It all began as a bit of joke. The sound of her walking along in her high heels would be the first sign that she was about to appear at the edge of the nearby car park. Then there would be a scramble to the window so her, always unusual, wardrobe could be analyzed as she passed by – her face always coated with heavy make-up.
One of those at the window was poet/songwriter Jordan Luck, a naïve Canadian born 18 year old, who would soon learn that the make-up covered bruises; the beatings from her boyfriend sometimes so bad that the make-up was also used on her arms and legs. Her name was Vicky – landlady and local madam. She was only 23 years old and the year was 1980.
Luck (whose girlfriend lived in one of Vicky’s flats) began to get to know Vicky very well. He started to help around the property and she never seemed to mind him hanging around the place. He also got to see Vicky at her most unguarded moments – the violence she endured only disguised when she would go outside.
Luck moved to Christchurch from Timaru in September 1981 and amongst his belongings was a verse from a song only known as ‘The Deb’s Flat Song’. Deb Coupland (who went on to own ‘The Wunderbar’ in Lyttelton) had lived on Hewlings Road in Timaru and was dating one of Luck’s friends. It would be in Christchurch that ‘The Dance Exponents’ would form; what would be their debut single to the world was not yet finished. Luck would later recall that it took a long time to write but once Vicky became Victoria, the rest of the song just flowed.
By the time the ‘Dance Exponents’ took to the stage in their first gig on 15th October 1982 at the Hillsborough Tavern, ‘Victoria’ was ready to perform, and according to talent scout Mike Chunn, the song had the audience “riveted…they reached out and took the room…” and the band were signed to Mushroom Records that very night. ‘Victoria’ hit the New Zealand charts at #6 and remained there for 9 weeks.
The band never looked back, eventually opening for such acts as The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.
A year later, Luck returned to Vicky’s flat on Springfield Road, the traffic from Bealey Ave roaring away in the background. He was welcomed in for a cup a tea. She thanked him for the song and as she switched on the jug and added that she ‘…got rid of the bastard…’. It was a moment that Luck would never forget.
Sadly, he has no idea where Vicky is today. ‘Victoria’ is #8 in New Zealand’s Top 100 songs of all time.
Now the lead singer in the ‘Jordan Luck Band’, Luck became a face of encouragement during the aftermath of the 4th September 2010 earthquake. In front of an audience of 100,000 at the ‘Band Together’ concert in Hagley Park, Luck made the Cantab crowd fall in love with the city again when he sang the 1985 hit ‘Christchurch ( In Cashel Street I wait)’. Written in 1983 while waiting in Cashel Street for his girlfriend, he got thinking about Christchurch being built ‘…the whole swamp site, pukekos, and just the landscape of what Christchurch would have been like before it became a city and a place…’
Luck now lives in Auckland but Christchurch has always remained a special place to him. He was the first inductee in the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame and is a member of the ‘Order of Merit’ for his service to Music in 2012.
*photo courtesy of Jorge Dan*