After the success of the 2016 Flash Cars show, Murray Cammick returns to Black Asterisk Gallery with a selection of music images with AK•75-85. Once again Cammick is exhibiting limited edition, silver-gelatin prints derived directly from his negatives and printed by Jenny Tomlin.
In this show Cammick has not strayed far from the Queen Street of Flash Cars, as the music of the day revolved around inner city venues. The offices of RipItUp, that Cammick co-published, were never far from Queen St with the most classic location for the magazine being above Stones’ Shoes on the corner of Darby Street and Queen Street.
When RipItUp started in June 1977, Cammick and original editor Alastair Dougal were not aware of how radical the changes in music culture would be as the decade ended. Foreign punk/new wave acts like The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Blondie visited and locals like The Suburban Reptiles, The Scavengers and Toy Love put some energy into the scene.
New Zealand musicians were inspired by the success of Split Enz overseas and original writers like Hello Sailor, Th’ Dudes and Sharon O’Neill found respect for their own songs. In a time of cultural change, RipItUp and Cammick documented important cultural events such as Bob Marley’s 1979 visit to New Zealand and suburban cultural events like North Shore band The Screaming Meemees playing in a packed suburban hall.
For those who liked their music raw, seedy local venues were the place to worship and the Zwines and Mainstreet mosh-pits were where alienated youth gathered to enjoy the company of kindred-souls. Cammick’s camera captures the tribal audience as well as the sweaty musicians who command the scene. Cammick documented “a good night out” and “another generation of musicians finding their own voice”– cultural pleasure and cultural importance.
Prior to starting RipItUp in 1977, Cammick was the designer of Craccum, Auckland student newspaper in 1976. He studied photography at Elam School of Fine Arts1973 to 1975 with lecturers John B. Turner and Tom Hutchins who encouraged him to take socio-political photos for the student newspaper. Cammick took the first photos of the Flash Cars series at Elam and learnt a respect for the documentary tradition in photography.
Reflecting on his music photos for the Capture blog (2012), Cammick wrote “I tried to document the music and the scene as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary photographer. You either contribute to the myths/bullshit of rock n roll or you try and show some of the reality of the grind of touring and promotion. I recall being the designer at Craccum in 1976 and being delighted that our music editor John Robson came back from a press conference with a photo of Frank Zappa drinking a cup of tea. How sublimely un-rock n roll!”
“Shooting un-rock ‘n’ roll photos became something to aspire to, so I was pleased to get Iggy Pop in his clunky reading glasses laughing at the Talking Heads story in RipItUp magazine. As we arrived at Iggy's White Heron Hotel room he was still in his pyjamas and I sneaked a shot but he heard the camera and made it clear, “No photos in my pyjamas.”
“For years I've regretted that I did not capture the beauty of Debbie Harry in my 1977 photos, but now I am starting to appreciate that they show a tired young woman who briefly leaves an international flight in Auckland to do a day's promo. She is giving copies of the New York Punk magazine to the RipItUp writer Jeremy Templer.”
Debbie Harry arrived from the USA at dawn – a day of interviews in Auckland, then on a plane to Melbourne for a TV interview that night. That’s life.
The Photographer’s Notes
Anyone who asks me to play soccer has smoked too much dope. Marley asked me that question – after I had retrieved a stray ball, by the park outside his hotel, the White Heron. I interpreted his question, as an indication that he would prefer that I stopped taking photos. As a young photographer I was not too keen on doing ‘music industry’ style photos of a Platinum album presentation or the traditional Maori welcome, the powhiri, but “Yes” was the answer when the visitor to New Zealand was Bob Marley.
When RipItUp decided to put five new bands on the cover of the April 1979 issue the ‘group’ interview soon came upon insurmountable ethical and regional issues. Louise Chunn wrote, “To Chris Knox, expatriate Dunedin boy and don’t ever forget it, Aucklanders don’t dance, they pose rather fast. And anyway Toy Love don’t want to have people showing enthusiasm or approval through dancing. ‘We’d rather stun them,’ said Knox.”
We arrived at the White Heron hotel, to find Iggy in his room, still wearing his pyjamas, playing guitar. I took a subtle snap on my camera but Iggy heard the click and turned to me, “No photos in my pyjamas!” During the interview Iggy said: “You have to remember, I was in — will the real Sex Pistols please stand up? — I was in the Stooges.” It was curious to watch Iggy reach for his clunky reading glasses to peruse a Talking Heads story in the current RipItUp. I recall Iggy saying, “Here I am traveling the world, alone in my hotel room, except for my pyjamas.” Due to ‘image’ reasons this comment – whether taking the piss or not – did not run in RipItUp.
Hippies, freaks, punks and members of Split Enz, I could cope with, but meeting Dolly Parton was a culture shock. The singer visited New Zealand in 1979 and ended up in the RipItUpcentrespread sandwiched between Iggy Pop and Toy Love. I understood the country outlaws Cash, Jennings and Willie Nelson, but most country music made my stomach uneasy. Dolly knew how to work a room. Making eye contact with every writer and every photographer. Dolly was in control of the room and soon showed her down-home smarts and taught us the basics in controlling your own career. “I moved to Nashville, still with the big hair-do, long since out-of-style. People started telling me I should change my look. And I thought — well, for somebody to tell me that – only means they’re noticing the way I look. So I decided to change it alright, by exaggerating it.”
Girls and beer cans
The early 1978, Hello Sailor gig at Auckland University Recreation Centre was excellent – that translates, I thought I had taken some great pix. After the gig I got a cool backstage photo of singer Graham Brazier. I think I was too shy to ask the singer if I could take a photo and he asked me if I wanted to take a photo. As I walked towards the exit, the beer cans caught my eye. Before I pressed the shutter Suzanne (RIP) and Shoana walked into the frame and gave me the photo. The photographer is only one participant in the making of a photo.
When LA legend Kim Fowley visited Auckland in January 1979 I was in awe of his intelligence, his humour and his namedropping. He was in awe of the fact that I was in awe of him. He’d book toll calls to rock royalty like Bruce Springsteen to impress us locals. One call was timed to take place when I visited the studio. Fowley liked music journalists dropping by – he liked to hold court. Even in the photo – Kim spun me – so he ended up looking like the President of the USA. I ended up with a ‘portrait’ of Kim Fowley. I was not a portrait photographer, I was a documentary photographer, but Fowley only did portraits!
I have more good photos of Graham Brazier than every other local musician in total. To be blunt, Graham was into having his photo taken, but in my case I think he liked to help me get good photos. The musician who performs off stage as well as on stage, to some, is a “rock star poseur” but photographers appreciate a little bit of help. Graham was a poet and a book collector – he had empathy for poets and writers, and he was not above helping me to get a good photo. On occasions when I had camera in hand, I’d get a nod from him that said: “this will make a great photo.”
I would have more photos of the punk club Zwines if I hadn’t put my opening night film through the camera twice and if you didn’t have to run a gauntlet to get there. Only a few metres from Queen Street, off Durham Lane, the punk club Zwines was above Babe’s disco and the skinny white punks had to get past the burly disco kids to get to the Zwines entrance. The westie punks would have taken it all in stride but us middleclass types from the other side of town had to meet friends nearby and do the final distance to the club, as a group.
In 1981, The Screaming Meemees played the Northcote Netball Hall and proved that there was life on the North Shore – beyond the tolls gates. One of my favourite gigs ever! In the sandpit and the mosh-pit, you learn to enjoy life and negotiate with other people. I respect bands that make you want to jump up and down and celebrate being alive.
By the time Siouxsie and The Banshees made it to Auckland in 1983, punk had become post-punk and Siouxsie was post-punk too. She was polite and pretty and seemed to enjoy being surrounded by adoring music fans masquerading as journalists. Robert Smith was there too, having a cup of tea, making this suburban hotel press conference, a very cool occasion.
Music photos by Murray Cammick
Black Asterisk Gallery
Preview: Tues 1 August, 6.30pm
Artist Talk: Sat 5 August, 2pm