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.
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.
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.
Dylan Taite interviews UK punk rock legends The Clash at Auckland Railway Station during their 1982 Kiwi tour, in this RWP report. Squinting in the sunlight, frontman Joe Strummer is typically passionate about the power of music to effect change, and the importance of them staying together (although guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon would be fired within 15 months). With songbook at hand, they perform willing if somewhat ramshackle acoustic versions of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet’ and folk standard ‘Shenandoah’.
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.
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'.
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...
Radio with Pictures producer (and future MTV boss) Brent Hansen talks to David Bowie, while he is in Auckland to star in film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. His darker 1970s days behind him, Bowie proves a relaxed and charming interviewee. Following a triumphant Broadway run in The Elephant Man, he discusses stage and screen acting, the use of his music in recent films and his own directing aspirations. Bowie explains the cut-up technique of writing learned from William S Burroughs, and looks forward to making his next album (the hugely successful Let’s Dance).
Host Richard Driver introduces this short Radio With Pictures segment on the “band that made Milwaukee famous”. For the Violent Femmes it’s a long way from Wisconsin to Wellington. RWP hands control of the camera to the band: after goofing around in the ivy in front of Victoria University’s Hunter Building, the Femmes are presented with their first gold record in a nearby graveyard (New Zealand is “obviously a country with a high level of taste”). The first Femmes break up occured the following year. The band's cover of T. Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’ plays on the soundtrack.