Random Play by Graham Reid

9

Feelin' Groovy . . . Happy Again

Because I have previously posted about our lack of coverage of Thai politics starting way back here and, not linked, about the joys of old vinyl from time to time I guess it was fair a couple of people sent me mail via Elsewhere asking “why the silence now?” when the situation is volatile in Bangkok and Real Groovy was in strife.

Fair point -- but Thailand was, albeit belatedly and in the case of television somewhat badly, being covered, and Russell had posted so well about Real Groovy that my comments would have just been more of the same, but less so (as we used to say about Bob Dylan’s Christian albums.)

Anyway there was enough bad news around recently that it is nice now to say something positive.

Yesterday Chris Hart of Real Groovy sent me an e-mail saying as of today all was going to be well in their world, which I am delighted about.

I had done my best to help them trade their way out of difficulty -- but buying half a dozen $2 albums every week maybe wasn’t going to get them over the hump. Although the Jackie de Shannon album and Solomon King’s oddball collection of his hit (She Wears My Ring) and mad songs like Happy Again (“I’ll be sad when you’re gone, but I was happy before and I’ll be happy again”) have kept me going over the past few weeks.

Anyway the gist of the Real Groovy thing is this: they have a new partner/investor who has all the right credentials . . . and by “right” I don’t just mean money. It seems that their new non-executive director Ralph Brayham is, like many of us, a longtime Real Groovy aficionado.

Chris said in his e-mail, “Ralph is a long time Real Groovy club member. When he first arrived from Canada he used to drive up from Tauranga and come to Real Groovy to get his music fix. He understands that Real Groovy is all about the best music, DVDs and games and no other music retailer in New Zealand has our range or expertise.

“Ralph therefore has first hand knowledge and understanding of the sheer depth and breadth of our new and second-hand catalogue (of all formats - CDs, DVDs, 45’s, 78s, tapes and 12”vinyl); as well as our ability to track down rarities and imports from across the globe with our long-standing supplier relations and our practice of buying extensive private collections from America.

“It is this deep catalogue that provides Real Groovy Auckland customers the ability to trade unwanted music for music they can discover and love and at a fast turnover.”

I certainly remember buying great obscure jazz and rock albums when the store first opened at the top of Mt Eden Rd in early 1981. It moved to Queen St in ‘89. Not many people know this, but the building it occupies has a long history of music. In the Twenties it was the site of a famous jazz club.

I know this because the other night my friend Chris Bourke was up in Auckland and we went out for dinner and drinks while Chris debriefed.

He is writing a book about the history of popular music in this country (up until about the time the Beatles changed everything) and because he is a scrupulous scholar he is unearthing much wonderful and sometimes trivial information. (Who knew that Cole Porter came here on a cruise ship?)

Chris wrote the excellent study of Crowded House (Something so Strong) and writes an always interesting blog.

He told me that the Real Groovy building once housed a club called the Dixieland and this is what he wrote to me this morning to confirm it.

“For 150 of Auckland’s smart set, there was only one place to be seen on 11 April 1922: at the corner of Queen and Waverley Streets, for the grand opening of the city’s first large-scale cabaret. Called the Dixieland, the extravagance of the venue could only have been achieved by the visionary, stylish – and rich – entrepreneur who developed it. Dr Frederick Rayner and his wife Ethel had emigrated from Canada in 1900; she was a well-travelled heiress, he was a dentist with business savvy, and more energy than ethics.

“Rayner made a fortune from founding the American Dental Parlours, which specialised in high-turnover ‘painless’ tooth extraction, and replacement with dentures. He launched the Hippodrome Picture Company which evolved into the Amalgamated chain, milled vast tracts of West Coast kauri and subdivided Piha, then built a mansion on the slopes of Mt Eden. He also owned a lodge, with launch, at Lake Rotoiti. His launch was called Moose, and both houses were named Moose Lodge and decorated – like the Dixieland – with his deer trophies.

“Advertisements prior to the opening emphasised that this glitzy venture was taking place in the Jazz Age: ‘You’ll hear the latest Jazz Music as it should be.’ In the evenings, the music was provided by the Jazz Band, directed by Arthur Frost, formerly of the Tivoli cabarets in Sydney and Melbourne; his violinist had been a member of the Dixie Five and the Ritz Hotel’s orchestra. Each afternoon thé dansants – tea dances – were on offer, served by ‘picturesque waitresses’ to the strains of the Dixieland Jazz Band; patrons could take part in the jazz dancing and enjoy the vocal items.

“Inside the Dixieland was a 3000-square foot sprung dance floor, chandeliers, quality fittings, tables to book in advance, and couches on raised platforms from which guests could watch the dancing . . .

“Although there were only soft drinks available – and the city’s first fresh orange juicer – the laxity shown towards patrons smuggling in their own alcohol also helped. ‘The liquor brought a lot of people in, carrying sackfuls of booze into their cubicles. It didn’t cause any problems with the police, and it helped make the jazz popular.’ “ *

That is typical Chris: he connects the past with the present and makes it come alive. I did a little transcription work for him and it was terrific fun. It made me want to go out and find music by some of the characters in his book -- and that is where Real Groovy and various record fairs came in.
I have quite a few singles in te reo by Howard Morrison who was putting out Maori language songs when that must have been a tough call. I play this kind of thing quite frequently on my Kiwi FM show Sidestreets. Some of it is awful, some fun.

This kind of historical stuff fascinates me, not the least because I am contributing material to a website and some of that is about the few old buildings left in the central city.

Auckland has a woeful track record when it comes to looking after its heritage and I have often said that developers don’t see an old building as anything other than a target.

But this is an all-good-news posting: Real Groovy lives to sell another day (purchasing and trading, honouring credit notes again); Chris is writing what will be a terrific book -- and I am sitting here listening to lovely old scratchy.
Like that song of Solomon says “There was music before, there’ll be music again . . .”

Life is what you make it I guess -- but for me, and I guess the Real Groovy guys, this is another good day on the planet. I hope yours is too.

* Chris would like me to note that this is the unsubbed and un-fact checked draft. But you can get the tone of his tome, I am sure.

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