Taken from hit music show C’mon, this short clip has Mr Lee Grant performing his first number one hit ‘Opportunity’. After leaping to attention — and suffering an awkward landing — he recovers quickly to offer a jaunty performance on a psychedelic set, complete with American flag motif. The song (a cover version) charted in May 1967, helping cement Mr Lee Grant’s position as one of the country's premier pop stars. He would top the local charts twice more — and come close another time — before leaving New Zealand in March 1968, in an attempt to conquer the United Kingdom.
An early example of Kiwi rap music, 'No Flint No Flame' was recorded for the first time while Urban Disturbance were still known as Leaders of Style. Lead by MC, beat maker, and future international radio star Zane Lowe, the crew are backed on this remake by firebreathers, who often come terrifyingly close to DJ Rob Salmon. In 2015 Lowe was part of the writing and producing team nominated for Best Album at the Grammy Awards (for Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour) — a far cry from the Pasifika Streets he raps about here, 23 years earlier.
Upper Hutt-born singer Jon Stevens pulled off the remarkable feat of having consecutive number ones on the New Zealand Top 40 with his first two singles. 'Montego Bay' was the second (taking over from 'Jezebel' in January 1980). It was a cover of a one-off 1970 hit for American Bobby Bloom, written for the second largest city in Jamaica. The cut-out palm trees of the studio set were as close as Stevens and band got to the Caribbean. 'Montego Bay' stayed at the top of the chart for two weeks and was voted 'Single of the Year' at the New Zealand Music Awards.
With its skittering drum loops and unsteady vocals punctuated with bursts of industrial-strength noise, Donka is an early example of Headless Chickens’ ever-evolving sound. Director Stuart Page (working with the Chickens' Grant Fell) cuts together a wild collage to echo the song’s mood swings. Chris Matthews' deadpan delivery to camera — occasionally in butoh-type face paint — provides a spot of calm amongst the blizzard of grotesque close-ups, absurd costumes, time-lapse and triple exposures. Fell wrote later that the video cost $527.55 to make.
Half a decade before the electronic beats of Oceania, Hinewehi Mohi's debut single is a gentler, more soulful affair — with the constantly moving close-ups of director Niki Caro's video underlining the song’s heartfelt simplicity. Co-written with Doctor Hone Kaa and Ardijah founding member Jay Dee, the song pushes the importance of rising above adversity, and having the courage to evolve as a people and a nation. The latter would be challenged seven years later by another te reo performance from Mohi — of the national anthem at a rugby test match.
If nothing else, Supergroove are evidence that in New Zealand, it’s not just our top sportspeople who wear all black. Luckily, they are a lot more than just that, as evidenced in this video for their guitar heavy hit You Freak Me. As the band rock out on stage, chaotic footage combines close ups, strange camera angles, and constant flashing lights amongst the haze of smoke machines and cigarettes. Not all heavy, the song features a brief funky interlude before a rare burst of hostility from the typically calm Che Fu.
Shona Laing's long musical career began with '1905', a song dedicated to Henry Fonda. At 17 years old, Shona took the song to second place on talent show New Faces in 1972. Early the following year it rose to number four on the NZ top 10. This short live clip, thought to be filmed at Christchurch Town Hall, captures Shona in extreme close-up, serving to magnify the emotional intensity of the song. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a mimed performance; her voice is absolutely spot-on, and the crowd reacts with rapturous applause.
‘Cold’ was another number one hit for dance act Deep Obsession. The video (one of two made for this track) arguably takes the title a trifle too little literally: extended studio close-ups of coldly-lit vocalists Zara Clark and Vanessa Kelly in blue eye makeup are contrasted with glimpses of the band performing live. Third member (and later director) Christopher Banks can be seen sporadically. The second of three consecutive chart-toppers for the band, ‘Cold’ saw Banks and Clark nominated for best songwriting at the 2000 NZ Music Awards.
From Straitjacket Fits’ third and final album Blow, ‘If I Were You’ keeps its hand on the sonic brake, while providing contrast with the melodic sounds of recently departed bandmember Andrew Brough. Director Andrew Dominik’s moody music video accents Shayne Carter’s niggly ‘agony uncle’ lyrical advice via fireworks, watery prism effects and lip close-ups. The Fits’ final single made APRA’s Top 100 Kiwi song list. Dominik went on to direct Chopper, Killing Them Softly and acclaimed Nick Cave documentary One More Time with Feeling.
The video for this Phoenix Foundation single features Bret McKenzie excavating a deep hole, in a landscape that evokes the work of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (although Loren Taylor's video was actually shot in a clearing close to Wellington's wind turbine). The band turns up to watch, and the man finds eye-opening liberation from his toil. Vocalist Samuel Flynn Scott credited inspiration for the song to musician Lawrence Arabia’s recipe for satisfaction: ditching dreams of success, in order to enjoy making music. The result was a finalist for the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll.