After 25 Years largely lost in the mist, and with their 1986 – 93 Flying Nun Records catalogue long out of print, The Puddle finally re-emerged in 2006 from more than a decade of sporadic live performances and occasional lost album recordings. Rumours that founder and core member George D. Henderson had “done a Syd Barrett” proved to be unfounded. A decade of ill-health was conquered by a rigorously scientific approach to clean-living coupled with happenstance. Now with four acclaimed albums released on Fishrider Records since 2007 The Puddle are determined to make up for lost time.
The Puddle have always been the most stubbornly underground of the bands associated with the Flying Nun imprint, despite George’s lifelong desire to write “pop music”. A favourite of some critics, who could see beyond the fragile limitations of their early recordings (their debut mini-album recently included in SPIN magazine’s list of the best Kiwi pop releases alongside The Clean), praise for Henderson’s song writing also often comes from other song writers.
The current line-up of the band includes long-time collaborator Alan Starrett (who has played and recorded with The Bats, David Kilgour, and Robert Scott and was also in the short-lived Flying nun psych-pop tribute supergroup The pop Art Toasters), eccentric Dunedin poet and musician Gavin Shaw, and George’s brother, and original Puddle drummer, Ian Henderson.
“beautifully resigned guitar pop… full of the kind of articulate and well-read pop songs that made Henderson’s home country the epicentre of literate guitar music in the 1980s and ‘90s” Uncut Magazine review of The Shakespeare Monkey (2009)
There’s quite a bit of The Puddle on iTunes although as all the Fishrider era stuff is free/ you set the price download at Bandcamp you are better off heading there for recent albums/ songs. There’s a full discography at the end of this page.
The Story of The Puddle
The Puddle were formed in Dunedin by George D. Henderson in 1983-84 when Shayne Carter played a stand-up 3-piece kit with George and Ross Jackson at a lunchtime gig in the Otago University Gazebo Lounge – the first wholly successful Puddle performance.
After participating in the Dunedin Battle of the Bands in 1984 with George’s brother Ian on drums, The Puddle became a proper working concern in 1984 when GDH convinced Leslie Paris (Look Blue Go Purple) to drum. Leslie's style, captured exactly in prose by Matthew Bannister in that compelling read, his tell-it-like-it-was memoir Positively George St, was ideally suited to the drifting arrangements of Puddle songs, and allowed the evolution of their sound beyond the garage (Puddle Mark 1).
George’s musical life began a decade earlier in Invercargill in the 1970’s with Crazy Olé and The Panthers – a band he formed with younger brother Ian (drums) and school mate Lindsay Maitland (later in the first proper Puddle line-up). CO&TP home-recorded to primitive reel to reel and cassettes in Invercargill from '74 – '76. George’s songs were Syd Barrett influenced pop, covers of Velvets songs, and songs inspired by the Stooges, like “1975” – “1975/ will be the year to be alive/ it won’t be a bore/ like 1974”
After leaving Invercargill George formed The Spies in Wellington with Susan Ellis, fusing punk with Faust style experimental pop in 1978/79, a blueprint he continued with The And Band in Christchurch in subsequent years and captured on a very rare 7” single in 1981.
From 1985 The Puddle quickly expanded to match GDH’s ambitions and the occasional importunities of experimentalist mates; Lindsay Maitland, the third member of Crazy Olé! and The Panthers, played cornet and French horn, Peter Gutteridge learned to play George and Susan’s old Farfisa organ (he’s never looked back), Leslie’s Look Blue Go Purple buddy Norma O’Malley played the flute (Puddle Mark 1). This line-up recorded Pop. Lib.in 1985, released by Flying Nun Records in 1986 a 33&1/3 12″ E.P., live with overdubs.
This Puddle, or variants thereof, survived for many years, playing Christchurch and Invercargill and Wellington and releasing one or two tracks on compilations (Christmas in the Country, Friends) as well as the live LP Live at the Teddy Bear Club. This record is a good indication of what the band were like live at this time (as Pop. Lib. is of an earlier era).
A few weeks after recording Xmas in Country for the Student Radio compilation LP Weird Culture Weird Custom in 1986, Lindsay Maitland died following an accidental drug overdose. This marked the end of an era, especially as Leslie soon after went to work for Flying Nun in Auckland; The Puddle struggled on occasionally as a 3 piece with other drummers, but didn’t regain the same plateau.
Then, in 1990, drummer Norman Dufty joined, followed by Jenny Crooks on keyboards and backing vocals (Puddle Mark 2). Alistair Galbraith convinced Flying Nun to front $800 for some 4-track sessions (1990), which yielded Into The Moon. Later, Ross & Jenny went off to manage a goat farm outside Te Awamutu, and George went to Invercargill prison, briefly. While there (1991) he revised the Puddle blueprint, and reformed the band thusly: George and Norman with Vikki Wilkinson, bass, and Richard Cotton, keyboards and sampler (Puddle Mark 3). This line-up played the Flying Nun 10th birthday shows, with the addition of various guests.
George also co-founded Mink,initially as a vehicle for those songs which had never suited The Puddle, and a demonstration that dance music could be musical and could take off in Dunedin: something he has since regretted at leisure, although he consoles himself that it would, eventually, have happened even without his influence.
As well as the Mink CDs and Cassingles, The Puddle toured N.Z. two or three times in this era, and released F.Nun 7″ Thursday/Too Hot To Be Cool and Acetone 7″ The Power of Love/Mamelons d’Amadou, the latter from unreleased album Songs For Emily Valentine (since released by Powertools records, 2006). These 16-track sessions also yielded Southern Man, The Puddle’s first nationwide commercial radio success, and, on Festival Records’ Louder BFM compilation, garnered their first ever paycheck for a recording. This lineup also videotaped a live performance intended for TV, and a video for Thursday played on TV 2’s Frenzy, at the end of the first show for 1994. Norman and Vikki went to Nelson, and Ross returned. Before this, in 1996, George had travelled to Te Awamutu and successfully recorded 8 older songs in Hamilton with a reformed Puddle Mark 2 (as yet unreleased – if anyone knows where the master tapes are now please get in touch).
Eventually The Puddle became serious again: with Alan Haig on drums and Phil Savory (ex-Mink) on sax and keyboards they played and recorded their part of The Dunedin Sound concert broadcast live from Sammys in Dunedin on Californian radio station KFJC in 2001. Then Heath Te Au, ex of Mink and Suka, joined as drummer.(Puddle Mark 4). This is the line up played regularly in Dunedin from 2002 to 2007. With Celia Mancini (who had sung many great vocal parts on Songs for Emily Valentine) dueting on Season of the Wolf , The Puddle (Mark 4) performed live on TV2’s National Anthem; the other song telecast on this occasion was ‘pataphysical Bureau.
On September 9 2005 The Puddle played Chicks hotel in Port Chalmers – a performance so magical people still talk about it to this day. In the 2 months following, The Puddle recorded 25 tracks courtesy of patron (and sax player in Mk 2 days) Richard Steele at Inca studio in Wellington. This work was overdubbed in mid-2006 (and finally released as “Playboys in the Bush” on Fishrider records in late-2010). In the meantime, George recorded again with Mink in Auckland and wrote dozens of new songs.
In 2006 Ian invited George around to record some demos at the home studio he had recently set up to record an album by The Dark Beaks. Other than the odd performance as emergency stand-in drummer for The Puddle over the years this was the first Ian had collaborated with George since they were teenagers in Invercargill. With the Wellington recordings not yet released the demos project quickly turned into the album “No Love – No Hate” which Ian released on his Fishrider records label in 2007. Compared to what George saw as the Ferrari of the Wellington recordings this album was a three speed bike with a basket and a bell that rings, of mainly sentimental value. People who thought George had disappeared or died were pleasantly surprised by its release which was greeted with some modest acclaim around the world.
Around this time Puddle stalwarts since 2000 – Heath te Au and Ross Jackson took a break and Ian and George were joined by Dunedin music maverick and long-time Puddle fan Gavin Shaw (Childrens Television Workshop) on bass in 2007. This remains the current line-up (further augmented in 2010 by legendary Dunedin music collaborator and ex-Louisiana “swamp-fiddler” Alan Starret on viola and keyboards). George continued to write songs and recorded “The Shakespeare Monkey” with the new Puddle line-up very soon after “No Love – No Hate” was released. “The Shakespeare Monkey” was officially released in January 2009, but not before San Francisco’s Radio KUSF Radiodrome Show had made it their Album of the Year for 2008! The album remained in their Top 30 throughout the first quarter of 2009 and made it to 19 on the KUSF Top plays of 2009 while also picking up a heap of radio play on other College Radio stations across the US. It also garnered high praise from NZ and overseas media.
A video for “Naked” from “The Shakespeare Monkey” was made by renowned Dunedin music video maker Pat O’Neil, with help from Stephen Kilroy and video editor Lisa Hastie.
In 2010 “Playboys in the Bush” was finally released on Fishrider Records in both CD and LP formats. A video for “English Speaking World” was made by a couple of fans in England – Craig Phillips (of UK band The Cavalcade) and Dominic Foster. A split 7″ single, featuring The Puddle’s “Average Sensual Man” on one side and a Robert Scott and Adalita Srsen collaboration “That’s What I Heard” on the other, was released at the same time.
Meanwhile The Puddle completed two sessions of recordings at Bob Frisbee’s Auckland studios during 2009 and 2010 for a further album – Secret Holiday/ Victory Blues released March 2012. The first set of songs was recorded with Graeme Humphreys (Able Tasmans, Humphreys & Keen) on keyboards, the second set with Alan Starrett (Pop Art Toasters, Mink, The Bats, David Kilgour, The Clean) on viola and keyboards. A video was made for Decline to Fall by Pat O’Neil, edited by Aleeza Stettner.
Pop Lib 12” mini-album Flying Nun 1986
Xmas in the Country appeared on a 1987 Bnet compilation Weird Culture Weird Custom Live in the palm of your hand Cassette Infinite Regress 1989
Friends (live) appeared on a split Onset/Offset label 7″ around 1987
Live at the Teddy Bear Club LP Flying Nun 1991
Into the Moon CD Flying Nun 1992 (includes “Pop Lib” EP)
Thursday/ Too Hot To Be Cool 7” Flying Nun 1993
The Power of Love/ Mamelons d’amadou 7” Acetone (France) 1995
Songs for Emily Valentine CD Powertool 2005 (recorded 93)
No Love – No Hate CD Fishrider 2007
The Shakespeare Monkey CD Fishrider 2009
Playboys in the Bush CD/ LP Fishrider 2010
Average Sensual Man on split 7″ single with Robert Scott/ Adalita Srsen 2010
Victory Blues/ Secret HolidayLP (200 edition) and CD Fishrider March 2012
Other George D. Henderson discography
And Band/Perfect Strangers split 7” self-released @1981
Mink – Mink CD Infinite Regress 1994
Mink – For my Mink CD Infinite Regress 1996