Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coconut Rough - More Than Just A Chocolate Bar

Yet another quality act hailing from New Zealand in the mid 80s were Coconut Rough - the band, not the popular variety of chocolate - though it was from the confectionary that the new wave pop act took their name when they formed in 1982.

Vocalist Andrew Snoid (AKA Andrew McLennan), after a short stint with The Swingers ('Counting The Beat') , returned to his native New Zealand in 1982. He joined forces with old friend and former bandmate Mark Bell (guitar) who had played with Snoid in thePlague and the Whizz Kids. They recruited bassist Dennis 'Choc' Te Whare, keyboardist Stuart Pearce and drummer Paul Hewitt to form Coconut Rough.

The band set up base in Auckland and soon gathered a strong following on the club circuit. They signed a recording deal with Mushroom Records and their first single would prove to be a considerable success, though sadly their only one. 'Sierra Leone' reached the top 5 in New
Zealand, though it barely registered on the Australian charts (2 weeks with a peak position of #99). On the back of 'Sierra Leone's success, Coconut Rough were awarded Most Promising Group Of 1983 by Recording Industry Artists New Zealand.

The bands synth pop sound in combo with a strong guitar/bass rhythm section seemed to be in line with so many other popular acts around the same time; think Real Life, Kids In The Kitchen, Sunnyboys, Models, Machinations, INXS; but Coconut Rough's fame lasted about as long as a block of the chocolate variety - perhaps there were just too many acts of that ilk vying for attention in the relatively small Australasian market.

Coconut Rough released another single 'As Good As It Gets' which flopped completely and contributed one half to the live LP 'Whistle While You Work'. The band then began work on their studio album debut during 1984, but by that time label support from Mushroom Records was on the wane, as was the bands popularity. Towards the end of
Coconut Rough's tenure a new bass player was recruited in Bones Hillman (also formely of The Swingers) and later to be the bass player with Midnight Oil (from 1987). Soon after the band went their separate ways before the end of '84. Their self titled album was released around the same time (following a protracted dispute of various remixes in the recording process), and another EP of previously recorded work was recorded ('It Takes Two To Tango') but both disappeared without a trace. Guitarist Mark Bell do go on to work with the reformed Pop Mechanix, then became a guitar for hire touring with Jenny Morris, Jan Hellreigel and Greg Johnson.

The last time the track 'Sierra Leone' was available on CD was via a 1995 CD compilation released in New Zealand entitled 'Bliss' - but it is a long time since that was commercially available. So in lieu enjoy this rare Coconut Rough treat here:


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