"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.
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.
'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.
Dance Exponents were the crown princes of NZ pop when they released this left field follow-up to their very successful debut album. ‘Sex and Agriculture’ introduced new guitarist Chris Sheehan and marked a major departure from hook-filled pop songs into harder, noisier territory. A rhythmic, driving soundtrack punctuated by Sheehan’s atmospheric guitar undercuts lyrics that could describe a rural idyll. Jordan Luck grows increasingly desperate in this shadowy, constricted TVNZ video which echoes the song’s dark claustrophobic sense of rural dread.
Although not the final Split Enz single, 'I Walk Away' is the song where the band say their goodbyes. Last album See 'Ya Round (1984) featured compositions by every member aside from the recently-departed Tim Finn. On this track brother Neil addresses the challenge of letting go of what you know. The opening shot echoes the image on the album cover, which features Split Enz poking their heads through a cutout illustration. The sun sets more than once, but the band play on; Noel Crombie and Paul Hester double up on drums, and the cathartic finale speaks of joy as much as sadness.