One of the most commercially successful NZ acts of the 80s, all female vocal group When the Cat's Away reformed in 2001 around four of the original five members: Margaret Urlich, Kim Willoughby, Debbie Harwood and Annie Crummer. They announced their return with this electropop reworking of Sharon O'Neill's 1980 ode to the east — and a Rachel Churchward styled music video which used black outfits on a black background to give an Oriental lacquer-like sheen. O'Neill returned the favour when she played with the Cats on a subsequent tour and live album.
This big, bright cover of British act Blue Mink's plea for multi-racial harmony and a world of "coffee coloured people" was a chart-topper for all female vocal group When the Cat's Away in November 1988. The self-produced video is heavy on 80s fluoro colours and overexposed whites, while the placement of the Cats around a single mic affords them plenty of chances to interact and enjoy each other's company (they're also seen out and about on Karangahape Road, and at a rugby league test). This cat video before cat videos overran the internet includes an actual cat.
The video for this 1986 synth-pop song sees Everything that Flies singer Dianne Swann – seen in a changing palette of colour tones – striding on the waterfront past a Greenpeace ship; intense in a restaurant, after hours; and singing in a studio with the band. An early credit for music video director Kerry Brown, the clip won Best Video at the 1986 NZ Music Awards. Song trivia: the single’s sleeve won Best Cover, and was designed by future Oscar-winning costume designer Ngila Dickson. Swann would soon join female Kiwi supergroup When the Cats Away.
Annie Crummer came to attention with her cameo in ‘For Today’ in 1985 and she was a member of the high profile late 80s act When The Cats Away — but her debut solo album Language didn’t appear until 1992. This cover of a song originally recorded by Eric Clapton was its first single. It features Pacific reggae band Herbs (with the late Charlie Tumahai as duet partner). Fred Renata’s stylish video is a study in monochrome as it alternates black and white backdrops (and wardrobe for Crummer), and augments them with photos of loved ones and shadow play.
Before forming When The Cat’s Away, Debbie Harwood collaborated with Johnny Bongo (John Quigley) on this one-off project which won them Most Promising Group at the 1987 NZ Music Awards. The music video was funded by Harwood with money earned from waitressing. Director Jed Town (of Fetus Productions) keeps his palette very aqua but resists the temptation to get more literal with the subject matter, instead opting for layers of abstract watery textures to frame Harwood’s vocals (although a brief glimpse of a gnashing shark hints at Town's more macabre side).
Nick Sampson wrote Netherworld Dancing Toys' big hit 'For Today' during a summer spent working at a Taranaki freezing works. His love song has become a classic — aided in no small part by Annie Crummer's soaring vocal. The TVNZ video, directed by Radio With Pictures producer Brent Hansen, places the band in a studio (where Crummer sings with Kim Willoughby in a precursor to their time in When the Cat's Away) and on the Cook Strait ferry (where the shoot was nearly derailed when lunch in a Picton pub almost led to the band missing the return sailing).
This soulful despatch from the end of a love affair won Rikki Morris the APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award for 1991. It was produced by his brother Ian (aka Tex Pistol) who contributed a suitably epic 80s drum sound and won himself Engineer of the Year at the NZ Music Awards. The family connection extended to the music video where Rikki’s then wife Debbie Harwood (from When the Cat’s Away) played the former partner in the Super 8 footage (which the pair shot themselves). A stormy surf beach offers an appropriately tempestuous supporting performance.
Following the demise of Pacific Funk band Big Sideways, vocalist Debbie Harwood launched a solo career with this cover of an Ashford and Simpson song written for Gladys Knight and the Pips. The single was dedicated to recently deceased Dragon keyboards player Paul Hewson, and it won Harwood a NZ Music Award (at a ceremony which provided the impetus for the formation of When the Cat’s Away). The video, produced by TVNZ at Avalon, is a straightforward studio performance, but is notable for the extended, two minute long tracking shot that comprises its second half.
The third single from Opshop’s triple platinum-selling second album Second Hand Planet reached number three on the NZ singles chart, and became the theme song for a string of heart string-pulling NZ Post adverts with its lyric “one day / you’ll realise how much you have me”. Director Luke Sharpe’s video has the band in semi-darkness, accompanied only by a smoke machine and the odd dreamy projection. Lead singer and New Zealand’s Got Talent host Jason Kerrison’s vocals are harmonised by Dianne Swann from When the Cat’s Away and The Bads.