BURNING UP THE YEARS 2 HUGH LYNN – Hugh Lynn

BURNING UP THE YEARS 2 HUGH LYNN by MURRAY CAMMICK- REAL GROOVE’ AUGUST 2000

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The most memorable figure in the local music business in the 1980s was concert promoter Hugh Lynn, he was the master of the mega – sized Western Springs Concert event, with over 82,000 people attending David Bowie’s 1983 Serious Moonlight Tour concert. In the same decade that Lynn had his biggest concert successes, he also set out to explore his being Maori, and as manager of Herbs he sought to take contemporary Maori music to the world. But by the end of the decade, Lynn’s 20 years of drug-fuelled, obsessive energy seemed to falter and Lynn seemed resigned to the collapse of his entertainment empire.

0084_a1_page20_realgroove-magazineaugust2000-rev-1000ke11Hugh Lynn, who spent the 60s, the 70s and the 80s in the music business achieving the perception of being a ‘memorable figure’, now prefers the perception of the spiritual to the perception of the outwardly memorable. But ‘image’ waseverything to the young Hugh Lynn, his dance teaching mother and his own achievements in ballet and Latin American dancing (sixth in theworld in 1964) didn’t make being a teen male easy.

“I got schtick from guys at school through being a ballet dancer. I got harassed at school every day, it got so bad I had to wear army boots for the last three years just to try and protect myself.”

Just in case anybody had any doubts asto his manliness, Lynn got into martial arts, bodybuilding and motorbikes. At 16 he had a 125cc James two-stroke.

“The first group I rode with was the ‘Mt Roskill Ghosts’. I was a dancer but I could dress up, put on these clothes and everybody would treat me differently. That’s when I met two of the first Hell’s Angels, when they first came out to New Zealand. That’s when my mother sent me over to Australia, or otherwise I probably would have become a patched member.”

After six months on a sheep station in Australia, Lynn returned to Auckland and began working at the ‘Top 20’ dance club, his first job in entertainment.

Lynn then moved to Wellington where he worked at Silhouette Heath Studios (bodybuilding), and he got his first compering gig at a dance hall with a big band where, “the manwalked across the other side of the hall to ask the woman for the dance”. Lynn learned to compere from watching Wellington’s lan Saxon, who was until recently serving a long sentence in Australia for drug importation. As a 20 year old, Lynn returned to Auckland in 1963 and earnt 25 a week (“quite a lot of money at the time”) to compere at the Top 20. “I saw Max Merritt and the Meteors and Ray Columbus and the Invaders come up from the South Island. My involvement in drugs started at the Top 20. Somebody gave me a diet pill and it kept me awake. That was great. I purely only did it to keep me awake. After I’d been at the Top 20 a couple of years, someone offered me a joint in the toilet, I remember internally freaking out, this is drugs! This is illegal! I never smoked marijuana for a considerable length of time.”

In the mid-60s, Lynn started ‘bouncers for hire’ company, Eden Security.

“The first thing Eden Security did was the Pretty Things at the Top 20. I remember spending a lot of time with PJ Proby, that was probably my first international act. I remember one day, he had sex with the mother and the daughter both at the same time. I thought that was interesting.”

In 1967, Lynn managed the La De Das but when they went overseas he stayed behind and got married.

“The La De Das were the first band I got involved in. The band could go on and kickarse. We got involved in this tour that had all sorts of complications. It wasn’t drawing, the promoters hadn’t done the show properly They were blaming us and refusing to pay Eventually I brought down all the security to Whangamataand we took over and got our money.”

In the early 70s, Eden -Security did the big gigs like the Ngaruawahia Pop Festival (1973), the Rolling Stones (1973) and Rod Stewart and the Faces (1974). The Faces show had problems that frustrated the Australian promoter, Paul Dainty.

“The band had asked for a Steinway piano. [Promoter] Phil Warren had put in a Yamaha. The Faces smashed the piano and poured alcohol on Paul Dainty and he got upset.”

The next Dainty show went with promoter Stewart MacPherson, but Lynn was summoned to the tour party’s hotel.

“Dainty pulled me off into a side room at the Intercontinental Hotel and in 10 minutes sitting there, did the deal with me and changed hispromoter. He decided I could do it and he told me to go and get a telex machine, two telephone lines and wait. The first telex I got through was to do with Rick Wakeman and I sent a telex back asking ‘Rick who?’ Dainty rang me and suggested I find out very quickly That’s how I started. Basically Dainty trained me. We did Rick Wakeman and then WishboneAsh, Joe Cocker, Bryan Ferry and David Bowie. Dainty took me over to Australia, I toured all of Australia with Fleetwood Mac in 1977, Dainty showing me what to do. He never skimped on the act. If we couldn’t fulfil the rider, we let him know so he could bring it in from Australia or at least communicate with the act. We made sure that we covered the riders whether importing strange fruit in, or getting drugs for the band or the management.”

But Hugh wasn’t only promoting, he had Eden Security, Crazy Shirts (t-shirt design & retail) and nightclubs. After meeting promoter Robert Raymond at the Ngaruawahia Festival, Hugh with the Festival’s promoter opened Levi’s Saloon, an unlicensed rock night club in Customs Street, where even Split Enz played.

But Hugh’s first nightclub was the memorable Mojo’s, with drag queen act Les Girls and sly grog.

” I had Guns N’ Roses at the Suportop and the lead singer come on and talked about buying some heroin in Australia and said, “This is the drug”. I was standing on the said of the stage and I had this overwhelming feeling of regret that I was part responsible for bringing this attitute into the country.”

“We had it as a drag show right from the start. We lost a lot of money initially and then we put sly grog in there and then we got a base of people who wanted to go out and have a drink. At Mojo’s we tried selling alcohol in a glass and it didn’t work. So we started selling half bottles, because people could take them and put them in their pocket and go through the process of taking the bottle out under the table and pouring it. That’s what they were used to, hiding it and drinking it.”

After Mojo’s the venue (opposite Planet Hollywood) became Auckland’s first punk night club Diamond Dogs for a few weeks.

“We were the first punk club to open. I sat there for two weeks and I had difficulty under standing everyone’s attitude. Everyone was sopissed off and angry and I couldn’t relate to it. We went from punk rock to Gobbles Disco and that went through the roof.”

When I first met you, I thought I was going to meet ‘Mr Big’ in the drug trade.

“A story circulated that I was importing drugs with the rock acts. When we brought Fleetwood Mac in they pulled all the Customs people from around the Auckland area out to the airport, and when the band arrived they pulled all their equipment out on the tarmac and started searching it all. We weren’t bringing in drugs, I tried to explain to them there was more money in rock ‘n’ roll than bringing in drugs. Authorities really believed that as well as bringing in the act you made a deal to bring in heroin or acid.”

1983 was a big year for Lynn and it was to end with a full page colour advertisement in the USA industry magazine Billboard proclaiming: “Nov 26, 1983… David Bowie makes history Down Under”, with a photo of the massive Western Springs concert.

“When I did the Moonlight tour and we did 82,000, I became flavour of the year down here and everyone wanted to use me and everyone wanted to come through New Zealand.”

But the middle of 1983 had not been as much fun.

“I got busted on my 40th birthday. They found me with some packets of speed. We went to depositions and I felt really annoyed because they’d spent such a long period of time saying I was an international drug dealer, bringing it in by submarine, and now they were getting up in front of a judge and saying I was a street dealer! When they arrested me for supply, the law stated that you had to have 56 grams of methamphetamine to be considered a dealer and I had five grams. The police when they arrested me for supply knew that they had no case, but they did the damage, it went in the newspaper.”

After the success of the David Bowie concert, Lynn was asked to also represent Frontier Tours.

“Australian promoter Michael Chugg, who Imet as a tour manager for Dainty, approached me about doing Frontier in New Zealand. It went along quite well for a bit and then Dainty became uncomfortable, they’re in direct competition in Australia, at each other’s throats and it became too complex to do.”

Were you in agreement with the Police decision to remove a gang from the 1987 ZZ Top concert at Western Springs?

“Yes, I was, because they’d come and talked to me. The Police got worried that the Black Power were getting too close to the Mongrel Mob and that confrontation was starting, so they moved in and split them and pushed Black Power out purely because they were closest to the fence. They actually hadn’t caused any trouble. The Black Power went and I gave them their money back, I paid out $5,000.”

In 1988, also at Western Springs, Mick Jagger showed us how to take a beer can to the head and soldier on.

“Jagger was a pro alright, but unfortunately Mick Jagger is not the Rolling Stones. It was one of the few shows we lost money on. The only Dainty show we lost money on.”

In Sydney, Lynn met the legendary San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham, of Fillmore Theatres fame.

“They played a joke on me. Bill Graham came in and he looked like one of the cleaners and they told me to go and tell him that he couldn’t come in here, but he must have twigged at the time because he didn’t deal to me verbally. I remember sitting there having dinner listening to his stories of the violent arguments he had with Led Zeppelin.”

Lynn’s worst concert experience was the free show in Aotea Square for Radio Station 89FM in December 1984.

“When the inspector came up on stage and said, ‘Stop the show!’ I said to him at the time, ‘That’s the worst thing you can do!’ When you stopped the music, the attention diverted away from the music to this other show which was the riot that was building. So 5,000 people immediately turned and faced the other way and now there was a new entertainment going on. I noticed people becoming excited when the riot was on and joining in. I saw Friday shoppers, watch people throwing bottles into buildings and look at each other and join in. It was mass behaviour. It was fun for lots of people.”

The Aotea Square debacle led to positive changes in Police attitudes to concerts and concert promoters.

0084_a3_page22_realgroove-magazineaugust2000-rev-ke3“There were major changes.Inspector Tim Masters came in and it was his job to get it all together.With concerts,people had to work together-policemen,traffic, City Council-but no one was talking to each other.So what we did was, we had a pre-production meeting and then after the show they sat down and went over how everything worked, and it started
to become smoother.”

Was owning your own recording studio a good move?

“Mascot Studio was good, but from a technical point of view we spent far too much money going from 16 track into 24. It was a business where I didn’t really understand the chnical part of it. We spent 100,000s. It was probably the wrong move. I enjoyed learning about it all and we were instrumental in assisting a lot of Maori acts.”

Did you lose the money you made on international tours on your involvement in local music?”Yes. You deal with overseas acts,they come in and after a while it became like supermarket.There seemed to be something much more important in dealing with New Zealand acts. I had studied what had happened overseas with the negro and how they used
music to climb through society. Now negro own the cool.

“With Herbs, it was a part of me being a born-again Maori.There were a lot of social issues with Herbs as well as music, dealingwith an indigenous band that was starting to
write their own music. I saw the band as having a social message, a two-edged sword for me.There hadn’t been a contemporary Maori band that had emerged.”

Was it a political message? “When we were travelling around the Pacific, we were saying, ‘You can do it!’Meaning, the man in the street, the indigenous person, the tribal person, the Fijian, the Tahitian… can do it. There’s something to say.This is a way of getting your message across,by music.”

By 1990, Lynn didn’t represent Paul Dainty or Frontier Tours.An ambitious showcase of New Zealand music from the 60s to the 80s at Carlaw Park looked dodgy. Was it the last
straw for your company or was it you choosing to get out?

“It was both. I was having a series of strange experiences that I later identified as being spiritual experiences, and it was partly me wanting to smash up the businesses and get out and partly the last straw as well.Probably I’d seen New Zealand music as being far more important than it really was.

“I hadn’t been feeling happy for a couple of years. By 1990 I wanted to get out of the business. I had Guns N’Roses at the Supertop and the lead singer came on and talked about
buying some heroin in Australia and said, ‘This is the drug’. I was standing on the side of the stage and I had this overwhelming feeling of regret that I was part responsible for bringing this attitude into the country.”

You say “Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Was that the order you liked it?

“For me they all intertwined. Drugs kept me awake to do the rock ‘n’ roll and when you’re popular you get more sex. That’s a simple equation isn’t it? I don’t get too many women offering me a blowjob now to get a backstage pass.I worked out an equation, my popularity was indirect proportion to the show that I was promoting and I used that as a way of monitoring… the depth of the promotion. I never tried to hide that I took drugs.I took speed to keep awake. I didn’t. realise the damage it was doing,because speed is a very powerful drug, it ends by taking you out into spaces of times that are very unusual.”

“I felt really annoyed because they’d spent such a long period of time saying I was an international drug dealer, bringing it in by submarine,and now they were getting up in
front of a judge and saying I was a street dealer!”

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~ by viradoang on 23 January, 2009.

4 Responses to “BURNING UP THE YEARS 2 HUGH LYNN – Hugh Lynn”

  1. This one P—ck I could never stand. When with Da Katipa I had her for a partner and you should have seen the commotion then and that was 1972. Like to hear if he has since gone bankrupt or something plasant like tha??

  2. Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the outstanding work!

  3. mojos queen st auckland 1972 to 1977 mark willams singer wearing his kaftans he sewed himself afro hair style a r a bus stop outside going to mt roskill via dominion rd terminating mt roskill extentsion then passing eden security house on left on hill before r s l on right balmoral shops great memories

  4. gobbles was a great disco club of the 70s.

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