Collection

Five Decades of NZ Number One Hits

Curated by NZ On Screen team

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.  

Close Up - 'Nature' performed by The Fourmyula

Television, 2010 (Excerpts)

“Through falling leaves I pick my way slowly…” In 1970 a musical paean to getting your nature buzz topped the charts. ‘Nature’, by The Fourmyula, became a Kiwi classic: in 2001 an APRA poll voted it the best local song of the past 75 years. This 2010 Close Up report, from Auckland’s Montecristo Room, sees presenter Mark Sainsbury introduce the band's second performance of 'Nature' in Aotearoa (the band were overseas when it topped the charts). He quizzes composer Wayne Mason, and drummer Chris Parry recalls encountering The Clash while working in the English music scene.

Blue Day

Mi-Sex, Music Video, 1984

"Things are not always the way they should be", sings Steve Gilpin in 'Blue Day', from Mi-Sex's 1984 album Where Do They Go. Reaching number 24 in Australia and 36 in NZ, it was their last charting single before the band broke up; it's also on the APRA Top 100 NZ Songs list at number 54. The band plays on a darkened studio set, a strong neon-blue visual style complementing the soft, haunting keyboard intro. Artificial light suggests the day outside; pushed up jacket sleeves and genie pants are an unmistakable reminder of mid-80s fashion.

Counting the Beat

The Swingers, Music Video, 1981

The opening images of this video — the swinging guitar, fingers on the fretboard — make for a defining moment in Kiwi music video history. The clip was actually shot in Australia; by the time they recorded the song, The Swingers had relocated from Aotearoa to Melbourne. They would soon be history. Aussie cinematographer/ director Ray Argall ('World Where You Live') matches the beloved composition with colourful images, quirky humour, and an infectious dance finale. In 2001 music organisation APRA voted the chart topper fourth on their list of the top Kiwi songs to date. 

Artist

The Exponents / The Dance Exponents

The Dance Exponents (later shortened to The Exponents) formed in Christchurch in 1981, and went on to become one of New Zealand's longest lasting bands. Over three decades they played live gigs across the country, and in Britain to big ex-pat crowds. Singer Jordan Luck's rock'n'roll lifestyle is legendary; so are the band's perfect pop songs. The hits include 'Victoria', 'Why Does Love Do this to Me?', 'Who Loves Who the Most?', and 'I'll Say Goodbye (Even tho' I'm Blue)'' — songs embraced by successive generations of Kiwis. In 2007 Luck became the first songwriter inducted into the APRA NZ Music Hall of Fame.  

Soviet Snow

Shona Laing, Music Video, 1988

The fall of the Iron Curtain was still several years away when Shona Laing wrote her first APRA Silver Scroll winner 'Soviet Snow'. The world had been "teasing at war like children" over decades of the arms race and Cold War brinksmanship and the threat of nuclear winter was very real. The video is a suitably chilly but dizzying montage that marries Russian iconography and Soviet imagery to the song's urgent synthesised beats. Laing later stripped 'Soviet Snow' of its synthpop trappings in an acoustic version on her 2007 album Pass the Whisper.

Pedestrian Support League

Street Chant, Music Video, 2015

With its video filmed in a cramped Auckland flat, 'Pedestrian Support League' was the lead single off Street Chant’s long-awaited second album, Hauora. As the band play on, a psychedelic array of everyday kitchenware flies by in the background. The claustrophobic flat is appropriate — lead singer Emily Littler describes the lyrics as about “just your typical Kiwi shithole flat life filled with paranoia, depression and anxiety.” The album received critical praise upon its release, and the single was was one of five finalists for the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll Songwriting award.

Beautiful Lady - performed by Patsy Riggir

Television, 1985 (Excerpts)

In the 1980s country and western music was a big part of the Kiwi music landscape, and arguably its best-loved star was Patsy Riggir. 'Beautiful Lady', from 1983 album Are You Lonely, was a song she wrote herself (unusual in a genre then heavy on covers). It won Most Popular Song at the 1983 NZ Music Awards, where Riggir was named Composer of the Year, and was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards. This performance is from a 1985 variety gala celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. The following year Riggir would front six-part TV series Patsy Riggir Country

Loyal

Dave Dobbyn, Music Video, 1988

This is a cleverly-choreographed one shot video for the Kiwi classic written by Dobbyn when based in Sydney. (Even if it's debatable whether the moving house/moving on imagery actually suits the lyrics of the song.) Dobbyn's jersey and his video girl's entire get-up firmly date-stamp the romance and real estate story in the 80s, but the song has outlasted the knitwear: In 2001 APRA members voted it the third-best New Zealand song of the 20th Century. Loyal was later used by Team New Zealand as its campaign song for its 2002 defence of the America’s Cup.  

Anchor Me

The Mutton Birds, Music Video, 1994

Don McGlashan’s plea for safe harbour — written for The Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award. It featured in a movie (Perfect Strangers), a short film (Boy) and was given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But when TVNZ used it (legally) on National Party conference footage, McGlashan took public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video — an NZ Film Award nominee — in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of perils still await. An alternative, English-made video of the song features the band shot against blue and red.