THE DUNEDIN SKYLINE / VIA SNEAKY FEELINGS 'HUSBAND HOUSE' MUSIC VIDEO
The Dunedin Double was so named retrospectively and unofficially. The double EP with four bands from Dunedin had no name and needed an unofficial one due to some very real practical reasons. It is nearly impossible to be on the phone with a retailer trying to sell an oddly formatted record by four young unknown bands from Dunedin when it had no name.
Very quickly, the two 12” EPs that packaged together with Chills, Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, and The Stones was shorthanded to The Dunedin Double. There was a vibe for it before it came out, and it sold in bucket loads up and down the country when it did.
AN ANNOUNCEMENT LETTER FROM ROGER SHEPHERD TO RIP IT UP / MURRAY CAMMICK COLLECTION
The lack of a ‘real’ title, the whole side of vinyl for each band, and the gatefold sleeve so each band could have a full 12” by 12” square for their own piece of black and white artwork, as well as their own exclusive label, wasn’t just about spending as much money as possible making the record, but an attempt at being as democratic as possible.
Christchurch had embraced The Enemy and Toy Love and now did the same with The Clean, who by this stage had moved up from Dunedin to settle. During the first part of 1982, some younger Dunedin bands had found a van and drove up to play in one the Gladstone’s early week spots. The opening up of the Gladstone for early week bookings saw the Christchurch scene really come to life, and venue-poor Dunedin soon started to see some of its younger bands drift north to tap into the good-sized and positive audiences available. This is where I first got to see The Chills, The Verlaines and Sneaky Feelings.
The Dunedin bands were very different to each other. The Chills songwriter, singer and guitarist Martin Phillipps was a music lover and record collector who loved psychedelia, The Beach Boys, Nick Drake, Randy Newman and plenty more. As someone whose drive is to tell a story and shift a message through sung poetry, Graeme Downes' formative influences were Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, but he remains open to all music despite spending years working within a classical-heavy music department at Otago University. The Sneaky Feelings were just as different again, with influences such as The Byrds, The Beatles and 1960s R&B thrown into the mix. The Stones' biggest influence might have been The Clean.
I saw The Chills and the Verlaines at the Gladstone and was impressed enough to want to release records with them, and I had an idea of a Factory Records (Manchester, Joy Division, etc)-like sampler or compilation already in my mind. I didn’t want to release them on the traditional debut 7” single. There suddenly seemed to be too many New Zealand 7” singles with picture covers on the market, and I sensed the format had very quickly become tired and that sales were slowing. To do well, a single release would have to be exceptional, and all of the bands here were looking to record and release for the very first time. Sneaky Feelings came to play the Gladstone, and I liked them, and they agreed to be involved. Now I was actively searching for a fourth band to make a set when David Kilgour recommended The Stones.
It was March and time for the now Christchurch-based Clean to record a follow-up to their hugely successful Boodle EP, and obviously, Chris Knox and Doug Hood would again be involved. Alec Bathgate was now Christchurch domiciled, so some new Tall Dwarfs recordings could be undertaken. The idea of getting the young Dunedin bands up to Christchurch to record what was to become the Dunedin Double cemented the idea that Chris and Doug traveled south from Auckland with Chris’s Teac 4-track. The Tall Dwarfs and the Dunedin bands could also make some money to help cover costs by playing some gigs at the Gladstone and the University Orientation.
No hall was hired for the job, but friends helpfully suffered the shared intrusion of Chris, Doug and the 4-track, along with multiple band members and hangers-on. Paul Kean’s Longfellow Street home, Jane Walker's kitchen, Rex Vizables's bedroom and Alec Bathgate’s bedroom were all transformed into pop-up studio spaces.
FLYING NUN RECORDS MARCH SCHEDULE / MICHAEL HIGGINS COLLECTION
The actual recording process was straightforward because it had to be due to the limitations of the equipment and time. Doug Hood’s role was that of engineer, which meant he placed the microphones and twiddled the knobs to make the recorded sound as good as technically possible. Chris Knox is often credited as a producer, although his input may have been more limited than that description suggests. His job was to point out any mistakes or potential improvements with the actual playing: tuning, timing and the like, as well as act as cheerleader, keeping everything going and to schedule. This last role is an important part of any producer's job and is often undervalued. The bands were left to look after their own songs and their structures and arrangements. Tightening or improving these for recording is usually part of the producer’s role unless he delegates it to an arranger.
Three of the bands wrote and played reasonably complicated material. Martin Phillipp’s had wonderfully psychedelic pop songs that showed the potential of the band while not managing to completely pull it off on this outing. These were young inexperienced players, the arrangements weren’t fully formed, and the basic 4-track set-up couldn’t cope with the number of musical ideas the band wanted to express on each track, but the evidence was there for everyone to hear; they were going to learn and grow and be something very special. The potential was obvious.
The Verlaines' material was time change-tricky, but main Verlaine Graeme Downes had the music school training to master the arrangements and the ability to marshal his band to the task of delivering the most complete sounding side of the double EP. His preparation meant the Verlaines side was the easiest to record, despite the complexities of the actual music. This is special, fully formed stuff with time change; frantic guitar playing and intense singing by Downes, and tight playing by the band — delivering fresh-sounding songs that don’t sound like anything else whatsoever.
Sneaky Feelings were a different kettle of fish completely. Coming from a post-punk background and floundering a little under the stress of recording for the first with an unsympathetic Chris Knox running the show. The recording also suffered from being the last to be recorded and mixed; everyone involved was by now tired and homesick. But the band produced a perfectly acceptable side of music that particularly showcases the strengths of the two main songwriters, David Pine and Matthew Bannister. The contrast to the other bands is emphasized with their side of the record cover looking the most professional. A clear, well-shot photo of the band expresses their desire to be taken seriously.
EACH OF THE FOUR COVERS OF 'THE DUNEDIN DOUBLE'
The Stones wallowed in the recording environment with their freewheeling style, simply recording what were basically jam-styled, loosely structured songs. They recorded these so assuredly and quickly that they had time to record a fourth song compared to the three each for the others. Knox loved their loud lurching sound, and he enjoyed the brash personalities of bassist Jeff Batts and guitarist Wayne Elsey. They were fun.
There was a considerably positive nationwide reception to this oddly formatted release by four bands barely known outside Dunedin. The 12” EP idea was still relatively new, but this double EP in a gatefold sleeve was absolutely novel. The music press soon got on board with positive reviews, and the talk was now about what was happening in Dunedin. The consensus was that it was something special. Very quickly, we were selling thousands of this record, and this release was a significant one for Flying Nun and a huge success for each of the bands involved. It was a springboard for each of them onto greater things.