of the week

This week’s choice holds good memories for me too because the intro is so memorable and it was thanks to Kenny Everett it was a hit. Kenny used to feature, initially, just the intro, before later playing the whole song. When Kenny began his television career he had his own excellent shows and used an oversized animated mouth with big lips saying the longest word in the world. A word that does have a meaning which we’ll find out in a minute.

Quantum Jump was formed in the mid-70s by Rupert Hine, a producer and keyboard player who launched a solo career in 1971, but never really had any success. They comprised, Hine also now on lead vocals, former Caravan bass player John G Perry, Mark Warner on guitars, violinist/ guitarist Geoffrey Richardson, Trevor Morais on drums and percussionists Ray Cooper and Morris Pert. They recorded The Lone Ranger, a tongue in cheek, sideways look at the Lone Ranger and his friend Tonto and the ridiculous idea that they might be gay. The original Lone Ranger was a fictional masked Texas Ranger who fought the outlaws with his native American friend Tonto in American’s old west. They first appeared on a radio show on WXYZ in Detroit in 1933.

In an interview with Q magazine in 2000, Richard said, “It was pothead stuff, the idea that The Lone Ranger and Tonto smoked joints. They rode the range stoned out of their heads. Occasionally Tonto wonders about being alone with the Lone Ranger. It was a wacky time.” Because of that and the fact the lyrics suggest he was gay, ‘Tonto know that Kimosabi never ever have a woman, Tonto sometime stop and wonder what the trip with the great white brother, maybe masked man he a poofter’ the record got banned and the group split the following year.

The song’s original intro was quite bland and the owner of Electric records, to whom they were signed, suggested they come up with something more interesting. The boss said the intro had no real character and every label boss and producer knows that you have to grab the listeners attention in the first 15 seconds or forget it.

Hine went away and, as he remembered to Loudersound, “I had a casual flick through a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records whereupon I stumbled across ‘the longest word in the world’. Realising that it had a remarkably unique, percussive quality and having the good fortune to have Manfred Mann [actually Manfred Mann’s Earth Band] in my studio at the time – Chris Thompson, their singer, was from New Zealand [actually born in Kent but raised in New Zealand] and he was tremendously helpful in writing it out phonetically for me. I got more excited when realising that it was so rhythmical it started to have a life of its own and then, light bulb of light bulbs, why didn’t I ‘stuff that up’ the first 15 seconds. That’s interesting! And thus the idea was born; a completely arbitrary opening phrase that was instantly adored by the label and recapitulated as a middle-8. Of course. On the one hand I felt I was getting my own back by coming up with such a ludicrous idea – whereas in fact I was merely cementing the truth of their original request.”

A number of sources seem to have various spellings of the longest word  ranging up to 116 letters, but according to the sign it is spelt, ‘TaumatawhakatangihangakoauauoTamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu’ and if you want to go and look for it, you find it located approximately six kilometres away from the small village of Porangahau, Central Hawkes Bay which is to be found on the south east coast of New Zealand’s north island.

Kenny Everett kept championing the song and demand was high and the record company were forced to re-issue it. it eventually charted despite the ‘pooftah’ reference and is still played occasionally today with no alteration and, what do you know, no one has complained, not even a gay person.

Now Hine had something successful and what he remembers most is people wondering how he learnt it and people had an “insatiable appetite to want to have a go and learn it themselves.” That’s exactly what I did in 1979, I played it at 33⅓ rpm, wrote it out phonetically and took two days to learn it. In around 2014, I played it to my son who had an equal interest and he went away and learned it the same way.

“The single took a few months climbing up the charts and that meant, for quite a while, I was on Top of the Pops every other week,” Hine recalled, “By the time it reached the top 10, I was indeed, getting recognised on the street and the timing was perfect in that I was just in the process of raising funding for building a recording studio and this ‘successful presence’ was duly noted by the financial team behind the project.”

The song also has a few odd, but innocent lines including, ‘He smoked a pipe of peace with Tonto, put his mask on back-to-fronto’, ‘Find him scalp him eat him up for breakfast, and ‘Let me say to mister lawman Tonto doesn’t mind’.

Over the years the place name has garnered more interest from people outside of New Zealand and people came from hundreds of miles away to visit the area and so according to the 100% Pure New Zealand website, they tell us that, “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu” translates into English as ‘the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one.” Locals simply call it Taumata Hill.

Tamatea was a famous chief and warrior. One day, while travelling through the back of Porangahau, he encountered another tribe and had to fight them to get past. During the fight his brother was killed. Tamatea was so grieved over the loss of his brother that he stayed at the battle site for some days. Each morning he would sit on the hill and play a lament on what is called the koauau or Maori flute.

Who would believe that a band who made a serious debut album blending jazz and rock in the mid-70s could end up being a one-hit-wonder and remembered for a light-hearted mickey-take. Hine said, “In that context The Lone Ranger, it was a somewhat frivolous last-minute idea; intended to be lighter-hearted to balance some of the more serious, stylistic integration.”

Hine went on to write many songs for other artists including Break Every Rule for Tina Turner in 1987, Arrested By You for Dusty Springfield in 1990 and, as a producer, had hits with After the Fire, The Fixx, Howard Jones, Bob Geldof, Chris De Burgh, Rush and Stevie Nicks.

In 2017, he was appointed Chairman of the Ivor Novello Awards and he died in June 2020 from renal cancer which had been diagnosed nine years earlier. He was 72.