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R.I.P. Alison Abraham, 1957-2020

Alison Abraham passed away on the 18th August, 9am, NZT. This fact might seem inconsequential, or even trivial, but: she was my mother, and so it's tremendously consequential to me. Let this list stand as a commemoration and celebration of her musical taste and influence on me / death is real, and it’s not for writing lists about,
1Cat Stevens
Tea for the Tillerman

We begin with Cat Stevens: allegedly, he was playing on the radio while my Dad was frantically driving to the hospital with my Mum, in labour, and was also playing at the hospital room my Mum gave birth (well, had a C-Section; I came out the wrong way, a habit I’ve continued all my life). Mum always attributed my love of Cat Stevens to my *very* early exposure to him; not, of course, that I needed an excuse.

I remember at the age of 5 trawling through my Mums record collection and being absolutely mesmerized: on my sixth birthday I specifically asked to listen to this, not because I understood the music but because I was enthralled by the way the Atlantic logo swirled on the record player in hues of green and red, the way the needle progressed along the vinyl, the way the needle fell so neatly onto the black crackle.
Close to the Edge

I loved the fold-out of this
The Yes Album

And the cover of this
5The Who
A Quick One

The Polydor logo, while inferior to the Atlantic one, had its own charms imbued in the embossed red
Tago Mago

…My Mum had really good music taste in the 1970s that she bequeathed to me what can I say.
7Fleetwood Mac

Some albums, like this one, were so indelibly etched into my memory from an early age that I recognised every note when I was cognizant of listening to them. I suspect I know the culprit responsible.
Diamond Life

...see above
9Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman

...and this one too.
10Public Enemy
Yo! Bum Rush the Show

Our tastes didn’t always gel, and the music I blasted obnoxiously loudly as a mopey adolescent was met with disapprobation: I noted the conspicuous absence of this when I left home for uni and returned for the first time.
Surfer Rosa

This one is probably strewn among the detritus of the garbage dump too.
12The Jesus Lizard

…That said, once, when I was home and came back from doing some shopping, I heard her listening to this while doing some housework. She looked at me like a teenager caught smoking a cigarette and said sheepishly and defensively “I like the guitar”. Me too Mum. Me too.
13Florence and the Machine

She attended live shows with me or my brother as often as she could if she liked what she’d heard
14Sufjan Stevens
Carrie and Lowell Live

Savouring the precious moments
15The National
Sleep Well Beast

Rocking out to Squalor Victoria with the best of them: My Mum.
16David Thomas Broughton
The Complete Guide to Insufficiency

Funnily enough in my will I have links to home-made recordings of me covering Ambiguity, because she loved nothing more than to hear me noodle on the guitar while she pottered in the background
17Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks

and Buckets of Rain
18Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me

How do we conceive of death? I see it as something twisted, certainly, but not mangled, rather knotted: the roots of a boughed old oak.
1936 and Zake
Stasis Sounds For Long​-​Distance...

Memories suffuse and flicker like the irradiance of the sun casting through gaps in the leaves
20Greg Gorlen
summer tape

Playing Hide-and-Seek, me and my brother giggling furiously while Mum said in an ostentatiously, comically loud voice “WHERE ARE YOU” about a meter from where me and my brother were hiding, before picking me up and hugging me, spinning me around, her smile big and warm
21Nina Simone
Nina Simone at Newport

Road-trips to the small town she was born in, dissecting the latest season of Survivor, stopping for ice-cream at Taihape on the way
Routes Not Roots

Eating lemons in the same way most people eat oranges, a peculiarity we both shared, on deck chairs in our back garden when I was 8.
23Sun Kil Moon

Seeing Sun Kil Moon with her and in an act of kismet he played “I can’t live without my mother’s love” – me, my brother and her all found each other in the throng and holding hands, me so proud that my Mum would come out and see him with us
24Toshiya Tsunoda
Low Frequency Observed at Maguchi Bay

Our walks along Takapuna Beach, just the two of us, talking about nothing much, arm-in-arm, keeping to her pace
25The Cure

Until she couldn’t walk unassisted anymore, so me or Dad would drive her to the waterfront and look at the waves cresting in and out, just so she could be in her special place
26Sufjan Stevens
Carrie and Lowell

She will never again feature in any future family photos, any Christmas celebrations, or birthdays. This year she was too fatigued to even txt me on my birthday, but I’d hoped that next year… Now, she is suspended in time, fixed at a temporal point, while the rest of us must live on.
27Toshimaru Nakamura and Martin Taxt
Listening to the Footsteps of Living Ones....

I will never hear her footsteps in the house again, or hear her greeting of “Hola Felipe” that she uttered whenever I returned home, no matter what the hour and no matter how fucked up I was.
Through the Windowpane

Similarly, she never got to hear the pitter-patter of Grandchildren’s footsteps grace her house, despite having Grandchildren being her greatest desire.
29Meat Shits
Meet The Shits 781 Song Demo

I didn’t always acquit or comport myself as a son to anyone’s satisfaction, and was sometimes derelict in duty, but I tried Mum, I promise I always tried.
30The Microphones
Microphones in 2020

I got to spend the last day of her life, before she died, with her. I held her warm hand in the hospice room and talked to her and tried not to cry. She was in and out of lucidity at this point, but I know she knew I was there part of the time – her final words to me are too sacred, too special, to divulge here – but I hope she knew I was there and with her all day, and anyone who wants to disabuse me of this notion can fuck off.
31Purple Mountains
Purple Mountains

In accordance with the Maori tradition, her body was never left unattended (except when I had to go for a cig or replenish drug intake – sorry Mum!) and we kept her at my Aunt and Uncle’s place, all of the close relatives having a chance to speak our peace to the body alone. I put a book she’d wanted to read but hadn’t the concentration to thanks to oxy, one of my favourite soft toys to look after her, and an angel to put on her shoulder in the casket.
32Ana Hato and Deane Waretini
The Great Songs of Ana Hato and Deane Waretini

When the time came, the night before the funeral, her kaumatua and vicar came around and after blessing the body commanded “haere, haere, haere” (“Go, go, go”). I’m prone to embellishing, but in this instance I’m not: the wind picked up so much it shook the house, guiding her wairua (spirit) to 90-mile beach and eventually her final destination on the Cape. We shut the lid on the coffin forever. The funeral the day afterwards, while not an afterthought, was more a formality. She was already on her journey.

The dead speak: the living just aren’t very good at listening. So when I need to speak to Mum or hear her I’ll go to Takapuna Beach on a windy day and commune with her and listen to the tides ebb and flow, like breaths, like Mums breathing was before it had to be assisted.
34Talk Talk
Laughing Stock

My beloved Mum, my precious Mum, my longest friend and greatest supporter: I am proud, so proud, to have been your son. I adore you and will always adore you, and even when the grieving period recedes, as it inevitably must, I will always, always miss you: I’ll see you again when my time comes, and our spirits meet at the final resting place at Cape Reinga. I love you.
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