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Man on The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown - by Roger Shepherd

The Story Of The Able Tasmans' 1985 EP 'The Tired Sun'

The Able Tasmans debut release, The Tired Sun 12” was considered a bit of an oddity at the time with its keyboard led quirky full sound. And with the term “oddity” comes the unspoken implication that this is a one-off novelty.
The Story Of The Able Tasmans' 1985 EP 'The Tired Sun'

by Roger Shepherd

Founder of Flying Nun Records in 1981, Roger has been involved in the label for much of the past 40 years. In 2016 he published the book “In Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Records" (Harper Collins).

Able Tasmans: The Tired Sun

12" EP | 1985

The Able Tasmans debut release, The Tired Sun 12” was considered a bit of an oddity at the time with its keyboard led quirky full sound. And with the term “oddity” comes the unspoken implication that this is a one-off novelty. The EP is certainly novel. The Able Tasmans were formed in 1983 by Graeme Humphreys. He built it around the rhythm section of his old Whangarei band Sister Ray (Craig Baxter and Dave Beniston) and augmented it for this recording with singer Peter Keen (who stayed) and guitarist Anthony Nevison (who left and later joined the Headless Chickens).

The band spent a couple of years playing around Auckland and getting mentions and live reviews in Rip It Up. They were drifting dangerously towardsvthe no-man’s land of perennial support band when Graeme got to know Chris Knox and Doug Hood and hooked up with Flying Nun when they were successful in applying for a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council recording grant. Spending the money at Progressive Studios with Terry King and Anthony Nevison engineering they recorded 6 songs that would appear as The Tired Sun in 1985.

It’s a jaunty keyboard affair. The band is unashamedly a keyboard lead combo. An unusual beast at any time let alone in the guitar driven mid 80’s. Outstanding tracks include 'Patrick’s Mother' and 'Nelson the Cat'. There is a certain manic feel to it all. Enthusiastic Graeme Humphreys gets excitable on the keys and it sounds and feels like anything could happen.


Anything does happen; the rhythm section is distinctive with the bass assertive and drums adventurous, but it is keyboards that dominate with an assortment of actual keyboard sounds in a traditional sense with nothing synth to be heard. Sounds that can be deep, reverberative, sweeping, majestic, melancholy and rousing. It’s about hammer on string action creating music that emotes and resonates. A sound that the Able Tasmans will develop and perfect throughout their career.

With the Able Tasmans being different to the largely guitar led bands on Flying Nun meant that lots of music fans had trouble working them out let alone being able to describe the music. But they were very much enjoyed as fully paid-up members of the extended Flying Nun crowd.

There are snippets of influence to be heard here, um, the StrangersSuicideTodd Rundgren, The Chills and probably hundreds of others. No doubt a lot of parts of the covers played by Sister Ray back in Whangarei seeps into the music here. The time changes and switch of direction are reminiscent of early busy Split Enz. This is unashamedly busy record.

Leslie Jonkers created the front cover with crayon and was soon to join the band as an additional keyboardist. An oddity or a novelty? Neither really, this EP signals the start of a long and illustrious recording career. This is not a one off; this is just the start of something truly wonderful.

Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is a blog written by Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun Records. Recounting tales from the early days. Updated weekly.  



  • I loved the Able Tasmans. Saw them live few times back in the day, bought all their releases- except I was never able to find the Tired Sun, which a mate had. Half of the tracks were included on the end of the Flying Nun Europe cd of A Cuppa Tea’- which was great, but would have been better to have included all of them (and Nelson the Cat was still missing on the 2015 re-release).
    Yes- it was the start of something wonderful. Hey Spinner is still one of my 10 most favorite & influential albums of all time- and the last one to come out on vinyl, along with Jane Dodds beautiful full size cover art. But the later albums were great too, and I still listen to the cds. Flying Nun should reissue them all on vinyl. ♥

    Tom C on

  • A wonderful, under appreciated band. Vinyl reissues of their entire catalog should be in the works. “Mayfly May” is pure magic!

    William Manley on

  • Absolutely ADORE the Able Tasmans… and stuck in America looking for a vinyl copy of the two BRILLIANT albums “Hey Spinner,” and “Store In A Cool Place.” The latter being one of my Top 20 albums of all-time. (The others? they include Beach Boys… er.. . Brian Wilson (Pet Sounds or SMiLE), Neil Young (Rust Never Sleeps), The Chills (Submarine Bells), The Chameleons (Script Of The Bridge), The Jam (Sound Affects), Grandaddy (Sophtware Slump), Genesis (The Lamb or Selling England), Radiohead (OK Computer or Kid A), XTC (English Settlement or Apple Venus Vol 1), Kate Bush (The Dreaming)…. Yes. It’s THAT good. I just got “The Tired Sun” on vinyl and am eager to check it out. Thanks much for the splendid writing!… Until then… the hunt for those magic albums goes on.

    John P Mavroudis on

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