'Sierra Leone' was one of those songs that quickly stood out from the pack. Andrew McLennan's synth-pop track won his new band Coconut Rough a deal with Mushroom Records, then became a runaway hit in 1983. The video, slick for the time, features bright colours, a running motif, and African imagery. But the pressure of being in demand for a single song became an albatross around the band's neck. As McLennan told website AudioCulture, "‘Sierra Leone’ became the only song from our repertoire that people wanted to hear and no matter what we did we couldn’t follow it up."
Dressed as a 1920's flapper bride, Karyn Hay introduces highlights from the TVNZ rock show’s televised concerts at the now demolished Mainstreet Cabaret on Auckland's Queen Street. The songs are Dance Exponents' 'All I Can Do' (with a sweaty Jordan Luck), an impassioned 'Billy Bold' from Graham Brazier's Legionnaires, Hip Singles' 'After the Party' (with snappy high kicks from Dick Driver), a brassy 'Outlook for Thursday' from Dave Dobbyn's DD Smash, a rocking 'Look the Other Way' from The Narcs and Coconut Rough's moment in the sun 'Sierra Leone'.
Fresh from stints on vocals with Pop Mechanix and The Swingers, Andrew McLennan (aka Andrew Snoid) formed Coconut Rough with Blam Blam Blam guitarist Mark Bell in 1983. The band quickly found top five chart success with ‘Sierra Leone’ — its infectious melody and keyboards made it a classic piece of synth pop: “Sierra Leone, it’s cold in the desert tonight". But the song's overwhelming popularity became an albatross around the band's neck. In 1986 McLennan rejoined Pop Mechanix, before spending a long period outside of music. Bell went on to play for Big Sideways, and write for NZ Musician.
Live from Auckland's Mainstreet Cabaret, this Radio with Pictures special showcases bands Coconut Rough and The Narcs. Coconut Rough open their six song set with an instrumental and close with 'Sierra Leone', after proving they're much more than one hit wonders. RWP host Karyn Hay then introduces the "high energy rock" of The Narcs. The driving keyboards of second track 'Look the Other Way' hint at how the band's sound was broadening. Label CBS released both gigs as album Whistle While You Work, which reached number 17 in the New Zealand charts.
The penultimate Pop Mechanix single was an exploration of carnality, anchored by chiming guitars with vocals by Andrew McLennan (Coconut Rough and 'Sierra Leone'). It was one of the first music videos directed by Spot On video competition winner Paul Middleditch, who was still at school. He went on to make videos for Tim Finn and Tex Pistol, commercials, and 2009 movie Separation City. The location was a cold, disused office. “Luckily,” says bass player Paul Scott, “we were into leather jackets, big coats and damn big hair because the place was absolutely freezing”.