It’s easy to mark Dave Dobbyn down as just a piece of furniture, like a comfy old sofa that we take for granted. We sing along to his songs at rugby games, or whenever we hear one of his numerous hits on the radio, and because he feels like one of us, the sense of remove between a cultural legend and his audience just doesn’t exist.
That’s Dave Dobbyn, a true giant of NZ song, with a career that goes back 40 years and counting, and more hits and anthems and genuinely iconic moments than you could ever hope to shake a stick at.
Starting out in Th’ Dudes in 1975 as an 18-year-old teacher-trainee, three years later he was the lead vocalist on the group’s “Be Mine Tonight”, which won Single Of The Year. Moving on to his own band, DD Smash, Dobbyn and pals toured the nation’s drinking establishments building a rapt audience for his unique take on rock, raunch and soul. During the 1980s, everything Dobbyn touched turned to gold: albums were number 1 smash hits, and singles like “Devil You Know”, “Outlook For Thursday”, “Whaling”, “Magic (What She Do)”, “Slice Of Heaven”, “You Oughta Be In Love” and “Loyal” were etched in our psyches.
After some chart action in Australia, Dobbyn moved there but, feeling jaded by his Aussie experience, followed Neil Finn back to Auckland in the early 1990s, employing the Crowded House singer on Twist (1994). Since then, Dobbyn’s activities have been so diverse and numerous that they’re impossible to peg: he toured with Bic Runga and Tim Finn in 2000, but eschewing the safety net, in 2008 he travelled to the UK to record Anotherland with radical dub producer Adrian Sherwood.
Although his big pop hits seem to be behind him, it’s seldom that a Dobbyn album doesn’t climb towards the top of the charts. He’s a legend. And a top bloke.