Dunedin music historian Roy Colbert once described Toy Love as "The Stooges with better melodies'" The nervy brilliance of Chris Knox, Paul Kean, Jane Walker, Alec Bathgate and Mike Dooley made it onto the Kiwi singles charts three times between 1978 and 1980. Here they are in 1980 — probably at Wellington's Rock Theatre — charging through Green Walls and three chord stomper Pull Down the Shades back to back. Green Walls was first composed by The Enemy, the band from whose ashes Toy Love rose.
After kicking off with the opening bars of Chopin's 'Funeral March', this live rendition of 'Death Rehearsal' invites the audience into a cartoonish, Halloween world before Toy Love members Alec Bathgate, Paul Kean, Jane Walker and Chris Knox take their foot off the brake and let rip. Music journalist Graham Reid described this song (taken from their self-titled first album) as 'kitsch-gloom' and an example of the band branching out from straight ahead punk. Knox juggles delivering witty lyrics with finishing his ciggie, while Bathgate burns up his guitar.
The second, double-sided Toy Love single 'Don't Ask Me' / 'Sheep' was released in April 1980 and reached number 10 on the Kiwi pop charts. That year the band signed a contract with Michael Browning — a former manager of AC/DC — and made the move to Sydney, the prize being a studio album and a way bigger audience, but disillusionment soon set in. Sheep jumps out of the gates with driving drums and guitars and lyrics about numbness and confusion, all confirming Toy Love's punk roots. The band wander aimlessly around city streets and rock out in a cramped flat. Punk lives!
The Christchurch music scene of 1982 gets a once-over in this Radio With Pictures report. Rob White of The Star acts as critic and guide, describing what’s hot in the South Island’s biggest city. A young Richard Driver provides his insights into what makes Christchurch bands so good, while various out-of-towners marvel at the quality of the lighting and sound in the local live scene. Amongst the local bands in the spotlight are The Narcs, the short-lived Thanks to Llamas and the Dance Exponents, who less than four months before this appearance had released their debut single 'Victoria'.
Toy Love's decision to frolic amid the crucifixes in a Dunedin graveyard for this video offended some locals — but it was water off a punk's back for this free-spirited bunch. 'Good Old Joe' ( alongside 'Amputee Song') was the flipside to their third and final single, 'Bride of Frankenstein' . After eighteen frantic months, one album and nearly 500 gigs the band called it quits in late 1980. The clip begins with an excerpt from a group interview; Chris Knox thanks their fans for buying their debut album, and cracks up at a laconic aside from guitarist Alec Bathgate — 'it could have been worse'.
"I'm a fraud / I'm a sham..." The debut single from this influential Kiwi band introduced New Zealand television audiences to Toy Love's recipe of pop riffs and punk sneer. Although the group only existed for 18 months, they charted three times and made a lasting impression on the live scene on both sides of the Tasman. The single 'Squeeze' (backed by B-side 'Rebel') was recorded after a one-off deal with WEA. Vocalist Chris Knox is front and centre, crackling with malevolent energy in a video that mixes kids' toys with some gross out performance art.
The Bats in a suitably enigmatic mood in a video directed by John Chrisstoffels that is as mysterious as the song itself. What was said that is causing the protagonist so much reflection is never really clear - and neither is the reason why the unidentifiable figure with the spade is burying cutlery and a barometer on a hillside high on Godley Head overlooking Pegasus Bay. Elsewhere the band perform at King Edward Barracks (now a parking lot in central Christchurch) and in their practice room, as well as with some of their favourite toys. [This video is made available by The Film Archive]
Flaming torches and streaming ribbons hanging off the front of the car are not your usual Kiwi road-trip accessories, but they're perfect visuals for this classic Bats song. Not to mention the iconic whirling burning guitar on the roadside. Alongside the imagery of motion, fluid camerawork tracks the band performing in front of a DIY Jackson Pollock-esque backdrop. Alister Parker (Gordons, Bailterspace), John Chrisstoffels, and Paul Kean (The Bats) are the directorial team. The song featured in Harry Sinclair movie Topless Women Talk About Their Lives.
Flying Nun legends The Bats formed in 1982. They are known and respected around the world, having played with many of the top indie bands internationally. As well as their acclaimed live gigs, the band are also well-reviewed recording artists, again both locally and off-shore. The band’s family tree weaves back through The Clean and Toy Love, and band-within-the-band, Minisnap, which features the three ChCh-based members of The Bats - Paul Kean, Kaye Woodward and Malcolm Grant. The fourth Bat Robert Scott lives in Dunedin.
A Texan stops by "One Day At The Coffee Bar", and confronted by kaftan wearing, pot smoking beatniks, tries to enjoy a cuppa. Silly costuming, delightful comic timing and hammy performances afford this clip legendary status amongst NZ's finest.