ABOUT THE SONGS

History in the Making

In 1949 Pixie Williams gave voice to one of the most enduring popular melodies of the twentieth century - Blue Smoke.

Little known today was that Blue Smoke was just the beginning for Pixie who went on to record a further 12 songs, mixing universal themes and international styles with the unmistakable flavour of Aotearoa, New Zealand.  

As important as it was to the Blue Smoke Records team to capture the entire collection of Pixie's music for future generations to enjoy, we also wanted to capture the story behind the songs.  The information collected here is as complete as possible. 

Please contact Blue Smoke Records if you have additional information so we can correct or update the information below.

Ain't It A Shame

Ruru Karaitiana, 1949

The song responsible for conceiving the project in 1982,  to capture Pixie's entire collection 'one day' before it was lost forever. A classic, catchy jazz number about lost love and regret.

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Saddle Hill

Ruru Karaitiana, 1951

A tribute to Dunedin's landmark Saddle Hill, was penned soon after Ruru moved to live in Dunedin to be near his wife's family.

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Bell Bird Serenade

Colin O'Connell, 1951

In 1950 Pixie was introduced to Colin O'Connell who wrote two songs for her.  Bell Bird Serenade is based on a folktale that when a courting couple hears the song of the bell bird they will soon marry.

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Senorita

Ruru Karaitiana, 1949

The B-side of Blue Smoke, Senorita about the love of a beautiful girl, drew a single review that it was a 'gay, inconsequential trifle written by the same composer in Latin American rhythm'.

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It's Just Because

Ruru Karaitiana, 1951

Written for Pixie at the same time as 'Saddle Hill', It's Just Because was written in honour of the troops of K-Force departing for the Korean War, and recorded in Dunedin's 4YA Radion Station with narration by radio announcer 'Doug Harris'.

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Let's Talk It Over

Ruru Karaitiana, 1949

After the surprise success of Pixie's first effort, 'Blue Smoke', she recorded a second hit for Ruru Karaitiana with Let's Talk It Over.  An emotional and slow moving waltz about a relationship break-up, it went on to sell 20,000 discs.  Recorded with the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette, the melody is technically more difficult than 'Blue Smoke', which Pixie's voice handles with ease.  In 2011, aged 83, Pixie was awarded a Single Platinum Award in recognition of this achievement by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).

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Sailing Along On A Moonbeam

Claude Upjohn Grayling, 1951

Originally attributed to 'Rayling', little was known about the composer of this song until a reader of this website provided background in August 2013.  Claude Upjohn Grayling was a farmer at Katitaki, Bay of Plenty, and an amateur musician. He wrote this melody that takes you on a journey across time to a slower pace and where the world was full of promise.  A copy of the original score is held in the Katikati Archives.

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Maori Rhythm

Dorothy M Vincent & M E Purser, 1951

Little is known of Dorothy M Vincent, who composed Maori Rhythm, or its lyricist, M E Purser.  A wonderful story of a pakeha boy falling in love with a Maori girl and her 'tantalising sway', it was recorded with Allan Shand and his Orchestra in 1951, but not released

until 1954.

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Best Wishes

Sam Freedman, 1949

Well known for his arrangements and English lyrics for Maori songs, as well as for his own compositions, another pioneer of New Zealand popular music wrote two songs for Pixie.  Best Wishes is a beautiful ode to Christmas and the sentiments it raises thinking about absent loved ones at this special time of year.  It was on the B-side of the two track record, with the first song, Maori Land, recorded on the A-side.  

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Sweetheart In Calico

Colin O'Connell, 1950

The second song written for Pixie by O'Connell, Sweetheart in Calico is about recollections of childhood love.

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Windy City

Ruru Karaitiana, 1949

A magical song written about our own Windy City, Wellington, it's a cultural classic and the lyrics can't help but bring a smile to your face.

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Maoriland

Sam Freedman, 1949

Maoriland is the first song Freedman wrote for Pixie.  About the beauty and magic of postwar New Zealand, it was the first of Sam Freedman's works to be recorded from a career lasting through the 1960's with more than 300 compositions - his most famous being 'Harere Mai'.  His other work for Pixie, Best Wishes, was recorded on the B-side of this two-track Shellac.  

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Blue Smoke

Ruru Karaitiana, 1949

The song that started it all for Pixie Williams and Ruru Karaitiana.  Blue Smoke was arguably New Zealand's first pop song, and the first song wholly written, recorded and manufactured locally, then commercially released.  Written in 1940 aboard the troopship Acquitania, the song is about the sadness of leaving loved ones behind when going to war.  Upon its release it sold 50,000+ copies and in 2011 Pixie Costello (nee Williams), aged 83, was awarded a Triple Platinum Award in recognition of this achievement by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).  In 1952 Ruru was the first New Zealander to receive an Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) award of 25 pounds for sales of Blue Smoke and Let's talk it Over.

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Pixie

In her own words

Pixie Costello (nee Williams), 2010

Pixie talks about what music means to her.

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