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 . . .
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.