A serenade to the capital city

12 June 2020

For the first minute, you’d be fooled into thinking it was just another '90s love song, written and sung by a man besotted with his new lady.

Chris Jones leads a crowd of people singing the chorus.

Chris Jones leads a crowd of people singing the chorus.

A rare and passionate love affair, involving long nights partying until the sun comes up – Wellington musician Chris Jones was so pleased with his catch he felt compelled to share his joy with the world.

“She makes me feel alive, gives me everything I need to survive,” he sang. “She captivates me and now I know I will never let her go, because I can feel her heartbeat if I just close my eyes.”

But Chris had no desire to keep his relationship exclusive. He wanted everyone to experience this supposed ‘she’ who had stolen his heart.

One minute in, the song breaks into a rock beat, and you discover it is really a serenade to Aotearoa’s capital city ... “Her name is Wellington. She’ll take you out tonight, and show you all the time of your life”.

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Chris was in his mid-20s when he wrote ‘Wellington – the best time of your life’, recording it in October 1999, a couple of hours before the final rugby match at Athletic Park, with several hundred Wellingtonians singing their hearts out gathered under the Queen’s Wharf sails.

“I wanted to make it as inclusive as possible, so suggested we invite the public to sing the final chorus to make it ‘everybody’s song’,” Chris recalls.

He says he wrote the song as a way to celebrate the upcoming new millennium, after being approached for the task by the Wellington Mayor at the time, Mark Blumsky.

Listen to ‘Wellington – the best time of your life’

A Scoop press release, dated 30 September 1999, called for “1000 Wellingtonians to sing the chorus”.

“In an effort to help provide a crowd of budding pop stars, Wellington City Council is providing several Stagecoach buses to ferry people from Queen’s Wharf to the Lions vs Otago game – the final rugby match to be played at Athletic Park – after the recording,” the release stated.

In the release, Mayor Blumsky said it was an opportunity to support a uniquely Wellington project and also witness Otago getting a thrashing.

“I’ve heard a demo of the song and I reckon it’s a winner,” the Mayor says in the release. “I urge Wellingtonians to come along, give it heaps and treat the occasion as a vocal warm-up for the big game.”

Portrait of Chris Jones.

Chris says the song was subsequently launched by Kerry Prendergast at a Mayoral reception, and he performed it at the opening of the Westpac Trust Stadium (now Sky Stadium) in January 2000.

He confesses ‘Wellington – the best time of your life’ was “a love song to the city”, and that it wasn’t his first. In late 1998, Chris wrote and recorded ‘A Wellington Christmas’, a tune which began like this:

“December’s arrived and you know what you’re getting for Christmas. A cocktail of red wine and bourbon, days and nights rolled into one. Like a fairy tale in New York it’s a matter of taste. But there’s something alive on a Friday night down Courtenay Place.”

Listen to ‘A Wellington Christmas

‘A Wellington Christmas’ was played locally on radio stations including More FM, The Breeze, Newstalk ZB, with Chris also performing it live at festive events for years to come.

“Essentially both were written because I completely loved being a young person living in Wellington – simple as that really,” he says. “In a nutshell, I felt life couldn’t get better.”

Chris was 25 at the time, had lived in Wellington for four years, and had a fun group of mates who shared the common interest of “partying”.

Sick of “the typical northern hemisphere Christmas songs which referred to winter wonderlands, snow this, silent that”, he decided to create one that was uniquely Wellington.

Here’s a snippet of the song’s chorus: “It’s a Wellington Christmas, it’s a month on the run. Nights full of parties, spend your days in the sun.” It goes on to talk about Mt Victoria and views of city lights and the inevitable radio overplay of Snoopy’s Christmas.

The lyrics were brainstormed with friends over a weekend in Wairarapa and a rough demo was taped soon after in a Paparangi flat. Chris says recording it was a lot of fun, working with producer Nigel Stone, who had worked with Annie Crummer and won Producer of the Year at the 1985 NZ Music Awards for 'For Today’ by the Netherworld Dancing Toys.

“There are some great Wellington musicians who played on A Wellington Christmas – a young Lisa Tomlins on backing vocals, a not-so-young Wayne Mason on accordion, and City Librarian Liz Merton whose fiddle playing completely made the piece.”

For “insurance”, Chris was advised to record a less geographically-specific version of the song, entitled ‘A New Zealand Christmas’, which still gets national radio play and can be found on Spotify.