Space Waltz exploded on the New Zealand scene in 1974 with the anthemic Out on the Street which is still fondly remembered today.
Band leader Alastair Riddell posed and pouted while delivering the song’s crunchy rock riffs and catchy yet ambiguous lyrics. His style appalled Kiwi parents and drew comparisons with British glam-rock stars David Bowie and T-Rex’s Marc Bolan.
The performance by Riddell and the band made a deep impression on Ian Chapman, author of Alastair Riddell's Space Waltz (of the 33 1/3 series), who was a teen when the album’s standard-bearing single shot to the top of the charts. Chapman happily admits to being a fan, especially when his parents “hated Out on the Street immediately which naturally fanned the flames of my ardour”.
He investigates the “gender earthquake” Space Waltz unleashed on 1970s New Zealand and rebuts the accusations the band was a Bowie copyist. Chapman quotes several musicians, music competition judges and critics while making his cultural assessments.
He also reports on Riddell’s lucrative side project, Stewart and the Belmonts, which proved to be a popular covers band, the internal politics within Space Waltz and the musical chairs between Riddell’s bands and other Kiwi acts including Split Enz.
There is also musical analysis of the songs on the Space Waltz album, and Chapman concludes with the contribution the album made to music in Aotearoa. A postscript mentions new Space Waltz material which is now available.
Space Waltz is a fun and detailed account of an ambitious album and band that Kiwi kids loved and their parents hated. It also offers insights into popular culture in 1970s Aotearoa.