Remembering Paul Parkhouse

Music Plus
with Winston Watusi

I have one gig I promised to mention, so I’m doing that right up-front.

It should be outstanding. Critically-acclaimed Australian duo This Way North celebrate their long-awaited first album ‘Punching Underwater’ at the Jam Factory on Friday, February 16, along with award-winning Kiwis Albi and The Wolves.

Look ‘em up, they’re on YouTube.

Okay. Done. But today I want to write about Paul Parkhouse, who died on January 21.

Paul was, for nearly 20 years, a singer, harmonica player and saxophonist with B-Side Band, which he founded with singer/guitarist Simon Elton in the early-2000s.

The idea was to play “B-sides”, neglected gems of blues and rockabilly.

They were a trio with drummer Carl Winter and no bass player.

And so it stayed, though the repertoire became increasingly dominated by Simon’s and, particularly, Paul’s original songs.

Debut recording was a six-song EP in 2006, which contained the first classic Parkhouse song, ‘Lost & Found’.

He wrote a lot more as more albums followed.

‘Pilot Bay Blues’ 

There was 2008’s ‘Pilot Bay Blues’, with country rave-up ‘Carter’s Flat’ showing Paul could have happily written for the Topp Twins, whom he later name-checked on ‘Remuera Cowboy’ from 2010’s ‘Downunder & Blues’.

Both albums also featured Paul’s trademark instrumentals where he unveiled an antique shop’s worth of unusual harmonicas.

The band expanded eventually, defiantly ignoring calls for a bass player by adding guitarist Mike Kirk, while Blair Williams joined briefly on drums before Ian Gilpin took over.

There were more EPs and a compilation, and Paul’s creativity just seemed to grow.

I saw many B-Side Band recording sessions, right from the first EP, and watched Paul gaining in confidence in the studio.

From 2012 he took over as producer. By 2018 he was in complete control, composing the utterly original and perfectly-judged music for a spoken word album, ‘Angel-Headed Hipster’, he produced for his friend, the poet Mick Innes.

‘Ship of Fools’ 

There followed the final B-Side Band album, ‘Ship of Fools’, their best, as good as any blues-based album made here.

Paul’s songwriting chops and musical persona – the self-deprecating tough guy – gel perfectly, the arrangements are on point, the whole production is rich, swaggering and Kiwi through and through.

Simon died unexpectedly two years ago and now Paul has lost a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer.

In the interim he did some great gigs with guitarist Josh Durning.

I’m going to miss him. Miss his humble funny presence.

Paul was a real pleasure to hang out with.

The Groover with the Hoover from Farmer’s Auto.

He had a thousand and one stories of the disreputable old days in Sydney and Christchurch – I haven’t even mentioned him playing sax with outlandish 1980’s Christchurch band Rocko Coco – and a wealth of knowledge that always surprised.

And, however modest about it he was, he was a helluva songwriter.

There are more than 40 original B-Side Band songs of Paul’s: that’s a musical legacy.

Tauranga is poorer for his passing.

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