This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
Possibly channelling the final rooftop concert by The Beatles (a number of The Crocodiles were big Beatles fans), this up-on-the roof video was self-produced by The Crocodiles. It marked Fane Flaws first directing credit — made, with fine business sense, for a song that was never released as a single. The location was near Parliament, with the high shots coming from an unauthorised trip to the top of a nearby Government high-rise. Vocalist Jenny Morris and drummer Bruno Lawrence play ill-matched lovers — as they would do in the video for breakthrough Crocodiles hit 'Tears'.
With 'Turn from the Rain', The Veils added their name to the prestigious list of bands who have recorded at London's famed Abbey Road Studios — a list which includes The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. According to frontman Finn Andrews “The room there is so musty and still … you want any sound you make to be worth disturbing the grand silence for.” The idea of making a video at Abbey Road arrived at 2am in a Hackney flat; the performances were shot on 16mm film, an appropriately retro touch considering the venue. The recordings were later released on The Abbey Road EP.
'Saint Paul' was one of the biggest hits by a NZ artist in the late 60s. Written about Paul McCartney by American producer Terry Knight, it borrowed liberally from Beatles songs (eventually with their publisher's permission) and played an early part in the "Paul is dead" conspiracy theories. Shane’s version went to number one and was the 1969 winner of the Loxene Golden Disc for local song of the year. This footage from the awards show comes complete with interview by host Peter Sinclair and as many groovy special effects as TV could muster at the time.
Voom's on-off recording style meant their debut album Now I Am Me (1998) took at least six years to eventuate. Songs like 'Relax' and 'Beth' won them fans on student radio, and they played a support slot for Pulp. Many line-up changes later Buzz Moller — by 2005 the only original member — enlisted three new players to complete Hello, Are You There? which Nick Bollinger later rated as one of New Zealand’s 100 Essential Albums. Voom's influences included "the Beatles, Mum, The Beach Boys, girls, quantum physics and love lost and found”.
The lifespan of these Christchurch experimental rockers was short but sure; they were rumoured to be a major early influence for Sonic Youth. They disbanded after releasing early 80s records awash in driving guitar. One of the founding members, Alister Parker, went on to form Nelsh Bailter Space (later Bailterspace). Melody Maker: "saying Gordons were loud is like saying the Beatles were a pop group". NME: "When you put it on not only will your lawn die, your Motorhead albums will shrivel in their sleeves."
Timberjack was the second incarnation of Dizzy Limits, a covers group formed in 1964. Building a repertoire of Beatles and Stones hits, they appeared on TV's C'mon and Happen Inn before heading to the UK in 1970 as house band on the Northern Star cruise liner. They returned home in 1971 with a new name and sound inspired by a proto-heavy metal style. Their cover of 'Come to the Sabbat', and the panic caused by its occult-themed promo, proved to be a career-high and swansong: Timberjack split soon after.
Formed in the early 1980s and led by Matthew Bannister, Sneaky Feelings' seminal jangly guitar sound and layered vocals were influenced by the Byrds and the Beatles. The band's name comes from a song by Elvis Costello, ‘Sneaky Feelings’, (from his 1977 debut album My Aim Is True). Feeling's biggest hit was 1985 single ‘Husband House’. After the demise of the band in 1989, Bannister moved to Auckland where he founded the Dribbling Darts. He also wrote a book about his experiences during the heyday of Flying Nun - Positively George Street.
One of Wellington’s leading 60s bands present a dark and troubling tale of revenge via voodoo doll. The clip — made for the Studio One TV show, a regular Avengers' gig — incongruously takes its cues from music video precursors like early Beatles films and The Monkees TV series (where the default position was zany and madcap). It was shot around Oriental Bay, with one fleeting pre-Te Papa harbour vista — but the focus is mainly on the band’s antics. The Avengers gamely enter into the spirit of it all, although four on a motor scooter looks decidedly dodgy.
This selection offers three variations on the opening titles for TVNZ's beloved 80s music show. The theme music is 'This Heaven' by Auckland synth pop act Marginal Era; the mid-80s can also be spotted in the pink colour choice and in the basic computer graphics. Variations among the three sequences lie in the contemporary and vintage artists chosen in the montages of video excerpts — but all are bookended by classic pop images of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.