Barred, band, now they’re back

They were named to sup­port Black Sab­bath on a world tour. Then it all fell apart. Now, writes Joanna Mathers, there are talks un­der way to re­unite Christchurch band Ticket . . .

Sunday Star-Times - - News -

It’s 1970 and a band called Ticket is tear­ing up Christchurch. Long­hairs from Auck­land, they have a res­i­dency at Aubrey’s (a club run by Trevor Spitz, an as­so­ciate of Auck­land supremo Phil War­ren) and they’ve taken the city by the bol­locks.

Ticket, the best Kiwi band that you’ve never heard of. They al­most made it big, but on the eve of fame they fell apart.

Com­prised of Trevor Tomble­son (vo­cals), Ed­die Hansen (gui­tar), Paul Wool­right (bass) and Ricky Ball (drums) the quar­tet paired psy­chrock stylings with soul­ful Stax-style rhythm and made two great al­bums, nearly toured the world with Black Sab­bath, then im­ploded. All within three short, crazy years.

Ticket formed in Auck­land but it was Christchurch that dis­cov­ered them. A raunchy new his­tory of the coun­try’s great­est mu­sic venues, Back­stage Passes, re­counts how they were im­ported to the city by Spitz to head­line his new club (the afore­men­tioned Aubrey’s) and the lo­cal kids soon started flock­ing.

Ticket also pro­vided sonic re­lief to young US ser­vice­men on R&R from Viet­nam and based near Christchurch air­port. They weren’t cus­toms checked when they flew in and they brought acid and grass with them. And passed it on to the band.

Paul Wool­right (un­cle to Blindspott drum­mer Shel­ton Wool­right) says the Viet­nam kids would just head to wher­ever the band was play­ing. ‘‘Our mu­sic pro­vided them with some kind of escape from the hor­rors they had seen. It re­minded them of the psy­che­delic mu­sic they heard in the States; our mu­sic re­ally suited them.’’

It was at Aubrey’s where hot­shot pro­moter Barry Coburn and Aussie mu­sic en­tre­pre­neur Robert Ray­mond spot­ted Ticket.

Wear­ing a Stet­son and driv­ing a Merc, Ray­mond was a charmer. He offered the band a show in Auck­land – and they leapt at the chance. They were soon the main act on the pair’s books. They even set up a club (Levi’s Saloon) to give the band an HQ from which to ply their dark arts.

And they were on the up. In 1971, they opened for El­ton John at Western Springs Sta­dium – the coun­try’s first sta­dium show and its largest at­ten­dance, 20,000 peo­ple. Soon after, they were signed to At­lantic through Warner Mu­sic Aus­tralia – the first act out­side the United States to be al­lowed on the la­bel.

Ticket had re­leased their first al­bum Awake in 1970 and had a top-20 hit in New Zealand in 1971 with Coun­try High (the slip­pery ti­tle may or may not ref­er­ence the wasted morn­ings they spent watch­ing the sun rise over Can­ter­bury).

But sec­ond al­bum Let Sleep­ing Dogs Lie was recorded in Mel­bourne, where they’d se­cured a res­i­dency at the pop­u­lar Whiskey Au Go Go in 1972 thanks to Coburn and Ray­mond.

The Mel­bourne days were pure rock’n’roll crazy. And trou­ble.

‘‘When the truck with all our gear went miss­ing a roadie offered to go and find it for us. When he turned up with it the next day at Whiskey it was full of bul­let holes,’’ says Wool­wright.

Aus­tralia was hard on the band: play­ing six nights a week, par­ty­ing til dawn, sleep­ing all day, turn­ing up again at Whiskey. And Hansen, who’d be­come a bona fide gui­tar hero, was slip­ping deeper and deeper into the spir­i­tual side.

When Coburn landed the beloved Black Sab­bath for 1973’s Ngaru­awahia Mu­sic Fes­ti­val (the coun­try’s first out­doors rock fes­ti­val), the plan was that Ticket would go back to New Zealand for the fes­ti­val, tour Aus­tralia along­side Sab­bath, set out on a tour of Canada and record an al­bum in Alabama at Mus­cle Shoals Stu­dio – the very stu­dio where The Rolling Stones recorded Wild Horses and Brown Su­gar.

But it started to crum­ble when Trevor Tom­lin­son’s laryn­gi­tis put paid to the Ngaru­awahia show.

‘‘The idea was that this was to be the launch pad for the Sab­bath tour. The fact that we couldn’t get up there

and play was a mas­sive dis­ap­point­ment,’’ says Wool­right.

When it comes to the band’s breakup, it’s ‘‘a bit of a blur’’. ‘‘I can’t re­ally re­mem­ber how it hap­pened. We were back up in Auck­land after Ngaru­awahia and Ed­die told me that the band was break­ing up cos Ricky had an­other gig with a dif­fer­ent band,’’ says Wool­right.

‘‘But I found out later that Ricky had got the gig with the other band be­cause we were break­ing up. I re­ally don’t know what the real story is. But we broke up.’’

Hansen, gui­tar god, was on an­other plane. He ended up re­form­ing Ticket with mu­sos who shared his love of med­i­ta­tion and Kr­ishna con­scious­ness. The band didn’t last.

So, no tour, no world­wide fame . . .

but not quite the end.

After re­unit­ing for two sold-out gigs in 2012, there are hopes they may get the band back to­gether again.

And no one knows how it hap­pened, but two Ticket songs (Awake and Dream Chant) ap­peared on a sound­track for cult surf movie Morn­ing of the Earth. Ticket re­ceived no roy­al­ties for this, although the al­bum sold in the thou­sands and the two Ticket songs have clocked up more than 70,000 lis­tens since the al­bum was re­leased on Spo­tify in 2014. The roy­al­ties are still miss­ing, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der way. To be con­tin­ued . . .

* Back­stage passes: The un­told story of New Zealand live mu­sic venues (1960s-1990s) by Joanna Mathers (New Hol­land Pub­lish­ers, $39.99)

There were few big­ger – and heav­ier – rock bands in the world when Black Sab­bath played the Ngaruwahia Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Jan­uary 1973. Fans had flocked to see gui­tarist Tony Iommi, pic­tured, and co – but lo­cal lads Ticket hoped their in­clu­sion on the bill would cat­a­pult them to star­dom.

The Christchurch band Ticket in Syd­ney in 1972. From left: Paul Wool­wright, Ricky Ball, Trevor Tomble­son, Ed­die Hansen.

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