One night in his early 20s, John Hanlon was nudged into playing some songs at a party. A recording studio owner was listening in, and so a star was born. Hanlon won the APRA Silver Scroll Award in 1974 and 75, plus a host of RATA awards, including Songwriter of the Year three years running. ‘Damn the Dam’ became a protest classic, despite its birth as a Pink Batts radio jingle; 1974 hit ‘Lovely Lady’ got to number one. 'Higher Trials' accompanied the airborne climax of Oscar-nominated adventure film Off the Edge (1977). Soon after, growing weary of replaying the hits, Hanlon concentrated on his advertising career.
In early 1974, NZ had more than just the Commonwealth Games on its mind. Norman Kirk’s Labour government was promoting social and ecological issues and the NZBC's 24 radio stations launched a yearlong 'I Care' campaign for the protection of the environment. A contest to find a theme song was won by John Hanlon whose credentials as a conservation crooner had been established with his eco-anthem 'Damn the Dam'. The launch in Petone was presided over by conservation minister Joe Walding, an understated logo was unveiled, and Hanlon performed his winning song.
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.
This short clip marks the only known footage of John Hanlon performing his biggest hit 'Lovely Lady', via NZBC talent competition Studio One. The song ended up placing second, but went on to spend 20 weeks in the NZ charts. It reached number one, and won the 1974 APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award. Despite his immense success — he won another Silver Scroll the following year, and earned multiple RATA awards — Hanlon has faded somewhat from New Zealand’s cultural consciousness, since concentrating from 1978 on a career in advertising.
This NZBC series from the first great era of TV talent shows (and the heyday of light entertainment on the box) featured three new artists and three new songs vying for the judges' favours each week. Performers include Steve Allen (fresh from the success of his Commonwealth Games song 'Join Together') and actor and singer Annie Whittle; and there's a rare glimpse of singer-songwriter John Hanlon. Auckland band Space Waltz steals the show in the New Faces section, debuting their glam rock anthem 'Out on the Street' to an unsuspecting nation (and judges).
Off the Edge was director Michael Firth's ode to the exhilaration of adventuring on the spine of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Something of a snowy Endless Summer, the film follows an American and a Canadian as they ski, hang glide, climb and delve beneath glaciers, in the Aoraki-Mt Cook area. Thrilling footage amidst spectacular scenery was shot over two seasons, where extreme weather and geography meant few chances for second takes. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1977. The Los Angeles Times called it "beautiful and awesome".
Production manager Brian Walden proved a near unstoppable force during the mid 70s dawn of Kiwi TV drama. Known as 'the Sarge' to those who worked with him, Walden was on location to bring in a slew of classic dramas, on time and budget: among them were Hunter’s Gold, The Mackenzie Affair, Gather Your Dreams, Mortimer's Patch and legal classic Hanlon. In the mid 80s he left TVNZ to go freelance, and helped produce everything from vampire movie Moonrise to TV's The New Adventures of Black Beauty.
The Manawatu has provided fertile ground for New Zealand comedic talent, including producing six-person comedy group Facial DBX.
Actor and vocal teacher Sylvia Rands’ first big television role was playing Polly Hanlon, wife to the legendary barrister in Hanlon. Nominated again for movie Bonjour Timothy, Rands has gone on to act in Go Girls, Homeward Bound and cult comedy The Neighbourhood Network, inbetween a busy stage career.
One of NZ’s most experienced and prolific TV producers, Ross Jennings cut his teeth at Avalon in the late 1970s on dramas like Close to Home and Moynihan. After stints as Head of Drama at TVNZ and at Crawfords in Melbourne, he began a long association with Screentime Communicado where he created early reality TV series Middlemore, and Police 10-7. Jennings passed away on 25 March 2016.