Christchurch punk pioneer inspiredmany
Anthony Peake, 57, who led a venturesome life largely inspired by his love of music, died on October 13 at his home in Adelaide surrounded by friends and family. He had cancer.
A pioneer in the Christchurch postpunk scene, Peake was a warm, charismatic man who drew people into his world from all walks of life. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he became a hugely influential figure not only in Christchurch’s but in New Zealand’s music scene.
Friends say that one of his most endearing traits was that he was a people meddler who would instinctively know what two seemingly radically different people would have in common and help them forge a bond. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. The results were always interesting.
Born in Adelaide into an air force family, he moved often around Australia as he was growing up. He was educated in New South Wales and attained a degree. At 25 he moved to Christchurch and got a job at the University Bookshop where his distinctive hair – red, green, blue – and open and honest personality attracted many friends.
Peake took advantage of an education loophole in the draconian import laws in New Zealand at the time and imported a vast array of music. Many felt it was the best record store in New Zealand at the time. The record department soon attracted an eclectic group of like-minded individuals keen to hear new music.
For Peake, music was a sacrament. A true pioneer of Christchurch’s post-punk and nu wave scene, many thought of him as a mentor and respected the way he encouraged people into music by directing them to new things in the shop.
It wasn’t long before he was in a band himself.
Manic, wild-haired punk vocalist Dick Driver – aka Johnny Abort – had stage antics that drove the crowd wild, plunging a mic down his trousers, throwing himself around the rickety Mollet St floor, he screamed out The Doomed’s songs about masturbating and being a loser.
Driver taught Peake everything he needed to know about performing on stage. Driver’s advice? All you do is take on a persona and go crazy.
Wellingtonian Al Park wanted somewhere he and his fast-paced R & B group Vapour and The Trails could practise. The grotty club on Mollet St, situated above what is now Leather Direct, became Club da Rox, the home of Christchurch punk.
In 1977, as The Street Flowers, Peake played up at Mollet St, the hedonistic Mollet St Market venue and its patchwork crowd of young punks, hippies and Cantabrian misfits created a vibrant scene and lifelong friendships.
Best known for his group The Newtones, the Christchurch trio rose from The Vauxhalls, The Vandals, Aliens and Street of Flowers. Peake effortlessly combined his love of 60s psychedelica with punk and, essentially, The Newtones had pop sensibilities, as shown by Mark Brooks’ Christchurch anthem, Paint The Town Red.
Everywhere from the Star and Garter to the Gladstone, The Newtones played alongside XTC, Androidss, Victor Dimisich Band, System X, Newmatics. Screaming Meemees, Blam Blam Blam, Ritchie Venus and The Blue Beetles, Playthings, Mainly Spaniards, The Clean, Ballon DEssai, Tall Dwarfs and more.
In an interview about that time, Peake said: ‘‘The Vandals had only two original songs. Politicians Are Cannibals and Get Vandalised. We did a 45-minute gig for television including Gimmee Gimmee Shock Treatment and Love Comes In Spurts. Doctor Rock [show compere] called us top of the Christchurch punk rock slag pile.’’
The following year, at a David Bowie concert, Peake made the front page of The Press in his pointed Beatle boots, tight black jeans and green hair; smoke hanging haphazardly from the side of his mouth.
He played with The Swingers and friends say he was toying with the idea of joining them at one stage.
Simon Grigg remembers issuing one of the first two recordings from The Newtones, on Class of 81.
‘‘It was the slightly twisted psychedelic pop of New Way. They then managed to manipulate the always manipulatable New Zealand charts and pushed their debut EP, which came in at least three different coloured sleeves, into the singles listings at No 13 in May of that year, causing a fluster at RIANZ central. Another single, My World, followed.
‘‘I used to love his often-extended visits to Auckland, when we would talk music and just talk for hours; and, as much, craved the packages of singles, including my first real exposure to heavy Jamaican dub 12-inch, he would send up from his incredible record store at Christchurch University.’’
After The Newtones broke up, Peake was a member of Yen and then a dance club organiser and D J. Alongside Al Park he booked the Gladstone and was a keen promoter of post-punk groups.
Peake was integral, too, to Christchurch’s nightclub scene. Zanzibar opened in 1984. It was started by Peter Urlich, who set up a club in Auckland and one in Christchurch with John McCarthy who owned another, the Old Star Tavern, in Lincoln Rd.
Christian Carruthers remembers the time fondly.
‘‘Tony was asked to set something up and started reading about nightclubs overseas and there wasn’t anything like it in Christchurch at the time. The Palladium opened up years after that. There must have been an old disco hall in Zanzibar, because we found an old disco floor when we were fitting the place. It was behind the pub in the storage area. We found that and we dragged that out and put it in front of the stage. I was the skinny one so I had to climb in and change all the coloured lightbulbs.’’
He remembers Tony, known for his meticulous dress sense and attention to detail, insisting on a quality sound system from Wellington, which was suspended up in the ceiling space upside down to get a better sound.
‘‘We spent a lot of time making sure it had a great stereo,’’ Carruthers says. ‘‘Through his connections through University Bookshop he was importing records to play. He’d bring all sorts of records in. We used to have special nights, we used to go down to this factory and get skins, giant bits of polystyrene and we’d paint big pictures, like pop art and put up big lights. For the 60s night we did a giant Emma Peel pop art for the girls’ toilets. We did one called the Waterfront Night, which Tony particularly enjoyed. We hired all the scaffolding in town and a dance group danced up there. We made friends with these transvestite performers and they would do acts in between the shows.’’
Zanzibar arrived around the time of the first 12-inch singles and Peake was known for playing a wide variety of music and styles together – Killing Joke followed by dub reggae, Blondie’s Heart of Glass then early hip-hop. Many remember Zanzibar as the first place they heard New Order’s Blue Monday.
‘‘It wasn’t basic beat DJing, it was a collection of songs. It was a pub with a nightclub in it. The others. . . I don’t think you could drink there,’’ Carruthers says.
Peake decided to go overseas with his boyfriend of the time and ended up in Sydney, before being lured back to New Zealand by McCarthy to start the Edge. When that ended he found himself out of pocket and in the mid-90s headed back to Sydney, where he helped manage Salmonella Dub. Salmonella Dub frontman Andrew Penman says Peake was integral in their development.
‘‘He booked shows at the Edge and provided us with an income for our second album release. He instigated our association with the Cruel Sea, which gave us our first foothold in Australia. He later worked as our accountant in Australia and was a key personality in organising the Dub Conspiracy tour with Shapeshifter, Concord Dawn, Fat Freddy’s, Kora and Cornerstone Roots. We miss him dearly as our friend, mentor, a best man of honour and godbrother to my son Mani.’’
Christchurch musician Michael Daly first met him when he was 16. He used to browse the University Bookshop record department and says Tony had a profound effect on his own personal musical taste.
‘‘Christchurch had a rollicking scene and a lot of it had to do with Tony Peake. He had his finger on the pulse of what was happening in England. He influenced a great deal of my own personal taste. I became a musical misfit, no matter what the genre– if it’s good, it’s good.’’
Later, Daly lived around the corner from Peake in Sydney.
‘‘He convinced me to go over there and my girlfriend and I did. They were great times, it was the start of the dance scene, raves and the whole dance culture. Tony loved it and embraced it.’’
While in Sydney, Peake – who loved a good botanic garden as much as he loved music – worked in a flower shop and wrote music reviews for an in-flight magazine. Eventually he worked with an organisation in Gosford, Newcastle, which provided community housing for those who needed it, working his way to the top of the organisation.
At heart Peake was a gentle soul. A foodie with a meticulous streak, an immaculate record collection and a beautiful garden which gave him much pleasure. Friends recall him sitting and staring at flowers for hours.
A trip to India was a life-changing moment and his fascination with India was a lifelong one. Former partner Michael Astolfi, who was with him when he died, plans to take his ashes to India to scatter them.
In Christchurch, friends are getting together this weekend to remember a special man.
Peake made a difference to many people in many ways, largely because he was not afraid to be different and encouraged others he encountered throughout his life to do the same.