I have a band of men and all they do is play for me
They come from miles around to hear them play a melody
Beneath the stars my ten guitars will play a song for you
And if you’re with the one you love this is what you do…
What better way to mark NZ Music Month than a nod to “the song that has been the soundtrack to countless back-lawn crate parties and freezing works chains”? Released as B side of singer Engelbert Humperdinck’s Please Release Me, Ten Guitars became an unlikely hit in New Zealand, especially amongst Māori, who gave it the iconic “boom-chucka-boom-chucka” Māori strum.
Released in 1967, the song became commonplace on mutton chains and marae, in cabarets and caravans, from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.
While Ten Guitars is a defining feature of a generation it has also transcended this and is considered a keystone of Kiwi culture. It is right up there with pavlova, kiwifruit, plastic tiki, buzzy bees and jandals. Accordingly, in 1996 a documentary was made to give a “warm-spirited context” to the song that New Zealanders love to love. This is well worth watching. It is also sufficiently old enough to have historical value in its own right.
By a nice coincidence the month of May is also Engelbert Humperdink’s birthday. Born Arnold Dorsey, in Madras, India, in 1936, this suggests that webs of cultural traffic between India, England, and New Zealand, was a feature of both the 1860s and the 1960s.
Through the eyes of love you’ll see a thousand staaaaars…
When you dance, dance, dance, to my ten guitars
Hmm, come on everybody, dance dance dance to my ten guitars