Singer/songwriter Sharon O'Neill began singing folk songs in her native Nelson. After singing cover versions on music show Ready to Roll, she began winning attention for her ballads and pop songs. Her singles 'Asian Paradise', 'Maybe' and 'Maxine' were are all included in APRA's list of Top New Zealand Songs. O'Neill also composed the score for classic 1981 Bruno Lawrence drama Smash Palace. With a blonde-shag hairdo and trademark shark tooth earring, she became an Australasian sex symbol, and an early example of 1980s girl power; years later, her look would influence Outrageous Fortune's Cheryl West.
In 1983 music show Shazam! travelled across the ditch to check out how Kiwi musicians were doing in Sydney. This excerpt features an interview with singer Sharon O’Neill, who has been in town for three years and recently had some Aussie success with album Foreign Affairs. Host Phillip Schofield asks O’Neill – sunnies shading her from the Aussie sun – about her favourite venues (The Tivoli), music television in Australia, and the travails of touring. "There’s a lot driving and one-night stands". Schofield would go on to English TV fame as a breakfast show presenter.
Sharon O'Neill performs her first single 'Luck's on Your Table' on this television clip from 1978. O'Neill's composition was the one that won over the New Zealand arm of CBS Records, who signed her as their first local act the same year. By the time O'Neill appeared on this Ready to Roll awards special, she'd already gained experience before the television cameras, miming cover versions of overseas hits for Ready to Roll. This time O'Neill performs amidst assembled plants at Avalon TV studios, with a flower in her hair. O'Neill's debut album This Heart This Song emerged the following year.
In 1979 Jon Stevens arrived from nowhere (actually Upper Hutt) to score the first of two consecutive number one singles: 'Jezebel' and 'Montego Bay'. Keen to develop a roster of local acts, Stevens' label CBS paired him with their first local signing, singer/songwriter Sharon O'Neill. The result was ballad 'Don't Let Love Go'. Stevens and O'Neill were both soon living in Australia, where Stevens formed rockers Noiseworks, and O'Neill got into extended contractual battles with the Australian arm of CBS.
This collection rounds up almost every music video for a number one hit by a Kiwi artist; everything from ballads to hip hop to glam rock. Press on the images below to find the hits for each decade — plus try this backgrounder by Michael Higgins, whose high speed history of local hits touches on the sometimes questionable ways past charts were created.
Kiwi women have long held their own when it comes to songwriting. From a 17-year-old Shona Laing performing her self-penned ‘1905‘ on Studio One’s New Faces, to Bic Runga becoming the youngest inductee into the NZ Music Hall of Fame; from the 80s girl power of Sharon O’Neill, to the chutzpah of Anika Moa and Gin Wigmore. They know a chorus from a coda — in this spotlight we reflect on songs and songstresses that have found their way into Kiwi hearts.
Singer/songwriter Sharon O’Neill did Los Angeles inspired, mid-70s pop/rock as well as many of her contemporaries in California — but it’s hard to imagine opening lines as striking as these ones coming from that West Coast. ‘Words’ was the first single from her self titled, second long player which won her Album of the Year and Best Female Vocalist at the 1980 NZ Awards. After years behind the keyboards, O’Neill shines in this video filmed in front of an audience with a band that includes Simon Morris, Wayne Mason and future Mutton Bird Ross Burge.
"If you don't like the beat, don't play with the drum". Taken from Sharon O'Neill's 1983 album Foreign Affairs, the song chronicles "case 1352, a red and green tattoo". It was inspired by a prostitute who worked the streets of King's Cross. The clip starts with O'Neill hitting Auckland Airport. Look out for leopard skin tights and a dress straight off Logan's Run. Other highlights: a steamy sax solo, heavy eye shadow and backlit silhouettes in "rain-slicked avenues." Two clips for 'Maxine' exist: the Australian version won controversy for images of a fictional prostitute, shot in King's Cross.
In the decades between the Sinatras' version of 'Somethin' Stupid' (1967) and 2009's 'Empire State of Mind', someone had the bright idea of pairing two Kiwi singers, and kitting them out in matching green and black. Fresh from two consecutive number one singles, ex Upper Hutt record factory worker Jon Stevens takes lead vocals on this breakup duet, which sees the magical arrival of Sharon O'Neill, 50 seconds in. The result got to number five on the local charts. This clip featured on after school show Tracy '80.
'Maybe' was the title track from Sharon O'Neill's 1981 album and she wrung every drop of emotion out of the performance. The video sees her during a sad break up, wandering around the flat in satin pants and a cavalry jacket and slumping against walls as she ponders on exactly how things came to this. It's in glorious black and white apart from the relationship flashbacks during the bridge, which oddly look like a montage from a sitcom. 'Maybe' reached No.12 on the NZ Singles Chart.