Kiwis Doin’ Dylan – Odds and Ends
And Here Come The Odds and Ends
And thus has it always been – there are some things which don’t fit neatly into categories.
- an unexpected Kiwi re-write of a Dylan classic "The Times They Are-A Changin'"
- one Kiwi song about Bob Dylan written in a singer-songwriter style (of sorts)
- one more recent Kiwi song about shocking consequences of the ghost of electricity
- and one musician who specifically Digs Bob Dylan
- and one musician who moved to France and is better known there than in New Zealand
How Badly Could You Re-write "The Times They Are-A Changin'" ?
You won't have to go much further than this single from NZ in 1973 to find the ultimate answer to that question!
There was a promotional single issued by the Pye (NZ) Ltd company in anticipation of the introduction of colour television to New Zealand in early 1974. It says "Souvenir Recording with the compliments of PYE Ultimate" and was a giveaway with each purchase of a new colour TV set.
Tommy Adderley - "The Times Are Changing"
this single (7") Pye VID22 has the song repeated on each side of the record (05:50 in length) with the words best not attributed but the music was by Bob Dylan and the arrangement of this version by Jimmy Slogget (Sloggett in fact).
The lyrics are immortalised on the back of the picture sleeve.
And you can follow the above lyrics along with the music by using the following
And a song about Bob Dylan
The front cover of the LP "I'm A Kiwi" by R (Rick) Taylor is a peaceful and relaxing picture of Lake Kaniere on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
A track on this album is titled "Bob Dylan" - the LP being released in 1985 as Rhythmic RT 1. All words and music on the LP are by R Taylor.
R Taylor says about himself on the lyric notes sheet included with the LP:
"About me - born and raised in Vancouver, Canada where I gained all my formal education. This consisted of passing my High School Certificate by one mark. ... After a few years alternating between jobs and unemployment insurance I headed up to New Zealand and Australia where I've spent the last ten years drifting between countries searching for a nice air hostess. ... Bought a 1971 Martin D18, a guitar tuner and a pen five years ago to see if I could earn a living by not working. I hope it works. So I started at twenty-five with no musical or writing background at all and being entirely self taught I'd like to encourage other people to "Go For It" as it's never too late."
The lyrics for this song are on the left.... to be marvelled at.
And a short musical sample below so you can sing along and perhaps also be warmed up like a 'soggy fart'.
The Dangers of Electricity as seen by butterfly P!G
A Wellington New Zealand group has identified previously unknown dangers triggered by the Ghost of Electricity - resulting in Bob Dylan Electrocuted. This track appreared on the 2008 CD "It's Another Life".
The group butterfly P!G is comprised of Steve Rendle (vocals, guitar), Duncan Munro (guitar, backing vocals), Lindsay Davis (bass, trumpet), Richard Christie (drums), also with Ana Henderson (violin) and Melua Watson (backing vocals). The CD was recorded in Wellington in latter 2008 - with the lyrics of this 03:58 song below.
Bob Dylan electrocuted
Piss running down
Stovepipe trousers to the ground
And the cables at his feet
The ghost of electricity
Nods at the door and then leaves
Bob Dylan electrocuted
I feel unfastened
Having seen the outcome of trick #1
I don't want to see trick #2
Given time we'll come around
Don't know what we're coming round to
Burning padded pine
Why would you?
Bob Dylan electrocuted
You can sample this imagined shocking demise of Bob Dylan on the following link.
And now a musician who Digs Bob Dylan
and a track on Rick Steele's 1977 LP "Take It Or Leave It" on Mandrill Man 1 was titled "I Dig Bob Dylan" though more commonly known as “If You Don't Like Hank Williams (you can kiss my ass)" by Kris Kristofferson.
Rick's website has much information on his career and recordings and includes the biographical detail:
"Born: 1948. The third child of preacher Harold and piano teacher Jeune.
Early years: Rick started his musical career singing in the church choir where his father preached. At 12 years of age bought his first guitar for eight pounds after raising the money working at a local shop. His older brother John already had a guitar and, along with other kids from church, they taught themselves how to play.
Rick attended boarding school and upon graduating, he worked in a record department of a store tuning guitars and selling the occasional fridge. He then went on to teachers college - it was ‘in the blood’ with his mother and sister both being teachers. While there, he joined The Vision - a four piece band that included his brother John. In 1969, The Vision reached number 9 on the NZ charts with the cover of Carl Perkins song Daddy Sang Bass.
Rick left NZ to travel the world, starting with Australia. He travelled to Perth and did a stint teaching at Eden Hill Primary School and instantly started picking up gigs around town.
In 1977, after marrying Liz, the pair moved to NZ and Rick released his debut solo album Take It or Leave It." It is this album which has the track with title "I Dig Bob Dylan" which can be listened to on this YouTube video.
and now a musician who moved to France and is better known there than in New Zealand
This is the Graeme Allwright story.... which will be documented in more detail here, but in the meanwhile is already on this website in the artists category. Have a read there in the meanwhile - the Graeme Allwright story.
New Zealand has always been a nation of immigrants and also to a lesser extent a nation of emigrants. The latter is especially true for musicians who have always struggled to make a living in the small NZ domestic market. In the early days England was a traditional place to come from, or go to, or return to. In the 1960s though many musicians started to go to Australia to the larger cities, Sydney and Melbourne, which had a population about like all of NZ, but in a much smaller area. In later years the USA became a place to then go for additional exposure (and for some lucky ones, perhaps a living from their music).
And there are others who have gone temporarily or permanently to the Netherlands or Germany or Canada, but mainly would continue their career singing in English.
But one musician took a different approach, emigrating to France and becoming a French citizen and translating songs into French and singing them in French. Graham Allwright is the one - and one who has sung Dylan.
and now to find the source of the following, and to put it into context....
Question: what’s an English-speaking New Zealander been doing in Paris for the past forty years? Why, singing French songs of course - having made his way to the very top of the music business and establishing himself as a household name in France. Mention the name Graeme Allwright (almost unpronounceable to the French) to Monsieur or Madame Average in the great cities of Lyon, Strasbourg or Marseilles - and the chances are that you will not have to wait too long before a long list of Allwright’s hits are reeled off with undisguised affection and glee. Conduct a vox-pop around the streets of Wellington, however, and you are sure to be greeted with a united chorus of ‘Graeme who?’ So how on earth did his fame in France - where he is considered to be on a par with Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Leonard Cohen - and total anonymity in New Zealand come about?
How did this one particular Kiwi come to make good in France whilst at the same time keeping the secret of his staggering success a secret from his compatriots?
"I arrived in France on the New Year’s eve of 1948", Allwright says matter-of-factly from his high rise block in Paris’s bustling twelfth arrondissement, where he enjoys superb views combining that triad of popular tourist destinations - Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. He had arrived from London where he had managed to incur his parents’ wrath by turning down an offer made to him by Anthony Quayle for a place at the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. But he had done so for a noble cause.
"I had met a French girl by the name of Catherine at the Old Vic theatre school in London which I had been attending. I fell madly in love with her and followed her back to France in order to get married. It was as simple as that."
Allwright was born into a musical family and grew up in Lyall Bay, where his father worked as the local station-master. "You can imagine what it was like", he relates, "a young boy seeing his father put his cap on, blowing his whistle and watching huge locomotives slip out of the station. I loved my years in New Zealand. Later on we moved up to Hawera, where my childhood was full of fields, wild rivers, orchards and the bush. Magical. Wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world."
Anxious to pursue a career in theatre, Allwright was only too well aware that his days in New Zealand were numbered - for there was no professional company in the land. It was with a measure of good fortune, therefore, that former Prime Minister Peter Fraser happened to attend an Ibsen play in which the young Allwright was performing. He was so impressed by his performance that he promptly arranged for him to receive a bursary to attend the Old Vic school in London, keenly aware that he was one of the most promising actors in the land.
Slipping in and out of French with gay abandon, Allwright relates how his move to France put a speedy end to his thespian aspirations - on the not unreasonable grounds that apart from the odd oui and non (the former an essential prerequisite for the marriage ceremony to Catherine) he could not speak a single word of French. He had married into a theatrical family, however, and soon found himself as an assistant stage manager cum general handyman.
"As my French improved I started to do bit parts. And before too long I was playing the part of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had absolutely no idea that I would become a singer though. I guess the seed was planted when I began to mix some acting evenings with some singing as a kind of fill-in towards the end of a performance. This seemed to go down really well. I also learned how to play the guitar. Then I hit upon the idea of adapting some songs I particularly liked - songs by Cohen and Dylan."
It was not too long before Allwright had hit the road as a singer in his own right. But his big moment came - exactly as it had done some years earlier at the other end of the globe - when a VIP happened to be attending one of his performances. That person was the managing director of Phonogram, part of the giant Philips group, and one of the biggest record labels in France.
"The next day he sent along one of his artistic directors" Allwright continues, "and I was taken out for a drink. Well, then, this chap simply turned round to me and said ‘sign here, boy’ - which I did - right on the dotted line. It was just like in the movies. I signed up for 5 years. And was only too happy to do so."
Whoosh! That’s just about the only word to describe what happened to Allwright’s career from that moment onwards. "Suddenly I became a star. My first record was an instant hit. In fact it was so popular that the entire LP was played on the popular radio station Europe 1 - nothing like that had ever happened before. I was so successful I really had no idea what had hit me. I was knocking out a mixture of protest songs - I got caught up in the 68 movement of student-led rebellion - but my songs seemed to reach out to all people of all ages and right across the social divide."
And yet Allwright was never entirely comfortable having become part of the mainstream - even the alternative mainstream - and it was not too long before he deliberately walked away from his overnight success. For at the height of his fame he gathered a few of his possessions together, bundled them into a ruck-sack and, not for the first time, hit the road - this time heading out East. Had this move been designed by a shrewd and calculating PR man it would have been heralded as superb - for Allwright’s ‘disappearance’ elevated him to almost mythical status - he became a kind of cult figure with rumours and counter-rumours flying around thick and fast. In fact at one stage Allwright’s son was reliably informed by his school master that his father had been killed in an accident. Others whispered darkly that he had committed suicide.
And then unexpectedly and unannounced Allwright, ever the drifter, would reappear on the scene. Produce another record here, enjoy a period of renewed success there - before withdrawing again. It was a marginal kind of lifestyle which took its toll - including not one but two failed marriages. You can say what you like about him. But one thing is undeniable. Allwright’s songs have won the hearts and souls of the French people, his titles such as Sacrée Bouteille and Suzanne having entered into legend and folklore alike.
So looking back on his long and successful career (he continues to tour to this day) is Allwright proud of what he has achieved?
"Pride is a nasty thing", he replies thoughtfully. I am not proud. But I am astonished. Astonished that a New Zealander should have made it in France. What I do find most satisfying though is that its clear that I do bring happiness to many people. And that is truly a wonderful thing to be part of."
a nice interview by Jane Middleton in the New Zealand Herald is worth reading also.
and a documentary interview allows you to listen to Graeme directly as interviewed in Paris by Sam Coley. The documentary write-up says
"Graeme Allwright is a French singer/songwriter of the late-'60s folk era best known for his French-language adaptations of songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and others, in addition to his own "folk" styled songs.
Born on November 7, 1926, in Wellington, New Zealand, he moved to France in 1948 - though he could speak practically no French at the time. Years later, he began performing as a folk singer/songwriter and ultimately was offered a major-label recording contract with the Philips subsidiary Phonogram in the late '60s.
Graeme has enjoyed a long and successful career - he still tours constantly (at the age of 83) and has earnt his rightful place alongside France's most famous singers.
This interview was recorded by Sam Coley at Graeme's appartment in central Paris on the 27th of Sept. 2010 - for Radio New Zealand."