Fresh from stints on vocals with Pop Mechanix and The Swingers, Andrew McLennan (aka Andrew Snoid) formed Coconut Rough with Blam Blam Blam guitarist Mark Bell in 1983. The band quickly found top five chart success with ‘Sierra Leone’ — its infectious melody and keyboards made it a classic piece of synth pop: “Sierra Leone, it’s cold in the desert tonight". But the song's overwhelming popularity became an albatross around the band's neck. In 1986 McLennan rejoined Pop Mechanix, before spending a long period outside of music. Bell went on to play for Big Sideways, and write for NZ Musician.
Live from Auckland's Mainstreet Cabaret, this Radio with Pictures special showcases bands Coconut Rough and The Narcs. Coconut Rough open their six song set with an instrumental and close with 'Sierra Leone', after proving they're much more than one hit wonders. RWP host Karyn Hay then introduces the "high energy rock" of The Narcs. The driving keyboards of second track 'Look the Other Way' hint at how the band's sound was broadening. Label CBS released both gigs as album Whistle While You Work, which reached number 17 in the New Zealand charts.
'Sierra Leone' was one of those songs that quickly stood out from the pack. Andrew McLennan's synth-pop track won his new band Coconut Rough a deal with Mushroom Records, then became a runaway hit in 1983. The video, slick for the time, features bright colours, a running motif, and African imagery. But the pressure of being in demand for a single song became an albatross around the band's neck. As McLennan told website AudioCulture, "‘Sierra Leone’ became the only song from our repertoire that people wanted to hear and no matter what we did we couldn’t follow it up."
Dressed as a 1920's flapper bride, Karyn Hay introduces highlights from the TVNZ rock show’s televised concerts at the now demolished Mainstreet Cabaret on Auckland's Queen Street. The songs are Dance Exponents' 'All I Can Do' (with a sweaty Jordan Luck), an impassioned 'Billy Bold' from Graham Brazier's Legionnaires, Hip Singles' 'After the Party' (with snappy high kicks from Dick Driver), a brassy 'Outlook for Thursday' from Dave Dobbyn's DD Smash, a rocking 'Look the Other Way' from The Narcs and Coconut Rough's moment in the sun 'Sierra Leone'.
The penultimate Pop Mechanix single was an exploration of carnality, anchored by chiming guitars with vocals by Andrew McLennan (Coconut Rough and 'Sierra Leone'). It was one of the first music videos directed by Spot On video competition winner Paul Middleditch, who was still at school. He went on to make videos for Tim Finn and Tex Pistol, commercials, and 2009 movie Separation City. The location was a cold, disused office. “Luckily,” says bass player Paul Scott, “we were into leather jackets, big coats and damn big hair because the place was absolutely freezing”.
Formed by Phil Judd (a founding member of Split Enz), Bones Hillman (aka Wayne Stevens) and Buster Stiggs (aka Mark Hough) in 1979, The Swingers evolved from early punk band the Suburban Reptiles. After releasing debut single ‘One Good Reason' — which got to number 17 in the Kiwi charts — they signed with Mushroom in Australia. ‘Counting The Beat' would come to define them, rocketing The Swingers to number one on both sides of the Tasman, and selling 100,000+ copies. Disagreements over song choices hastened their demise in May 1982, after the late addition of vocalist Andrew Snoid (Coconut Rough).
Post-punk trio Blam Blam Blam coalesced in Auckland from the remains of band The Whizz Kids: Don McGlashan (drums), Mark Bell (guitar) and Tim Mahon (bass). Their second single was ‘There is No Depression in New Zealand’ — legendary theme song for the Springbok Tour-marred winter of 1981. A van crash seriously injured Mahon and spelt the end of the Blam. McGlashan later formed The Mutton Birds, before going solo. Mark Bell played in Coconut Rough and The Jordan Luck Band, and has written for NZ Musician. Tim Mahon joined Dead Sea Scrolls and spent time as Manukau City Council's arts coordinator.
Peter Blake introduced more local content to popular music shows Ready to Roll and Radio with Pictures at a time when covers of overseas songs were the norm. The longtime musician began in television via 1970s music programme; Grunt Machine, and ended up in charge of a stable of shows. He has also composed music for everything from TV One's nightly News theme to drama Shark in the Park.
Andrew Shaw has experience of both sides of the camera. After debuting in his teens as a popular children's TV host, Shaw went on to spend time as producer and director, on a variety of music programmes and live shows. These days he is a TVNZ executive, responsible for commissioning and buying programmes.