How did the Dunedin Sound influence the music scene in Dunedin and therest of New Zealand as a whole? To start this essay off, we will begin withthe year 1977, when the punk scene in England was starting to influencemusic, fashion, and young people all over the world. In New Zealand,Dunedin musician Chris Knox had formed his band “The Enemy” with AlecBathgate on Guitar, Mike Dooley on Drums, Mick Dawson on Bass, PhilJudd on Guitar, and Chris himself on vocals and frontman of the band. Theband had been inspired by Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The VelvetUnderground and then influenced by The Sex Pistols and the UK Punkmovement. They then brought these influences together and unleashedtheir own original music onto Dunedin. Crowd reactions to their songs andperformances were significantly strong and positive – “The Enemy” becamea very influential band with an immediate following, and the localaudience’s reactions to their initial live performances at Dunedin’sBeneficiaries Hall are recalled as being haunting and terrifying, yetimpressive and inspiring.According to wikipedia, “Dunedin Sound” is defined as being “a style ofindie pop music which was created in Dunedin,New Zealand in the early1980’s”.
Its influences date back to the 1970’s when punk rock wasbecoming more popular. By this time, New Zealand already had a punkscene, primarily in Auckland. “The Enemy” was formed in Dunedin, whenthe guitarist Alec Bathgate and drummer Mike Dooley had met Chris Knoxin a record shop. They had met and became friends when they were talkingabout a UK single called , “Neat, Neat, Neat”, which had been released bya band from England called “The Damned”.
Alec Bathgate and Mike Dooleymet each other at polytech in Dunedin and were working together to form aband, but, according to what Alec Bathgate said when I interviewed himabout this, he stated that ” We advertised in the Otago Daily and triedplaying with a few different people but nothing clicked until we met ChrisKnox . ” ( 1 ).”The Enemy” were known for their original song list rather than covers ofother UK punk bands and their frantic but organised guitar and vocal songsfronted by Chris Knox’s singing and “terrifying” stage presence.
Musicianswho saw “The Enemy” play live such as Martin Phillipps (of the band “TheChills”) have recalled their concerts as “being ready to run out the door ifChris Knox came down close to the audience”. While some people foundthe band’s arrangements aggressive with Bathgate’s screaming Guitar,and Knox’s confronting vocal and stage performances “horrific” to watch, itwas The Enemy’s music that significantly began to impress and influenceother musicians. The many people that saw their early Dunedinperformances and then in cities like Auckland and Christchurch found theirmusic fresh, new, theatrical and very “inspiring”. Their early songs werewell rehearsed and show a clever use of popular rock and roll chordprogressions. The classic “chord 1 – 4 – 5” guitar chord progression isoverlaid with Knox’s melodic vocal and catchy backing vocal “doo wapps”from Bathgate made for recognisable songs that the crowd couldremember. A popular song by “The Enemy” is their song called “Pull DownThe Shades” which was also later played in the Toy Love live set andreleased on their 1982 album called “Toy Love”.This song has a distortedguitar chord progression that Knox sings, and a verse and chorusreminiscent of the Beatles – a band Knox sites as influential in his writing .
Italso has a descant sung by Bathgate and Dooley that has a 60’s rock androll sound that might be more like Elvis Presley or The Hollies than punkrock. Knox and Bathgates composing was developing a unique style thatwas both melodic and harmonic – but it also had a screaming aggressionand expression that made it stand out from other NZ bands at the time.As “The Enemy” began to play further afield in NZ to a bigger audiencetheir rise to success brought about and influenced a change in the NewZealand music scene. When the band split up in 1978, Alec Bathgate,Chris Knox and Mike Dooley reformed as “Toy Love” This was a verysuccessful collaboration and the release of their album ‘Toy Love’ in 1980was very successful and further developed on the unique sound of “TheEnemy”. They split up after only two years then Alec Bathgate and ChrisKnox had collaborated together once again as “Tall Dwarfs”, in 1981. Bythis time, many other bands and musicians had became inspired by ChrisKnox and his bands and work, and had soon started to create their ownmusic, such as “The Stones” (they were a New Zealand band named after”The Rolling Stones”) and Hamish Kilgour, David Kilgour and Robert Scottwho had formed a Dunedin band called “The Clean” and had gainedsuccess with their music, in particular their song “Tally Ho!”Over a relatively short period of time the band had written a large volume oforiginal and novel songs that had a recognisable sound and style andbegan to record them.
This was evident when Chris Knox purchased afour-track recorder in 1981, and their music was becoming more popular.”Tall Dwarfs” saw Bathgate and Knox working as a duo and they wereusing it (the four-track tape recorder) to write and record a prolific volume ofwork. This was what had caught the attention of Flying Nun Recordsfounder Roger Shepherd who consequently signed them to his new recordlabel. The increased popularity of New Zealand music and the DunedinSound led to Roger Shepherd establishing Flying Nun Records in 1981,and many bands had soon signed to the record label. Flying Nun Recordsis one of the world’s great independent labels. But the location of theemerging NZ punk and post-punk scene and many of its key players at thetime was further south, in Dunedin : all bar one of the initial Flying Nunbands, Christchurch’s “JPS Experience”, hail from the university town in theregion of Otago – Dunedin.This had affected the country on a positive scale.
Musicians and bands thathad signed to this independent label were growing in popularity. Bandswere becoming more successful in gaining fame and publicity in a relativelyshort time. It had a significant impact on New Zealand music at the time ofthe 1980s.When Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate stayed together in 1981 to form “TallDwarfs”, the two musicians discovered that they had underestimated thesuccessfulness of their band “Toy Love” and wanted to create music thatwas more unique, distinct and reserved.
According to Alec Bathgate, in aninterview I conducted with him about the three bands he was in with ChrisKnox, he had stated that ” We wanted to have normal lives and createmusic in a way that was spontaneous and satisfied us creatively”. ( 2 ) Healso felt that “The Clean” were more influential than “Toy Love” and “TheEnemy” because “The Enemy” were only together for a short while – hesaid: ” I wasn’t really aware of that we had any great influence NZ wide.There were a lot of really good bands around at the time that had their owndistinctive sound. ” ( 3 ) What is ironic about this is that “The Enemy” was, infact, more influential than “The Clean”.
Another person to see them at the time was rock critic Graham Reid, whooffered his own theory about “The Enemy” and “Toy Love’s” enduringappeal when he reviewed “Cuts,” the 2005 remastered compilation of theband’s studio recordings.” Toy Love were risky and uncompromising, cynical but oddly life-affirming,left edges unpolished, thrust their rage and wit into your face, had the goodsense to get out, and the integrity never to reform. For all those reasons,and more, they were rare.
And, for a brief, thrilling period, they were ours. “( NZ Herald )Recording Industry Association of New Zealand managing director ChrisCaddick also cited Toy Love’s lasting impact.” Those of us lucky enough to have seen them live can say we truly sawmusic history in the making. Their classic singles and legendary albumcontinue to influence artists in New Zealand and all around the world to thisday. ” (NZ Herald)In conclusion, when “The Sex Pistols” rose to fame in the 1970’s amid thepolitical and cultural shift in the UK this saw many people influenced andencouraged to create their own “punk music sound” all over the worldincluding New Zealand. This had soon happened in Dunedin when ChrisKnox and Alec Bathgate’s band “The Enemy” created their own musictogether and performed their songs on stage with a lot of intensity, energy,and aggression.
“The Enemy” was a successful band that gained attentionnationwide for their music in the short time that the band was together.Their live shows were seen by many other musicians and musicappreciators who would not have gained exposure or influence from thisform of music and performance without these shows. It has led to ChrisKnox and Alec Bathgate becoming very well-known and successfulmusicians who were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Theinfluence that “The Enemy” had on the New Zealand music scene wasenormous, and it was seen as marking the beginning of the special soundfrom New Zealand that came to be recognised and known as “The DunedinSound”.By Madeleine Harrop.