Spelling Mistakes

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Spelling Mistakes - at Mainstreet, Auckland
Warwick Fowler (Guitar), Nick Hanson (Lead Vocals), Julian Hanson (Drums/Backing Vocals) and Nigel Russell (Bass/Backing Vocals) - relacing Keith Bacon

Warwick Fowler was a first year student at The University of Auckland and a fiendish distortion-seeking guitarist who was already well acquainted with his preferred genre when he noticed an ad in early 1978 from the soon-to-be John Atrocity (Jenkins), who was looking to form a punk group.  Fowler, who adopted the punk moniker Warwick Hitler, had seen a shambolic early Suburban Reptiles show at Auckland University's Maidment Theatre and was unimpressed, but down at inner-city punk dive Zwines, he saw and heard a punk rock sound that was much more to his liking.



Looking to give punk one last try, Hitler came across the two Hanson brothers Nick and Julian one night in March 1979 at The Windsor Castle, an Auckland pub venue,  The singing, drumming Hansons were just what he needed, and they were available.  Their group, Zwines regulars Get Smart, had disbanded and with Keith Bacon on bass they became The Spelling Mistakes.  Two months in Keith Bacon jumped ship to form The Secret Agents, leaving behind his signature punk tune Ergophobia, and his replacement was Nigel Russell, a Selwyn College mate of Nick Hanson's and older brother of Harry Ratbag (of Herco Pilots).  Despite being spotty, stuttering and coming from Remuera, Nigel was a fine bass player and a good singer.  The Spelling Mistakes played on where they could, and their first shows were at the city's punk heart at Zwines in mid-May, prior to a residency at HQ Rock Cafe in Upper Queen Street for a week.  The Spelling Mistakes were no strangers to conflict and controversy, and the sight of Warwick Hitler steaming through a seedy Auckland punk dive in a Nazi uniform could turn a punter pale, especially if they'd incurred his wrath - and his own band members weren't immune.  With originals piling up, The Spelling Mistakes booked their first recording session at Mascot Studios with engineer Steve Crane for December 2, 1979.  Four songs were recorded - Fowler contributed the Detroit punk-inspired Stingy and Hate Me, Hate Me.  Julian Hanson contributed the swinging geekish lament No Contact and the Nigel Russell-sung I Want You.


In March 1980, The Spelling Mistakes entered Mandrill Studios with 1ZM DJ Bryan Staff to record a track for a split single with The Whizz Kids on his label Ripper Records.   The result, Reena's Piss Flaps, was a blunt ode to female anatomy from the wry pen of Warwick Hitler.  When Reena was finally released in August 1980, the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation banned it and talkback station Radio Pacific played it as a civil liberties issue.  In early April The Spelling Mistakes entered Rock Quest 80, organised by Larry Young, and held over Easter weekend at The Windsor Castle. They won first prize.  It was a single financed and released by Propeller Records, a new Auckland indie label run by Simon Grigg, former manager of Suburban Reptiles.



Come the middle of May and The Spelling Mistakes were on the road for the first time, playing to packed, friendly houses at prime Christchurch venue The DB Gladstone.  They then headed north to Wellington to film a video for Feels So Good and play a three-night stand at The Last Resort Café, supported by Shoes This High.  The New Zealand capital, at the time in a strong post-punk phase, didn't take to them. In Touch's Dave Maclennan found them rather ordinary.  Then it was back in Auckland to play the New Station Hotel, Mainstreet and Squeeze.  In June Feels So Good debuted at No.29 during a five-week run in the national pop chart.  Sunday night TVNZ music video show Radio With Pictures showed the song the following week.  Despite their success and even with an album's worth of strong songs, there was little interest from the recording industry and record companies in New Zealand didn't often risk money on albums by new bands.  A chance to appear on the mainstream hits package Platinum Plus stalled at the last minute.  The bratty quartet played on through June into July at the Gluepot, Windsor Castle, Squeeze, XS Café, Kicks, The New Station Hotel and Mainstreet.  In early September, The Spelling Mistakes appeared briefly with the pop-reggae old school act Coup D'Etat at the Windsor Castle.  They were barred, the owner told Larry Young bluntly.  They'd already been banned from The New Station Hotel, and thus with Auckland's venues closing to them and the boot boy menace showing no signs of abating, The Spelling Mistakes decided to call it quits, and they bowed out at XS Café, the underage venue in Airedale Street, over two nights - October 31 and November 1, 1980 - to a capacity crowd, which broke The Spelling Mistakes' own door record.  They closed with Reena, as always.


Additional Spelling Mistakes information is available from the Audio Culture Website .....


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