An unexpected pleasure of making the Blue Smoke programmes for RNZ Concert has been coming across ‘Hashish’ – the 1962 instrumental by the Palmerston North band the Pictones. In the Shadowy period before the Beatles rewrote the dance band repertoire, this twanging, original track stands up to anything else in the genre, yet it was recorded at Levin’s TALA studio (that’s To Assist Levin Artists). Only two weeks ago I played it at a Palmerston North talk, and pondered how the track got its name. Levin may be at the north end of the Horowhenua’s market garden region, but I doubt marijuana was among the crops in 1962.
Graham Reid has been equally intrigued by the track. At his essential Elsewhere site – music and everything else – he posted ‘Hashish’ for our enjoyment and asked for more information. Now, Dave Clarke, the former guitarist of the Pictones, has responded. Graham’s interview with Clarke is recommended reading. He is informative about the band, and the origin of ‘Hashish’ – and he is quite a quipster. Of a contemporary rival, he says: “Gray Bartlett, my gosh. He’s alright now but it took him a long time. But Peter Posa was dynamic.”
And he explained how the song got its name: “Wally Clark who owned the recording studios said, ‘Hey that sounds like a drunk person wandering around or a person on drugs’. That’s where the name came from. He named it.”
Reid: And of course being young fellows they didn’t have a clue as to what it meant?
“No! No idea at all. We were so naive. We toured with a female vocalist and if anyone suggested anything in appropriate they would have been dead meat. We were just kids.”
UPDATE: Graham Reid has alerted me he has been sent this great photo of the Pictones’ line-up that recorded ‘Hashish’. They are, from left: Dave Clarke (lead guitar), Bruce O’Conner (piano), Trevor Harrison (bass), Brian Dredge (drums) and Colin Severts (rhythm guitar).