This song was written in Wanaka during the first Blerta tour. it was written for The Blerta Kids' Show which was a free show we put on in every town we visited. These shows were part of a public relations exercise that we undertook to help defray the negative connotations created by the appearance of the Blerta Bus, covered as it was by graffiti, in the middle of some of the ultra conservative towns of the rural South Island. To a significant proportion of the locals this meant that a group of drug crazed hippies had arrived and that it was time to lock up their daughters. Doing business amidst such a perception was never going to be easy.
The theory was that it is difficult for anyone to maintain hostility towards people who are good to their kids and prepared to entertain them for nothing. This proved to be the case and we persisted with these popular free shows for some years.
The material used in the kids shows was different to the standard Blerta fare as seen in our concerts and dances. It was children's music and was drawn from a number of sources. Some songs were purpose written and some were old standards such as 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' and 'Mamma Don't Allow No Jazz Band Playing Here'. 'Dance All around the World' was one of the purpose written songs for the shows.
The idea came from a children's book of the same name by Margaret Mahy. This book appeared amongst the kids on the Blerta bus about the time we arrived in Wanaka. As soon as I saw it I realized that this would make an excellent basis for an item for the kids show so I began organising and re-ordering the book's contents, and changing the characters to suit the costumes we had on the bus with a view to creating a song that could be acted out, and which the kids could participate in. It quickly became the centre-piece of the kids' show.
It was never played anywhere else but in the Kids' Show. There was never any video made of the song and at the time I came to do Blerta Revisited I could not even find any footage of it being performed during a Kids' Show.
The music was written by Corben Simpson but the concept and the words came from a variety of sources. As mentioned, I had altered material from the original book, as had Corben. He had to to make it all scan properly. Bill Stalker, who did the voice over, rearranged the section he had to deliver so that it fitted the rhythms of the music and climaxed at the time the piece roars into the chorus. The fact is, however, that the original concept and some passages of Margaret's book were used as is. She was never credited.
This would not have mattered but for the fact that when the band got into the studio in Wellington, Bruno Lawrence decided that it would make an excellent single. Thus 'Dance All around the World' hit the airwaves and became popular. When I saw the cover of the original 45, it read 'Written by Corben Simpson and Geoff Murphy.' Properly, it should have read, 'Written by Corben Simpson and Margaret Mahy'.
This sense of 'false pretenses' was heightened when I was informed by APRA that there was some money due to me from record sales. Although I don't recall the amount, I remember that it was not a huge amount so I informed them that I didn't feel entitled to any such pay out and to forward the money to Corben who was undeniably worthy and desperately broke. This has been the case ever since.
I was involved with 'Dance All around the World' as a creative producer and did contribute to, and influence the writing, but do not feel I can be regarded as the writer or the rights holder.
By Geoff Murphy, September 2013