unteresting, (practicing my Kiwi accent to myself). Luckily, Mum taught me to cook. Then again, we’ll probably get some likely females to do the cooking, washing and servicing of our bodies, with any luck! After all, we were the famous Rajahs from Australia, weren’t we?

 A nice bunch of smart-arses we were too. If you thought we were before, you should have seen us now! We were learning from the experts. We hung on John Lennon’s every word. All the clever answers for the media, prat-falls in doorways, (“trick-knees” we called them) “getting one behind you”, which was yelling out AAAGGGHHH!! really loud and looking down as if something had bitten your bum. This was usually done in public places to cause a disturbance when people seemed to be talking themselves too seriously.

 “AAAGGGHHH!!” screamed Michael as he got one behind him. “Jesus!” profaned Nosmo, falling over with a trick knee as we entered the Beatle Inn to have the promised cup of coffee. “I think we’ll stick to coffee lounges today instead of pubs, if you don’t mind. You guys are crazy enough as it is, “ said Jim with a worried look. “It’s alright,” said Noz, “Were the famous Rajahs you know!”

 “I wouldn’t say that too loudly if I were you,” said Jim, “Why not?” I asked indignantly, “We’re Australia’s Beatles an’ all.” “Yes but do you know what a ‘BIG RAJAH’ is over here?” “No, can’t say as I do,” I asked bewildered, “Well you know when you’re with a nice girl and you get excited? Well, you get a ‘BIG RAJAH’!” “Oh, no!” said Leon, “So, as far as they’re concerned were a bunch of big pricks then?” “Theart’s about ut!” said Jim with a knowing look in his eye.

 “Come on you bug Rajahs, we’ve got to stock up your frudge wuth food and geert you seertled un. Ut’s a feer drive to St. Heliers Bay.” It was about thirty-minute’s drive. The flats were holiday flats, a bit like motel rooms with cooking facilities but as yet, no housemaids.

 “Can you boys be at the office about tean thearty in the morning. We have to go out to the airport and get your unstruments,” said Jim. “Sure, see you then,” said Leon as Jim drove away in his extremely rare Zephyr Zodiac.

 Leon and I took one flat and Michael and Nosmo took the other. No one felt much like cooking. It had been a long day for the little Rajahs. Hamburgers from the corner shop down the road would do then a little TV and “hit the fart sack” as Noz would say. A little TV was right! Two TV channels and mostly crap! A few bottles of Lion Beer (Yuk!) settled us down for the night. “I like this country,” I thought to myself as I drifted off. We are going to have a BALL!

 The following morning we all piled into a cab and made it to the office just in time. Although we were smart-arses, we were always professional enough to be on time. “Morning you Aussies. We’ll go out to the airport and get your gear in a minute” (No, he hadn’t lost his kiwi accent but I think you’ve got the general idea by now. Just substitute “u” for “i” and “ee” for “e”, etc. It’s known as swallowing your vowels). Back in the Zephyr Zodiac and out to Qantas Air Cargo to get the gear then to the Colombia ’64 Hall, which was the venue for our first New Zealand gig.

 Columbia ‘64 was a new name for a very old dance hall. Ghosts of past ballroom dances simply oozed out of the walls. It was situated on Karangahape Road. “I wonder how you pronounce the name of this street?” said Leon, scratching his head. “Crap-Happy Road” came the answer from the darkened stage, “That’s what we call it anyway.” The voice belonged to none other than “The Mod” himself, Mister RAY COLUMBUS. Ray Columbus & the Invaders were to be on the show with us that night and The Premiers tomorrow night.

   “It’s a Battle of the Bands,” said Ray. “But we didn’t come here to fight!” jibed Nosmo, “We came here to fart!”, dropping a very loud one in the empty, echoing dance hall. Farting was definitely Nosmo’s forte! He would drop one in the most embarrassing places. The gent who seemed to be the drummer in The Invaders was setting up the drums and laughed loudly while Ray and the others looked a little shocked and bewildered.

“Come up and meet the band”, said Ray, “This is Wally on guitar, Dave on guitar, Billy Christian, well his real name is Billy Kraitiana, on Bass.” “Oh, shut up Ray, they don’t want to know that!” piped up Billy. “And Jimmy Hill on drums.” (Theert’s Jummy Hull - couldn’t resist that one!)

“Hi, this is Mike, Jon, Nosmo and I’m Leon,” replied the Drumming Superfluity. We immediately formed an amazing rapport with these guys that would turn into a lasting friendship. Apart from the rivalry that exists is this business, music and musicians cross all boundaries and when we meet each other again, years later, we hug each other like long-lost brothers.

“Why don’t you jokers come and see us tonight at the Shiralee?” asked Ray. “Yeah, why not indeed? See you then,” I replied as we left the darkness of Columbia ‘64. We got another cab out to our flats at St. Heliers Bay. To get to St. Heliers Bay you trace the foreshores of Auckland Harbour. The sometimes-rumbling volcano, Rangitoto, looms menacingly out of the water on your left. Beautiful scenery and, we found out from the Maori cab driver that “St. Heliers Bay’s a pretty neat area, eh boy!”  I think he meant it was what Peter Baker would call one of “The better areas”!

That night we took a bus into the city and had some dinner at a restaurant in Queen Street, then on to the Shiralee Teenage Club to check out our opponents for the Battle of the Bands. After we explained to the girl at the door that we were the famous Rajahs from Australia, we found ourselves a table near the band amidst much giggling from a bunch of likely-looking female “mods”. Jimmy waved a drumstick, Wally shot us a smile and even Billy looked up from the fingerboard of his bass and nodded. Ray seemed to be nodding all the time but it wasn’t to us. He was the pioneer of the “nodding-whilst-singing” craze.

About three songs had gone by when I started to realise that we were in trouble! These guys were too bloody good! Wally and Dave both played lead guitar, not lead and rhythm, as is the norm. Billy was a top bass player. In fact, they were one hell of a band. They were doing much newer English songs than we ever were and our repertoire was pretty current. After a few drinks and a chat to The Invaders in their break, we decided to walk up to the Top Twenty Club, which was in a little alley off Queen Street, to check out The Premiers who were our other rivals in the Battle.

Thank heavens the Premiers weren’t that good. They were still good, mind you, but not as good as us. “Easy as shittin’ in bed and kickin’ it out with your feet!” said Nosmo. This was one of his classier sayings. “Don’t count your chickens, or Kiwis in this case”, I said, “Let’s go back and see some more of what the Invaders do.” After we had seen enough, we cabbed it back to the flat, consumed bulk Steinlager and worked on a list of our best songs for the oncoming Battle.

“There’s the Beatle songs off our EP plus It Won’t Be Long, All My Loving, Money, This Boy - What’s some of the other Beatles songs, Drummer?” I asked. “I don’t think we have to worry too much about Beatle songs. We’ve got enough and we do them well. We need a show-stopper.” “How about Shout?” said Nosmo, “Even though we recorded it with J’OK, there’s no reason why we can’t do it.”  “Good one Noz!” I said. “We can rehearse it tomorrow afternoon at the Columbia whatever-it-is.”

The Drummer scratched his head again. He was thinking. “There is one ace we have up our sleeve. They’ve never seen an Australian rock’n’roll band before, so if we do something outrageous like rolling on the floor, they’ll just think it’s normal!” “We’ll do it in Roll over Beethoven!” Noz volunteered.

“I’d like to do a mouth-organ one as well,” interrupted Michael. “Here wrap your laughing gear around this!” laughed Noz. “No, seriously, the mouth organ ones go over pretty big, you know?” “Okay Mick, how about Please, Please Me?” “ Yeah, that’ll do fine. Right, what’s next?” “ Definitely Needles and Pins, ‘cause that’s the one Jim saw us do on Sing, Sing, Sing,” said Leon, “That’s one of the reasons we’re here.” “ I don’t know about you bastards but one of the reasons I’m here right now is to go to sleep. See yers in the morning.” With that I hit the fart-sack. Meeting adjourned!

The next afternoon we arrived very early at the hall. We didn’t want the opposition to see that the mighty Rajahs from Australia needed a rehearsal and we wanted to keep Shout a surprise anyway.

Owing to the fact that the genius, the “Living God” and the man that had steered us on the right path, Mr. JO’K, was not there to sing the lead vocal, Nosmo was elected! Leon, Mike and I sang the vocal-backing lines, like we did on the record. It was sounding great! We were starting to feel better already. It’s amazing how one song can change the feel of the whole show but Shout was THE song. We’d just finished rehearsing when in came the Invaders flanked by Graham Dent, Fred Noad from the record company, and some of the Premiers. “Hi Folks!” we said nonchalantly, just checking all the amps. You know what these bloody airlines are like!”

The Rajahs won the “Battle of the Bands” hands down! This was mainly because of Shout and Kiss Me Now, our record that was climbing the New Zealand charts rather rapidly. Also, the fact that we were the visiting “stars” from the Mainland was the main ace up our sleeve. We probably could have sung “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and still killed ‘em. All the same, I still had this feeling that some of the Invaders might be technically better players. This was a good kick up the bum for us. It made us try a little harder.

We had some other cards up our sleeves as well as being visitors. We were much more experienced than the Kiwi rock bands in entertaining people rather than just playing music at them. Our years of floorshows and backing other acts had not been in vain. No matter how bad or boring a show is, you always learn something from it. Although the Invaders gave me a bit of worry at first, I was now becoming more confident of our abilities, “Gee you jokers jump around a lot on stage!” exclaimed Ray after the Battle was over. This was now true. Nosmo would invariably end up on his back, with his legs in the air, doing a “dead ants”. Michael and I moved pretty well without having to resort to too many rehearsed Shadows-type steps. The New Zealand bands were still in the “lead-singer-plus-band” situation. Ray would entertain the people by singing and nodding and the rest of the band would stand pretty well motionless and seemingly disinterested. All very serious, you know! Jimmy Hill was the only one that would crack an occasional smile.

Our other card (a King of Hearts at least) was our harmonies. Audiences do love good harmonies and ours were spot-on. With all of us singing, we had four-part harmony in almost everything (only if required of course, let’s not get carried away!). The Beatle songs were exactly the same as the Beatle records. After all we were Australia’s Beatles, weren’t we? That was the main reason that people came to see us here. Although interest in Kiss Me Now was escalating, we didn’t mind doing the Beatle thing at all. We loved their music and we loved John Lennon’s books. Quotes from In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works came thick and fast: “Haddy Grimble, Randoob!”; “Ella Fitzgerald my deaf Whopper!” said Holmes, smirking his pile” etc, etc. Fortunately, the Auckland clothing stores were well stocked with the latest British fashions and during the coming weeks we would adorn ourselves with everything we saw the Fab Four wearing on TV. On stage we always wore our two sets of “bum-freezer” coats, the red and the lilac, tight black pants and the winkle-picker boots.

Friday night, after a nice meal at La Corvette Cafe near Queen Street, we played at the Shiralee. It was not a “battle” this time. Ray & the Invaders were on with us and also Freddie Keil and the Kavaliers, which were one of the few Maori bands still resident in New Zealand and not moved to Bondi. The Shiralee was a great place to play: nice atmosphere, adequate stage and loads of top sorts in the crowd! That night we took some of the top sorts to Jimmy Hill’s place but they left early. They seemed to be rather peeved that we were talking “muso-talk” and not really paying much attention to them. One of us could have scored if we stopped talking and romanced one of them but frankly we couldn’t be bothered. Oh, well, that’s showbiz!

Another cab home from Jimmy’s place and a surprise! We found two Aussie neighbours in the downstairs flat. Norm and Graham were very pleased to find some fellow countrymen and so were we. We had something in common: we could have a good talk about the Kiwis without one being there.

“I could drink this Kiwi piss all night an not even get a glow up,” said Graham as he fell over his chair on the way to the dunny. “Yeah, (hic!) We’ll have to get some REAL beer in, now that we’ve got Aushie neighbours,” slurred Norm. Actually, there’s not much difference alcohol-wise and I quite liked Steinlager for a change! But when Aussies are away from home, there’s nothing like a Fosters or a Four-X or a Reschs or even a Boags. Better still (retch!) how about a good chunder and off to bed? BRAFF! Nosmo’s just dropped another one; that’s enough for me! “Goodnight you Aushie Bashtards, goodnight New Zealand. Which flat is ours, Drummer?” “Straight upstairs. You can’t miss it!” “Can’t I? Jusht, jusht watch me!”

The next morning Kiss Me Now was number four in the Auckland Hit-Parade. “We should celebrate,” said Noz. “Oh yeah? The last thing I want to do is celebrate,” I moaned through a mouth like the inside of a roadie’s sneaker, “Go away and let me sleep!” 

Sunday afternoon “Showcase” at the Shiralee was again the Invaders vs. the “Big Rajahs” in the lead slightly at this moment folks. Also, there was the first emergence of that wonderful creature, Alison Dustbin, (sorry), Durbin. Anne and Jimmy Murphy were on the bill as well. The Rajahs played Roll over Beethoven, It Wont Be Long, This Boy, Kiss me Now and Twist and Shout. They loved it!

That night also saw the emergence of Pat, my contribution toward the housekeeping. I think Nosmo’s was Dianne. After a little party at the flat, they seemed to want to stay - and they did! Pat was my first New Zealand girl. Chalk the first one up to the “lead section”.

Bands are often split into sections. Remember the Daisy Section? In our case, it was either the “lead section” or the “rhythm section”, which is two guitars, or bass and drums. Sometimes, it was “The Monkeys”, when Michael or Nosmo had to go running for the infamous “monkey-see-monkey-do” stands. These were the music stands for rehearsal, which were banned for stage performance. An ever-so small digression here I believe!

We made a stop off at RCA records the next day to gloat a little to Fred Noad about the success of our record and then onto the Queen’s Ferry Hotel where we met some very interesting people, namely, Max Merritt and the Meteors - Mick, Peter Williams and Johnny Dick! Also sharing a drink was Tommy Adderly, a beaming jovial singer from Manchester in England. “You haven’t lived till yer been t’ Manchester,” said Tom with a toothy grin. Tom was basically your Kiwi answer to Tommy Steele, with aspirations towards, Tom Jones. He was also a great storyteller and we loved his accent.

The night ended up at the thermal pools in Waiwera. Now, that was a really spacey experience! “Like, really out of it, you know?” You jump out of hot pools, jump into freezing cold ones, experience thermal saunas and go back to your bed and die! We’ll we did stop for a few more beers on the way home!

Max Merritt and his band, the Meteors, all seemed to be nice guys with the possible exception of Johnny Dick. We weren’t sure if he had “all the wires on his snare drum”, so to speak. Max had what was probably the best car in all of New Zealand- a bright red Jaguar XK140. It wasn’t hard to have the best car in New Zealand as everyone drove old Pommy bombs. At that time you could only buy a new car with overseas funds and they were outlandishly expensive. There was the occasional Holden and some old Yank tanks but mostly people drove Morris Minors, Ford Prefects and Wolseleys.

I got a lift back to Auckland with Max. “Bet you jokers don’t have cars like this back in Aussie.” said Johnny Dick from the back seat. My reply was “No, actually John we go for the bigger ones ‘cause we have such long distances to travel. I have a Chrysler Royal myself!” Big Deal! I thought. “Wow!” said the Dick; probably thinking it was something like a Cadillac.

WEDNESDAY, May 27, 1964: Our fifth gig in Kiwi-land. The little two-carriage rail-motor rumbled through the countryside. “It’s like a golf course with sheep!” said Michael, “There’s not much here for the Poms to whinge about, is there? It’s just like pictures you see of England.” We were on our way to Frankton, there to be picked up and taken to Hamilton for that night’s gig at the Starlight Ballroom. There was a little bit of a mix up getting our gear off the train with a rather confused Maori trying to find all our stuff and put it on his little mini luggage train. The little Maori mini-train slid along the platform and onto the exit - to be greeted by a Morris Minor!

“How are we going to fit everything in that?” roared an irate Baby Drummer. “Well I suppose we’ll have to make two trips,” said Charlie Lee who was in charge of the Starlight Ballroom. “Try three!” said Noz irritably. “How about you just take us to the hotel and then you can work it out?” I suggested. “Of course, you’re staying at the Domain Private Hotel,” said Charlie.

We picked up a local newspaper on the way, The Waikato Times. The advertisement for the show read: The Starlight Ballroom Presents BATTLE OF THE BANDS - AUSTRALIA vs. WAIKATO! Australia’s Top Beatle Band, The Rajahs versus Hamilton’s own Melvettes Showband. After we got up off the floor from laughing, I said, “Better polish up our armour lads, it looks like we have a formidable foe tonight!” I’m sorry Waikato, but it was a forgone conclusion. Although the Melvettes Showband put up a terrific struggle against overwhelming odds, the foreigners won again!

The kids of Hamilton had turned out in droves to hear the Beatles’ songs and see the clones thereof. At half-time I noticed a large proboscis monkey sneak onto stage, grab an old Starlight Ballroom music stand and put a copy of the words of one of our most recently learned songs on it. Now, “monkey-see-monkey-do” stands had been outlawed by democratic decree. I thought to myself,  “I better have a word with the Drummer about this”, Straight back to the hotel, which was actually in Tauranga, and straight to bed.

No raging in Hamilton - ever!

As usual, Leon and I were sharing a room, such as it was. A cold wind off some nearby glacier whistled through the single plank wall. The walls between each room were also very thin and would be the definite “haver-of-ears”. “When are those bloody monkeys gonna learn the words of those songs?” I ranted in a rather loud voice. “What songs?” said Leon. “I’m not sure but I saw Michael sneak some words to one of our songs on to a music stand tonight,” “Shhhh! They’re right next door!” warned Leon. Too late!

“What’s this ‘monkey’ shit?” came Michael’s voice from the next room. “Yeah. We’re learning a lot of songs now you know?” Nosmo ventured. “Okay guys, no more monkeys then. Sorry.” I yelled from our room. “I tend to forget,” I whispered to Leon “These guys never had to do what we did at Teen Time. Like learn a song real quick and remember it for the rest of your life!” “You must remember these things, Jon. It’s called ‘tolerance’,” yawned a Baby Drummer, wise beyond his years.

We played the next night to a refined looking audience of young ladies in fur coats at the Sheridan Coffee Lounge in Tauranga, beneath Mount Maunganui. We caught the little rail-motor back to Auckland the next day with prized Waikato scalps hanging from our guitar straps. That night, we played at the Top Twenty with the Premiers and Tommy Adderly. Surprise! Who should be in the audience but Pat and Dianne and co. Okay, back to the flat, quick smart! We’re into serious sex time here! It was good to be back in Auckland.

Leon rang O’Keefe in Sydney and found that our remake of Shout had been released and had gone into the Top Forty at number 15. Cause for celebration! - Dinner at La Corvette and then off to work at the Shiralee. This was the first time we were on the same show with Dinah Lee. Dinah was very big in New Zealand at that time with such monster hits as Reet Petite and Don’t You Know Yokomo? We found her to be a lovely lady and great fun.

The next afternoon saw us at the Shiralee again for the traditional “Sunday Showcase”. This time, now that we had proved ourselves as a rock band, we threw in one of the old comedy routines, My Boomerang Won’t Come Back! They loved it, and we even had a go at Hangin’ Five, which they’d never heard of. It seemed we could do no wrong. The people here were beginning to love us and we were beginning to love them. They were a refreshing change from the brash, self-assured Australians. Once you get to know them, they are lovely people.

We had become Aussie “stars” in our own right. Praise be to the Fab Four for making such a thing possible for a mere mortal band. We basked in the spotlight, signed autographs, did silly radio interviews and made loads of new friends.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 1964: We had to go up to the northland for three ‘battles’ with NZ’s top band, Max Merritt and the Meteors. “Battles of the Bands” seemed to be a sure-fire way of putting bums on seats, so the local promoters were giving it a good thrashing. They booked the battles in Whangarei, Kaitaia and Kaikohe. Max was a well-established Kiwi star, so we would have to be really good to win this battle. It really didn’t mean winning or losing as there were no prizes, but we knew if we won or lost – and we didn’t like to lose! After all, we were representing Australia!

 On the road to Whangerei (sounds like a song?), you find a sign saying “The Double Headed Korau”. This is a Kiwi palm tree with two trunks, and on this occasion it was a photo opportunity for Nosmo and I wearing the same overcoat with two heads popping out. Such was the mood of the day, joyous frivolity! We had Max’s Jag and an awful Bedford Van. Needless to say, we had to take turns in the rattletrap van, which wasn’t so joyous. Max and his merry Meteors turned out to be top guys to tour with, even if the oil in one of them didn’t come right up to the dipstick!

   “Getting your ‘big rajahs’ out for the battle tonight, you jokers?” said the Dick. “No, we save them for afterwards. One Dick on the stage per night is enough, don’t you think guys?” I said with a wink to the others. I could almost hear “Curses, foiled again” coming from the Dick’s mouth over the guffawing from the others.

   The battle that night was probably a tie. We were pretty evenly matched. The mood was good, the show was good, the audience was good and the company was excellent. I’d noticed more Maoris up here and, indeed, there were! We went to the Sky Lounge afterwards with Max and the guys and ended up having a ‘Jam’ there, thereby foregoing our chatting-up of ravers and the opportunity of showing off the “big rajah”! Back to the James Hotel for some in-depth discussion and a little sleep.

   The next night, Kaitaia A&P Hall - The Australians and Pukihas – tied again. Then on to Kaikohe – This time the Maoris are fighting out the front of the hall, belting each other upside the head with lumps of wood. We felt like aliens in this beautiful, parochial town. Never mind, we got the Dick a beauty this night. If we couldn’t win, we’d have to resort to the dirty tricks department.

   We found a big sand bag hanging on a rope beside the stage while we were setting up in the afternoon. We waited till the Dick had set up his drums and then measured exactly how much rope was needed to reach him, then laid in wait for the Meteors’ evening performance. That night the Rajahs won by default. Our calculations were perfect! In the middle of his big drum solo, we knocked the Dick right off his drum stool with the swinging sand bag and he fell behind the bass amp. Max had to stop singing he was laughing so much. Even the Dick laughed.   Both Max and Meteors and the “Big Rajahs” agreed that this little trip north had been the best fun we’d had since the cat fell in the grease trap and we were sorry to have to go back to Auckland. “I’ve got an idea,” said Max. “Why don’t you jokers come down to Rotorua with us on Monday? We’re doing the Peter Posa Show and Dinah’ll be there and Tommy as well.” “Sounds great but how do we get there?” I inquired. “There’s plenty of room on the bus,” said Max. “Okay you guys, it’s a date,” said the awakening Drummer from the back seat.

   Saturday night was the usual Shiralee with Ray Columbus & the Invaders. The Sunday Showcase had Dinah, Tommy Adderly and Lou & Simon. We went crazy with the cabaret stuff and did Four Old Ladies Locked In A Lavatory, plus Stan Freberg’s arrangements of I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Sh’Boom. The only current song was Dave Clarke’s Glad All Over. The kids loved it. They liked our funny stuff as much as the Beatle songs. Another promoter, Benny Levin, wanted to book us for some more shows but we were under contract to Jim Haddleton and, besides, our tour of The Land of the Wrong White Crowd was sadly almost over.

   On the way to ’Rootaroa’, Dinah Lee had gone to sleep in the bus and Nosmo tied a condom on a string so it hung down from the luggage rack, right in front of her face. “Oooohhh! What’s that?” screamed Dinah as the offending prophylactic brushed against her face. “Don’t tell us ya haven’t seen one ‘o them before?” said the man from Manchester, Tommy Adderly, through roars of laughter from the rest of the crew. On the bus we had Max ‘Maggot” and the “Meat-eaters”, Dinah, Tommy, Ian Saxon, Jim McNought, Rusty Greaves and of course, the “Big Rajahs” bumming a ride. Peter Posa, whom some will remember for his instrumental hit The White Rabbit, was going to Rotorua by car with the Sheratones.

   Rotorua is smelt before it is seen! On the way into town, one is hit by the totally overpowering sulphurous stench, which remains until one leaves town. Even indoors, the smell does not go away. One eats and drinks and breathes rotten egg gas the whole time. Max and the rest of the show had to go to the Majestic Theatre to set up so we decided to get right to the source of the stench and do the usual tourist bit.

   We saw the famous bubbling mud and the huge geyser at Whakarewarewa, the Blue Lake, the Green Lake, assorted Maori pas, many statues with tongues poking out and some Maori girls doing the dreaded poi dance. We’d seen the balls-on-a-string dance before and the sulphur was getting to us, so we went back to the Grand Hotel for a kip before the night’s socializing at the Peter Posa Show.

   It was more of a country & western show than rock’n’roll. Peter Posa was a Chet Atkins-ish sort of a guitarist, strictly instrumental and slightly over-rated. The other country acts were Rusty Greaves and Jim McNought. Rockers like Max and Dinah seemed a little out of place but, all in all, it was quite a pleasant show. It was also a pleasant change to be entertained without having to play. We were going to miss Max and his friends. We only had another three days in Auckland. On Friday, we would fly down to Christchurch and then home. Home? Where’s that?

   Thursday night was spent at the Shiralee with Ray and the Invaders and then up to the Top Twenty for a farewell party with all our Auckland friends. It was a tearful farewell for Pat and the rest of our housekeepers. I could almost hear the Maoris singing Now Is The Hour in the background. We boarded the NAC Vickers Viscount and waved goodbye to our good friend Jim Haddleton and after a brief stop at “Windy” Wellington, we settled down to marvel at the wonders of New Zealand’s glaciers and volcanoes from the air.

   At Christchurch, we met Bart Ball who was promoting our two nights there. Bart had an old 1956 Chevy, very well looked after and with the slipperiest leather seats I had ever slipped on. Bart took us to the Excelsior Hotel to freshen up and then to the Caledonian hall, which housed the Zodiac Danceway - right beside the Avon River. It could have been London; it was just like a picture postcard.

   Friday and Saturday night at the Zodiac were both great, with packed houses. The word had spread from Auckland about the Aussie Beatles. Our support bands were the Satellites and Howard Morrison & the Strangers, another one of the few remaining Maori bands.

   After Saturday night’s show, we were besieged by fans wanting to fondle us, get our autographs and have photos taken with us. I took one of these ardent fans back to the Excelsior. Might as well leave Kiwi –land in style! She was really beautiful. I don’t remember her name but we ended up calling her Marsha from that old Stan Freberg record John And Marsha.

   During the night of passion, she kept moaning, “Oh, Jon! Oh, Jon!” The Drummer was trying to sleep nearby and he finally got the shits and called out, “OH, MARSHA!” Leon’s interjection ruined a perfect climax and I was surprised to find out later that she was only fourteen! Whoops! Here we go again! ‘Marsha’ had to be surreptitiously snuck out of the hotel at dawn before the morning staff came on. Who knows what the age of consent was in New Zealand? Probably thirty-five, unless you’re a sheep!

   After going all the way out to the airport, we found our flight to Sydney was cancelled so we went to the Max Merritt Club where we actually met Max’s mother. Max must have been the local hero in Christchurch. He even had his own club! A Lockheed Electra whisked us away to Sydney the next day. I hope Val is there to meet me.

 

To Chapter 16 J'OK and the Marching Girls

 

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