Fanatics: Godzilla Punk

Dean Martelli is known in the Auckland music scene for his time in punk group, The Terrorways, and it’s his unique guitar that graces the cover of cult album, AK79. Yet Martelli’s true passion is a force more destructive than punk - the legendary Japanese monster, Godzilla.

Dean Martelli saw the original 1954 Godzilla movie as a child growing up in the 60s. It wasn’t the first Godzilla he’d seen on screen, but the moody black-and-white original film enraptured him and he particularly loved the intricate cityscape models that had been created for it (plus the fun of seeing the buildings being totalled by a guy in a monster suit). He subsequently picked up other interests - he played in seminal Auckland punk group The Terrorways in the 70s and took up hip hop turntablism in the 80s - but he retained an affection for Godzilla throughout.

Dean Martelli's Godzilla CollectionDean Martelli with some of his Godzilla collection

His collecting kicked off when a flatmate bought him a Godzilla figurine in the 1980s (the green Godzilla at the front left of the photo above). A couple of months later, he came across a second one in a shop and knew he had to find more. However, back then there was no internet to aid in his hunt so Martelli travelled across Britain to toy fairs to meet dealers or relied on networks of equally engaged Godzilla fans.

At the legendary shop Forbidden Planet in London, he came across a ‘Church of Godzilla’ t-shirt which included a card for an unofficial fan club and Martelli ended up befriending the guy who ran it:

“One time he told me a British Airways airline pilot was selling off his collection of toys which go back to the sixties. I didn’t have a phone number for him, I just had an address, so I wrote to him instead. It took a couple of letters until he finally phoned me and said he had a few items left. I went to his place in Hammersmith one night after work and he came out with a step ladder and said ‘everything I’ve got left is in the loft.’ I had to scrabble around up in his attic with a torch, occasionally coming across these really beautiful 1960s toys until I found some I wanted to buy.”

As time went on, Martelli began to appreciate that the Godzilla movies tapped into something deep in the Japanese psyche.

“The first Godzilla movie was made nine years after they dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. It’s an antinuclear movie. It wasn’t until later in life I realised that quite a few of the films have environmental messages in them. In Godzilla vs. Hedorah, he’s fighting a monster who covers Tokyo in smog. Another film features Biollante, who is a genetically created plant that gets out of control - this is way before concerns over GE! The movies were ahead of their time when it came to their environmental ideas.”

On a return trip to New Zealand, Martelli stopped over in Hong Kong and found that the Japanese department store, Sogo, had a large godzilla display. He ended up buying so many that he had to rethink his carry-on luggage. Finally, on another trip back, Martelli managed to spend a whole week in the mecca for all Godzilla fans - Tokyo.

“I spent every day Godzilla shopping. Godzilla is everywhere in Japan and people’s eyes light up as soon as you say his name. One model I bought came in a huge box, which I stuffed full of other toys to take on the plane. Going through Tokyo airport I got stopped so many times. ‘Oh Godzilla!’ People were so excited, it was fantastic!”

Martelli’s collection grew to take in some unique and peculiar items - an electric razor, a lighter, a necktie, a wristwatch, masks, posters, electronic games and board games. He even has two Godzilla toilet roll holders. One of them has the toilet paper coming out of Godzilla's mouth and when you pull it, the eyes light up and it lets out a roar.

Recently, Martelli has begun to question how long he can retain his full Godzilla collection. Last year, he discovered that the guitar he’d played in his punk days - a rare Burns Flyte model - was sitting in the cupboard of a friend-of-a-friend. Apparently, Martelli had sold it to him to raise the airfare to the UK. The guitar was now legendary after appearing on cult NZ punk compilation, AK79. That style of guitar is now an expensive collector’s item itself, but fortunately a friend set up a crowdfunding page to get it back. Now Martelli wants to play a final gig with it before offering it to Auckland Museum.

Regaining his legendary guitar provided the backdrop for Martelli to rethink his priorities. His attitude changed further after spending the first lockdown tidying up the many boxes of Godzillas that clutter his attic space. He started to wonder how much value he was really getting out of them, tucked away out of sight:

“I realised that the thing I enjoy doing most is listening to music and playing music. I used to swear that I’d never sell off any of my Godzilla collection but my perspective on that has changed later in life. Why shouldn’t I sell off a few of the ones I never look at and somebody else can get some enjoyment out of them? Then I can spend the money on a new guitar and actually get some use out of it.”

Dean Martelli's Godzilla CollectionSome items in Dean Martelli's Godzilla collection stayed boxed up in his attic

This led him to list a vintage Godzilla on eBay and the final price (US$950) gave him enough to purchase a new guitar. This has opened him up to the idea of selling a few more items, though he’d rather they went into the hands of other collectors rather than dealers who would store them away while they try to sell them onward.

Nonetheless, there are a few Godzillas that he holds close to his heart that are likely to remain with him. He’s particularly taken with the early Godzilla toys where the style is cartoonish and the paint job is oddly gaudy - one example being a three headed Ghidorah painted in clashing colours of green, orange, and blue. It is these items that remind Martelli of the thrill of discovery that got him collecting in the first place - a hunt for the monster so powerful it could destroy Tokyo.

Dean Martelli's Godzilla CollectionOne of Martelli's favourite items - the three headed Ghidorah


MAIN IMAGE: A display of some of Dean Martelli's Godzilla collection

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