Take the last train to ‘Goneville’

Nick Bollinger.

Greetings from somewhere underwater out back of Te Puna.

So much for a clear run through till Easter. And it was Easter that I'd promised to write about this week, a guide to all the street entertainment that will be coming your way in a mere couple of weeks.

But sometimes you get interrupted...

That's what happened this week when I went into my favourite bookshop – Books-A-Plenty on Grey St of course – and discovered an event happening next Friday, April 7.

Many of you will be aware of Nick Bollinger. And many will not. But don't feel in any way tragically un-hip if the name Nick Bollinger means absolutely nothing whatsoever to you. If you are judging fame on a scale of one to 10 then I would consider myself a one. (Nick's about a three: not bad at all but it's hardly a hanging matter if you haven't heard of a three).

If you know of Nick it's most likely through the services of National Radio. Or as we now call it, Radio New Zealand National. I wonder why that's not catching on? Nick is the friendly, smooth-voiced music critic who has been fronting music review programme ‘The Sampler' for years and years, always insightful, knowledgeable and interesting, with an impressive ability to see the big picture when examining a specific new release.

Musical enthusiasm

One of the many pleasures of hearing him on the radio is that Nick always seems to be bubbling with an almost boyish enthusiasm, so I'm happy to report that, having run into him at gigs and other events through the years, he is exactly like that in real life.

I first met Nick before I realised he was a music reviewer, since he's also a fine musician; he plays bass for my absolutely favourite New Zealand blues band of all time, the phenomenal Windy City Strugglers. He's about the only bassist I know who plays upside down left-handed and – damn! He makes a great job of it.

The reason Mr Bollinger is coming to town is that he's just written a book, a rather wonderful memoir about his early life both familial and musical. It's called ‘Goneville' and musically follows Nick's adventures in the 1970s when, as an 18-year-old, he went on the road with singer Rick Bryant's band Rough Justice. The book is fascinating, a real insight to New Zealand life then and a great snapshot of many a New Zealand musician.
And that's one of the lovely things about taking a dive into the seventies with Nick: it does put into sharp relief just how much things have changed in this country, especially when he talks about people you might know and what they were like back then.

A local connection

One Tauranga musician featured is the inimitable Robbie Laven. At the time he and singer Marion Arts were fronting the Red Hot Peppers and there is a description of them supporting Dragon at the Wellington Town Hall in 1976. Being more than 40 years ago, of course, it's a bit hard to recognise the Robbie we know and love today in Nick's historical description:

“Their leader is Robbie Laven, a bearded, unsmiling figure who surrounds himself with instruments – flutes, mandolins, saxophones, guitars – all of which he plays at least competently and some spectacularly...”.

How times change! Lest there be any confusion about who it is when you now see him play – Robbie has shaved off his beard.

I was planning to read the book anyway but it was one of Tauranga's newest judges, the honourable and groovy Paul Mabey, who reminded me by recommending it. He was at Victoria University during the general time of the memoir (though probably avoided the large amounts of marijuana that frequently pop up in the tale). I'm glad he did – it's a fine piece of work and will resonate with many who lived through those times in New Zealand

And Nick's in town next week along with another Kiwi autobiographer, Adam Dunning. They're on a whirlwind tour and will be in conversation at Books-A Plenty at 6pm on Friday, April 7. It should be interesting; and it's free.             



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