Naked Spots Dance is a quintessential post punk name for a band from Wellington, New Zealand in the very early 1980s. A band that was intellectual and witty, abstruse and playful, angular and on a good night a little bit funky.
The name? “If you close your eyes really tight you see these spots of colour in the blackness” said Stephen Norris (Gary Steel, In Touch, Gary Steel, Dec 1981 – Jan 1982).
Naked Spots Dance were an integral part of Wellington’s early 1980’s Terrace Scene and lasted a busy 4 years around the nucleus of Kate Walker on bass and Stephen Norris on guitar. Of the bands to appear on the **** (Four Stars) album released in late 1980, Naked Spots Dance sound the best and lasted the longest. As well as playing around the Wellington venues (Thistle Hall, Billy d’ Club The Rock Theatre, Cosgroves, The Last Resort, The Terminus and others) they also got around the country playing at the Windsor and the Reverb Room in Auckland, Christchurch’s Star and Garter and the Punakaiki and Sweetwaters festivals.
Toy Love roadie Ian Dalziel had washed up in Wellington and had begun to look after a bit of Flying Nun business distributing to the local record shops, a task shared by a team of “helpers” which included Kate Walker. This was the connection that resulted in Flying Nun’s involvement with New. Their first EP, Certain Ways, had been self-released in October 1981 and Flying Nun helped distribute copies nationally to shops the band could not reach outside of Wellington. The label was happy to be more involved with the pressing and distribution of the next EP.
When the Naked Spots Dance came to record New, they were a different band. Jennifer Ward-Leyland had left for drama school and been replaced by Katherine McRae. Katherine herself would leave after New to go to drama school herself, to be replaced by Fran Walsh, ex of the Wallsockets.
The essential nuclei of Walker and Norris remained throughout and with the addition of drummer Matthew Fisher, the musical clogs progressively ran faster and with more precision. Heading off to Marmalade Studio to record New with Chris Fleming and Ian Morris did not do any harm either, and some studio knowhow helped to turn some complicated ideas into cohesive bits of music.
The resultant 12” EP New is one of the best pure post-punk records to be released in New Zealand. Songs such as ‘South’, ‘New’, ‘Jungles’ and ‘Cha Cha’ are political, intellectual, nervy, rhythmic and brittle. There are jumbly drums, a dominant dynamic bass, chanty and then charming vocals, and a jittery guitar with additional oscillating tones and distorted sounds and effects.
The best of the songs is ‘Governed by You’. This is a clever recording with layers of vocals, instrumentation and percussion, which relentlessly build with well-pace repetition creating a palpable sense of tension with anticipation of an uneasy climax. ‘Governed by You’ is a standout song of its era.
Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdownis a blog written by Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun Records. Recounting tales from the early days. Updated weekly.