Since first winning fame as lead singer of 60s blues band The Underdogs, Murray Grindlay has gone on to apply his musical talents as a composer for feature films (Sleeping Dogs, Once Were Warriors), veteran jingle-writer (including the classic Crunchie train robbery commercial), and producer (hit single 'Sailing Away', Goldenhorse's Out of the Moon).
Filling a blank piece of paper with a song was always my favourite part of the process ... still is. Murray Grindlay
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
Greenstone is the tale of a beautiful, missionary-educated Māori woman (Simone Kessell) whose romantic life is subject to the shifting loyalties of her father, Chief Te Manahau (George Henare). The cross-cultural elements of this ambitious colonial bodice-ripper were reflected off-screen as well: created by Greg McGee in response to a call by TV One for a local drama 'saga', the series saw major English creative input through being developed as a co-production with the BBC. After the withdrawal of BBC funding, the Tainui Corporation helped fund the eight-part series.
Greenstone is the tale of a Māori woman whose beauty is used as a pawn by her ambitious father, Chief Te Manahau. In episode one, the missionary-educated Marama (Simone Kessell) travels to England with her father (George Henare), who sets about arranging an arms deal while she falls for their English host, ex-military man Sir Geoffrey Halford. Created for TV One by Greg McGee, the ambitious series was initially developed as a co-production between local company Communicado and the BBC. Local iwi Tainui helped fund the series, after the BBC withdrew.
Nina (Aleksandra Vujcic) has emigrated downunder from wartime Croatia. When she falls in love with Māori cook Eddie (Julian Arahanga) and marries a Chinese man who is trying to stay in NZ, her domineering father Ivan is furious. The second movie from Gregor Nicholas remains one of the few from NZ in which Pākehā culture hardly features. The result was one of the highest-grossing NZ films of the 1990s. International reviews praised its power and strong cast — especially Croatian discovery Aleksandra Vujcic ("instantly alluring" said Janet Maslin). Vujcic won one of five NZ Film awards.
Toyota launched its classic Welcome to Our World campaign in late 1989, to support the company's sponsorship of the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Sesqui 1990 festival. This version was put together for the 1995 America’s Cup and Rugby World Cup. But there is minimum product placement in the heart-warming montage of Aotearoa landscapes and people, set to country singer John Grenell’s baritone take on the Jim Reeves song. The Geoff Dixon-directed campaign ran for a decade; the song topped the Kiwi charts when it was released in early 1990.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
This boisterous Geoff Dixon-directed commercial dates from the time when craft beer was yet to make a big mark, and Lion Red was NZ's number one beer. Hyperactive in a flannel shirt, a pre-Hercules Michael Hurst takes the mic at a pub talent quest, and sings a war cry for Kiwi blokes against wimpy pretenders like champagne cocktails and Mexican beers. Local advertising veteran Roy Meares wrote the "anti-yuppie commercial" (he was also behind the long-running Speights 'Perfect Woman' campaign). The Murray Grindlay-composed song became a pub anthem.
This 1988 Europa commercial showcases the guitar playing of American bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan. An anthem to good times on the road, the promo features four friends — musician Midge Marsden, jingles veteran Murray Grindlay, Vaughan’s fiance Janna Lapidus and Brigitte Berger — larking around the North Island in an old ute. Stopping off at the iconic DC3 aeroplane parked in small-town Mangaweka, they step into a bar made from car parts to join Stevie Ray on stage. A shorter cut of this petrol station promo also screened, plus an ad featuring an acoustic version of the song.
This classic soft drink advert saw a supergroup of 80s Kiwi music talent cooling off in a steamy L&P factory. The industrial-strength line-up — When the Cats Away’s Margaret Urlich and a blink or you'll miss her Annie Crummer; Ardijah’s Ryan and Betty-Anne Monga; Erana Clark, Peter Morgan, and DD Smash drummer Peter Warren — belt out a 60s Motown song (produced here by Murray Grindlay) in the heat. Fane Flaws plays a supervisor loosened up by “the thirst quencher”. ‘Heatwave’ was a hit single in late 1987, with the group named ‘80 in the Shade’. The ad was named the year's best.
In this 1985 Colenso commercial, a Creme Egg is a guilty pleasure behind raised desk lids for two school kids. Courtesy of some smooth copywriting, the narrator lets on that the cherubic girl and devious boy are doomed by the “smooth shell of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate and the irresistible creamy flowing yolk that will ultimately give them away!” The Murray Grindlay composed chorus “don’t get caught" (with egg on your face) entered Kiwi pop culture. Variations of the commercial ran until 1996; in 2016 stuntwoman Zoe Bell later shared her fondness for the product on Instagram.
Looking like Borat out on the town, Monte Video's 'Shoop Shoop ...' invaded the pop charts in 1982. The novelty song written by — and starring — veteran Auckland musician Murray Grindlay reached No 2 in New Zealand, No 11 in Australia, and was released in the UK. TVNZ's chart show Ready to Roll found itself playing host to a hedonistic video filmed at Ponsonby's Peppermint Park nightclub with scenes of flagrant alcohol and tobacco use and a cast of transvestites. Follow-up album Monte Video featured song 'You Can't Stop Me Now', which seemed like a threat.
This classic ad was made on a shoestring budget: milk bottle silver caps stood in for soldier’s dog tags and a Wellington quarry apes a Korean War-zone of the evergreen MASH TV series (from the naming of “O’Reilly” at the top of the mail call through to the 1953 country and western tearjerker used in the soundtrack, sung by Jacqui Fitzgerald and adapted by Murray Grindlay). The anachronism of cassette tapes in Korea proved a charming twist on the traditional ‘Dear John’ letter; and the ad was later voted Best Australasian commercial of the 80s.
This film documents Auckland's Round the Bays run. In 1980 jogging was booming, with coach Arthur Lydiard and a band of Olympic champs (Snell, Walker, etc) inspiring the way. Here, participants run and reflect, from a blind runner, to children and an army squad. Slo-mo sweat, sinew and samba shots frame the 70,000 runners as members of an infectious cult chasing the piper around the waterfront. Adidas, terry towelling and facial hair make the film a relaxed 70s update on Olympiad; directed by Sam Pillsbury it won awards at Chicago and Torino festivals.
Smith (Sam Neill, in his breakthrough screen role) is devastated when his wife runs off with his best friend Bullen (Ian Mune). Smith escapes to the Coromandel. Meanwhile, the government enlists an anti-terrorist force to crack down on its opponents. Bullen, now a guerrilla, asks Smith to join the revolution. Directed by Roger Donaldson, this adaptation of CK Stead's novel Smith's Dream heralded a new wave of Kiwi cinema; it was one of the only local films of the 1970s to win a big local audience. This excerpt includes a much talked about scene: a baton charge by government forces.
A mainstay on cinema and TV screens for over 20 years, this commercial — reputedly NZ’s longest-running — made Kiwis feel as if the UK-born hokey pokey treasure was ‘ours’. Directed by Tony Williams, the madcap romp features a bevy of 70s acting talent caught up in chaos, after outlaws start a free for all fight for a chest of Crunchie bars. A connection with Martin Scorsese’s editor allowed access to footage from old Westerns, while the immortal tune is by Murray Grindlay. Williams overspent his meagre budget, and a lawn mower given to him as a thank you ended up his fee.
Sitting in the Rain is a New Zealand pop landmark. One of the earliest music promo clips, filmed for television in 1967 by the NZBC, it is a cover version by a local band that became better known than the original (by UK blues stalwart John Mayall). The Underdogs were a powerful electric blues combo, but with 'Sitting in the Rain' they knew that less is more; the film clip, used to fill TV scheduling gaps, is similarly unfussy. Like a surly, underground Monkees, the anarchic Underdogs don't hide the fact that the performance is mimed.