Harry Lyon, 68, on the year things be­came se­ri­ous

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Harry Lyon

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.


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