When I was 15 I used to work in the weekends picking tomatoes to earn pocket money. A day in the hothouses earned me $5 so every two weeks I could get on a bus and travel from suburban Mangere into Auckland City and buy a new record.
I was just getting into buying records then. One of the first records I bought was David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album.
Then he produced Transformer and I was introduced to Lou Reed.
I went back through Lou Reed’s catalog and discovered The Velvet Underground.
I bought a drum kit and formed a band.
Right from the start we did Lou Reed covers. I still do Lou Reed covers.
I have a concert at my farm every February. In 2011 my band was called Deja VU and Nico and we did only Lou Reed covers.
I think I have everything the he released, including the crap. That’s what you do when you are a fan. You even buy the crap.
I saw Lou Reed live in concert twice, in 1975 and in 1978. I took a cassette deck in to the ’75 show and still have the tape. I listened to it again yesterday.
This year’s father’s day I wrote a tribute to Lou Reed. He is the father of most of the songs I ever wrote. He was the one who gave me a voice and walked me through every step of the way. It’s simple. You play a chord, you say the line, you move down the page and you tell the story.
I knew he was sick, but I started to think he was never going to die.
But he died.
He leaves behind a body of work that is stunning in it’s depth and width.
I don’t have a favorite song or album or era. I just have a favorite artist.
Vale Lou Reed.
Feargal Sharkey sang it
Songwriter: MARIA LOUISA MCKEE
I hear a lot of stories
Highest risk of striking out
I know, ’cause I think about it all the time
And a good heart, these days, is hard to find (a good heart)
My expectations may be high
I’ll face it like a fighter
I know, ’cause I learn a little every day
That a good heart, these days, is hard to find (a good heart)
As I look back
If I don’t start looking now
I know, it’s a dream I’m willing to defend
And a good heart, these days, is hard to find (a good heart)
And a good heart, these days, is hard to find (a good heart)
A good heart
An new album is on the way. Here are the studio demos.
Some people have had issues accessing these songs on Soundcloud so I have uploaded them to my blog. Right click the hyperlinks to download any mp3’s you want to keep on your local PC
Gone too long, a song of loss.
Moon Cam is about two lovers separated by distance and connected via the moon.
Siren Song is about getting hooked.
What happens when two people are in the same dreams?
When the guys at work tell you that enough is enough.
Sometimes you just have to be vague.
Are you prepared to risk being completely happy?
A chapter is completed, where to next?
She was walking down the street, talking to me real sweet…
Yesterday, as our parliament of ‘honorable’ representatives passed into law under urgency a bill which even conservative polls showed that over three quarters of the population had strong opposition to a colleague told me he was ‘ashamed to be a New Zealander today’.
I was pretty taken back by that remark.
This is the country that led the world in equal suffrage, and stood up to the might of the United States to make a principled stand on nuclear armed warships entering our ports.
When the French government were conducting atmospheric tests in the Pacific Islands and used their military to engage in acts of violence against New Zealanders with the courage to protest our government sent a naval frigate with a cabinet minister on board to protect our countrymen.
This is the country where a Labour government denied visas to a rugby team to play apartheid sport and when a National Government supported apartheid sport this is the country where over a million people stood up to be counted.
In fact on every important issue of principle over several generations New Zealanders have stood up and taken a decent stand and have demonstrated to the world that we are capable of thinking for ourselves and expressing our own point of view, even if it is at odds with others.
Sadly we have an administration that is not working in the interests of New Zealand but instead seems to be more loyal to the wishes of foreign governments and corporations.
The interests of the country and it’s citizens are ignored and the government regime acts as a lapdog for their overseas masters.
We have seen a lot of this around the world recently. You only have to turn on the news and see that the world is rebelling against despots and traitors in a way that must scare the pants off the rich and powerful.
The only thing that is bigger than their hatred of ordinary people is their fear of them. And for good reason.
So I’m not ashamed to be a New Zealander because we have a government that works against us and sells us out to some foreign power.
I’m just looking forward to the day when they get what’s coming to them for their treason.
There is one thing you can never do and this is to give up on the people, especially the New Zealand people.
We have too proud a history of doing the right thing to let these scumbags get away with what they are doing to this great country.
John Key might think that we are the kind of people that would ‘run for the hills’ when attacked, but you’d have to ignore history to believe it.
Speaking of running for the hills when attacked…
I work at racetracks, up on the roof with the TV camera guys. Between races we talk a bit.
Down in the Waikato B.O.P region a few of the team are pretty musical and a couple the crew play in bands. John Strange is one such camera operator and he’s a bit of a heavy metal legend in fact.
The other day, after the last race at Te Rapa, at 5.22 to be exact, John, James and I had a bit of a conversation about how we were going to spend a Saturday evening.
I said I would probably go home and write another song for my next album (tentatively titled Featherston Street).
John looked at me in that heavy metal look and said ‘not another a love song?’
I said it might be.
“The last thing this world needs is another fu$#ing love song’ he said.
My initial reply was “That’s going to be the title”
Here is my full reply…
Remember public service restructuring?
We needed it because the public sector was inefficient and the private sector was super efficient. It was the mantra of the 80’s
Public enterprise = bad – private enterprise = good
The facts, as usual, were different. Some private enterprise whizz kids turned out to be criminals and went to jail in the 80’s. Dodgy investments and lost savings.
I worked for the Railways in the 80’s when the public owned it. The public actually built up the railways system and used it as a tool of national development for a few generations. But something went wrong in our thinking. Apparently we Railwaymen and women were in fact useless and all needed to be sacked. But we still needed a railways, so private enterprise bought it. They completely stuffed it up in about 5 years and the taxpayer bailed them out. A couple of times.
We knew this would happen. We even warned people of it. But the public had bought into the myth of the lazy good for nothing railway bludger. And the public got well and truly shafted.
It wasn’t just the railways that got wrecked by this kind if thinking… every public service that could be opened up to private enterprise had the vultures come in for a feed.
The slogan was always “efficiency”.
“It’s more efficient if it’s run as a private enterprise”
Except it wasn’t true. It was a lie. It was a lie told by people who wanted to make a profit providing those services.
With regard to the railways the multinational corporations wanted to scrap the freight limit so that instead of carrying goods by rail they could be carried by 18 wheelers. We had to rebuild our roading network to accommodate this demand. People are still paying for that at the pump.
Sadly when it comes to transporting heavy goods road is the most inefficient method of doing it, but that efficiency argument lost it’s favor when there were profits to be made by private enterprise. Apparently using the taxpayer to subsidize a rail system was bad, but subsidizing road transport was good.
This has been duplicated everywhere there is a dollar to be made. Vultures have moved in to every aspect of the infrastructure of our economy and are milking billions of dollars that used to be spent on services and are now being spent on huge corporate salaries and bonuses.
Take a look at something as essential as mental health. Big corporations are now providing care services for people in need. The big institutions are gone and community care is practiced. The administration takes a huge amount of the money and the staff are left with the crumbs. Somewhere in between that is the patient. While the top heavy administration finds ways to make bigger profits the staff are left to deal with the problems of underfunded caregiving.
It’s not that there isn’t enough money.
We get told all the time that ‘the country can’t afford’ this or that. But the country can afford hundreds of corporate executives in the infrastructure earning a million dollars plus a year before bonuses.
Pennies for the troubled minds of people who find the craziness of this modern world a little too much to take in and make sense of, but millions for a bloke in a suit getting blood from a spreadsheet.
Back in the olden days people had to work really hard to make a million dollars a year. Have you got any idea how many banks you would have to rob to steal that much money?
Thankfully nowadays there is a restrustured infrastructure, less regulation and bank robbery is left to petty crooks.
The gravy train departs from Platform 1 in 10 minutes. Tickets by invite only.
I see Paula Benefit is in the news again today. Sadly she has chosen to ignore the word of the people who met her in Waiuku on May 29th.
I’ll repost what I published on my Facebook page from her little meeting there…
Date: May 29;
So anyway I went and had a chat with Paula Bennett and about 50 of my fellow Nats in Waiuku this morning.
Paula was fizzing about her new welfare reforms. Contraception, drug testing, making lampshades from tattooed skin etc.
She did her best to assure us this was in the best interests of those involved and would save us lots of money if Treasuries predictions turned out correct.
There’s a first time for everything you know.
Well I had to tell her that as a member if the generation of hard working Kiwi Mums and Dads that were happy to help her when she needed it we wanted her to know what an absolute pleasure it was to be able to answer her call for help.
I also needed to tell her that a lot of us Nats were nervous that our party seemed to be run by people with ‘evil in their hearts’ when it came to our most vulnerable fellow citizens and how warming it was to hear her distance herself at last from this group.
I asked that she remember that Kiwis like to help the unfortunate, the unlucky and even the reckless rather than see them suffer in this land of plenty.
Throughout my little chat my fellow Nats murmured ‘yes’ and ‘that’s right’ and nodded in general agreement.
‘Please go back to your office from this meeting knowing that many of your supporters are growing increasingly uncomfortable at watching welfare for the needy being cut back to give welfare to landlords and corporations who are not paying tax and being bludgers Paula’.
When we spoke privately later it was clear Paula had got the message.
When I was 5 Dad took me to play rugby league with the Otahuhu Rugby League Club. Dad’s mate would come around some weekends and they would drink beer on the front steps of our house while us kids played bullrush. Kurt Sorenson was one of those kids. He was bloody hard to tackle too.
I remember the first game I played was at Cornwall Park and we lost 36 nil. I remember Dad saying ‘Did the other team score 12 tries against you?’ Tries were only worth 3 points back in the olden days.
That was when Dad and Mr Sorenson decided it was time for the kids to practice tackling while they looked on and drank beer in the sun.
Anyway, rugby league was pretty much in it’s infancy back then, and so was South Auckland really. At some stage it was decided to set up some new clubs and Dad was one of those who got the Mangere East club going. He was on the founding committee and I was a foundation player. I had a pennant that hung in my bedroom for years that said 1963 Foundation Year. I lost it of course.
The football club soon became Dad’s other passion and he spent a lot of time coaching teams and giving his time to advance rugby league as a wholesome game for kids to learn.
Dad coached some great players, some legends in fact. He was instrumental in starting up the now national rugby league tournament that runs throughout the school holidays and he took the first ever schoolboy rugby league team on a tour of Aussie. He set up sister club status for Mangere East and Ryde Eastwood in Syndey and helped establish the first links to New Zealand players entering the Sydney competition.
He even brought in one of the first illegal pokie machines. If my memory serves me correctly he even got convicted for that.
All the time Dad was building up the rugby league club he had 6 growing sons and a daughter.
7 kids might seem a lot today, but in the 60’s it wasn’t too rare. Dad always joked that he had 6 sons to carry his coffin and his daughter would support his wife at his funeral.
That’s exactly what happened.
Dad worked as a freezing worker as a meat packer in the B Packing Room at Hellaby’s. Short back and no sides and on strike every Christmas.
He worked hard, starting at 4 am in the killing season, and he came home absolutely tired. He had a good woman looking after the kids and her name was Mum.
From an early age the Stewart kids were taught how to behave in public and soon learned that Dad had many eyes out there keeping watch on his kids and making sure none of them went off the rails.
We didn’t go to people’s places to play, we had a big section and we played together. We stayed at our grandparents places or at our cousins places in the school holidays. Everything was family orientated.
On Sunday’s our grandparents would come and get us and take us to Cockle Bay for a swim and then we’d come home after and Mum would feed us up on Pipi fritters.
We grew up like that. A big family, but close. As we grew the family got bigger. As teenagers our friends were encouraged into the wider family, calling Mum Ma or Mrs S and Dad was Mr Stewart. Dad would round us all up at Christmas and we’d take taxis up to the Cossie Club to get drunk and then taxi it home again where he’d make sure we all were safe.
Then the sons got wives and children and they were all welcomed into the tribe, and slowly it got bigger and bigger and Mum and Dad started organising big family get togethers at Buckland Road. Dad built a swimming pool and spent untold hours looking after it, but he never once went in it. It was for the kids and their friends.
As Mum and Dad got older the family gatherings started shifting to other people places to give them a break, they were getting a lot older now.
And they kept getting older, and the family kept getting bigger and it was all good
Then Dad got sick and he died.
We kept the family gatherings going, and they kept getting bigger.
Then Mum got sick and she died.
And the family gatherings kept going and the family kept getting bigger.
And everytime we get together there are new babies and new wives and husbands and the family keeps getting bigger.
And now the 6 sons and the daughter are getting older.
And they sit and their children bring them the grandchildren. And the aunties and uncles meet the cousins and the nieces and nephews all go and play down the back and are just about at the age where they will need to be watched in case they are smoking dope and sly grogging.
This weekend Mangere East Rugby League Club celebrated it’s 50th jubliee probably at the clubrooms in Mangere.
The Ngati Stewart all got together this weekend at Andrew and Lisa’s place in Waiuku.
In our own way we celebrated something special and unique about each one of us, the bond we have that is our birthright and is ours for ever, even after we have gone.
I don’t know much about why a man is born, or why a man dies, but I know why he lives and that is to do something to give his life meaning.
Today, in Waiuku, we celebrated that.
I’ve got a bit of a band going these days. It’s called Servo. Like us on Facebook.
It’s not much but at the same time it can be everything if I want it to be.
My mate Robbie from my teens is the drummer, my neighbor Matt is the bass player and up until a few weeks ago my niece Danielle was the other guitarist/singer.
I’ve always been involved in music in some way, ever since Robbie taught me to play the drums in the 70’s. Now that I’ve got the time to put into a band it’s purely for fun, but there was a stage there for a while when I thought I could do more with it and i ended up writing a bunch of songs.
I never stopped writing songs though, but not in order to seek fame and fortune. It was more to just have a way of expressing things in a way that meant something to me.
My blog will be peppered with links to my songs and videos so if you’re not used to that yet, you soon will be.
With my songwriting I usually write and record alone but recently I have teamed up with Pj Newton, who has performed at my annual farm concert at Waikaretu. I reached out to Pj because the kind of songs I have been writing recently have tended to be more suited to a woman’s voice and a softer touch than I tend to get when I move into my studio.
We came up with a few nice songs but what we both really noticed was how easy it was to work together.
So we decided to give it a weekend and see what came out of it.
It started off early on Saturday morning with us meeting up in Manukau and heading back to the farm. Light lunch followed by a relaxing afternoon of the pair of us singing songs to each other around a slowly evaporating whiskey bottle. Pj cooked an amazing feast and after dinner and more whiskey we shifted the party into the studio.
It didn’t take long to kit Pj with an electric guitar, a blond Epiphone Dot 335 with a set of Seymour Duncan Vintage Blues pickups. I plugged her into my Vox AC30 with an sm57 piping it into the deck and put a Blue Baby Bottle mic in front of her.
And away she went.
We finished late, or early, depending on what you call 5 am. Sunday was very similar to Saturday. By the time we were done we’d decided it was worth taking this a bit further.
What we’ve come up with is a foggy notion of a plan, a road to follow I guess. No one is really sure where to road is going, but it feels like the right road to be on right now.
Pj will work on her solo material with solo performances and in the confines of Servo gigs, opening with as a solo artist and building up the set from there.
It gives Pj a vehicle for her solo work as well as a band for the group stuff she has in her repertoire and it provides Servo with a much needed new voice.
So far everything has just fallen into place without any of it requiring much effort.
We’ll get the full band together soon and see just how well it all gels and we’ll post some music and videos along the way to keep the record straight.
In the meantime here are some photos, songs and a video of the weekend just gone.
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