Obituary - Tony Peak (1953 - 2010)

Iconic punk guitarist/singer for the Newtones record store manager radio and club DJ assistant manager of Salmonella Dub; Tony Peake was a hugely influential figure on the Christchurch and national music scene from the late 1970s through to the late ‘90s when he moved to Australia. In 1977 soon after taking over the running of the Canterbury UBS record store the sometimes blue sometimes orange-haired Peake formed The Vandals – one of New Zealand’s first-wave punk bands. They got name checked in the January ‘78 issue of Rip It Up. The band – according to the article’s writer: a certain ‘Tony P’ – were “coming to get ya!” Later that year a rumour appeared in the magazine that Tony would audition as vocalist for the Scavengers after Mike Lesbian left the band. He didn’t and in 1979 formed Streets of Flowers which saw horizons broaden. Punk didn’t have to be so stodgy; it could be fused with psychedelia (which when you think about it is a good way of describing the early Dunedin Sound). In 1980 he joined the Newtones. One of the country’s most successful pop bands at the time Paint The Town Red reached #13 on the national charts in 1981; a rare event for local artists in those days. Of equal – if not greater – importance to NZ music in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s was the UBS record counter Tony ran which at the time contained the best collection of music of any store in the country. The box loads of new UK and US imports that he would bring in every 4 months were legendary within the local musicCommunity,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations,Community,Music Organisations. The NME was our bible then; with Tony – and his incredible taste – functioning as a kind of countercultural bureau chief to other musicians and music fans. Those records helped define the sound of RDU (then Radio U) – which in turn shaped the sound of Christchurch music – from 1978 well into the mid-eighties. Tony treated music as a sacrament and his tucked-away corner had the feel of a holy space: the strong smell of Indian incense behind the counter a warm friendly man with a sparkle in his eye and always something fantastic on the turntable. His upstairs record counter was our equivalent to Malcolm McLaren’s Kings Rd shop: an extraordinarily cool place to hang out listen to the very latest and best sounds smoke and chat with odd-looking people – many soon-to-be musicians. A lot of bands got formed or got their first break by hanging out at the UBS loft. But Tony’s sphere of influence ranged even wider: hosting the Radio U Reggae Show for a number of years he was a pioneer by way of introducing roots reggae and heavy dub sounds to a local audience of (particularly) white musicians. He then did the same thing with hip-hop electronica and dance music when helping to open the Zanzibar – Christchurch’s first nightclub – in 1984 and becoming house DJ. Later Tony played an integral part in the international development of Salmonella Dub. Without his influence their Dub Conspiracy Tour would not have been able to take Fat Freddy’s Drop Shapeshifter Cornerstone Roots and other groups to Australia. Tony was hugely generous with his time (precious) his advice (sage) his intoxicants (the finest) his influence (significant) and his love (pure and bountiful). He was a wickedly beautiful soul – naughty but mystical and spiritual – and an articulate well-read rebel who always looked impeccably cool. Blessed with a sixth sense about where music was going he was a great teacher who opened up the ears and influenced the tastes of many. On October 13 2010 at the age of 57 Tony died peacefully of cancer at his home near Adelaide surrounded by friends and family. God bless you ‘Jah’ Peake. A multitude of aroha and kisses. For more memories about Tony – some of them very touching: