Book Review: In Love With These Times – My Life With Flying Nun Records by Roger Shepherd

Note: In Love With These Times was released in 2016, but I only read it recently.

Flying Nun is a beloved New Zealand record label, known for a string of alternative albums in the 1980s and 1990s. Legendary DJ John Peel once described Flying Nun as “the best label in the world”, and In Love With These Times is a memoir from the label’s founder Roger Shepherd about the label’s journey.

It’s fascinating how ramshackle the entire operation was. It was setup with an initial outlay of $350 – $300 for a flight to Auckland. Flying Nun was run on the smell of an oily rag – the label ran on the edge of bankruptcy for its existence. Everyone pitched in – Straitjacket Fits’ Shayne Carter’s typing skills were utilised in the pre-word processor era.

While Flying Nun seemingly existed in a state of permanent chaos, it seems clear that a lot of music the label released in the 1980s wouldn’t have been released otherwise. Some bands like The Chills and Straitjacket Fits probably would have made it to a major label eventually, but rawer acts like The Clean and Chris Knox’s Tall Dwarfs might never have been captured for posterity.

In fact there was too much [music] to do it all justice, though we did our best. There seemed to be so much good music being made and I felt we had to release it. The chances were if we didn’t, it wouldn’t see the light of day. No other label had emerged to work the same or similar territory, and this was still well before the time when artists would consider taking on the complexities of releasing their own material.

Roger Shepherd

Flying Nun went off-track for a while when it was bought out by Warners. But Shepherd, with the help of Neil Finn, bought it back in 2009 and it’s still running, releasing albums by current artists like Aldous Harding and Tiny Ruins.

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  1. I thought it was a Sally Field post when I saw the title. There were some good shows back then…Twilight Zone, Hogans Heroes and some good westerns…


    I love labels like this. They do it for the love of music because there is usually little or no money involved unless you luck out like Island Records…or get a great buy out or merger. I’m glad those labels existed or we might not have gotten the Replacements, REM, and more.

    Don’t they usually team up with a larger company to do distribution?
    That is cool that it’s still around.

    • I think I’d be out of my depth writing about 1960s TV, although I have seen a lot of Hogan’s Heroes. I think they got offered a deal for distribution but turned it down. It’s probably a lot easier now to DIY it than it was 40 years ago.

      • Hogan’s heroes did it all wrong because the only funny characters were the German officers, and everybody else just played it straight. In those kind of sitcoms EVERYBODY has to be funny. Every character has to be a familiar comic type. What makes those old 60s sitcoms funny is the characterizations and how good the actors were at doing them. And they were excellent. The situations themselves weren’t necessarily funny, but the actors and the characters were. That’s all that counts.

  2. I love reading books about inside the industry and inside the record labels and stuff. I read ones about Columbia Records and Motown and Atlantic and Capitol and indie labels. Now I’m reading one about the Brill Building, and one about the Los Angeles scene in the ’70s. I love stuff about behind-the-scenes. I don’t know anything about this label here or any of the artists but it sounds really interesting. There’s so many interesting music books that have been coming out in the last few years. I got all these music books that will take me a zillion years to ever get around to reading.

    • Sometimes artist biographies can be a little predictable but anything from a different angle is usually excellent and interesting.

      • I know. The autobiographies become predictable especially after you’ve read the first one. There’s something like 30 books about the Doors and Jim Morrison and after I read the third or fourth one they were all the same with all the same information. It’s cool to hear the stuff the first time, but nobody ever has anything new to say.. They just keep repeating the same old stories that you’ve heard before. Lol

  3. And I love all these TV shows that everybody is mentioning like The Flying Nun and My Mother the Car. I always watch them on the retro TV cable channels. The 1960s had the best sitcoms. They were like really absurd but funny as hell. The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres and Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and stuff. They were the best TV shows EVER. They’ve been in reruns for like 50 years.

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