Happy birthday Mr O’Brien

Richard O Brien. Photo: Colin Lunt.

Let’s start this week with some birthday wishes. It happens that one of the Bay’s more famous residents, the very fabulous Richard O’Brien, is celebrating his 80th birthday today, on March 25. All together now: “Happy Birthday Richard!”

I suspect Richard is one of the very few people I write about that really, genuinely, needs no introduction.

But let’s run through a few things anyway…

As I suspect you might be aware, he wrote a musical way back at the start of the 1970s, ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. Not many years before that he’d moved to England and was in London pursuing a career as an actor on stage, in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ amongst other things, and film – I believe his brief debut was in ‘Carry On Cowboy’ – while trying to interest publishers and others in his songs.

Rocky changed all that, particularly the left-field success of the film adaptation ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. The rest is history. The stage show turns 50 next year and is not only still constantly performed but, for slightly indefinable reasons, still seems relevant today.

Richard has, of course, done a bunch of things: been in films from ‘Revolution’ with Al Pacino, to ‘Ever After: A Cinderella Story’ with Drew Barrymore, and ‘Dark City’ with a great outfit; and he’s done an extraordinary amount of work on stage: musical, dramatic, one man-shows, the full gamut. And if you visit the UK you’ll find he is equally well-known for an eccentric quiz show called ‘The Crystal Maze’, which still repeats constantly on afternoon TV.


Most recently he has been writing and recording a new project, currently aimed to be an animated film of some description, a sort of philosophical musical fantasy poem. What I’ve heard is brilliant.

But like the rest of us, Richard has been buggered around by Covid. There was going to be a Big Eightieth Birthday Show. Then there was going to be a small, invite-only 80th birthday show. Now I’m told there will be quiet drinks at home, another casualty of the pandemic.

So, in lieu of a concert, or any public event, perhaps we can double up on those birthday wishes. All together again: “Happy Birthday Richard!”

A couple of weeks back I wrote about an exhibition coming up in The People’s Gallery at The History Village, a group show by nine local photographers entitled ‘Gig Photography’.

Now, having seen it, I’d happily recommend it to anyone with a fondness for Tauranga’s live music scene, or the New Zealand scene in general in fact: get down there and have a look. It runs from 10am each day and will be on until April 3.


I was particularly struck by the photographs from Chris O’Donnell, very much focused on the alternative scene here, from the Woodcock festival to the many vaguely illicit gigs happening under the harbour bridge, in rail tunnels and at other unlikely locations.

He has pictures of well-known Kiwi bands such as The Clean and The D4 and dozens of lesser-known outfits all caught in full swing often with vibrant glitches in the photographs adding ineffably to the vibe.

And through the nine photographers work there’s a real picture of the music both from and passing though this town during the past few years. John Baxter is a musician and also someone who documents other bands and has terrific shots of Ed Gains & The Human Remains, Tiki Taane, Hamish Kilgour, Alien Weaponry and more.

There’s Paul Ubana Jones and Kendall Elise and Sophie Gibson photographed by Nicci Baxter and elsewhere you can see Grant Haua and Trevor Braunias and Brian Franks and Aaron Saxon and The Chills, The Schizophonics, The Cavemen, Mike Garner, Kokomo and on and on. There are more than 100 photographs all up, and should you so desire they are all for sale, the largest ones are going for $100; the small ones $10.

Oh, and while you’re at the village, there’s a quirky exhibition of paintings by Mike Morgan in The Incubator, a sort of surrealist L S Lowry with the Mount and other seascapes as background for his intricate figures. It’s fun.

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