Zaine Griff (L) and Timberjack Donoghue (R) working on the songs for the Human Instinct's Hustler Album, Mt Eden, 1974.
Zaine is seen here with his Maton Bambina acoustic bass guitar. I am playing my Martin D-18 Dreadnought acoustic guitar. The Human Instinct was arguably the loudest rockband in the land at the time, yet what you see above is how we rehearsed repertoire. Although not for the feint-hearted, this "knee to knee" acoustic rehearsal method of the Human Instinct's is the most efficient and effective way there is of developing repertoire for an electric band. (click on photo to enlarge)
The Human Instinct's concept album, The Hustler, was an original "film noir" concept album set in the bootlegging days of the Prohibition Era
It has been described as the first Zaine Griff album and I think that's pretty close. It certainly stands as testament to Glenn Mikkleson's astonishingly rapid development as a songwriter.
The distance of this development can be measured by comparing the track "Nothing's changed," his first ever songwriting attempt, to "Stoned Mary" the last track on the album.
The "Film Noir" concept of the album is pure Zaine Griff too. That a teenager from Auckland's Western Suburb's should make his first steps into songwriting a sophisticated period-piece rock-opera,
goes a long way to explaining Glenn's later international success as Zaine Griff.
Inspired, I contributed two songs to the project. "Johnny Blade" is a character I plucked out of of one of Glenn's
songs. Portrayed as an unlikeable homophobic Chicago gangster, Johnny Blade is the arch villian of the opera and I thought he deserved a voice.
"Johnny Blade's" guitar riffs I created expressly for
the twin guitars of the 1974 lineup of the Human Instinct and the song was great fun to play live.
The song was later covered by Cockroach who also did a terrific live version of it. As lead guitarist
in the band, I was soon nicknamed "Johnny Blade" and in certain parts of Northland the name has stuck to this day.
"Gypsy Dream" was my other contribution to The Hustler. It is
the tale of a young man approaching a Gypsy woman fortune teller who gives him a completely different set of answers to the ones he was expecting. (Don't we just looove that.!) The role of the young man in the operetic libretto was performed by Maurice Greer
and I took the part of the Gypsy Woman.
The Human Instinct released "Gypsy Dream" as an A-Side Single on the Zodiac label in 1974. The song was also later covered by both Cockroach
and Electric Puha and in 1975 featured on the Timberjack Donoghue "Sea of Dreams" album.
Looking back on The Hustler's ambitions as a rock opera, the project might have fared better
artistically had it been trimmed down into a concept EP, as Wellington's Tom Thumb did, with their "Ludgate Hill" concept record. All that aside, for me personally, this album still represents two of the happiest years of my life, spent in one of the best
bands I've ever played in.
If I ever get depressed or feeling low, I'll play the title track of The Hustler at full volume which is guaranteed to blow any blues into the weeds, and
Funky Monkey still remains one of my favourite twelve-bar grooves of all time.
To visit Human Instinct's Audio Culture page click here
To visit Zaine Griff's Audio Culture page click here