After their early wave of success producing and distributing the first records by The Clean, The Chills and Sneaky Feelings, New Zealand's Flying Nun Records released a couple of compilation albums in the early 1980s. These collections showcased the burgeoning underground/alternative sound emerging in various locations around the country, especially in the South Island cities of Dunedin and Christchurch. These early comp
Dunedin Double EP in 1982 and the live recording The Last Rumba in 1983) had fairly limited distribution - essentially only within New Zealand, where they both were popular and influential albums. But it was the 1985 release of the label's Tuatara compilation that gave the rest of the world the first real indication that there was something special happening musically in Aotearoa.
During 1984-85, Flying Nun entered into limited distribution deals with a number of small international labels, including Normal Records in Germany and Strange Weekend Records in North America. They also established their own overseas subsidiary, Flying Nun Europe, for distribution on that continent. Tuatara was their first test of that international network, and for all intents and purposes it was a resounding success. By 'success', I don't mean that it was a huge seller. It was successful in that here in America, it was pushed along via college radio and word-of-mouth, and the 'right' people got exposed to it. I found a quote from Nils Bernstein, current Director of Publicity at Matador Records (who formerly owned Seattle store Rebellious Records in the '80s) which sums up the impact of Tuatara here in the States:
“People were really floored by songs like "Death and the Maiden" and "Pink Frost". It was an album that new-wave girls, brainy pop geeks and noise rock fans all loved. You know how they say about the first Velvet Underground album: it sold terribly, but everyone who bought a copy started a band. It’s kind of like that with the Tuatara comp.”High praise indeed.
As mentioned above, this album contains "Pink Frost", probably The Chills' most famous song, along with cuts by Tall Dwarfs, The Clean and The Verlaines. But there is also gold here in the tracks by the more obscure, less heralded Kiwi bands, including Look Blue Go Purple and Marie & The Atom. Pretty much every song on here is a winner, and in total they provide a superb overview as to what sort of cool stuff was happening in the New Zealand music world of the early '80s.
This thing is hard as heck to find online, so here's a copy burned off of my meticulously maintained CD. For your throwback listening pleasure, here's Tuatara: A Flying Nun Compilation, released by said label on 1985. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.
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