Hosted by Karyn Hay, C4 series Rocked the Nation charted 100 key moments in New Zealand music. This excerpt offers a bite-sized appearance from the singing phenomena that was Wing. Although she didn’t make the series’ Top 100, Wing was invited to cover Kiwi classic ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Hong Kong-born Wing Han Tsang began performing in Auckland rest homes, and won global notice for her unconventional vocal style. Alongside a prolific recording schedule, she appeared on SportsCafe and cult cartoon series South Park before retiring from music in 2015.
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.
One of the gentler songs on Shona Laing's 1992 album New on Earth, this warm, Latin-tinged number is in polar opposition to the staunch, synth-laden stylings that won attention on her previous release South. Karyn Hay's purposefully minimal clip concentrates exclusively on Laing, highlighted by red and blue filters as she plays acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, the stylised symbols seen on her face form part of an interstellar background. Laing has called New on Earth "the best record I ever made". Mercy of Love won Laing her second Silver Scroll songwiting award in 1992.
Kiwi music show Music Nation introduced young presenter Bic Runga to the nation, shortly before she took her microphone skills in another direction. In this debut episode, the show's 'field reporter' Ian Hughes (aka Hugh Sundae) interviews winners at the 31st NZ Music Awards, while Runga introduces many of the accompanying videos. There are double helpings of Supergroove, who took away five awards on the night, and Che Fu sings a thank you speech a cappella. But there are murmurs of discontent over Purest Form taking the public vote for best single.
"Once a band has made it here in Godzone, the big question is: where to now?". As presenter Karyn Hay put it back in 1981, there was only one answer — Australia. RWP reporter Simon Morris headed to Sydney to meet Kiwi musos who'd made it (Marc Hunter, on hiatus from Dragon), and those trying (Sharon O’Neill, Dave McArtney, Mi-Sex's Kevin Stanton, Barry Saunders from The Tigers). Hunter muses on Sydney brashness versus NZ introspection, O’Neill shyly promotes 'Maybe' to Molly Meldrum, and expat music producer Peter Dawkins explains what makes a hit.
Former Velvet Underground member John Cale’s first visit to New Zealand in 1983 is marked with this Radio with Pictures special. Indie legends Tall Dwarfs opened for Cale, and part of their performance is captured too. The venue is Christchurch's Hillsborough Tavern, where the cameras catch Cale's intense solo readings of classic songs including VU's ‘Waiting for the Man’, and Cale’s own ‘Leaving it up to You’. The Welshman also reflects briefly on his early years in New York, meeting Lou Reed, and his then most recent album, Music For a New Society.
In April 1984 Billy Idol visited New Zealand to promote his second (and most successful) solo album Rebel Yell. Interviewed by Radio with Pictures legend Karyn Hay, he answers her call for a closing rebel yell, talks about the origins of his name and early hit 'White Wedding'; argues he appeals to the intelligence of his audience; criticises racism towards the United States, a country full of "ordinary people who struggle everyday"; and argues that confidence and "a pretty heavy attitude" are key to survival in a music industry that is more concerned with money than art.
As soon as the guitar line of 'Blue Lady' sparks up, the sea of perms, sweaty denim and cigarettes starts jumping. The Legionnaires (Hello Sailor reincarnated) were one of several top Kiwi bands to record live Radio With Pictures specials at Auckland's Mainstreet Cabaret during the 1980s. Their eight-strong set list contains bonafide hits like 'Blue Lady' and Graham Brazier's ode to his Liverpudlian roots, 'Billy Bold'. Another highlight is a moody rendition of 'Remember The Alamo' from guitarist and singer Dave McArtney's Pink Flamingos' catalogue.
Long before the website of the same name, Music Nation was a mid 90s television show devoted to Kiwi music. Hosted by Hugh Sundae and Bic Runga — shortly before Runga's debut album Drive conquered the nation — the show mixed video clips and interviews. Modelled loosely on legendary Sunday night music show Radio With Pictures, Music Nation was produced by former RWP hosts Karyn Hay and Richard Driver. Two seasons, each running 13 episodes, went to air.
For a generation of music fans before the internet, show Radio with Pictures was a vital link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Karyn Hay, Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Dick Driver Phil O'Brien. RWP's extended run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 1980s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple, but artist interviews also featured. The show also staged a number of Mainstreet concerts featuring leading local artists.