Sunday, September 18, 2016

Classic Album Review: The Mockers – Woke Up Today (2008)

News this week that The Mockers are about to reform for a one-off festival gig in Christchurch in January 2017 had me reminiscing about the band, and reminded me that I had a CD copy of Woke Up Today, a collection of the band’s finest moments. I thought I’d take a quick sneaky peek at that album:

(And yes, it is a bit of a stretch to call a “best of” album a “classic” album, but I’m doing it anyway – my blog, my rules) …

Fronted by extrovert composer/vocalist Andrew Fagan, The Mockers were an atypical early Eighties Kiwi pop band in the sense that they were one of the few pub-touring acts to enjoy consistent (local) singles chart success. New Zealand bands from that era had enough difficulty getting locally produced music played on commercial radio, let alone being able to enjoy the luxury of watching that minimal airtime morph into something resembling sales success.

It helped, of course, that Fagan had a knack for writing radio-friendly songs full of delightful synth-laden hooks, but the key element to that success was undoubtedly the band’s capacity for sheer hard work and regular gigging.

Neither mods, nor rockers ... the Mockers

Through much of the era, say 1980 to 1987, The Mockers could lay claim to being one of New Zealand’s most prolific bands, releasing a series of highly enjoyable saccharine pop songs, the vast majority as singles, pretty much all of which are included on Woke Up Today.

As such, the album includes gems like ‘Forever Tuesday Morning’ (probably the band’s biggest hit), ‘Good Old Days’, ‘Swear It’s True’, ‘My Girl Thinks She’s Cleopatra’ (so did mine!), ‘Trendy Lefties’, ‘One Black Friday’, and of course ‘Woke Up Today’ … plus a dozen or so more.
The collection was long overdue by the time it eventually arrived (released in 2008), and it works as a fairly comprehensive career-spanning overview; the only other career retrospective for The Mockers being a particularly tardy, cheaply compiled, and poorly distributed album covering the first five years only.

One of the best things about Woke Up Today is the CD’s inlay/booklet, which includes photographs, promo posters, and media clippings about gigs and releases from that period.

And who doesn’t love a little bit of nostalgia?

Ps … on that note, I was lucky enough to see the band play live at Wellington’s now defunct Terminus venue in the summer of 1983/1984, when right at the peak of its powers. Fagan’s charismatic performance that night was a stand-out, and at his pomp he was unquestionably one of New Zealand’s most eccentric and more lovable front men. That, of course, was something of a hometown gig for The Mockers, the band having started life as local high school new wavers, the Ambitious Vegetables, and I’ve a feeling the support that night came from the now long forgotten fellow locals, Jungle Mice.

Ps2 ... I’m more certain that weekend represented one of those life-affirming pivotal moments for me – having travelled the 100-odd miles south from smalltown Palmerston North with my girlfriend Jude, spending (perhaps) up to a week crashing at her older sister’s Mt Victoria flat, I think it was about that point I decided Wellington was somewhere I wanted to live. It took another two years for me to make that actually happen – sans Jude, sadly – but I remember being blown away by the vibe of the city, and the many possibilities it held for me as a naïve but open minded thrill-seeking 19-year-old.

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