Christchurch punk pi­o­neer in­spired­many

The Press - - MAINLANDER -

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.

Tony Peake: Agen­tle soul with an open, hon­est per­son­al­ity who at­tract­ed­many friends.

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