Once upon a time there was Bowie and Burns, in alphabetical order, thrust together on the old wooden desks with the inkwells still available if there were no bics.
3 rd form, Southland Boys High School. 1967.
Geoff would come stay on the farm, and I would also do a turn in the big smoke. Geoff had a younger brother, who was a Turd former in 1969. So much younger than us.
But now young Murray is almost as old as me, evidence of a fast life. He’s catching up.
And now, 50 odd years later, we’re on the phone, exploring the good old days of Southland rock.
The last time I remember seeing Murray was in 1971 when there was an announcement that a musical group would perform in the assembly hall at lunch time. Curious, we prefects crept into the back of the hall to the raucous sound of some fifth formers crashing through Deep Purple’s Black Night and one other song, which neither of us remember. Outrageous. Unheard of.
Murray played bass then, or pretended to, but it didn’t matter. Mattered more when they did another show a couple of years later at the opening of a new school block with the Mayor and Fish (the name we used for the Rector) and other teachers in the audience and pulled a Star-Spangled Banner Hendrix thing on the school song. Much frowning and gnashing of teeth.
I left New Zealand in 1976 and came across Mi-Sex on a trip home, probably 1980, so Murray takes me through what happened when he left school and joined a band called Abraham. All older musicians so this was Murray’s music degree playing with these guys, learning keyboards, and not joining the other legendary Invercargill pub-rock band, the Vision (as did most of the others). No, off to Christchurch he went and teamed up with Tom Svehla and his Prog-rock band Watchdog.
Then to Wellington and Red Rose, a disco band, playing three times a week and getting on to a TV show, and making a lot of money! But then Steve Gilpin, Kevin Stanton and Don Martin came to Wellington with their band Fragments of Time and dragged him in to the great adventure of heading to Australia. Along the way Fragments of Time became Mi-Sex, in time for their new single, and then across the ditch they went.
Australia at the time was at the forefront of the new 80’s rock movement and had a sound all of its own. Aussie Rock, as we knew it, and arguably spearheaded by that most non-Aussie band Dire Straits, who hit the bigtime first in Australia, before London woke up. But there was a freshness and bounciness about the music coming out of Australia, sun surf and beer, versus the sombre darkness of English prog-rock and the pastel primordial of punk. Bands like Mondo Rock, Men at Work, Hunters & Collectors, Australian Crawl, Mental as Anything, Inxs and our own Split Enz turned “down under” into up-top pop.
And so it was in this era that Mi-Sex was born, with Richard Hodgkinson (also from Invercargill) making up the five-piece on drums. From 1979 thru 1983 they made four albums, losing Hodgkinson along the way (he forms his own band) and bringing in Paul Dunningham as replacement. Living the rock n roll life!!
Murray reminisces about the awesome time they chose to arrive in Australia, with the big 70’s rock bands making way for the more poppy bands to come through, all feeding off one another, if not deliberately, then subliminally.
But Mi-Sex were big, headlining their own tours and supporting big acts like Talking Heads and Cheap Trick, before fading away into hiatus in 1986.
The band went their own ways, but Murray and former Mi-Sex colleague Colin Bayley formed a production company in Byron Bay innovating with various techniques (before the big software programmes became available) to produce music and sound for television and other media. Playing music every day, but in a different way.
Steve Gilpin died tragically in 1992 as a result of a car accident, and Kevin Stanton (who passed away in 2017) had to stop playing due to illness, but in 2016 Don Martin was keen to play again, and introduced Steve Balbi ( ex Noiseworks) to Murray, and they did a gig together and hey presto, it’s five years on and here they are, having fun, playing the songs we want to hear. And so we will, in Auckland this Saturday Feb 15 th.
STILL SOME TICKETS AVAILABLE!!
Grab them at ticketmaster.co.nz
Ok, our time is almost up, so I take Murray back to where it all began, Invercargill, and his recent elevation to Southland’s Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. It was a great night but Murray put his foot on it…. you’ll have to listen to the interview to find out about that…..