The Art of Persuasion: Wellington Punk Mobilised

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The arrival in Wellington of punks first wave inspired a generation of bored youth to form bands, annoy the oldies and take the piss out of New Zealand's sedate antipodean culture. Although there were plenty of targets for these bands to write songs about it wasn't until the events of the '81 Springbok Tour of New Zealand that an overtly political punk song emerged with RIOT 111's protest march anthem "1981".

Following the tour a new generation of Wellington bands openly vocalising anarchist, anti-capitalist, animal rights and social issues emerged. Throughout the 80s the most prominent of these anarcho-punk bands was Compos Mentis who along with a wider social scene were all active in putting on shows, publishing zines (eg Anti-System), recording and releasing music.

This focus on community and social issues carried on in the 1990s with bands such as SMUT being actively involved in campaigning with the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society.

During the late 1990s and 2000s there has been focus on global capitalism, women's and indigenous rights, and local issues such as the Te Aro inner City bypass which carved a main road through upper-Cuba street communities. These days bands such as Dead Vicious,Fantails and Rogernomix continue to voice strong opinions on the problems of Aotearoa and the world.

A History of Wellington in 10 Songs of Protest

This is a summary of a talk given at the Alexander Turnbull Library on June 7, 2013 in conjunction with the exhibition Revolting: Songs of Protest in Aotearoa.

2. Life In the Fridge Exists - Phil (1980)

In October 1980 local station Radio Windy ran a band competition titled Battle of the Sounds. At the time Wellington's first wave of punk bands were in full flight with groups such as the Wallsockets, The Reply, Domestic Blitz, Condemned Sector and Life In the Fridge Exists all signing up to take on the worst of Wellington's mainstream pub band circuit in a minor clash of civilisations. Prominent on the judging panel was local radio DJ Phil O'Brien and over the successive weekends of the 'Battle' the punk bands and their followers became increasingly convinced that the whole thing was rigged.

When we played there was a 'problem' with the lights and we played our set mainly in the dark. Also there was a 'problem' with the mic meaning it didn't work for most of the set. There was a lot of anger about it all. Richard Watts

The antagonism that followed the competition led Condemned Sector to write a rather cryptic song of disagreement with Phil's taste in music, while fellow competition mates and O'Brien's arch-enemies Life In the Fridge Exists wrote the slightly less subtle Phil
Condemned Sector: Sounds O.B

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Life In the Fridge Exists: Phil

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3. RIOT 111 - 1981 (1981)

"We're not a band, we're a terrorist organisation". The South African Rugby teams 1981 tour led to the largest social unrest in modern New Zealand history. Smacked into action by events in Wellington on July 29 when riot police battonned a large group of unarmed anti-tour protesters on Molesworth street RIOT 111 recorded and released the first NZ political punk song 1981.
RIOT 111: 1981

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4. Compos Mentis - Chase Corpse (1986)

From the smouldering dust of the 81 Springbok Tour a new politicised punk scene emerged in Wellington with music that focused on social issues. Compos Mentis's 1986 recording Chase Corpse criticizes the then darlings of the newly deregulated stock market for their corporate raider tactics and investment in high rise property development. All of which came tumbling down following the October 1987 share market crash.
Compos Mentis: 1.Chase Corpse

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5. Nazgul - Private War (1987)

Featuring two members from Compos Mentis, Nazgul's 1987 release is a stomping thrash song against the violence that had been ruining people and gigs since punks had been putting on shows.
Nazgul: Private War

6. SMUT - The Con (1991)

The Con by second generation anarcho-punks SMUT voices an anti drug company/ anti-vivisection message that had been present in the punk scene since the early 1980s with the involvement of many punks in the NZ Anti-Vivisection Society and more militant actions with the Animal Liberation Front. This track comes off their 1991 release Tunnel Vision.
SMUT: The Con

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7. The Carnys - Bypass My Ass (2002)

Bypass My Ass is an early 2000s protest song by The Carnys against the then proposed inner city bypass through the Te Aro community of Wellington. Protests against the bypass had been staged for 20 years until construction started in 2004 with the bypass itself coming to symbolise wider issues of inner city gentrification, the environment and the "reclaim the streets" movement that emerged in the 1990s.
Carnys: Bypass, My Ass

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8. Punchbowl - You Can Stick That In My Silver Ring Thing (2008)

Punchbowl were one of a number of all woman bands that appeared on the scene during the 2000s bringing a lot more attention to gender issues and a female perspective on social issues to what had been/ still is a male dominated scene. You Can Stick That In My Silver Ring refers to the chastity pledges conservative Christian teenagers were encouraged to make in the evangelist churches that had spread out from the USA.

Punchbowl: You Can Stick That In My Silver Ring

9. Rogernomix: Rogernomix (2010)

Wellington D-Beat punks Rogernomix approach social and political issues head-on criticizing the economy, politicians, the media and the punk scene with equal venom. The band's name and title of this track refers to Roger Douglas the far-right architect of New Zealand's free market economic reforms.
Rogernomix: Rogernomix

10. Dead Vicious: Capitalist Cheerleaders (2013)

Dead Vicious have been playing staunchly old-school political punk since 2002. Core member and song writer Ken Vicious brings a strong anti-capitalist message to the bands music as featured in this track from the 2013 release Nightmare on Molesworth Street.
Dead Vicious: Capitalist Cheerleaders

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