Auckland Museum's Volume exhibition told the story of Kiwi pop music. It's time to turn the speakers up to 11, for NZ On Screen's biggest collection yet. Turning Up the Volume showcases NZ music and musicians. Drill down into playlists of favourite artists and topics (look for the orange labels). Plus NZOS Content Director Kathryn Quirk on NZ music on screen.
In this short report for a 1990 edition of Holmes, Dylan Taite rocks back the clock to talk to New Zealand music pioneer Johnny Cooper. John Dix’s recently published history of NZ rock’n’roll Stranded in Paradise had resurrected interest in Cooper, the Wairoa-spawned singer who gained notice with a Bill Haley cover, then gave NZ its first homegrown rock’n’roll song with his tale of a Whanganui pie cart, 'Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll'. Aptly, Taite interviews Cooper at a Queen St cart where Cooper unslings his guitar once more: “Let’s rock and roll around the old pie cart!”
Veteran weatherman Jim Hickey sums up A Flying Visit at the start of the first episode: “We’re going to be visiting some of the more unusual and out of the way places, and I’ll be chatting with the locals and they can tell me what makes their little place tick”. He touches his Cessna 182 down on NZ’s northernmost airstrip, meets a pig hunting nana, flies by the lighthouse and Ninety Mile Beach, then crosses to Russell to meet a boogie-boarding dog, a lawn-mowing goat, a uniquely-painted ute — and check out some history. Then it's a flying visit to giant kauri Tāne Mahuta and its kai cart.
Director Greg Stitt's 50min short sees actor Mark Hadlow playing Kevin: a pie cart worker obsessed with the singer Mario Lanza. Kevin's idolatry turns into an identity crisis as operatic-scale fantasising clashes with his meek disposition. Further complications arise from a friendship with his brash punk neighbour, and from stage fright ahead of a fundraiser for Kev's Lanza fan club (Lanza also had a noteworthy teenage fan club in Heavenly Creatures). Will Kev get his Susan Boyle moment? The black comedy was written with Scarecrow scribe Michael Heath.
Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.