"Things are not always the way they should be", sings Steve Gilpin in 'Blue Day', from Mi-Sex's 1984 album Where Do They Go. Reaching number 24 in Australia and 36 in NZ, it was their last charting single before the band broke up; it's also on the APRA Top 100 NZ Songs list at number 54. The band plays on a darkened studio set, a strong neon-blue visual style complementing the soft, haunting keyboard intro. Artificial light suggests the day outside; pushed up jacket sleeves and genie pants are an unmistakable reminder of mid-80s fashion.
By 1978 UK chart success and an extended club residence in Hawaii were behind John Rowles; he was broke and looking for a hit. His earlier smash 'Cheryl Moana Marie' had been named after two of his sisters. For his comeback Rowles reprised the gesture, penning a song to sister Tania. The single topped the New Zealand charts for four weeks. This clip sees him donning a green suit to mime 'Tania' for local music show Ready to Roll. His 1978 album This is My Life did well on both sides of the Tasman, priming a 20 year stint in Australia performing on the Leagues club circuit.
The Katene Sisters were a Shortland Street creation — a vocal group from the past of nurse Jackie Manu (Nancy Brunning), who reformed for a talent quest. The other members were her cousins, but only one (Annie Crummer) appeared, allowing nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) to step in. Though they didn’t win, they were given a brief life outside the show when this song (written by Crummer and ex Holidaymaker Barbara Griffin) peaked at number three in the NZ charts. The video shows them getting down to business in the recording studio, with Crummer in her element.
Blam Blam Blam’s second hit from 1981 was angular and artsy, hook-filled but unsettling: all qualities captured in a theatrical video, directed by Andrew Shaw. Clowns, magicians, fire-eaters and trick cyclists join the band, while actors play out the saga of ‘Don’t Fight It, Marsha’. The actors — including Phillip Gordon (Came a Hot Friday), Michael Hurst and Donogh Rees (Constance) — were directed by Harry Sinclair, who would later join Blam band member Don McGlashan in The Front Lawn. The Len Lye-style scratch effects were by Jenny Pullar, the Blams’ lighting designer.
Shot in the same year he became producer of Radio With Pictures, Brent Hansen created this gem before going on to become Editor-in-Chief and President of Creative for MTV International. Like a cross between a Kraftwerk gig and an early episode of Dr Who, Pulsing features what must have been particularly exciting special effects, but sadly arrives curiously free of content warnings. The sight of ex-Play School host Tim Bartlett being aurally tortured has lined psychiatrists' pockets for decades.
After three years of playing live, the first single from Th’ Dudes was this classic, chiming piece of pop written by Dave Dobbyn. The video was made at TVNZ’s Manchester St Studios in Christchurch. With Dobbyn taking lead vocal, there was no onstage role for Peter Urlich — so he sits at a table in the foreground of the empty nightclub set. Assistant floor manager Peter Bain-Hogg plucked a passerby off the street to play the waitress. The song would become an enduring Kiwi classic — three decades later, it closed out the final episode of Outrageous Fortune.
The Swingers have long been umbilically tied to one composition: 1981 chart-topper 'Counting the Beat’. But the band's debut single makes clear that their gift for percussive pop was there from the start. The accompanying video sees the trio getting down to it in their union jack-emblazoned shirts; the lyrics channel the same kind of sexual frustration as Stones classic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. The result is arguably in the same realm of catchy. After reaching number 19 in NZ, ‘One Good Reason’ featured in Aussie film Starstruck. Strawpeople later released a funked up version.
The playful ‘Elephunk in my Soup’ was the result of experimentation by Phil Bowering and Steve Garden during spare studio time. The video was directed by artist William Keddell (now based in Florida) while Chris Barrett was responsible for the cinematography and the Len Lye-influenced animations (some scratched directly onto 16mm film in Lye’s style). Made in the days before a local music video industry had really established itself, it was a finalist in the NZ Music Awards. Phil Bowering is on the couch and, of course, he’s got his wash-hose.
This was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. The song is a colourful plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo — it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation. Director Kerry Brown created vibrant animated backgrounds to match the song’s hip-hop beats. The cameo appearances include Moana Maniapoto’s father, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Mika and various crew members. The Moahunters were Mina Ripia (who went on to her own act Wai) and Teremoana Rapley (from Upper Hutt Posse, who went on to manage King Kapisi).
'Saturday Night' is a glorious anthem from these Auckland punk pioneers, and a classic piece of NZ rock’n’roll. An improbable ode to the joys of having “one free night a week”, it was penned by Buster Stiggs and produced by ex-Split Enzer Phil Judd (on guitar). The video, made by TVNZ, was remarkably sympathetic and, apart from lurid lighting, avoided cheap effects in favour of capturing the band’s essence. Judd and Stiggs later formed The Swingers, while this performance won singer Zero a role in the Gary Glitter stage production of Rocky Horror Picture Show.