Classic Kiwi anthem For Today began its life in Waitara during the summer of 1984-1985. Nick Sampson of the band Netherworld Dancing Toys was working in the small goods and sundries section of Borthwicks freezing works at the time. This was the Taranaki lad's fourth season at the works and another summer spent with his grandmother, Elsie Sampson, at 68 Domett Street.

He wrote most of For Today at her house. "I took it back to the band and Malcolm [Black] rewrote the verse." The NDTs had a rehearsal room on the second floor of Dunedin's empty Roselyn woollen mill. "They were all let out to bands. The Chills were in the room next to us" Nick says.

'I remember your smile...'

Within that industrial shell, For Today was reworked into a happy pop song. Next the band sought the soaring voice of Annie Crummer. The result was a hit single in 1985 and an enduring mood-lifter that begins with a ripple of drumbeat. "It's our little anthem" says Nick. "It's a real summer song - it totally captures it for me.”

Many years on, For Today is still getting airplay on New Zealand's classic hits radio stations. And it's still impossible not to sing along.

If you told me this time last year

That I would feel like I do now

Well, I wouldn't have believed you

It's not just a question

Of my being alone

The truth is I like my own company best

If the truth is to be known

I didn't realise babe how much I cared

All I want to do is to be with you

And everything else seems unimportant compared


For today

I remember your smile

For today

I remember your smile...


It's been a hot summer now

Things the way they should be

But there's a hole in my well being

So big you could drive a truck right through

I think you should know that you are the one

Who could probably fill it for good.

While For Today isn't about Taranaki, two other Sampson-penned songs are. This Town and Everyone In This Place Is Sleeping were both written by Nick in that '84-'85 summer.

Love my denim jacket

The former captures the Think Big era of the early 1980s, when energy plants were built at Motunui and Waitara Valley, and the Ōmata tank farm appeared above Back Beach. Taranaki's young men laboured on the sites and earned large pay packets. New Plymouth was abuzz with overseas project workers and the restaurant scene began to flourish.

"And everyone was wearing these denim jackets" says Nick. "They looked like American pipeline workers." The jackets, plus jeans and boots (hard-hats on site) were standard safety issue for the project workers.

One of those industrial summers (November-December 1982), Nick spent six weeks with Asphaltic Construction working on State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara. "I didn't have a denim jacket, but I did help build the road."

All loaded up

The main thoroughfare between Port Taranaki and Waitara had to be strengthened to handle trucks carrying massive machinery and plant components. All the electricity lines had to go underground and streets were widened. When large loads were scheduled, signs went up telling people to remove their parked cars or they would be towed away.

Some of the loads driven through the streets of New Plymouth were so huge they looked like sci-fi rockets passing by. One was as tall as the then Tasman Hotel (now Tasman Towers apartment block).

This Town captures all that; brings those industrial days roaring back. "It wasn't an anti-song; it was a 'Wow, look what's going on here'," Nick says.

Growing up by the mountain

By the sea and living by Back Beach time

A nice quiet little country town

Sleeping in the sunshine

Sleeping in the sunshine

Coming back from the outside

Expecting no changes and no questions asked

But there's a denim-jacketed army

Thinking big, thinking big

In this little town we call home

In this little town we call home

In this little town we call home


They're building steel

They're building roads

They're building steel

They're building roads

They're building money...

"It was never going to be a radio song, but it was quite important for us" Nick says. "It was the first really interesting arrangement we did - we thought so anyway."

Nick and the rest of the Toys worked on This Town in their rehearsal room in Dunedin. "So there we were at the Roselyn woollen mill, a long way from summer in Taranaki and saying 'What's this song about?'" Nick explained the unexpected changes to his hometown and described the ‘denim-jacketed army’. The musicians decided to factor all this into the song, opening with an undulating trombone. "We thought 'Let's make it sound like a work siren’," he says.

"The arrangement of horns are supposed to sound quite industrial and the middle of the song has Malcolm sliding the pick on the guitar. We said 'Let's make it sound like men working with steel on roads’ and that's what that came from." The core ‘we’ were Nick, Malcolm (both guitar, vocals), Graham Cockcroft (bass) and Brent Alexander (drums).

In a sleepy little town...

The other Taranaki song is about Waitara. "It's called Everyone In This Place Is Sleeping, which we played for years, but it only appeared on our last album [The Best Years]," Nick says.

Everyone in this place is sleeping

But we all seem so happy to me

Dreams are hung out to dry on payment days

And DB temples shine in glazing eyes

Yes they do now

Everyone in this place is sleeping

But we all seem so happy to me


This is not a song of sad contempt

For purposes seem so different

Everyone in this place is sleeping

Everyone in this place is sleeping

Everyone in this place is sleeping

No one seems to want to open up their eyes...

"That was written working at the freezing works. It's very carefully written not to be a condescending song. It was about these young guys who had all this cash, but we spent it all" Nick says, throwing himself in the same category.

He says in the late 1970s and early '80s, the young freezing workers were pulling in about $600 a week. "And you spent it in the pub and on petrol and stuff. I ended up with a couple of thousand when I should have had $6000 in the bank." But Nick was a university student earning money in the summer holidays. For many of the others, the meat works was their life. "There were guys that were never going to leave."

After years of gradually downsizing its operations and laying people off work, Borthwicks finally closed at Waitara in 1999.

The Netherworld Dancing Toys never broke up; they just went on to other things. The men are all still good mates and in mid-2003 had a private reunion gig. And for a day (or more), they remembered the best years...

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