Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sneaky Feelings

"We don’t pride ourselves on our underground music taste.”

It was 1991 and Flying Nun, the label founded by Roger Shepherd, was issuing a ten-year retrospective, Getting Older, a history of the label to date. We weren’t on it. Sneaky Feelings, who’d made more albums than any Nun band except the Verlaines, and was one of the supposed founders of the Dunedin Sound. The best fucking band on the label, in our humble opinion, had just been officially Rogered.

'You’re writing us out of the label’s history. It’s as if you’re saying we never really existed.'
From Positively George Street, a very personal (as well as very readable and very enjoyable) history of Sneaky Feelings and the Flying Nun label, by Sneaky Feeling Matthew Bannister.

A more balanced view would be that Sneaky Feelings weren’t a founder of any sound. According to the press release to their final album, 1988’s Hard Love Stories, they:
Found themselves somewhat outside of what one of the band called “a cosy little scene” in Dunedin, which had built up around the success of New Zealand’s leading post-punk godfather-types The Clean. Why Sneaky Feelings fell outside the prevailing scene might have something to do with their immediate record collection; as Bucketful of Brains said, Sneaky Feelings ‘drew on The Beatles, The Byrds, Neil Young and Fairport Convention among others, by-passing punk completely’.

Just about all of Flying Nun’s other acts swore their allegiance to either 1977 punk noise or 1967 Velvets drone, and all you can safely assume had a copy of Nuggets. Sneaky Feelings, however, were the pop band. They were also the best Flying Nun band.

I realise placing Sneaky Feelings at the top of my FN ratings is thought of as eccentric by a few friends; about four years ago I was introduced to Roger Shepherd at a Marshmallow (whatever did happen to them? Their eponymous album is great) gig in London and shared my opinion of Sneaky Feelings with him.

He agreed: they were his favourite Flying Nun band, too. Contrary to Bannister’s opinion, Sneaky Feelings weren’t “Rogered”; I think that they were omitted because they just didn’t fit in to the ‘label sound’ or the Flying Nun scene.

But misfits often make the best music. Positively George Street is also the name of a 22-track retrospective of this band with three great songwriters, which newcomers to the band should buy. Oddly, though, it doesn’t include the David Pine composition, Wouldn’t Cry, described by Bannister as “a perfect, complete song”. So here’s Wouldn’t Cry, because it’s not available and it's the best song Sneaky Feelings ever did and it’s definitely one of the finest Flying Nun moments and this is a public service…

Bannister released a fine album, Moth, last year under the band name Matthew Bannister & the Weather. I don’t know about the solo efforts of David Pine or Martin Durrant, but if anyone’s got any tips, please share them.


Eponymous said...

Good man. Yes, I used to like them a bit too. They were Dunedin's answer to The Beatles (even though they sounded mostly like The Byrds). And "Positively George Street" is the best book ever written on the Dunedin and Flying Nun Music Scene of the 80s and 90s. Don't let the fact it is the only book about that put you off. It would rank up there on the list of great rock books. Some people say "Oh, it's just Mathew's peculiar view of the world". EXACTLY, and the world is best viewed through the filter of nostalgic elation mixed with paranoid bitterness.

I met Chris Knox at a recent Bannister/ Weather gig and asked him "So, have you guys kissed and made up then?". He chortled merrily and said he never understood all the nasty stuff about him in the book as they'd always been "good friends" and still communicated regularly with each other about music it was OK for Mathew to like. Mind you Chris still didn't approve of any Weather song that strayed anywhere near what he thought was pop MOR territory at this gig. This from the man who's most famous song is a now a bread advert.

FireEscape said...

Yes, Positively George Street is an excellent book. Perhaps it should be reprinted. If it is, I'd be happy if two edits could be made: elegiac is misspelled twice; and the lyric to the Modern Lovers' Hospital is "I go to bakeries all day long/
There's a lack of sweetness in my life", which Bannister misquotes.

Eponymous said...

OK... Pine went on and released an EP as The Moas called "Spaz Out" on Flying Nun. It was OK, I think it was a bit goofy and Jonathon Richman-esque but I should dig it out and see how it stands the test of time. He may have also been involved in an outfit called Death-Ray Cafe after that but that's hazy so I'm not sure. He's a diplomat now anyway, representing his country in overseas dictatorships and couldn't even make the big Sneaky's re-union in Dunedin last year (Matthew Bannister's son took his place - shades of Led Zep really).

Chris said...

Matthew Bannister is now a Media Studies lecturer at Auckland University and introduces himself as follows; "Hello my name is Matthew Bannister, I used to be a I'm a lecturer."

FireEscape said...

Ha! That reminds me of a story an old friend of mine related about Rick Parfitt of Status Quo coming to his school to give an anti-drugs talk. He walked into the assembly hall, took off his sunglasses and uttered the immortal words: "Rick Parfitt's the name. Rock'n'roll's the game." No one took him seriously. Said friend certainly took plenty of drugs.