Caption: Wayne Elsey, Jeff Batts and Graeme Anderson
The Stones: Another Disc Another Dollar 12" EP | 1983
A common perception of The Stones — the Dunedin Stones that is and not the British ratbags — was that they were a casual, if not sloppy, lot. But they did care about their music, they did strive to develop as a band and they were ambitious about it. Ambition frames the story.
Bassist Jeff Batts had been in the early Dunedin scenesters, The Same, who along with Bored Games, were the source of so many of the personnel that would go on to form and shape the Dunedin music scene in the early 1980s. Jeff was in The Same with future Chills main man Martin Phillipps. Guitarist Wayne Elsey left new wave power poppers Bored Games because the band seemed stuck in a Dunedin centric career rut. Inspired by The Clean, he wanted to be in a more freewheeling style band. Together with drummer Graeme Anderson, they became The Stones, an early example of two strands of the Dunedin scene coming together from two of the very early young bands.
The Stones had attracted attention with their side of the Dunedin Double when it was released in the middle of 1982. They were noticeably louder and brasher than their counterparts on that release. The primitiveness of the band suited the basic setup of the 4-track recording process that Doug Hood and Chris Knox had at their disposal. They weren't too hung up on trying to make it perfect, so they worked fast and got to record 4 songs, rather than the 3 the other bands finished up with. In many ways their recording came out the best.
Right from the start The Stones had a propensity to ruffle feathers and they liked it that way. The name itself was the least of it. Both Jeff Batts and Wayne Elsey were snotty and outspoken on stage, with Batts displaying a penchant for the truly annoying. Elsey was more the mouthy cheeky guy with a ready smile. The Stones had a big rolling sound that was loose on song structure and large on monumental grooves consisting of loud dominant bass and heavily reverbed guitar. Drummer Graeme Anderson ensured, well beyond the seemingly possible, that the thing had just enough dynamic structure so not to collapse or spin apart. Many non-fans hated the rambling rough-edged nature of it all. Others were aggravated by the unconventional onstage personas and the blasé disrespect that they piled upon their audience. Their name was the least of it. The fans adored them and a good night of musical mayhem was an unforgettable event.
The Dunedin Double recordings had been rudimentary, so the bands were keen to record again quickly, build on the experience and quality and satisfy a growing interest in the band. Back to Auckland and into Terry King’s Progressive Studio they went in late December 1982, so as to record twice in one year, with Doug Hood and Chris Knox to put down the 5 songs for Another Disc Another Dollar. The sound is tougher and tighter than the Dunedin Double recordings. It’s a big kind of sound with an even greater abundance of attitude and mock menace.
Although sharing some commonalities with their Dunedin peers of the time (The Chills, The Verlaines and The Sneaky Feelings) including a high regard for their regional elders The Enemy and The Clean, The Stones were markedly different. The songs were more primitive in a pleasing way, more repetitive in a good way and louder in just the right way. The Clean inspiration is clear with big blurry messes of reverb, drone and sneer with nods to the masters amongst the delightful giant muddles of their own creation. The singing is often wobbly, off key, whiney and frankly contemptuous and all the more of a pleasure because of it. Often, they simply didn’t give a hoot, and it still works.
Another Disc Another Dollar Front Cover
The Stones were hooting when they recorded Another Disc Another Dollar just days before Christmas 1982. ’Gunner Ho’ has a nursery rhyme element and plenty of the bands trade mark humour. ‘At the Café’ and ‘Funky Conversations' feature the well-loved Wayne Elsey whine. ‘Fad World’ has Elsey show off his new rhythm guitar sound intercut with descending cascades of glissando, a sound that he would take with him on to his next band. The 8-and-a-half-minute epic ‘Fad World’ starts off sounding like the Tall Dwarfs ‘Nothings Going to Happen’ before partially morphing into something akin to Velvet Underground’s ‘Sister Ray’.
Another Disc Another Dollar back cover
Cynicism was something that had a bit of a profile in Dunedin music with Chris Knox and Shayne Carter both blessed with a decent dollop each. The Stones seemed to have an extra serving. Perhaps there were too many strong mouthy personalities in the band for them to last. Elsey sniffed the same sense of musical possibility and future that the other young Dunedin bands were now aware of. The more cynical Batts wasn’t convinced and didn't have the same commitment. The quietly more ambitious Elsey left to join his estranged Bored Games band mate Shayne Carter in a new venture, the Doublehappys.
While it was easy to dismiss The Stones as rough and ready, they were a musical venture serious about developing their own style distinct from their Dunedin contemporaries. Their sound is not “typical” of what many think of when pondering a hypothetical Dunedin sound with the only real commonality being the use of reverb. The Stones offered an alternative attitude and sound that appealed to the growing independent music market in New Zealand that would sadly would never be tested internationally. Perhaps the bands personality wouldn’t have translated well for overseas audiences.
Illustration: Chris Knox
Checking out the retrospective Three Blind Mice compilation (Flying Nun 2014) that contains Another Disc Another Dollar alongside the Dunedin Double material and some excellent live recordings one notes that the playing and singing is loose but commanding, the sound more sophisticated and complex than seemed fully apparent at the time with the reverbed guitar, upfront basslines, hypnotic drones and the less than conventional singing that adds to the attractively awkward edge. The charm? At full throttle the band grind away with great chunks of rhythm while Wayne scrawls guitar over the top of it all as the whole thing teeters on the verge of chaos which only ever seems a strum away. What shines from the heart of this mayhem is the making of so much big messy music out of so little and making it work. They had big musical ideas that didn't need too many details, they had the big personalities to make it work. And despite everything they had a strange kind of hypnotic star power.