Auckland Museum's Volume exhibition told the story of Kiwi pop music. It's time to turn the speakers up to 11, for NZ On Screen's biggest collection yet. Turning Up the Volume showcases NZ music and musicians. Drill down into playlists of favourite artists and topics (look for the orange labels). Plus NZOS Content Director Kathryn Quirk on NZ music on screen.
For a generation of music fans rock show Radio with Pictures was their link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from the Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Phil O'Brien, Karyn Hay and Dick Driver. RWP's run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 80s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple but artist interviews also featured and the show staged a number of televised concerts featuring leading local artists.
C’mon brought the hits of the day into New Zealand living rooms for three years in a tightly scripted, black and white frenzy of special effects, pop art sets, go-go girls and choreographed musicians while host Pete Sinclair kept the pace cracking with breathless hipster charm. Most of the stars of the day appeared at one time or another but sadly only two episodes have survived. As the 60s finished C’mon fell victim to the fragmenting of the music world and the arrival of darker music that the show could no longer turn into family friendly viewing.
Sam Neill narrates this documentary plotting the career of one of Aotearoa's most successful bands: from formation by Mike Chunn, Phil Judd and Tim Finn at Auckland University in 1971 to their demise in 1984, when Neil Finn walked away. The major players talk freely about good times and bad — art rock, the wayward genius of Judd (including a rare interview), Noel Crombie’s spoon playing and costume design, hard times in England and the punk backlash, the big pop hits after Neil joined, Tim’s solo album, an obsession with paper darts, and the pre-gig ritual of One For One.
Flying Nun is synonymous with Kiwi indie music. This selection of music videos by label founder Roger Shepherd celebrates Flying Nun's indie/DIY ethos.
Entertainment legend Maui Dalvanius Prime rides an emotional roller coaster as he looks back on his career in this doco made in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. The boy from South Taranaki who dreamed of becoming a circus ringmaster became a taonga of the NZ music industry, with success in Sydney with The Fascinations and his groundbreaking kapa haka /disco te reo hit ‘Poi E’. He recalls his struggle to come to terms with making Māori music as he makes one last hikoi to the East Coast where he wrote ‘Poi-E’ with the late Ngoi Pēwhairangi.
This full-length documentary gives warm-spirited context to the song that has been the soundtrack to countless back lawn crate parties and freezing works chains (watch the credits). It was released as the B-side of singer Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me, and became an unlikely hit in Aotearoa with fans who have done the "dance, dance, dance ...": including Dalvanius (who discusses its "pop-schlock" charms), Bunny Walters, The Topp Twins, and a special group of ten guitarists. The documentary also explores why "the national anthem of Patea" is so appealing to Māori.
Homegrown Profiles was a spin-off from music channel C4's local music series Homegrown. Screened in 2005, the interview-based show featured episodes devoted to the Finn Brothers, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Anika Moa, Shihad and Che Fu. The hour-long programmes were based around an extended interview with each artist, intercut with music videos and other performance material— all held together with a well-scripted narration by researcher/ interviewer/ director Jane Yee. Yee writes about making the show here.
In mid-November 2016, Bic Runga became the youngest inductee into the NZ Music Hall of Fame — she also released new album Close Your Eyes. Bic's career is a remarkable one: from early work ('You', Silver Scroll winner 'Drive' and globe-spanning single 'Sway') to later musical collaborations ('Winning Arrow', 'Tiny Little Piece of My Heart'). Check out other sides of Bic (which is pronounced 'Bec') in this Spotlight: including more beautiful songs, an extended Homegrown interview from 2005, and an early gig as a presenter on Music Nation.
Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of an all-girl pop band called TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs), who went on to record several NZ chart-topping singles and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold around the world and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality TV for years to come.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
The ‘boom-chucka-boom-chucka’ “Māori strum” turned a British song – Ten Guitars – into an unofficial Kiwi national anthem. It’s the backbone of kapa haka performances, and has even been the subject of academic study. Here’s a selection of New Zealand songs that all incorporate a Māori strum. And we can’t overlook Ten Guitars: the full-length documentary is a fascinating insight into the song and its influence on our culture. Ka pai!
“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” was the tagline for this musical comedy classic. Sir Howard Morrison (as himself) and Rotorua are the stars in the tiki-flavoured tale. Moving from Sydney to a Rotorua music festival the plot centres on a romance between a young drummer (Gary Wallace) and his girl Judy (Carmen Duncan) and the hurdles they face to stay true. But this is only an excuse for a melange of madcap, pep-filled musical fun. Made by John O’Shea’s Pacific Films, it features Kiri Te Kanawa, Lew Pryme and Aussie star Norman Rowe.
This series, made for use as a teaching resource in secondary schools by the NZ Music Industry Commission, was produced and directed by songwriter and NZ music champion Arthur Baysting. It features more than 40 leading acts (including Don McGlashan, the Black Seeds, Nesian Mystik, Chris Knox and Fat Freddy's Drop) talking directly to the next generation of musicians about their music and careers. They offer intimate performances of classic songs and heartfelt advice on subjects including songwriting, recording techniques, technology and the music industry.
With Split Enz, Crowded House and time as a solo artist, Neil Finn is one of our most celebrated singer-songwriters. This Spotlight collection includes Finn's remake of 'Blue Smoke', breakthrough singles for Split Enz and Crowded House ('I Got You', 'Don't Dream it's Over'), a 2001 tour where the backing band changed on a near daily basis (Finn for a Day) — plus documentaries on the Enz and brothers Finn.
Sir Howard Morrison was a Kiwi show business icon. This collection pays tribute to 'Ol' Brown Eyes' on screen, from classic concerts to comedy gags and more.
This documentary follows the "seven headed soul monster direct from the shores of Wellington" — Fat Freddys Drop — as they rumble their dub-rich sound through Europe like a Houghton Bay roller. Touring to showcase album Based on a True Story, it features rehearsals and performances, eating Italian kai moana, playing concrete ping pong in Berlin, and (in the fifth clip) a jam with Cliff Curtis. Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe lauds the 'fullas' and Mu explains whanau to German journos. True Story sold 120,000+ copies and dominated the 2005 New Zealand Music Awards.
This Spotlight collection offers the chance to sample music festival options from years gone by, as campers descend on fields from Swanson to Ngaruawahia in TV specials about classic Kiwi festivals Redwood, Nambassa, Sweetwaters (1980 and 1999) and the Big Day Out (1999). The music includes Split Enz, Elvis Costello, Korn and Courtney Love. Plus bonus yodelling and yoga. Check out the "punters, munters, sights and sounds".
Punk rock was breaking and musical styles changing, but in New Zealand country music was appointment viewing at 7pm on Saturday. That's Country ran from 1980 to 1984. Hosted by one-time pop singer Ray Columbus, the show featured both local and international talent including Suzanne Prentice, Patsy Riggir, Emmylou Harris and George Hamilton IV. That's Country helped launch the Topp Twins' career and was the first New Zealand-made entertainment show sold to the US.
In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, spawning a number of RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.
Nelson born Sharon O'Neill is one of New Zealand's foremost female singer/songwriters, achieving success both at home and abroad. This Spotlight collection shines the light on her screen work, from videos — for APRA Top 100 singles ‘Maybe’, and ’Maxine’, plus ‘Words’ and O’Neill-penned Dragon hit ‘Young Years’; to live performances for the Queen and on Ready to Roll. O'Neill also memorably delivered the title tune and soundtrack to hit movie Smash Palace.
Kicking off with a cover of his hero Elvis Presley's 'That's Alright,' the late Prince Tui Teka delivers a classic performance in this TVNZ-filmed variety show (one of three specials). A classy Bernie Allen-led band and the Yandall Sisters back-up on the smoky Vegas-inspired set. Tui sings his hit 'E Ipo' with wife Missy, and they pay tribute to the song’s Māori lyricist Ngoi (‘Poi-E’) Pewhairangi. The songs are peppered with warmth, humour and poi action (led by a young Pita Sharples), as Tui Teka confirms his reputation as one of Aotearoa's great entertainers.
In 1991 Moana and the Moahunters mixed house beats with a lyrical plea for the importance of preserving the Māori language. It was not the first time te reo had been heard on Aotearoa’s airwaves. This Spotlight collects together classic songs which are wholly or partially in Māori: from 1981 Deane Waretini chart-topper 'The Bridge' to 2014’s 'Aotearoa'. Which is not to forget (and who would want to?) Poi E taking over Patea, Prince Tui Teka and his wife Missy doing 'E Ipo', Howard Morrison’s version of 'How Great Thou Art', and a documentary showcasing the iconic 'Pokarekare Ana'.
TVNZ journalist (and future Communicado founder) Neil Roberts does an ethnomusicologist turn in this edition of "established media tries to explain what the young people are doing". His subject is NZ's fledgling punk scene which is already on its way to extinction. Much of the focus is on Auckland but Doomed lead singer (and future TV presenter/producer) Johnny Abort (aka Dick Driver) flies the flag for the south. The Stimulators, Suburban Reptiles and Scavengers play live and punk fans pogo and talk about violence directed at them (from "beeries").
Singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn — currently touring New Zealand — is one of the country's most loved, respected and awarded musicians. This Spotlight collection celebrates Dobbyn’s career on screen: from Th' Dudes, and DD Smash to going solo, and the songs that are part of the national soundtrack — from drinking odes ('Bliss'), OE anthems ('Welcome Home'), stadium singalongs ('Slice of Heaven') and America’s Cup shanties ('Loyal') to laments and ballads.
Hip hop supremo Philip Bell (DJ Sir-Vere) picks his Top 10 selection of NZ hip hop music videos. The clips mark the evolution of an indigenous style.
Hello Sailor's long stay in the sun saw them living in Ponsonby and LA, becoming a legendary live act, and releasing an iconic debut album. This Spotlight collection features tracks from band and band members. One of the songs from that classic first album was ‘Gutter Black’, later reborn on TV's Outrageous Fortune ('Watch Your Back’ appeared on prequel Westside). Watch out also for Grham Brazier's beloved ‘Billy Bold’, Dave McArtney’s ‘Virginia’, and Harry Lyon as movie star.
Before you could call her Queen Bee and ‘Royals’ became a Grammy-winning smash hit, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was a singer in Extreme and competing in the covers category of the 2009 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands finals. The 12-year-old Belmont Intermediate student and her band belt out covers of ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, by British rockers Rainbow, and ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’, The Cult’s tribute to Andy Warhol heroine Edie Sedgwick. “The gods lay at your fee-e-eet …” Ella. Post-performance Ella bemoans a “sore voice”, but Extreme take third place.
This documentary follows a 2001 Neil Finn tour of his bottom-of-the-world homeland. Finn challenged his perfectionist instincts by playing with a changing local line-up at each gig: mostly unknown fans offered a chance to “glisten like a pearl”. The performers ranged from veterans to teen guitarist-singer Jon Hume (four years away from the Australian Top 20 with band Evermore). In Dunedin the performance survives drinking rituals and uninvited stage guests; in another moment, a shy 14-year-old piano prodigy segues from Mozart into Split Enz classic 'I Got You'.
Pioneering singer-songwriter Shona Laing was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Her four decades in the music business began in 1972 when the 17-year-old won notice on TV talent show New Faces, with ‘1905’. Check out the forerunner for Lorde and Kimbra performing that song, alongside classic clips (Glad I’m Not a Kennedy, Soviet Snow), and a gem of an interview where the smoking Hutt High student crushes on Henry Fonda, sings ‘Killing Me Softly’, and muses that she “probably will carry on with the singing”.
Auckland reggae band Herbs could have released their new album in the comfortable confines of an Auckland nightclub. Instead, they chose to travel to Ruatoria — a troubled and divided East Coast town where turmoil surrounding a Rastafarian sect had resulted in assaults, kidnappings and firebombed churches. Lee Tamahori and John Day's documentary captures an emotional experience for band and locals as they meet at Mangahanea marae in an attempt to shift the focus from disunity to harmony. This footage also yielded the memorable Sensitive to a Smile music video.
The Grunt Machine began life in May 1975 as a pop culture show for 12-20 year olds playing four days a week at 5.30pm. Presented by Andy Anderson, it featured music and reporter based items. Pulled in August, it returned in September as a much hipper late Friday night rock show fronted by David Jones. The 1976 season started with Paul Holmes (in his first presenting role) and featured a Split Enz special for its first show. Fellow DJ John Hood took over later in the year (lying on cushions to do his links). The final Grunt Machine aired in December 1976.
Every year the APRA Silver Scroll is handed out as New Zealand's premier song-writing trophy. This Spotlight collection offers up a selection of past Silver Scroll champs, including classics ‘Anchor Me’ and ‘Not Many’. The awards began back in 1965. Since then winners of best song have included Don McGlashan (twice), Dave Dobbyn (three times), and members of bands Avalanche City and The Naked and Famous.
This Artsville TV documentary plucks its way through a Kiwi-focused history of the ukulele, from Waikiki to Wellington, using the dream of “godfather of Polynesian music” Bill Sevesi as its starting point: namely “that the children would be playing the ukulele all over the country.” Presenter Gemma Gracewood (of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra) reveals the instrument’s Pacific adoption and burgeoning popularity, and meets acolytes of ‘the uke’: from Herman Pi’ikea Clark to Jennifer Ward-Lealand, to Sevesi strumming with onetime pupil Sione Aleki.
The three day Nambassa Festival, held on a Waihi farm in 1979, is the subject of this documentary. Attended by 60,000 people, it represented a high tide mark in Aotearoa for the Woodstock vision of a music festival as a counterculture celebration of music, crafts, alternative lifestyles and all things hippy. Performers include a frenzied Split Enz, The Plague (wearing paint), Limbs dancers, a yodelling John Hore-Grenell and prog rockers Schtung. The only downers are overzealous policing, and weather which discourages too much communing with nature after the first day.
If anyone could claim to be a genre-crossing Godfather of Godzone screen and song it’s Don McGlashan: from Blam Blam Blam (‘There is No Depression in New Zealand’), to musical theatre group The Front Lawn (classic comedic short films Walkshort, the Lounge Bar, Linda’s Body) and beloved band The Mutton Birds (‘Nature’, ‘Dominion Road’, ‘Anchor Me’), as well as scores for numerous TV shows and feature films (No. 2, An Angel at My Table). Sail to the middle of Don’s deep blue sea with this McGlashan Spotlight collection.
The uplifting promotional clip is as famous as the chartbusting song. Accompanied by Jo, the breakdancing guide, for a tour of Patea and surrounds, the Patea Maori Club are captured "just doing their thing", "bopping and twirling like piwakawaka": at the local marae, in Manners Mall, and on Patea’s main street where milk tankers and sheep trucks pass by the Aotea canoe remembrance arch. As does the impresario himself: Dalvanius does a pūkana out a car window. In 2010 'Poi E' re-entered the charts thanks to Taika Waititi hit Boy. A documentary about the song was released in 2016.
This documentary tells the story of the legendary Flying Nun music label up to its 21st birthday. The label became associated with the 'Dunedin Sound': a catch-all term for a sprawl of DIY, post-punk, warped, jangly guitar-pop. The Guardian: "[it's] as if being on the other side of the world meant the music was played upside down". Features interviews with key players, the spats and the dark-but-breezy glory. The label's influence on the US indie scene is noted and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus covers The Verlaines' 'Death and the Maiden'.
This collection pays tribute to low-tech music legend Chris Knox. "A unique and important collection of work", says Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd.
Ol’ Brown Eyes celebrates 40 years in showbiz with this variety concert, alongside some of his mates including Ray Columbus and Bunny Walters. The show is mostly live entertainment, punctuated by a few nostalgic field stories where Sir Howard acknowledges his upbringing and Māoritanga. The show ends with the Morrison whānau performing, followed by the hymn that gave Sir Howard a number one hit in 1982: ‘How Great Thou Art’. This TV special was dedicated to Sir Howard’s mother Kahu, who was an outstanding singer in her own right.
This documentary follows the experiences of two groups at the 1999 Sweetwaters music festival: six teenagers (including actor Kate Elliott, then 17), and a group of 30-somethings (many of them veterans of the 80s Sweetwaters). This excerpt catches up with them near the event's conclusion. Although some hangovers are being nursed, mostly spirits remain undimmed. English singer Elvis Costello drops the on-stage bomb that the artists haven't been paid, Chris Knox notes the "money fiasco" his own way; and the festivalgoers rate their weekend.
Standing up for your rights has long linked arms with singing for your rights. This Spotlight collection brings together some of New Zealand’s great protest songs, with subject matter ranging from Māori pride and resistance ('E Tu' and 'Parihaka'), to the nuclear free campaign ('French Letter', 'Nuclear Waste' and 'Chains') and the environment ('I Care'), to South African rugby tours ('Don’t Go' and 'Azania'). As you exercise your 'Freedom to Sing', remember that 'There is No Depression in New Zealand'.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to show local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. Running for 12 years, it began as a slot on Marae, then screened on Saturday mornings on TV2. Mai Time was a breeding ground for Māori television talent: launching the careers of Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, Teremoana Rapley and others. It was the brainchild of Tainui Stephens, and was produced by Greg Mayor, then from 2004 by Anahera Higgins.
Funksters Supergroove marshalled raps, riffs and energy to burn. Winners of a Herald Legacy Award at the 2014 Vodafone NZ Music Awards for artists that have helped shape the NZ music industry, the band's hits included ‘Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘You Gotta Know’. The Supergroove story involved teenage fame and a wide array of sounds, spawning talents like Che Fu and music video director Joe Lonie. In 2007 Supergroove reformed, older and wiser. Here are five of the tracks that made them super.
In 2006, Th’ Dudes reformed after 26 years. This documentary follows them on a national tour as members Peter Urlich, Dave Dobbyn, Ian Morris, Lez White and Bruce Hambling reflect on their former lives as late 70s pop stars. Encouraged to behave like stars, they didn’t disappoint. There are frank discussions about sex, drugs, an obscene t-shirt, on-stage nudity and other bad behaviour — but also the stories behind classic songs like ‘Bliss’, ‘Right First Time’ and ‘Be Mine Tonight’, which still captivate adoring, if aging, audiences a quarter of a century later.
This Spotlight collection celebrates the work of iconic Kiwi band The Chills. In October 2015 the Flying Nun legends released their first full-length album in 19 years. Reaction to Silver Bullets proved upbeat ("brilliant" said The Guardian; Drowned in Sound's Lee Adcock called it the band's "most compelling album yet"; website Pitchfork also sounded keen). Enjoy these classic Chills moments, from a band whose moody melodies and revolving door membership are part of Kiwi music history.
Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their "coming out" to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter-egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice best doco gong at 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
This concert film documents When the Cat's Away on their first tour. Director Alan Thurston captures the high energy performance and pure joie de vivre of the five women vocalists, it shows why the group became a Kiwi favourite. A set focusing on New Zealand songs, international hits of the period and soul classics proved irresistible on the pub circuit. The group would go on to score hit records and bigger shows (playing to 80,000 the following summer) but this was the moment they arrived. The film won best documentary at the 1988 Film and Television Awards.
Legendary New Zealand band Dragon scaled the heights then threw out its lead singer, only to bring him back, and lose him again. Along the way they conjured up memorable hits in New Zealand and Australia. This Spotlight collection offers music videos of the hits in their anthemic “full moon and thunder” glory: ‘April Sun in Cuba’, ‘Rain’, ‘Are You Old Enough’ and more.
If a single word could sum up the free-wheeling flavour of alternative music and comedy in Aotearoa during the 1970s, that word would surely be ... Blerta. The 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition' included foundation members of the NZ screen industry (Lawrence, Geoff Murphy, Alun Bollinger) plus other merry pranksters. Drawing on the Blerta TV series and beyond, Blerta Revisited (aka Blerta - The Return Trip) is an anarchic collection of comedy skits, musical interludes and films culled from the Blerta archives. Costa Botes writes about Blerta here.
Heroes followed a band trying to make it in the mid-80s music biz. Teen-orientated, the show marked a first major role for Jay Laga’aia (Star Wars), and an early gig for Michael Hurst (with blonde Billy Idol spikes). Band keyboardist John Gibson co-wrote the series music; he later became an award-winning film composer. Margaret Umbers (Shortland Street, Bridge to Nowhere) was a non-musician in the cast (with Hurst), but since has sung regularly in a jazz band. A second series follow in 1986.
Although The Tumbleweeds toured beyond Otago only occasionally, they provided many New Zealanders with their first exposure to country music. Almost 40 years into the band's career, Stephen Latty (Opera in the Outback) got some of their songs and memories down for this half-hour film. The band describe influences, costumes, and their own mid-tour double wedding. Country music expert Garth Gibson praises the "quite famous harmony sound" of sisters Myra and Nola Hewitt. Then The Tumbleweeds hit the road for Gore's Gold Guitar Awards, to perform 'Maple on the Hill'.
"E tu stand proud, kia kaha say it loud", Dean Hapeta's lyrics typify the socio-political messages in NZ's early rap music. The four elements of hip hop: breakdancing, graffiti, DJ-ing and rap are examined through interviews with key players in the hip hop scene (including King Kapisi, Che Fu, Upper Hutt Posse). A recurring theme in the Sima Urale-directed documentary is that local hip hop artists are less interested in the "girls, booze and bling" school of hip hop, and more interested in using their art to make a political statement.
This documentary charts the journey of Auckland hip hop band Nesian Mystik, from their beginnings as an inner-city school band at Western Springs to gold albums and international acclaim. Filmed in New Zealand, London and Tonga the documentary explores the multi-cultural roots of the band members and the inspiration for their lyrics. Director Makerita Urale uses the Nesian Mystik story as a lens to reflect the wider picture of Māori, Pacific Island and Pakeha society in New Zealand.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave McArtney achieved fame with Kiwi music legends Hello Sailor, then went solo with his band the Pink Flamingos. He composed the classic song 'Gutter Black', about “dole bludgers living in Ponsonby” and now iconic as the theme tune to Outrageous Fortune. Remember McArtney’s talent via music videos for ‘Gutter Black’ and ‘Virginia’; documentary Raglan by the Sea (where he reflects on music-making, 10 minutes into clip two), a 1978 NZ Music Awards performance, film scores, and more.
This 1978 documentary casts a critical eye over a depressed NZ music industry, and asks what has changed since its 60s glory days of pop stars, screaming fans and C’mon. By the late 70s, few musicians are earning a living and chart hits have dwindled (although the recording industry is bullish). Ray Columbus waxes lyrical about ‘She’s a Mod’. Kevan Moore and Peter Sinclair are sanguine about TV’s role, a finger is pointed at radio airplay, and the careers of Craig Scott, Mark Williams, Sharon O’Neill and John Rowles are considered. The only thing not in short supply is blame.
Numero Bruno is a warts and all biography of widely popular actor, musician and counter-cultural hero Bruno Lawrence. Lawrence's intense, charismatic screen presence was key to ground-breaking Kiwi films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Directed by Steve La Hood (the veteran director’s TV swansong), this documentary features interviews with family and friends, and liberal excerpts from Lawrence's film and musical work, including performances by 70s alternative Aotearoa icons Blerta and clips showcasing his seminal collaborations with Geoff Murphy.
Lew Pryme's life was a wild ride that took in everything from rock and roll to rugby before it was cut short by AIDS in 1990 (he was 51). This moving documentary interviews an ailing Pryme reflecting on his journey and (still secret) sexuality; it follows him from Waitara to becoming one of the most popular hip-swinging music stars of the 60s. He went on to manage singers Mark Williams, Rob Guest and Tina Cross; and in the early 80s he became the first executive director of Auckland Rugby Union, introducing cheerleaders and 'pizazz' to Eden Park.
London-based jazz saxophonist Nathan Haines returns home to perform with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, where he's to be accompanied by his bassist father, Kevin, and guitarist brother, Joel in a musical family reunion. They've followed different paths since the mid-80s when Nathan was 14 and they used to play as a trio (seen here in archive footage). The NZSO concert features standards and new songs from the brothers. This doco backgrounds those songs, and follows the tricky business of melding jazz group and orchestra in rehearsal and concert.
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?
In November 2015 The Exponents received the Herald Legacy Award, for 'notable and celebrated Kiwi artists who have helped shape the NZ music industry'. Starting in 1981 as the Dance Exponents, and later reborn as the Exponents, the band's regular summer tours became legendary — as did a catalogue of classics like 'Victoria', "I'll Say Goodbye' and sports stadium singalong 'Why Does Love Do this to Me? This Spotlight collection includes four Exponents videos, an interview with singer/wordsmith Jordan Luck, and two memorable live performances, one of them on K Road.
Pop Co slotted in after Movin’ and before Norman as part of a long tradition of Christchurch music shows beginning with Let’s Go in the early 60s. It featured a studio band, the Maggie Burke Dancers and vocalists including Bunny Walters, Annie Whittle, Tom Sharplin and Rob Guest who performed the hits of the day. There were appearances from local acts including Ticket and Chapta, and overseas performers like Lindisfarne and Gary Glitter (who was overcome with vertigo and had to be rescued from a high diving board at QE2 pool after miming one of his hits).
This theatrically released documentary charts 23 years of highs and lows for one of NZ's most enduring rock bands — complete with personal dramas, early tragedy, adoring local audiences, album sales of 250,000, attempts to crack the United States, and that agonising name change. Seeking an audience beyond the faithful, award-winning director Sam Peacocke expanded the story's scope to feature the band's family and friends as much as the music. NZ Herald entertainment writer Scott Kara called the result "a cracker", and "a must-see for fans of the band".
Kiwis are often accused of not being very good at expressing their feelings. This documentary (made for TV One's Work of Art programme) offers striking evidence to the contrary, using some of our favourite love songs as proof. A roll call of New Zealand's best-known musicians and songwriters talk here candidly about love, and play some of the songs inspired by their experiences. The result is a film that shines a light on love Kiwi-style, and provides a fascinating survey of New Zealand pop music from the last 30 years along the way.
A decade before joining Gotye at the top spot of the American singles chart, future pop star Kimbra Lee Johnson was an effervescent 11-year-old, investigating the mechanics of making a hit recording. This is one of a series of segments she presented for TVNZ kids show What Now?. After meeting up with producers Rikki Morris and Stephen Small, she's ready to record her song 'Smile'. The venue is Morris' Devonport studio; the duo have an arrangement all set to go, so Kimbra can lay down her vocal.
Born of a dispute between TVNZ and record companies over video payments, True Colours tended to feature New Zealand bands in a studio setting, plus the occasional video. This first episode sets the template. Former Radio with Pictures host Dick Driver and Phillipa Dann (from pop show Shazam!) introduce a magazine-style show of live music, news and interviews. Ardijah open proceedings here, with their mix of polynesian R&B and funk. Later Tim Finn gets the interview treatment. The dispute was eventually settled and True Colours ended after seven episodes.
There's panic on the streets as 19-year-old tearaway Ska (Matthew Hunter) comes to terms with love and death in Auckland's 80s urban underworld. After an ultimately tragic attempt to 'rescue' his prostitute sister, Ska plots revenge at a rock gig ... with riotous results. Directed by Bruce Morrison when broken glass was still on the ground from the Queen Street riot, the film was inspired by a story from 16-year-old Richard Lymposs. In this teen spirit-infused excerpt, street-fighter Ska saves rich girl Stacy (Kim Willoughby), and meets her classy parents.
Poi E: The Story of Our Song tells the story behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic pop songs. Led by Dalvanius Prime, the Patea Māori Club single was released soon after the closure of the town’s freezing works. Conquering disinterest from record labels and radio, Poi E became New Zealand's highest selling single in 1984. Written and directed by Tearepa Kahi (Mt Zion), the "warm, funny, touching" documentary (NZ Herald) features interviews with those involved, and famous fans (eg Taika Waititi). Poi E won applause after premiering at the opening of the 2016 Auckland Film Festival.
In 1969 Kiwi music legend John Rowles was in his early 20s, and flush with UK success: appearing on Top of the Pops and celebrating a single – ‘If I Only Had Time’ – which got to number three in the British charts. This fly on the wall documentary records his homecoming tour, complete with cigars, turtlenecks, rehearsals, press interviews, dancing, hongi and a civic reception in Kawerau (where he’d been fired from a mill job five years before, for arriving late). Rowles launches single ‘M’Lady’, soon to top the NZ charts, and reflects on how he's changed since leaving Kawerau.
Shazam! rode the 1980s music video boom created by the advent of MTV and the renaissance in NZ music. Aimed at a younger audience than Radio with Pictures, it played in a late afternoon, weekday time slot, and featured artist interviews and live concerts as well as sponsoring a Battle of the Bands and a music video competition. Presenters were Phillip Schofield (later a presenter with the BBC and ITV), Phillipa Dann (who moved to London with husband and future head of MTV Europe Brent Hansen) and, finally, Michelle Bracey (who became a documentary director).
Kiwi women have long held their own when it comes to songwriting. From a 17-year-old Shona Laing performing her self-penned ‘1905‘ on Studio One’s New Faces, to Bic Runga becoming the youngest inductee into the NZ Music Hall of Fame; from the 80s girl power of Sharon O’Neill, to the chutzpah of Anika Moa and Gin Wigmore. They know a chorus from a coda — in this spotlight we reflect on songs and songstresses that have found their way into Kiwi hearts.
Director Grahame McLean uses the notorious (then recent) 'Mr Asia' drug smuggling saga as fodder for this Wellington underbelly tale. Hello Sailor’s Harry Lyon headlines as a musician and ex-con who partners with a beautiful journo to investigate a global drug syndicate, in between nightclub sessions with fellow musos Beaver and Hammond Gamble. High on 80s guitar licks, Should I be Good? was made in the tax break era without Film Commission investment. McLean followed it right away with The Lie of the Land, becoming a rare Kiwi to make two movies back to back.
In 1983, Split Enz, NZ's most successful rock group to date, celebrated 10 years together. TVNZ's flagship arts show Kaleidoscope marked the occasion by following the band on their 'Enz of an Era' tour as they reunited with former members (including Mike Chunn) for a concert at Auckland's His Majesty's Theatre (where they first made a major impact) and played the Sweetwaters Festival. Members talk frankly to reporter Ian Fraser about a decade of highs and lows, and there's priceless Dylan Taite-filmed tomfoolery from the band's early days in England.
In the heady days of Beatlemania, Let's Go was the first viable successor to In The Groove (NZ's first TV pop music show in 1962). It was devised and produced by Kevan Moore — with DJ Peter Sinclair in his first big presenting role. Recorded in Wellington at the NZBC's Waring Taylor Street studio (with its notorious sloping floor a challenge for the big cameras), it featured a resident band — first The Librettos and then the Pleasers. Let's Go only lasted two years, but in 1967 Moore and Sinclair teamed up again for the hugely successful C'mon.
This 2002 documentary explores the stories behind one of Aotearoa’s most beloved songs: ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Claims for the authorship of the waiata aroha are examined, and Kiwis famous and lesser known reflect on the song’s place in the culture. Directed by Chas Toogood, the doco features classic performances: from St Joseph’s Girls’ Choir singing in the Waitomo Caves in 1960, to Inia Te Wiata going low in English, Kiri Te Kanawa soaring in concert, Hinewehi Mohi enlisting a 30,000 strong league crowd as backing singers, and sailing away in a 1987 America’s Cup campaign song.
Ray Columbus began hosting television shows at the tender age of 19. After Columbus and the Invaders topped Australasian charts with 1964 single 'She's a Mod', he spent two years working as a musician in America. The song and style defined the era for a generation of local music fans. Columbus later returned to work as recording artist, talent manager and television presenter, becoming a Kiwi showbiz legend. This career-spanning Spotlight collection celebrating Ray Columbus on screen is a nod to the mod.
When Neil Finn joined brother Tim’s band, Split Enz, at the age of 18, the place of the Finn family in New Zealand music history was secured – as was the pride of Te Awamutu. Chock-full of music videos, including songs from a new generation of Finn offspring, this spotlight also features television programmes that have captured the musical genius and genes of the Finns: from early Split Enz appearances on New Faces and Grunt Machine, to shadowing Neil Finn on tour with an ever-changing line-up in Finn for a Day.