The core of the Hello Sailor story takes place over a brief five-years, but it’s crucial, indelible; the story of a group that asserted itself at a tough moment for Kiwi rock, proving that it was possible to get punters along to see local, original music, and it was possible to release world-class albums that we really loved.
A product of the down-at-heel Ponsonby of the mid-seventies, Hello Sailor were well-educated young men with a fascination with street culture, and a love of the Velvet Underground and Roxy Music. More importantly, the band contained three great songwriters in vocalist/saxophonist Graham Brazier, vocalist/guitarists Dave McArtney and Harry Lyon.
Their self-titled debut album from 1977 boasted no less than three top 20 singles, including “Lyin’ In The Sand” (Lyon), “Blue Lady” (Brazier) and “Gutter Black” (McArtney), the latter of which would be immortalised as the theme song for the popular TV show Outrageous Fortune nearly 30 years later. It was also the first NZ album to be certified Gold, and the group’s commercial high point. Pacifica Amour, released a year later, was an artistic victory, but its mood was darker, and it was met with indifference while the group were away in America trying vainly to crack its impenetrable market. McArtney’s Gutter Black book (published in 2013) chronicles the group’s seedy drug adventures in LA.
By 1980, after another half-hearted attempt at cracking the Australian scene, Hello Sailor had called it quits, but that’s not quite the end of the story. Various former members appeared on each others’ projects in the years following, and the band reformed temporarily around album projects in 1985 (Shipshape & Bristol Fashion), 1994 (The Album), 2007 (acoustic covers album When Your Lights Are Out) and 2012 (Surrey Crescent Moon). Tragically, McArtney died during an operation in 2013 and Brazier passed away in 2015, putting paid to any further reunions.
Ricky Ball (drums) • Graham Brazier (vocals) • Harry Lyon (guitar) • Dave McArtney (guitar) • Stuart Pearce (keyboards) • Paul Woolwright (bass) • Lisle Kinney (bass)