It's hard to reduce legendary band Split Enz down to a single sound or image. Soon after forming in 1973, they began dressing like oddball circus performers, and their music straddled folk, vaudeville and art rock. Later the songs got shorter, poppier and — some say —better, and the visuals were toned down...but you could never accuse the Enz of looking biege. With Split Enz co-founder Tim Finn turning 65 in June 2017, this collection looks back at one of Aotearoa's most successful and eclectic bands. Writer Michael Higgins unravels the evolution of the Enz here.
It was the summer of 1970, six months after Woodstock; local media hyped this Phil Warren-promoted two-day music festival as New Zealand’s version. Despite promises of revolution, it was more low-key with 1500 music fans bussing out to the Swanson holiday park for — as MC Peter Sinclair introduced it — “36 hours of non stop top pops of New Zealand’s top bands”, from psych-rock to gospel. The big star was sometime Bee Gee Robin Gibb, whose high pitch was infamously welcomed with a thrown tomato. This footage was captured for TV by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation.
In 2010 TVNZ’s Heartland channel celebrated the 50th anniversary of television in New Zealand by producing a decade by decade survey. This interview, taken from the 1960s instalment, sees the late Ray Columbus interviewed by Andrew Shaw. The pioneer of pop music in New Zealand reflects on the role that TV played in his career, from Club Columbus to C’Mon, to co-creating That’s Country. He muses on being a pop star in front of the camera, and working behind the scenes in television. Shaw asks him to rate the best song he’s recorded and his best TV performance.
This live TV spectacular documents an 18 October 1981 Royal Variety performance in front of the touring Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Performers in St James Theatre included Ray Columbus (in That's Country mode), Sir Howard Morrison and John Rowles. Dance is represented by Limbs and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while McPhail and Gadsby and Billy T James deliver pre-PC gags. There’s a show stopping all-singing all-dancing finale, and what seems like the entire roster of NZ showbiz of the time lines up to greet the Queen, including Lynn of Tawa.
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).
The new performers section of the NZBC’s TV talent quest concludes after 12 weeks of competition — with an incongruous line-up of finalists including two performing family acts, a soft rock group, a pub band, two cabaret singers and glam rockers Space Waltz competing for a $750 prize. It’s a reminder of the light entertainment industry that dominated TV music shows in the 1970s, but the real entertainment here is watching the judges (Phil Warren, Howard Morrison, Paddy O’Donnell and Nick Karavias) as they bicker, squabble and interrupt each other.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
New Zealand’s first global pop success story made one of its earliest screen appearances on this TV talent quest. The episodes are no longer preserved, but a family friend of the Finns pointed his Super 8 camera at the television screen. The clips are combined with the band’s memories from 2005 radio documentary Enzology. Split Ends (the ‘z’ came later) competed in the 18 November heat with ‘129’, and a week later in the final, miming ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’. They lost to Wellington's Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, with a pre-Simon Cowell Phil Warren judging the lads “too clever”.
Studio One belongs to a long line of talent shows stretching back to the earliest days of NZ television. In two parts, it featured an original song competition which attracted leading songwriters; and 'New Faces'. The latter was for newcomers to TV, and it introduced novelty acts and brass bands, but was also instrumental in launching the careers of Split Enz, Shona Laing and Space Waltz. Later judges including Howard Morrison, Nick Karavias and Phil Warren could be brutal when they wanted to be — and their catch-cry of "no lurex" became a national mantra.
Richard Driver files this 1988 Radio with Pictures report from a Waitemata Stadium concert cobbled together after the failure of music festival Neon Picnic. He interviews The Chills, Graham Brazier and Live Aid legend Bob Geldof. Geldof, along with Tim Shadbolt and Phil Warren, had come to the aid of music fans by organising the consolation gig at the last minute. Geldof rates Neon Picnic’s demise as an international embarrassment. But he praises the local music community for rallying behind the replacement gig, and admits he enjoyed the rush of helping organise it.