Salient – Victoria University’s student magazine – is these days stapled, A4 and 48 pages. It is smartly edited (Asher Emanuel & Ollie Neas) and also elegantly designed (Racheal Reeves), albeit imitative of The Believer. But whereas much of The Believer is unreadable due to its slippery, affected prose, with Salient it’s simply the typography. Grey type on bleached white paper, black type on dark grey paper, and all in 4 point. Don’t they want their writers to be read? A pity, as the content is strong, like much of the student media (see Peter McLennan’s summary of a Craccum campaign about an Auckland University scandal here) – though we are yet to see the effect of the vindictive voluntary student unionism bill. Two items from the October 1st “Power” issue:
2. ‘The Measure of a Manhire’
Rob Kelly interviews Bill Manhire the mild-mannered Superpoet on his departure from VUW. Manhire describes the 1960s at Otago, when – thanks to the university’s Burns fellowship – a few New Zealand writing role models finally entered his sphere (they weren’t part of the English curriculum at the time): Baxter (“behaving badly”), Janet Frame (“scuttling along corridors”), Maurice Gee, Hone Tuwhare. These writers “became very influential, but more as examples of people who had committed their lives to doing the thing that mattered. So it was great to go to the Captain Cook and drink beer with Hone, but also you knew that … I mean, he would arrive with poems and sort of hand them out, and all the local alcoholics would give him advice and he’d go away with a much worse poem than he arrived with. A sort of anti creative writing workshop.”
3. ‘I Moustache You Some Questions’
Chris McIntyre interviews TVNZ’s Mark Sainsbury, just prior to the news that Close Up is closing shop. Is it hard defending his throne against the likes of Hosking and Henry? “It’s one of the top jobs, so people want that job, but they can’t have it … Paul Henry made no secret he wanted that job, he’s now working on breakfast in Australia. I mean, draw what you like out of that.”
4. Must Try Harder
We’ve all made mistakes, rushing to judgement on a new album, film or book, only for it later to be declared a classic. Michael Schmidt is devoting his spare time to collating “Rolling Stone’s 500 Worst Reviews of All Time”.
He actually comiserates rather than scores points as he finds Lenny Kaye dissing Exile on Main Street, Jon Landau underwhelmed by Sticky Fingers, Langdon Winner finding After the Gold Rush rushed (“I can’t listen to it at all”). And Ed Ward, who was often excellent (on the Band, Texan country rock and 1950s rock’n’roll) on Abbey Road:
Side two is a disaster ... The slump begins with ‘Because’, which is a rather nothing song ... the biggest bomb on the album is ‘Sun King’,which overflows with sixth and ninth chords and finally degenerates into a Muzak-sounding thing with Italian lyrics. It is probably the worst thing the Beatles have done since they changed drummers. This leads into the “Suite” which finishes up the side. There are six little songs, each slightly under two minutes long, all of which are so heavily overproduced that they are hard to listen to ...
Ward wasn’t alone of course, in the New York Times Nik Cohn agreed, though not about the “Suite” (“For 15 minutes, tremendous”), and two years earlier Richard Goldstein dissed Sgt Pepper, following it up in the Village Voice with a similarly well-argued piece about the reaction called “I Blew My Cool Through the New York Times.”
Rolling Stone’s response? The managing editor Evie Nagy sniffed: “I say this genuinely without bias, that person's time could have been so much better spent. At least make it funny.”
5. Gambling with Gout
Speaking of the Fabs, I remain to be convinced by Magical Mystery Tour, though the connections with Python are plausible. But just released, by the BBC’s Arena programme, are five minutes of outtakes in which the Beatles buy fish’n’chips while on their bus journey (think Ken Kesey meets Beano).
It reminds me of another fish’n’chip/musician/tour bus story, about Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. When Kenny Rogers couldn’t get arrested, he toured New Zealand often and regularly appeared on NZBC-TV. Circa 1971 Rogers and the First Edition were travelling down the West Coast; it was a Sunday night and dinner time. So the New Zealand promoter got requests from the band and stopped at a local takeaway, somewhere between Karamea and Franz Josef. When he returned with a big cardboard carton, he walked down the bus aisle, saying to Rogers and his band, “Chicken and chips? That’s $1.30. Two fish, a fritter and chips? $1.75. A hot dog and chips? $1.20 …”
There'll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’ is done.