Know your enemy

by Roy Colbert / 23 April, 2005
He drove the van, he carried the gear, he was Chris Knox's punching bag ... The Enemy and Toy Love's biggest fan still thinks they were brilliant. And he's probably right.

Ray Davies of the Kinks wrote a great song about Dan the Fan. Most bands have a Dan the Fan. But there are fans within fans, and the ones who come aboard once the band is established are definitely secondary to the ones who were there right from the start.

Being there right from the start is the best. Chris Moody, or "Mood", as he was known around the Enemy/Toy Love enclave, grew up in Mosgiel, just over the hill from

Dunedin. And although Robert Scott (Clean, Bats) also hailed from Mosgiel, this was not in any way a rock'n'roll town.

My fix on Mood, then, was that he was out of the loop. He would disagree. "Through my dad's bookshop I was subscribing, air mail, to Rolling Stone and reading NME and Creem. I'd like to think I was more in the loop than most," he says.

But with no driver's licence until 17, Mood never made it over the hill to check out the big Kiwi bands who came to the Ag Hall on Saturday night. He didn't have classmates who were in bands, no parties with the peer group on Saturday nights. Out of the loop. So he moved into the city, and eventually flatted with Doug Hood, who would later dally briefly in the Clean before managing the Enemy and the band they became, Toy Love. By 1976, Mood was flatting with Hood and Chris Knox in Filleul St, just across the road from the Old Beneficiaries Hall, where the Enemy would make their legendary debut at the end of 1977, the one that kicked off both the Dunedin Sound and, effectively, Flying Nun.

Mood had met Knox three years earlier - "He had a little white lab coat and hair halfway down his back" - when Knox was working at the Brian Snell stereo store. Mood was in the Filleul St flat, too, when a burglar reached through the window and stole all of the closest letter - G - from the flat's enormous wall-sized record collection. Knox was delighted that they didn't take the Bs.

The Enemy began here. There had been writing and recording fiddlings in the flat before - I remember wiping out an entire reel-to-reel tape of these when Knox gave me a tape to record an Enemy gig at the Cellar Club in Manse St on my Revox A77. None of us had a sense of history then. The English punk explosion replaced fiddling with focus, and the Enemy - Knox, Mick Dawson, Alec Bathgate, Mike Dooley - were up and running.

Mood used to come into my record store and tell me how good they were sounding at practice, how many great songs they had, how surprised we were all going to be. He had also tried out as their drummer, coming round one night to have a lash on my drum kit (like all rock writers I had a room full of musical instruments). He didn't know much about the drums, but he knew more than me, as I had set them up backwards.

Mood bought a set of drums. He thought he could practise for a while and then present his talent to Knox. But this was punk rock, everything was done instantly. Play now, said Knox. Mood crashed around the kit for 10 minutes, got the thumbs down and sold his drums to Hamish Kilgour.

I had a similar story. Knox fronted up one day and, after abusing me for liking the Dwight Twilley Band, asked how good I was on the Strat. Well, it wasn't a Strat, it was a three-quarter-size Diplomat Strat copy, and I was useless.

"I'm useless," I said to Knox.

"Pity," he said, and left.

I pulled my CV from the drawer and wrote, "Was once asked to join the Enemy." Dined out on that one for years.

So here was Mood, the fan, with a great rock band taking shape right in the house he was living in. It doesn't get any better than this. Even at the beginning, the Enemy's songs were superior to the bulk of what was being phlegmed out of England - Beatle tops on Stooges bottoms. The Enemy were punk, but they also knew what had gone before. Perfect.

They conquered Dunedin and headed off to Auckland in a convoy of two matt black Transit vans, Hood driving the one with the psychedelic inside, and Mood driving the one that was always in the band photos.

Auckland were primed to hate the Enemy but were soon won over. Then Dawson left, and Phil Judd became a spectacular link between that band and Toy Love. Mood remembers this period as fairly tedious. He'd drive Judd to the practice room where the band would wrestle unsuccessfully with an extra-guitar-part "Pull Down the Shades". There was one highlight, though - he got to hold Judd's white semi-acoustic Gibson guitar, which, he says, is the only guitar that ever felt right in his hands.

Paul Kean and Jane Walker then joined after Judd's exit and Toy Love were born. Mood remembers a whole new creativity and freshness from Walker's 60s organ sound and an appreciable growth in the songwriting. Terence Hogan got the band through the tradesmen's entrance at WEA (who had rejected the Enemy two years before) and they released "Rebel"/"Squeeze".

Next came Australia and the Deluxe label, led by two ambitious bands trying to claw their way up the tree, Toy Love and INXS. One did better than the other. But Mood reckoned that while Toy Love worked like dogs and wallowed in perennial poverty, their following was growing all the time. With material and stage act both, London did not seem an unreasonable goal. Did the Fan think the payoff was close?

"Definitely. We were all just waiting for the next step, the step that came after 'Sheep' getting mentioned in the NME."

Toy Love came back to New Zealand to do a debt-reducing national tour. The album came out then and the nation's alternative rockers surged into record stores, sending it to number four in the national chart.

"Not bad for a naff album," said Knox during their six-night (six nights!) week at Dunedin's Captain Cook Hotel.

Mood was roadie and lighting man now. He was probably a roadie at that very first Enemy gig, too, he would have carried stuff across the road to the quaint hall that later became Maude's Fabric Barn and is now a café. He knew nothing about lighting and says he was a pretty incompetent roadie. But he was still there, riding the dream.

"Then, on that New Zealand tour, everything kind of went pear-shaped," he says. Drummer Dooley, whom Knox called the conscience of the band, was the one who pulled the shades down on Toy Love, the one who felt it wasn't happening any more. Mood was devastated. Musicians continue, fans are just left with memories.

Bathgate later estimated the Enemy and Toy Love had played "Pull Down the Shades" 411 times. Mood swears he saw over 400 of those versions and he can pretty much individually remember the ones he missed. He was there every night, sometimes as a punching bag for Knox's post-gig outbursts when things hadn't gone right, or maybe just because Toy Love weren't further up that tree. But he always came back for more. Loyal.

Mood went back to Sydney, where Dawson was living. Fierce musical purists both, they would buy tickets for the same concerts but wonder at the wisdom of sitting together for fear their opinions would ruin the evening for the other. Only true friends behave like this.

Dooley is back in Dunedin now in the Snares, his stepdaughter on guitar; Kean is a Bat and a Minisnap; Bathgate a Tall Dwarf and a solo artist; Jane Walker is in London; and Chris Knox is a Chris Knox.

The long talked-about Toy Love compilation double CD is out through Flying Nun this week. The album has been significantly remastered, no longer naff, and there is a raft of other great stuff. Mood, living in Dunedin now, has naturally had a copy for some time. "It just sounds brilliant," he says. "I realise now it wasn't just a dream. They really were that damn shit hot."

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