Toe-tapping tunes for 40 years
The key to Hogsnort Rupert’s longevity is they’re not a band in each other’s pockets seven days a week, says band member Dave Luther.
The genial owner of Northern Music in Porirua has a lot to reflect upon as an album commemorating the band’s 40-year anniversary hit the record stores.
The lineup has been tinkered with over the years and there has been more than one hiatus – in the 1970s and the late 1980s – but the essence of Hogsnort remains the same.
‘‘I think when people see us come on stage, especially younger people, they think ‘hello, who have we got here?’ and we are older than a lot of our audiences. If you don’t count our two young members, the average age is about 60, our drummer says it’s like being on stage with the Antiques Roadshow. But once we get going, it’s great, everyone’s into the music.’’
That ‘‘music’’ is not too complicated, consisting of guitars, a washboard, kazoo, harmonica and drums. Their songs are original, toe-tapping and infectious.
Theirs were humble origins. The first lineup of Luther, Alec Wishart, Ian Terry, Frankie Boardman and Bill Such were a group of English immigrants in the mid-1960s. They played foot- ball for Wellington Diamond United and then often cranked out their sound in the clubrooms afterwards.
‘‘It was great – we were young, playing football and in the band, having a few beers. We played at the Hungarians’ [Football Club] once for free beer and goulash, and we did a few gigs out here for Western Suburbs too.’’
Under the name Hogsnort Rupert’s Original Flagon Band, they forged a reputation in the Wellington scene and in 1969 hired a studio to record four songs. At the end of the session, Luther asked the sound engineer how much they would have to pay, but was instead put in touch with record label HMV. A contract was secured.
Their first album failed to gather much interest, although single Gretel reached number 11 in the Kiwi charts. A third-place finish in a television talent show meant Luther’s tune Pretty Girl – which had already sold about 700 copies – exploded, selling 2000 records a day at its peak.
‘‘ It’s a fairytale story for us really. That song was No 1 for two weeks, in the top 10 for six months and we got a gold record out of it. We toured overseas, opened for the Stones and The Searchers, it was a crazy time.’’
However, Luther said they got ‘‘over-exposed’’. ‘‘ Pretty Girl played just prior to the six o’clock news every night for three straight months [in 1971]. This kid came up to me once and said ‘if Mum sees you on the TV again she’s going to smash it to pieces’.’’
Over the years recording and playing has been on the band’s terms. They were back on the road in the 1980s with Life Begins at 40 – sung under the moniker of Dave and Dynamos, while Alec was offstage for a costume change. It was a huge hit.
But families, day jobs and the fact three of their number are no longer based in Wellington meant they had to pick and choose their get-togethers after they stopped touring again in 1988. Luther has lived in Porirua for 31 years.
Hogsnort Rupert has had two big gigs in their latter years, opening the Mission concerts for Cliff Richard ( 1999) and the Beach Boys ( 2004), all the while performing regularly in other venues.
The new compilation – which harvests tracks from their 10 albums, plus a few new tracks – has provided the opportunity to pause and reflect, but Luther said they will just keep chugging along. Concerts are planned for 2011. ‘‘Everyone enjoys each other’s company and there’s a lot of shared history there. Most of all we just love playing music.
‘‘I think we still have that freshness because we’re not together all the time, it doesn’t take much to blow the dust off and we’re away.’’
Hogsnort hurrah: Dave Luther has the gold records to show for a successful career as a musician, part of well-known Kiwi group Hogsnort Rupert. His business, Northern Music, based in Porirua for more than 30 years, has been the base for more than one band get-together.
Back in the day: The original Hogsnort Rupert lineup, from left, Alec Wishart, Dave Luther, Billy Such, Ian Terry and Frank