I once knew a woman in the early 90s named Sharon McKenzie who had just come off a college stint as a “disc jockey”, as had I (she at KDVS in Davis, CA; me at KCSB in Santa Barbara, CA and KFJC in Los Altos Hills, CA). She went to every show I did – and at that time we were averaging 2-3 per week – and when she told me she was starting a record label, I thought that was pretty cool. She stumped me with her first artist, though, telling me it was something by BILL DIREEN & THE BILDERS, and then getting a little annoyed when I didn’t know who that was. She was all, “You don’t know who that is?”, and I was all, “No”. So she goes, “He’s a New Zealand outsider pop legend”, and then I go, “Oh, well I haven’t heard of him”. So she’s all, “later”. Of course I bought Direen's “Alien/Skulls” 45 that came out a few months later on Sharon’s HECUBA RECORDS, and became a BILL DIREEN convert shortly thereafter.
His story is arguably the most unsung of the great New Zealand 1980s outsiders (I say arguably because there’s also THE KIWI ANIMAL and SHOES THIS HIGH, not to mention THE GORDONS), and you’d be well advised to pick up the FLYING NUN series of CDs that came out in the mid-90s that collected his early works. Direen still records music to this day and is a published poet of much renown; Hecuba folded up shop very quickly after this single; and I haven’t seen Sharon in a coon’s age (you can still say “coon’s age”, can’t ya?). I’m posting “Alien” because it’s my favorite of Direen’s many eerie, organ-heavy loner pop records, which always seem to be uplifting in their way but are full of strange stumbles down dark musical alleys. This particular version is a later (1990?) run-through one of his earliest songs, originally from 1981. It’s a good one, and you will like it.
Play Bill Direen & The Bilders, "Alien"
Download BILL DIREEN & THE BILDERS - "Alien" (A-side of 45)