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Tribute to Kiwi music industry

Date: 17/05/02

For the Record: A history of the recording industry in New Zealand
by Bryan Staff and Sheran Ashley, published by David Bateman Limited

Remember what were you doing when Wayne Mason and The Fourmyula first released Nature in 1970? If you can, you probably weren’t there, as the saying goes.

Even if you have only a modicum of interest in Kiwi music, then For the Record is for you. It is an extremely well researched and definitive text on nearly a century of New Zealand recording.

As well as a great read, the 175-page history is also a comprehensively-researched almanac of facts and figures about the industry.

In a sometimes-turbulent 90-odd years since our first record was made, New Zealanders have bought the music that shaped our culture as a nation. This book tells the story of the people who created the hits and the stars and who wrote and performed the music.

For the Record represents a massive research effort by the late Sheran Ashley who did not live to see her work published. The book is authored by Bryan Staff, a writer and broadcaster.

Staff’s credentials could hardly be more apt. He is an avid record collector and fan of local music. Staff’s radio shows championed New Zealand music to the extent he began his own record label in 1979 to help local acts who couldn’t get a deal with the more established companies.

Sheran had been immersed in music since joining the NZ Federation of Phonographic Industry. In 1975, the federation had approached Heylen Research – where Ashley worked – to compile a Top 40 chart.

Sheran joined the federation in 1977 to administer the chart and phonographic performance royalties. In 1994, Staff suggested the book and Sheran enthusiastically threw herself in to the project.

For the Record necessarily is a chronological log of New Zealand music. Chapter one – ‘Pre-1940’ – establishes the beginnings of the industry, describing how music recording began before moving quickly to the local ‘scene’.

The following chapters are identified by the years they cover. ‘Chapter 2, 1940-56’ begins with a very interesting dissertation on how and why American music diversified so spectacularly during the early 1940s; it continues with American troops and American records arriving in New Zealand and the influences they brought.

The following chapters contain a mine of recording industry gems interspersed by 16 magnificently-colourful pages of pictures of local labels and LP record covers. The book is also illustrated with some wonderfully-historical black and white pictures dating back five decades and more.

The final chapter covers 1979 to 2000 and is succeeded by 26 pages of appendices, glossary and index. Appendices include New Zealand’s best-selling records, music awards results dating back to 1965, APRA Silver Scroll winners and New Zealand record label trivia.

Included in the last category are such Trivial Pursuit-ian facts as the names of some former labels including Ace, Custard, Desperate Times, Evan’s Above, Lariat and Lassoo, Muchmore, Round and Straight!

For the Record, a history of the recording industry in New Zealand is indeed one for the record. It is a comprehensive history of the industry from its fledgling days of wax cylinders through shellac discs, vinyl and tape to the era of the CD and music piracy.

Author Staff concludes by saying the purpose of the book has been ‘to celebrate the New Zealanders who contributed towards our recorded music and consequently our culture in an age when one of our major leisure activities in New Zealand was playing records’.

So what’s changed? We’re still having trouble remembering what we were doing when Wayne Mason and The Fourmyula first released Nature in 1970 – except now it is age that has dulled our memory.

For the Record: A history of the recording industry in New Zealand by Bryan Staff and Sheran Ashley is published by David Bateman Limited and has a recommended retail price of $39.95.


Issued for The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand by Pead PR

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