This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
Actor Bruno Lawrence rounds out a handful (Buck, Billy T, The Topps, Crumpy) of Kiwi icons who have achieved sufficient mana to be recognised by an abbreviated name. His charisma was key to ground-breaking films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Jack Nicholson reputedly had Bruno envy. This collection celebrates his inimitable performances and life.
Country and western music legend Tex Morton presents this popular 60s Saturday night music show. The Auckland studio audience is seated on hay bales in a barn-styled set and provide the chorus to the musical numbers. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Country Touch Singers and Square Dancers, Jan Butler, fiddler Colleen Bain, and resident guest singers Kay and Shane perform. Tex himself sings a novelty number about the good ol’ days, and applauds Butler: “Isn’t she a redheaded little spark? I wish we had colour television!” The times they have a changed!
“There are six of them: three school teachers, an architectural draughtsman, a student of anthropology and a bus mechanic.” This lively and light-hearted 1968 National Film Unit production profiles The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, who come together in Auckland to play in a villa, a recording studio, and at the Poles Apart Folk Club (where they would record a live album the same year). The band brought the sounds of Kentucky to New Zealand via a prolific run of albums, and regular appearances on 60s TV show The Country Touch. They turned professional in 1969.
The Warratahs formed in 1986 around Barry Saunders and Wayne Mason (ex-Fourmyula, and composer of the classic 'Nature'). TVNZ arts presenter Nik Brown played fiddle. Following a residency playing covers of country standards at Wellington's Cricketers Arms, the band began recording their own material. Their timeless, Kiwi-inflected, neo-traditional country, and relentless touring made them a beloved and unique presence in the fashion-conscious music scene of the late 1980s. After a few years off, the band reformed, this time without Mason.
The second single from Wellington's country crossover kings is a classic tale of lost love and the girl that got away: propelled by Nik Brown's fiddle, with Barry Saunders out front singing it like a cowboy. Director Waka Attewell's music video intersperses the band's performance with shots of Saunders in and around Wellington with a supporting cast of planes, trains and automobiles. The car is a cut-down Holden Belmont and there's a glimpse of the Cook Strait ferry (but the Warratahs' involvement with the Interislander is still a few years off).
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.