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.
This 1982 Radio with Pictures report surveys the Dunedin music scene, and the bands who are starting to be grouped together under the label ‘the Dunedin Sound’. Critic Roy Colbert discusses the influence of punk pioneers The Enemy and Toy Love, and the benefits of being outside fashion. A roster of future Flying Nun notables are interviewed, including David Kilgour, Shayne Carter, and Jeff Batts (The Stones). Martin Phillipps is psychedelic, and Chris Knox dissects the new bands’ guitar-playing style (without using the word "jangly"!). And then there’s Mother Goose.
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.
The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. As this documentary shows, the Ngaruawahia edition attracted an audience of 45,000 concertgoers.
Richard Driver interviews members of touring Irish band The Pogues for legendary late night music show Radio with Pictures. Despite a daunting reputation, frontman Shane MacGowan is on his best behaviour (and in possession of a very clean pair of heels) as he and bandmates Spider Stacy and James Fearnley expound on the importance (and inescapability) of their Irish roots. MacGowan’s experiences with New Zealanders in London appear to be a private joke, but there’s nothing confusing about their opinions on being produced by fellow musician Elvis Costello.
RWP presenters past (Barry Jenkin aka Dr Rock) and present (Karyn Hay) discuss clips selected by Jenkin whose choices very much reflect his musical epiphany at the hands of punk in the late 70s. This segment features three local acts and provides the opportunity to see a somewhat distant Johnny Volume (guitar in the Scavengers on their classic 'Mysterex') and to observe Chris Knox's considerable musical and visual progression from the punk of the Enemy to the altogether more experimental Tall Dwarfs (with one of Knox's classic animated clips).
Subtitled 'Waiting for Summer', this Radio with Pictures report looks at live pop music in Auckland in 1982. Chris Knox, Graham Brazier, Hammond Gamble, Ian Morris, Peter Urlich, Michael O'Neill (The Screaming Meemees) and Tony Waine (The Narcs) muse on everything from Auckland vs Wellington, oldies vs youth, to the weather’s impact on songs, and the lack of venues. There are visits to The Gluepot and Urlich’s A Certain Bar. Label directors, booking agents and managers give their (mostly downbeat) take on the state of the scene. Rip It Up editor Murray Cammick talks lyrics.
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...
Despite a cold, superstar singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell is a most obliging interviewee for music show host Richard Driver. Having adopted a number of styles over the years, she says she has become a “neither/nor”: no longer easily categorised by radio as a jazz or a rock musician. She performs compelling acoustic versions of ‘Number One’ (from her then current album Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm) and the brand new ‘Night Ride Home’ which she doesn’t know how she’ll record. It would show up in a similar arrangement as the title track of her next album.
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.”