Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blog Post #1988: Better Be Home Soon

After two and a bit years as a cadet reporter in Taranaki, I headed back to my home town of Auckland. [I say town, but Auckland's the biggest city in NZ with a million residents.] I got a job at the New Zealand Herald, and moved back in with the family towards the end of 1987 for what I thought was a temporary stay.

Above is a clip for Sweet Lover by NZ band The Holiday Makers, one of the biggest hits of 1988. It's a chirpy, summery kind of song - somewhat at odds with the year our family was having. My mum came back from a trip to America with what was thought to be a liver infection, which turned out to be cancer. Three months later she was dead.

Those three months are a blur of holding it together and working, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I remember watching the 1988 Olympics from Seoul with mum, knowing it'd be the last she ever saw. Then she was gone, and we had to get on without her. Losing a parent blows a hole through your life, no matter when it happens.

This clip is Nobody Else by Tex Pistol and Rikki Morris, another homegrown NZ No. 1. [How 80s is the production on that?] Bit of a cheesy song, but it's like a time machine to 1988 for a lot of Kiwis. Anyway, after Mum died I decided it was time to get some direction in my life. I was sick and tired of covering general news.

I fought hard to get into features at the Herald, spent six weeks in that department on secondment, but couldn't secure a permanent gig. [In those days you pretty much had to wait for someone to retire or die.] My voice wasn't good enough for radio, my face didn't fit TV, and the NZ magazine industry wasn't my bag. I decided to emigrate.

Moving to Australia seemed such a cliche for Kiwis in the 80s. I might have swung entry to the US, having relatives there, but moving to the UK felt like a journey to a place that had long beckoned. I loved British music, British TV drama. Just seeing a London A-Z brought me out in goosebumps. So I spent the next year saving up to go.

One last clip. This is a version of Better Be Home Soon, originally released by Crowded House on the 1988 album Temple of the Low Men. Here songwriter Neil Finn performs it, after pointing out how similar The Drugs Don't Work from a later year is to this track. Below is one of many cover versions, by Oz comedian Tim Minchin.

Seems appropriate to finish with this song, since I'll be heading back to NZ for a visit soon. Looking forward to seeing the family, revisiting some old haunts and generally soaking up some Kiwi culture. Better be home soon? You bet. Onwards!

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