THE YEAR THAT + QUIZ
Harry Lyon, 68, on the year things became serious
At the start of 1975, I was in a covers band called Beam and we spent the summer on the Sing Pop Co TV show tour, backing people like Brent Brodie, Angela Ayers and Mr Steve Gilpin, with his aviator shades and flared denim suit. He and I were the only people on the tour who smoked pot, so we became mates.
After that tour, the band went on, as you did, doing a week here and there. My partner — as you’d call her now — Maggy, was with us too. When we got to Napier she went to hospital while I was at a soundcheck and when she came back she said: “Um, guess what. I’m pregnant.” So we sat on that for a while. Getting married wasn’t particularly fashionable in those days. Plenty of people were living together and still having children. But we were post-hippie. Our grandparents were still alive, so we thought for the family’s sake we’d just do it.
I rang my naval officer dad with the news, who said: “Well are you going to make an honest woman of her or what?” I told him we were going to get married and he got my overjoyed mother straight away and she started talking about having to get the invitations organised and wanting to know when we’d like to do it. I said: “Next Thursday.”
We got married at the Registry Office and had a reception at my parents’ place. The band picked me up from there to go to rehearsal because we were backing Lou Clauson at the Papakura Tavern that night.
The drummer’s girlfriend picked Maggy up later and brought her to the gig and the hotel shouted us a bottle of Cold Duck. And here we are 43 years, three children and four grandchildren later. Also that year, Dave McArtney and I had been talking about starting a band. He’d moved into the house everyone called Mandrax Mansion with Graham Brazier. Beam was on its last legs. Graham, Dave and I started jamming with a borrowed bass that we took turns playing. One thing led to another and we did our first gig at Trees Tavern, booked by Mike Corless, in June. Two bands I’d been involved with had lost key people when their girlfriends said: “You have to choose between me and the band.” So when Maggy and I got together I told her those stories and said: “I just want you to know if you give me that ultimatum, I’ll be choosing the band.” And that worked out okay. Hello Sailor got serious very quickly, partly because I was about to become a father. I’d already had a taste of making music for a living, so I decided that was how it would be. I didn’t want to get a job stacking cartons in a warehouse just because I was having a baby. We didn’t get rich, but you could make a living by playing live in those days. Back then, phone boxes took 2c pieces. I had a yellow plastic Kashin the elephant ASB money box and everybody in the house had to put their 2c pieces in it. Then I’d take it up to the phone box on the corner of Queen St and K Rd with my diary and my database of people to call about gigs, and by the end of that year we were playing a lot.
As told to Paul Little.
TO THE SEA BY HARRY LYON IS AVAILABLE NOW, CD/LP/DIGITAL, NORM RECORDS/SOUTHBOUND DISTRIBUTION.