The opening sequence of music show Ready to Roll is imprinted on the eyes and ears of many Kiwi music fans. The show jumped directly from the opening graphics to a quick rundown of the week's top 20 singles. Here are two of RTR's beloved openings: the late 70s version is scored to 1974 Commmodores instrumental 'Machine Gun'. In the 80s, Peter Blake's synth number had taken over from funk, and the colours favoured electric neon. The graphics owed a debt to the arcade computer games that followed Space Invaders. The week's featured acts came next, then the countdown.
NOTE: This video is currently unavailable on NZ On Screen 'I'm in Heaven' was from the third and final Dave McArtney and The Pink Flamingos album The Catch (the song was later rerecorded, with Graham Brazier on vocals, for Hello Sailor album Shipshape & Bristol Fashion). In the original video McArtney looks moodily out a window over the city and falls into a pool in speedos, and the band plays the song amidst backlit dry ice. Fast cuts match the crisp drum beats and synth. Directed by Bruce Morrison, it won Best Music Video at the 1984 NZ Music Awards. McArtney went on to provide music for Morrison’s 1986 movie Queen City Rocker.
This music video continued the fruitful collaboration between The Naked and Famous and directing duo Special Problems. Joel Kefali and Campbell Hooper brought their trademark mix of graphic design, film and painting to the synth-driven pop song. As vocalist Alisa Xayalith moves through a dreamscape, she sleepwalks, runs, skates and flies through pine forest, snow, sand, and a manor. Ice hockey masks and hoodies add menace. It won Best Music Video at the 2011 NZ Music Awards, part of a major awards haul for the group. The song has featured on a number of TV shows.
The video for this 1986 synth-pop song sees Everything that Flies singer Dianne Swann – seen in a changing palette of colour tones – striding on the waterfront past a Greenpeace ship; intense in a restaurant, after hours; and singing in a studio with the band. An early credit for music video director Kerry Brown, the clip won Best Video at the 1986 NZ Music Awards. Song trivia: the single’s sleeve won Best Cover, and was designed by future Oscar-winning costume designer Ngila Dickson. Swann would soon join female Kiwi supergroup When the Cats Away.
'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."
Initially avoided by New Zealand radio stations — who in the same period, showed as little interest in playlisting Crowded House classic 'Don't Dream It's Over' — this became Shona Laing's biggest international single, in a career notable for stylistic change. '(Glad I'm) Not a Kennedy' got to number two in NZ, and number 14 in the US rock charts. Here, the acoustic songbird of 1905 is recast as serious synth-pop singer, in a clip which mixes native beaches, brutalist architecture and poignant archival footage of the ill-fated US president.
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.
This Silver Scroll winner from the debut album by The Naked and Famous became a breakout hit, winning global notice and playing on a number of teen TV shows (Gossip Girls, Skins). Directed by Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali, the promo won 10 million+ YouTube hits, playing no small part in announcing the band. Via a catalogue of Dazed and Confused-esque imagery, the clip puts its thumb on the pulse of the soaring synth-pop celebration of ‘Young Blood’: bonnet jumping, sparklers, skating and Badlands-style skylarking. The song won a Silver Scroll and an NZ Music Award.
With more than three million song plays on their MySpace page, pop-punk rockers Goodnight Nurse led the way in Kiwi cyberspace popularity; the Auckland quartet also produced a string of Top 40 singles. The band's first album Always and Never was released in 2006 and Keep Me On Your Side followed it in 2008, which peaked at number five in the charts. Frontman Joel Little went on to produce Lorde’s smash hit album Pure Heroine, winner of a pile of Tui, Grammy and Brit awards; while guitarist Sam McCarthy went on to co-found synth pop duo Kids of 88.
In Over the Atlantic, New Plymouth-born producer Bevan Smith teams up with singer/songwriter Nik Brinkman to make synth pop music that sounds like it came out of the mid-80s, but 20 years on. In 2006, Over the Atlantic were signed to the prestigious USA Carpark/Paw Tracks family of labels before they'd even played a gig, based on the strength of their first album Junica. Second album Dimensions was released in 2008.