Five Decades of NZ Number One Hits

This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade  — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.  

Number One Hits: 1960 - 1969

Songs by New Zealand artists were rare in the charts in the early 1960s; it would be April 1967 before a New Zealand act made it to the top, when The La De Das had a number one hit with ‘Hey Baby’. With television being a new arrival in the decade, on screen footage was also rare — but in this Spotlight we've rounded up six of the 10 local number one hits of the 60s. Mr Lee Grant was a dominant force (appearing twice here), Shane spent six weeks at number one with ‘Saint Paul’, and the chart toppers also include a clip of John Rowles' first number one, ‘M’Lady’.

Number One Hits: 1970 - 1979

In the 1970s Kiwi music was making more impact, and artists’ confidence was increasing with more self-penned tracks. In May 1975, the Official NZ Top 40 Music Chart – based on a weekly survey of music sales – was introduced. Every local number one song from the 70s is represented in this Spotlight. There’s a nice little extra on John Rowles’ ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’, a snippet of John Hanlon’s ‘Lovely Lady’, and The Fourmyula perform ‘Nature’ for only the second time in New Zealand. There’s also a 1998 interview with Craig Scott, including a taste of 1970 chart-topper ‘Star Crossed Lovers’.

Number One Hits: 1980 - 1989

The 1980s was the decade the music video boom began. Kiwi music was well represented when it came to number one singles, as you can see below. In February 1980 Jon Stephens became (and remains) the only Kiwi to knock themselves off the top of the charts, when ‘Montego Bay’ replaced ‘Jezebel’ at number one. In 1981 The Screaming Meemees’ ‘See Me Go‘ was the first local single to enter the charts at number one, and in 1984 ‘Poi E’ reached the top spot with little airplay. In 1986 ‘Sailing Away’ set records for the most consecutive weeks at number one (nine) by a Kiwi artist.

Number One Hits: 1990 - 1999

From John Grenell’s ‘Welcome to Our World’ at the start of the decade, to ‘Tonight’ by pop stars TrueBliss at the end, the 1990s saw television influencing the charts. New Zealand had its own music channels, and local acts got plenty of airtime. Hip-hop emerged; 1994 saw the first local hip-hop number one with 3 the Hard Way's ‘Hip Hop Holiday’(a feat they'd repeat in 2003), DLT and Che Fu’s ‘Chains’ spent five weeks at the top in 1996. Rock and dance also made a mark. After spending just three weeks at number one in NZ, OMC’s earworm ‘How Bizarre’ became a monster hit worldwide.

Number One Hits: 2000 - 2009

There were more local number ones in the 2000s than any decade before it. Most of them are featured in this Spotlight. However the decade also saw the resurgence of the TV talent show and 'made by TV' pop stars, many of whom went on to have number one singles — without music videos. Elsewhere Scribe’s double A-side ‘Stand Up/Not Many’ spent 12 weeks at number one in 2003, still the longest reign at the top of the charts for any local single. Nipping at its heels are Smashproof with ‘Brother’ and Stan Walker’s ‘Black Box’; both were chart toppers in 2009.