The Gallows


The Bluestars ran the Gallows music venue on Remuera Rd next to the fire station in 1966.

The Bluestars formed in Auckland in 1962. John Harris, a young reporter for the Auckland Star newspaper, was also a musician who played several instruments. He met Murray Savidan and Roger McClay, two students at Auckland Grammar School, at a second hand music shop, and they decided to form a band, initially called The Nomads.

Savidan sang and played bass and McClay played guitar. Harris became the drummer, but switched to lead guitar after McClay departed from the group Jim Crowley became the group’s drummer Harris recruited a friend, Rick von Bokhoven to join on vocals and guitar. In 1962, the Nomads changed their name to the Bluestars. By 1963, they were playing regular gigs at church, including St Chad’s, youth clubs and the Tamaki Yacht Club. On October 29, 1966 the Bluestars opened their own music club, the Gallows, in Remuera, above a hamburger shop and next door to the fire station. They painted the walls in deep blue and adorned them with group-themed images, artifacts and pictures of gallows. A dumbwaiter connected the nightclub with Fred’s Burger Shop on the ground floor. After, numerous attempts to secure a club license, they were unable to secure one, but opened anyway, functioning without a proper permit. In an effort to keep outside noise to a minimum, the group always made sure to keep the windows closed during performances, but other bands did not take this precaution, and a rash of neighbours’ complaints forced them to finally shut down by year’s end.

Bluestars Social End Product poster

Through Decca in England, they released a single of “Please Be A Little Kind” backed with “I Can Take It” in December 1965. The group went back to the studio to prepare a follow-up single. Unfortunately, Decca didn’t like any of the songs and rejected them all, ending the relationship with Decca. In answer to this rejection, John Harris wrote “Social End Product”, called “possibly the greatest 60s punk record of them all”. It was released on Allied International in September 1966 with “I’m Over Here” on the flipside. “I’ve been labeled as an angry young man / Because I don’t fit into the master plan / Under society’s microscope / I look funny but it’s no joke I’m a social end product so don’t blame me / I’m a social end product of society / It’s not my fault that I don’t belong / It’s the world around me that’s gone all wrong”. [6]

The song’s writer, John Harris said: “Social End Product expressed the way I felt about the world in those days. There was something badly wrong with the world… this was just me lashing out in an angry young man’s way, trying to say ‘this world is rotten, and I feel helpless to change it.’ The song had snarling vocals, fuzzy riffs, a cough in the guitar solo, and a punk rock spirit that predated the Sex Pistols by ten years: the song is now legendary. The song developed a cult following in the early 80s with sixties garage punk enthusiasts all over the world. The Bluestars folded in March 1967.