There are plenty of books available for the discerning music fan this time of year including new tomes by Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Marr. But this season we have a locally-produced memoir that easily holds its own against those big-name music bios from across the waters.
As anyone who has heard his features on Radio New Zealand or read his reviews in The Listener knows, Nick Bollinger is one of this country’s most eloquent and knowledgeable music journalists. So it should come as no surprise to find that Goneville, his memoir about coming of age and participating in the New Zealand music scene of the 1970s is as well-written and illuminating as it is.
Nick deftly mixes his own personal experiences as a struggling musician with stories that frame the overall state of New Zealand music to shine a light on what was actually happening during a decade that saw huge changes in both the music itself and the business that helped deliver that music, particularly in the live scene.
At the end of the 1960s, much of New Zealand music was still just pallid attempts to recreate the sounds of the UK, US and Australia. But times were changing and by the end of the 70s, thanks in large part to punk, Kiwi musicians were finding their own voice.
Goneville is very much about that musical journey.
During the 1970s Bollinger wasn’t a spectator and commentator, but a participant, play bass in a number of touring bands, most notably Rough Justice, an r&b tinged covers band fronted by Rick Bryant.
Nick vividly writes about the unglamorous life on the road, spending hours cooped up on a bus, playing for hours in front of small, uninterested groups of pub patrons all the while wondering where the next meal is coming from.
Fortunately, there’s more to the story than just another version of Bob Seger’s Turn The Page. Nick shares plenty of his personal life…his first connections to music, the death of his father and the relationships with other musicians and friends that helped to shape his own ideas about music. Later in the book, he reveals his own participation in the social unrest of the early 1980s, particularly the 1981 Springboks tour.
Along the way there are plenty of humorous anecdotes…many of them with Rick Bryant as the main character…and insights into how the New Zealand music business worked in the 1970s.
It’s a fresh take on a story that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.