Before you could call her Queen Bee and ‘Royals’ became a Grammy-winning smash hit, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was a singer in Extreme and competing in the covers category of the 2009 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands finals. The 12-year-old Belmont Intermediate student and her band belt out covers of ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, by British rockers Rainbow, and ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’, The Cult’s tribute to Andy Warhol heroine Edie Sedgwick. “The gods lay at your fee-e-eet …” Ella. Post-performance Ella bemoans a “sore voice”, but Extreme still manage to take third place.
At any one time between mid 1942 and mid 1944, between 15,000 and 45,000 US servicemen were camped in NZ preparing for, and recovering from, war in the Pacific. The marines brought colour and drama to the austerity of home front life. Fifty years later this TV documentary used interviews, reenactments and archive material to explore the “American invasion”. Sonja Davies recalls a Wellington street fight kicked off by a racist insult directed at Māori, and her wartime pregnancy and romance (1,500 marriages ensued from “when the Americans were here”).
Directed by Tainui Stephens, this 1990 TVNZ series surveyed Māori contemporary music. This second episode looks at the showband era (1950s - 70s), when musicians mixed genres (electric guitar, rock’n’roll) with Māori culture, to make a unique contribution to Kiwi show business. Acts like The Howard Morrison Quartet, The Māori Volcanics, The Quin Tikis and The Māori Hi-Fives took songs from marae to international cabarets. Music historian Chris Bourke praised the series for marking the role of showbands in the whakapapa of entertainers from Billy T James to Rim D Paul.
Shazam! rode the 1980s music video boom created by the advent of MTV and the renaissance in NZ music. Aimed at a younger audience than Radio with Pictures, it played in a late afternoon, weekday time slot, and featured artist interviews and live concerts as well as sponsoring a Battle of the Bands and a music video competition. Presenters were Phillip Schofield (later a presenter with the BBC and ITV), Phillipa Dann (who moved to London with husband and future head of MTV Europe Brent Hansen) and, finally, Michelle Bracey (who became a documentary director).
False Start won their regional heat (Henderson) in the 2005 Battle of the Bands, then claimed first equal in the Auckland final. The debut EP from the West Auckland power popster/rockers, Goodbye Summer, sold out on its first night of release. Belying their name, they recorded solid sales for mini album Adore Tu Ser and 2008 album Through The Looking Glass. In 2010 False Start announced on Myspace that it would be their last year playing together.
Hamilton hard rockers Knightshade emerged in the 1980s with sweaty, riff-heavy anthems like ‘Out for the Count’, ‘Sheila at the Wheel’ and 'The Physical You'. Led by Wayne Elliott, they spawned two EPs and a 1987 live album, and supported acts from Jimmy Barnes to Guns N’ Roses. They left Glyn Tucker Jnr's Reaction Records for Mushroom Australia, but directives from Mushroom to record ballads soured the deal. A (self-titled) studio album was released in 1995 on Hark Records, before touring pressures saw them disband. Knightshade reunited in 2011 and 2014. Elliott died in 2018 after a battle with cancer.
This episode from The Living Room is presented by Wellington band TrinityRoots. First stop is a dans paleis, where competitors (including Fat Freddys' DJ Mu) tweak samples in a battle for the MPC heavyweight title. Then Dunedin artist Phil Frost tours his studio, talks skulls and bones and skate video Tulgonia Two (where broken ankles are the price of filming mad tricks). Poet Cameron Hockly takes his words to Te Awamutu's streets; and mainlander Peter King lathe cuts bespoke records for clients from the Beastie Boys to Trinity Roots (whose True LP is cut here).
This segment of regional show Today Tonight covers the arrival at Wellington Airport of glam-rockers Kiss (with faces obscured), and the erection of 22 tonnes of equipment for their 1980 ‘Unmasked’ tour. Presented by Roger Gascoigne, the item shows playful sound bites from Simmons and co in full make-up, plus contest winner Scott Loveday after he gets to meet the band. Gene Simmons might have been made for loving you baby, but the "hottest rock show on earth" (tickets $12.50) battles against wind and rain at Athletic Park. The park is now the site of a retirement village.
The Governor examined the life of George Grey, providing a whole new angle on traditional portraits of him as the "Good Governor". The six-part historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. This episode — 'He Iwi Kotahi Tatou' (Now We Are One People)' — won a Feltex award for best script. War looms in the Waikato as Māori tribes band together; peacemaker and kingmaker Wiremu Tāmihana (the late Don Selwyn) agonises over the right course of action.
Lew Pryme was a popular New Zealand performer, who appeared in big screen musical Don't Let it Get You and on sixties television show C'mon. After stints as a music promoter and agent, Pryme played a part in bringing the entertainment and sports worlds together as executive director of the Auckland Rugby Union - introducing cheerleaders, mascots and music entertainment to rugby fans.