In the early 80s Ready to Roll was NZ’s premier TV pop show. It emerged in the pre-music video boom mid-70s hosted by Roger Gascoigne (and later Stu Dennison) with bands and dancers live in the studio. By the early 80s it was a seamless video clip Top 20 countdown — introduced by the Commodores pumping ‘Machine Gun’ — and appointment Saturday evening viewing for music fans (and a regular in the week’s Top 10 rating shows). It then evolved into a brand, got retitled RTR Countdown, and spawned multiple RTR offshoots (Mega-Mix, Sounz and New Releases), before disappearing in the mid-90s.
The opening sequence of music show Ready to Roll is imprinted on the eyes and ears of many Kiwi music fans. The show jumped directly from the opening graphics to a quick rundown of the week's top 20 singles. Here are two of RTR's beloved openings: the late 70s version is scored to 1974 Commmodores instrumental 'Machine Gun'. In the 80s, Peter Blake's synth number had taken over from funk, and the colours favoured electric neon. The graphics owed a debt to the arcade computer games that followed Space Invaders. The week's featured acts came next, then the countdown.
After-school show Nice One was a popular classic of NZ childrens television, with the show's signature theme tune ("Nice one Stu-y!") and Stu's thumbs-up salute, totemic for kids of the 70s. Host Stu Dennison played a cheeky, long-haired schoolboy who delighted children and infuriated adults with his irreverent antics. But Dennison developed the persona in short live segments for Ready to Roll (shot live at Avalon Studios, excerpted here). Prototype Stu is seen being a truant, reciting rude poetry, singing 10cc and ribbing Roger Gascoigne and 70s metrosexuals.
The NZ Music Awards ceremony now fills Auckland’s Vector Arena and is a major social and music industry event. In 1978 the awards were broadcast in this 16 September Ready to Roll special, cobbling together finalists at Avalon Studios. Stu (Nice One) Dennison is the host (in brown overalls); and there are performances from John Rowles, newcomer Sharon O’Neill, the Rodger Fox Big Band, Hello Sailor, Toni Williams and Golden Harvest (who feature teeth-picking lead guitar in best Hendrix style). Just two awards are covered here: for single and album of the year.
Music is Peter Blake's passion. Blake's career has encompassed jazz, Hendrix covers, keyboards for Hello Sailor – and quite a lot of television. After time at radio station 2ZA he began working on TV music show Grunt Machine, then got the job of musical director, and later producer of the high-rating, hit-making Ready to Roll. Soon he was commanding a stable of music shows that included RTR, Radio with Pictures, Heartbeat City, and stereo simulcasts of rock concerts.
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.
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
This collection of 40 classic Kiwi TV series offers up images spanning 50 years. The titles range from Gloss to Gliding On, from Olly Ohlson to Nice One Stu, from Ready to Roll to wrestlers. In this special backgrounder, Stuff's James Croot writes about favourite moments of Kiwi TV. The list is in rough chronological order of when each series debuted.
The decade of fondue and flares also cooked up colour television. Our black and white living room icons — from Selwyn Toogood to Space Waltz — melted into a Kiwi kaleidoscope of Top Town, Grunt Machine, and Close to Home. And 'our stories' and rights fights — boks, hikoi, nukes and 'nam — echoed onscreen (Sleeping Dogs, Tangata Whenua). Ready to roll?