brief history of The Chants R&B / Chants R&B
Courtney, Jim Tomlin, Mike, Martin Forrer
Chants left Christchurch for the unknown and possibly
hostile Melbourne climes late in 1966. Australian magazines
available in Christchurch, like People and Pix, told lurid
stories of sharpies (skinheads) and mods (mods) doing
battle in the streets and alleys of Melbourne and bands
(such as Ronnie Burns' Flies) occasionally getting in
the way. Mike and Trevor (Trevor Courtney – the
Chants’ effervescent drummer) read these stories
with foreboding - and promptly had their hair cut.
But they needn’t have worried about the mods and
the sharpies – the innate tensions in the band,
exacerbated by the move, ensured the Chants’ premature
(and largely unreported) demise in Melbourne just a few
months after leaving Christchurch.
(Just why Christchurch was such a fertile breeding ground
for rock bands - think Max Merritt and Ray Columbus for
starters - is discussed in depth by Dr Tony Mitchell in
his compelling thesis Flat
City Sounds: The Christchurch Music Scene).
Word of the Chants’ break up gradually filtered
back to Christchurch, and even the most fervent fans of
this “ferocious garage band” (as Australian
Rock historian Glenn A. Baker described them) gradually
forgot all about the Chants.
When Rudd went back to the old Stagedoor in 1997 he found
it had become somewhat of a
While it’s just a storage space underneath a café
now, the names of the Stagedoor heroes are still carved
in the black timber beams that Rudd cracked his skull
on numerous times in his fashionably high-heeled black-suede
boots. And fashion was important. Borrie the Tailor in
Chancery Lane (now living and tailoring in Surfers) made
Rudd and Courtney’s stage clothes in the latest
fab-fashions. While there was nothing on TV, there were
always the magazines.
In an article written about the long-haired Stagedoor
habitués in the Press in July 1966, Mike claimed
he enjoyed “creating a barrier and then meeting
the challenge of breaking it down.” He also said,
“We’re maybe different, but we are still sensitive.”
Mike was a
in the Cathedral choir and head prefect at the Cathedral
Grammar School. He deliberately avoided the organised
music scene at Christ’s College but became interested
in pop music and began an “alternative” dance
lV) with some
It was at Art School the band started to consume Mike’s
attention – to the point that he just “plain
forgot” a submission for his graphic design exam.
So he tossed in the Art course and began to play music
full-time with his band, the Chants, soon to become Chants
Chants R&B only had the one single released (I’ve
Been Loving You Too Long b/w I Want Her)
before they left for Melbourne, but their fame had spread
throughout NZ - mostly because of their legendary wild
stage performances at the Stagedoor to a fanatical band
In fact, the band only left the security of the Stagedoor
a couple of times in their two years there. They went
(by ferry) to Wellington to record at the HMV Studios
and did a couple of gigs whilst they were there. They
recorded I’m Your Witchdoctor (b/w Neighbour
Neighbour) for their own Action label, which wasn’t
released till after they left for Australia.
So, what happened to Chants R&B when they got to Melbourne?
They made a couple of TV appearances – they won
a heat of Bert Newton’s New Faces and mimed Witchdoctor
on Kommotion – and played gigs like the Catcher
and the Thumpin’ Tum.
It was at the gigs
they discovered they weren’t alone –
bands like the Wild Cherries and the Purple Hearts were
playing the same British slant on the blues they were.
The band had a dilemma – whether to follow Mike’s
preference for soul and blues or go with Trev’s
passion for Tamla and r&b.
The Chants did one more recording session in Melbourne
before they split. The material ranged from versions of
the Temptations’ My Girl to Them’s
One,Two Brown Eyes. Both songs are on the recently
released Zero CD and Stagedoor Witchdoctors,
a low fidelity but exciting record of a band with everything
before them, put together by John Baker, himself a garage
There are a couple of interviews on the CD. One done with
Jim Tomlin, the group’s first lead guitarist, has
Jim asking where they think it’s all heading musically
speaking. Mike couldn’t have imagined that thirty-odd
years later he would be recording some of the very same
classic blues songs Jim recorded the Chants' playing on
his flatmate's mono tape recorder back at the Stagedoor.
Check out the Garage
Radio New Zealand's links to the Chants
Rumble & Bang
doco and interview with Chants
Rumble & Bang Director
Read Andrew Schmidt's comprehensive article for Audio
Read some enthusiatic Chants'
'13 - April '15
Baker and the Schizophonics' Pat Beers visit the Stagedoor in
Stagedoor legend rolls on..
- I have to say I
was utterly astonished when John Baker told me that he was touring
with a US band called the Schizophonics
and their guitarist was somewhat of a fan of The Chants, to
the point that they both took the opportunity to visit the old
Stagedoor cellar when they were in Christchurch a few weeks
That in itself was astonishing because the last time I saw the
building it was barricaded up with a demolition order affixed
on the door - probably quite a dangerous place to visit.
Not only did they visit, but while they were actually in the
room (pic) young Pat took the opportunity to record
a version of Van Morrison's One, Two Brown Eyes, a
Chants' favourite back in the day. The rock'n'roll spirit lives!