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.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
One of NZ’s first psychedelic bands, Auckland act The Hi-Revving Tongues formed in 1967. They had recorded their first single within a week, but had to wait until 1968 for their first hit (with ‘Tropic of Capricorn’, the self-penned title track of their first album). They moved to Australia in 1969 but then had a NZ number one with the uncharacteristically poppy ‘Rain and Tears’ (a Loxene Golden Disc winner that year). Vocalist Chris Parfitt went solo after their appearance at the Redwood 70 festival, and the rest of the band continued as The Tongues.
Bill Kerton has directing and writing credits on shows from Havoc and Newsboy to Jim Hickey’s A Flying Visit, but it’s his voice that will be most recognisable to punters. Duncan Greive of The Spinoff called him a "narrating genius" for his observational documentary voice-overs. Kerton's distinctive drawl and humour have graced everything from bogans to Neighbours at War, the show he also directed for four seasons.
The son of a Canterbury mayor and lay preacher, Winter Hall turned his early love of acting into a long and steady Hollywood career. He used friendships forged in Australasian dramatic companies to gain entrée into the silent film world, and became a valuable, “poised and distinguished” supporting actor in over 100 films, including 1925 silent epic Ben-Hur. His career continued unabated through the introduction of the ‘talkies’. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, B-158-009 (detail)
For three decades Peter Sinclair was one of New Zealand’s leading TV presenters. A radio announcer by training, he was the face of music television, fronting Let’s Go, C’mon and Happen Inn from 1964 to 1973. He reinvented himself as a quiz show host with Mastermind — and hosted telethons and beauty contests until the mid 90s. Sinclair returned to radio and wrote an online column until his death in August 2001.