With the first 101 issues of Rip It Up going online this week at Papers Past – about 3000 pages in all – where to start? Two dedicated readers and contributors share their favourite moments from the magazine’s early years.
In 1980 Simon Grigg founded the influential indie record label Propeller, which launched Blam Blam Blam and the Screaming Meemees; in 2013 he created the New Zealand music history website AudioCulture.co.nz and was its content director for three years. Chris Bourke now holds that post at AudioCulture; he edited Rip It Up for co-founder Murray Cammick from 1986 to 1988.
In 2016 Grigg bought the magazine’s archive and suggested to the National Library that it should be digitised and made available online. The actual issues came from Bourke’s collection, as scanning the library’s master copies involved some risk.
Scoop! The Enz of the Road: Mike Chunn interview, by Alastair Dougal, issues #1 and #2, June and July 1977.
Simon Grigg: It’s hard to imagine now what a massive thing it was for a New Zealand band to go to the UK and make a noise. Mike’s landmark interview describes how hard they actually had it, and what an incredibly brave thing it was. This was a major piece that said this new magazine Rip It Up mattered. Any information we did get about New Zealand artists going overseas they were always the “next big thing”, days away from becoming the new Rolling Stones. On [New Zealand TV show] Grunt Machine they said the Enz were going to be the next Roxy Music
Chris Bourke: The piece is full of scoops, about the Enz recording with Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, the fractious departure of Phil Judd, the weirdness of touring the US. The interview surely came about through Murray’s friendship with Louise Chunn, Mike’s sister, who he’d met at Craccum. Within a month Mike was writing for RIU. It made it feel like the magazine was exciting, with first-hand information you couldn’t get anywhere else. Pre internet days we were so starved for information.
Rock’n’roll Ink: Hello Sailor and Mother Goose cover, by Colin Wilson, issue 6, November 1977.
Chris: This was a huge leap in cover quality: they hired comics artist Colin Wilson of Strips fame to draw a cover that hinted at the contents: features on local acts Hello Sailor and Mother Goose. Wilson later drew a Springsteen cover, and created the classic Toy Love poster, in which a scalpel is being twisted in a boy’s ear. He went on to world comics fame as an artist for Judge Dredd. It shows how connected early Rip It Up was to the Hot Licks crowd, the Elam connection, and the commitment to illustration that came through with contributors such as Barry Linton, Chris Knox, and Bruce Mahalski.
Simon: Murray picked up the legacy of Hot Licks. The upside of both magazines doing this was that it created a vinyl art tradition that was especially strong with the Flying Nun bands from the mid-1980s onwards and was given full flower by Knox and The 3Ds and others.
Johnny Be Good: interview with Johnny Cougar, by Murray Cammick, issue 15, September 1978.
Chris: Even after over 40 years, this is unforgettable. Johnny Cougar, aspirant rock star – later known as John Cougar Mellencamp – mouths off at the mild-mannered cub reporter Murray Cammick, as if he’s been confronted by a smart aleck from the NME. Johnny keeps swearing, and the printers took it upon themselves to scrap all the “F” words off the layout.
Simon: It’s just so funny. “You wouldn’t know well-dressed if it bit you on the dick! … This time next year no one will give a f— about Elvis Costello!” Johnny who? Oh, Johnny: for a brief instant he was the subject of every derisive rock’n’roll conversation in New Zealand, then a week or two later it was, Johnny who? I hear it all in Murray’s voice. This is so Murray it hurts.
Chris: It was rare for RIU to take the piss at this stage, it was still finding its feet. Mike Chunn had just reviewed Paul McCartney and Wings’ London Town and described it as “strum strum, à la Matamata on a Saturday night”. EMI was outraged.
Simon: Every issue felt like the last issue. When the first Sweetwaters was being organised in late ’79, and Rip It Up was such a big part of it – that meant Rip It Up was here to stay.
Five bands in Auckland (Toy Love, Johnny and the Hookers, Terrorways, Gary Havoc and the Hurricanes, Sheerlux), by Louise Chunn, Dominic Free and Terence Hogan, issue 21, April 1979.
Chris: This is a terrific, thorough scene piece by Louise and Terry. The humour is from Creem and it describes the cutting edge and shows what can be done in a small space.
Simon: What a magnificent cover, and a photo that has sold a few copies for Murray over the years. The bands were mixed – some great, others not so – but it was a great idea to show the rude health of the post-punk scene. Before 1978 there were never this many good rock’n’roll bands playing edgy music in Auckland almost every night. So we get an overview covering this territory and then live reviews. My favourite is the Toy Love/Hookers review by Terry, which is just fabulous: that first paragraph is as good as anything ever published in a rock’n’roll magazine anywhere. Murray must have been grinning when that arrived.
Chris: I love everything about the cover photo, especially John No-One in his rolled up trousers. Young Kerry Buchanan, Jane Walker with sunglasses on.
Simon: The pic is very uneasy, some people don’t like other people , and no one liked Sheerlux. It was unfair on Sheerlux who were an early punk band, but went more commercial.
Southern Charm: Good Golly Miss Dolly, by Louise Chunn, issue 25, August 1979.
Chris: This shows how crucial Louise Chunn was to the early magazine, to break down the boys’ club and bring some first-class features in. Murray always said how Dolly seduced the room at her Auckland press conference. Radio people thought she’d be a bimbo. All the veteran mainstream rock journalists, like Phil Gifford and Gordon Campbell, were spellbound by her wit and intelligence – and beauty. Murray’s camera is charmed by her smile. Louise shows how Dolly should be taken seriously, that her frivolous persona was her choice.
London Calling: Jones in Vain, by Duncan Campbell, issue 55, February 1982
Chris: A coup for Rip It Up: an in-person interview with Mick Jones of The Clash, then the world’s most important band. No longer does the mag make do with an interview during the ride from the airport, or a phoner.
Simon: Note the great photos by Anthony Phelps, an Auckland Star photographer, and a real rock’n’roll fan. A lot of iconic shots were taken by him. My big memory of the Clash tour – apart from show itself – was we had the Screaming Meemees at Mainstreet that same night, booked months ahead, I was stuck with the date. Hell, we’re up against The Clash: we’re history, we’ll lose a ton of money.
At the end of the show Joe Strummer was walking away then went back to the microphone and said, “I dunno what you guys are up to but I’m off to Mainstreet to see the Screaming Meemees.” It was nothing to do with me. I was in the crowd: my heart lifted. And he turned up, he stayed upstairs with Mick Jones and watched the Meemees. I became a lifelong fan.
It’s a great piece. It was a coup for Duncan to do the interview. It also underlies that he wasn’t just about reggae. He was unfairly pigeonholed as the reggae guy. I assume it was Murray’s idea to put that ad below: a Paul Simon lookalike in a quiff. That’s Murray’s sense of humour.
Cheese Roll and Chips: Do they Have McDonald’s Down There? The Dunedin scene, by Michael Higgins, issue 57, March 82.
Chris: This took me by surprise: such a major feature saying this scene is happening down here in Dunedin, with all these bands cross pollinating. All the elements are there: the main bands have formed, and the Carol Tippet photos create the look.
Simon: Boodle was out, Tally Ho was out. This story is fantastic. Some of Michael’s writing in Canta was really good too, gritty and adventurous.
Chris: Mainstream media caught up on Dunedin later in the year, when Frank Stark took over Ray Columbus’s unhip New Zealand music column in the Listener and made it count. Roy Colbert filled in for a few weeks and introduced the massive readership to the Clean et al.
Simon: This issue came out with Dunedin Double. It’s amazing how fast the Dunedin thing got up a head of steam, it was like overnight. Propeller was similar. New Zealand is so small, but also it was the power of Rip It Up. All of a sudden things could become big. I don’t think you can understate the power of that. Without Murray Cammick green-lighting a story like this, there would have had no way to sell Dunedin Double.
Chris: It also comes from the rapport the magazine had with Chris Knox: the respect Murray had for him, as a showman and artist. Chris worked the city’s record stores in his jandals.
Brazier Holds Court: Life After Sailor: Graham Brazier, by Jewel Sanyo, issue 61, August 1982.
Chris: There is so much colour and description, she really captures Graham Brazier’s character. She’s an admirer, but cuts through his own self-aggrandisement, which is there in every quote. But of course his tongue was in his cheek as he compared himself to James Dean and Marlon Brando. Graham pontificating was a performance, and she gets it.
Simon: Have a look at Harry Lyon in the cover photo, by Murray. He’s clear-eyed, he looks caring, a gentleman. He was Graham’s minder for so long.
Chris: Jewel’s real name is Gillian Samuel. She kept writing until 1987, with a cover story on Ardijah. She became a highly regarded lifestyle magazine editor in Sydney.
Simon: She’s talented, and also trained. There are so many great lines in this: “Graham is a great frontman, even when he’s blocked with chemicals, dancing, prowling the stage, clapping a wet mist off the palms of his hands, miming, pulling faces, hurling his voice at the audience.”
Sweaty Things: The Troggs, live at Mainstreet, by Chris Knox, issue 58, May 1982
Simon: I don’t remember this at all, I was fighting Doug Rogers [owner of Harlequin Studios] at the time.
Chris: It’s laugh-out-loud funny, with unforgettable lines, especially about Reg Costello backstage in his skants after the gig, sweating like a pig. It’s one of the reasons Chris Knox got the gig as music critic at the Listener when Gordon Campbell retired a couple of years later. Gordon suggested him.