Flying Nun salvages the Garages from the attic

By Toby Manhire In Commentary, The Internaut

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6th July, 2011 Leave a Comment

A mosh pit of acclaim to the people at Flying Nun Records, who are posting on their site PDF scans of the mid-80s fanzine Garage. “Garage?” goes the introductory note in the first issue. “Bit ’77 innit? Nah. Garage is the good stuff – forever … Garage comes awash in Dunedinisms. Gets into the sub-culture.”

Those are the words, presumably, of Garage editor Richard Langston, who these days is to be found reporting on TV3 and reading his poems on the Jim Mora show. Garage issue No 1 features the likes of Martin Phillipps, Graeme Downes, Shayne Carter and Chris Knox (words and cartoon, naturally).

All those Flying Nun idols appear on a podcast Langston has selected, which you can grab here. Hint: it sounds even better if you convince yourself that he’s personally copied the tracks on to a C90.

Introducing the Garage PDF redux, Langston gives a taste of the great pre-web world of zinery:

We become part of a network of fanzines and magazines dedicated to reporting on the margins of music – B-Side and Distant Violins in Australia, Bucketful of Brains (England), Forced Exposure and Conflict on the USA’s East coast, the K Label – home of the Calvin Johnson and Beat Happening – out of Olympia Washington, and Option down in Los Angeles. We traded news and records like the obsessives we were.

And a taste of the glamorous lifestyle:

We were in our mid- twenties and we had the time and the life. Living was cheap as chips. Between bouts of paying work on newspaper and radio, I worked on Garage. We lived with friends who owned their own home – a high-ceilinged drafty villa on the flats of St Kilda. When the stereo wasn’t blasting we could hear the sea. In the room where we slept and worked there was only a wall of rough boards between us and the weather.  In winter I typed and glued and stapled in a coat and balaclava. It was the concentrated work of a medieval monk in numbing cold …

It was a monumental exercise just getting each issue done compared to the swiftness of a blog. We typed each and every word and sentence and paragraph and glued it to the page. We took it to the printer, bought it home and collated it, stapled it, bundled it up and packaged it, and got it to the shops.

The paste-up aesthetic is in full force in Garage, all high contrast photography, blocks of black and white and off-kilter squares torn from the typewriter. In handwritten scrawl on the inside front of issue one are the words, “Boy, do we make you sick of the Olivetti Lettera 32 typeface!”

Earlier this year Andrew Schmidt posted a thoughtful tribute to Garage – and an index of the half-dozen issues’ contents – on his site Mysterex (successor to his NZ punk zine of the same name)

It was a compulsory read, he says, which “remains one of the most valuable texts of its time”. The fanzine “hit its straps around issue 3 when it became clear the first sustained attempt to chronicle the history of the punk and post-punk era in New Zealand was working”.

He writes:

Garage answered questions that lack of media piqued. It gave space to creative voices that up until then had been little heard. It gave them context. The city was busy with music and would remain so well into the 1990s. Garage recognised the excitement rising and gave it an indepth written voice.

In a comment on the Mysterex post, Langston agrees that Garage found its real form at issue three. “The last four were the best reads. By then we realised we should take what we were doing more seriously because people seemed to value it.”

I’ve only read the first one, and that’s pretty impressive, so bring on the rest.

Reading it nearly 30 years after it hit the streets of Dunedin it palpably captures a scene and a place and time with passion and intelligence. And jokes. In “A prole’s guide to Dunedin: A tour-de-force of the real landmarks”, readers are introduced to places such as “Secondhandsville: Otherwise known as St Kilda/Sth Dunedin, the suburbs that fashioned Op shop chic. Rows of dowdy shops, knee-deep in mothballs. The place to get your crimnolene suits, existential manuals, 78′s, and lice.”

And Brockville: “The suburb with soul, hillbilly housing, potty-nosed-rough-as-guts state housing urchins. The part of town that gave us real crime and the Doublehappys. Pick your nose in peace.”

The Manor Place toilets: “Legendary leaking hole of the Empire crowd. In danger of losing its urban austerity through an over profusion of flora. But maintains mystery by always being closed.”

The Esplanade, St Clair? “This is surfsville and it’s locals only. So piss off.”

.

On matters of Dunedin music, if you haven’t noticed already, the future of Radio One, which launched about the same time that Garage did, is in serious peril, and so they’re mounting a deafening protest. Sing the petition. I misspelt “sign” just there, but I think I’ll leave it.

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