Richard Driver investigates late 80s campus radio for music show RWP, and finds stations that have outgrown modest beginnings. They have longer broadcast hours, a national co-ordinator (former Netherworld Dancing Toy Graham Cockcroft) and a profile in the industry. Further positives include their own style (a certain informality in presentation, perceived as a plus by many) and a commitment to alternative music and local talent. But there are also concerns about estrangement from student associations, and commercial success breeding advertiser pressures.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a down on its luck rural iwi radio station. The talkback in this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati is in te reo and english; the on-air crew include a DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball seeking fame in the city (Greg Mayor); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the operation. In this first episode, directed by veteran Marae producer Derek Wooster, the station faces permanent silence after a DJ's late night talk causes offence.
“You get the impression that Wellington wants an audience but doesn’t want to be seen to be trying too hard to get one”. This report surveys 1982's local music scene, framing tensions between an energetic politically-conscious underground, and commercial rock and pop (i.e. Auckland). Not all is positive, with complaints about lack of venues and promotion, and violence at gigs. Interviewees include Mocker Andrew Fagan, Nino Birch (Beat Rhythm Fashion), Dennis O’Brien, Ian Morris, promoter Graeme Nesbitt (in Radio Windy sweatshirt) and punk singer Void (Riot 111).
RWP reporter/director Brent Hansen (later head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and generally taking the pulse of the local music scene. Flying Nun is on the rise (and just starting to attract international attention) although none of the label's major acts are playing near the RWP cameras. Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge, while Dunedin is a hive of activity with a new generation of Flying Nun acts starting to come through. Then there's Crystal Zoom...
The original launchpad for Billy T’s rise to TV superstar, Radio Times travels back in time to find a fresh angle on the musical variety show. Inspired by 30s and 40s era radio shows, the series features a swinging dancehall band, fake singing stars, German villains, and coconut shell sound effects. Creator Tom Parkinson’s masterstroke: casting Billy T James as oh-so-British compere Dexter Fitzgibbons. In this episode the cast go South American, forgotten bombshell Alita Gotti channels Marlene Dietrich, and The Yandall Sisters cover Fats Waller classic 'Handful of Keys'.
The ever combative Lou Reed had one memorably tense (and lost) Kiwi television encounter, with Dylan Taite. A decade later Keith Tannock fares better with the legendary New York rocker in this interview for TVNZ’s 80s music show. From behind impenetrable aviator shades, Reed is always on guard but happy to advocate for literate and thoughtful rock’n’roll, extol the virtues of the recently introduced CD, pinball and Police Academy, and express the hope that his music is “if not illuminating, at least interesting” and is at the very least, “good for a laugh”.
In April 1984 Billy Idol visited New Zealand to promote his second (and most successful) solo album Rebel Yell. Interviewed by Radio with Pictures legend Karyn Hay, he answers her call for a closing rebel yell, talks about the origins of his name and early hit 'White Wedding'; argues he appeals to the intelligence of his audience; criticises racism towards the United States, a country full of "ordinary people who struggle everyday"; and argues that confidence and "a pretty heavy attitude" are key to survival in a music industry that is more concerned with money than art.
The Cramps arrived in Auckland for the first time in 1986, and revealed themselves to be not quite as odd as they appeared. In this short RWP interview, lead singer Lux Interior shows himself as intelligent and sincere. Above all, he’s a music fan. The band went on to play two great shows of their rockabilly style of rock'n'roll at the Galaxy (now the Powerstation), which were recorded for live album RockinnReelininAucklandNewZealandXXX. A devoted couple, Lux and Poison Ivy were together for 37 years (33 of them as The Cramps) until Lux’s death on 4 February 2009.
In this 1987 Radio with Pictures excerpt, visiting English singer Billy Bragg performs a song in the Victoria University Student Union Hall. The Bard of Barking is intercut with Wellington street scenes: pensioners, punks, and pigeon feeding in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall. Taken from album Workers Playtime (1988), Bragg’s Valentine’s Day song is far from a Hallmark card, with droll rhyming couplets telling of a bruised, but defiant lover: “For the girl with the hour glass figure time runs out very fast / We used to want the same things but that's all in the past.”
The title belies this profile (made for TV rock show Radio with Pictures) of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate in their early days as the Tall Dwarfs. They traverse their past in legendary punk band The Enemy — with compelling performance footage — and the influential but ill-fated Toy Love. Knox’s seething disillusionment with the music industry is rapidly evolving into the DIY ethos that will reshape NZ alternative music. He is also typically confrontational as they busk in The Octagon while the closing acoustic performance is worth the price of admission on its own.