Vocal group When the Cat's Away formed after Debbie Harwood, Dianne Swann, Annie Crummer and Margaret Urlich got together at the 1985 Music Awards and found common cause in a male dominated industry. Kim Willoughby was added as a fifth member; and, despite criticism for their reliance on cover songs, they enjoyed major commercial success — as chart toppers with 'Melting Pot' in 1988 and as one of NZ's biggest live acts of the late 80s. They disbanded in 1990. The cats reformed in 2001 (without Swann), touring and releasing a live album with Sharon O'Neill.
This concert film captures When the Cat's Away during their first tour. Director Alan Thurston captures the high energy performance and pure joie de vivre of the five women vocalists, showing why the group became a Kiwi favourite. A set focusing on New Zealand songs, international hits of the period and soul classics proved irresistible on the pub circuit. The group would go on to score hit records and bigger shows (playing to 80,000 the following summer). But this was the moment they arrived. The film won best documentary at the 1988 Film and Television Awards.
The Beatles, Hendrix, The White Stripes, Cat Power, Aretha...popular music is strewn with acts for whom a cover song has proven no compromise to credibility. This collection proves that popular music in New Zealand is no different. Alongside chart toppers from The Holidaymakers, Tex Pistol and cover queens When the Cat's Away, Crummer does Clapton, Jon Steven goes slightly Jamaican, Head Like a Hole do Springsteen — and 'Nature' and 'Shoop Shoop' get soome added guitars.
This big, bright cover of British act Blue Mink's plea for multi-racial harmony and a world of "coffee coloured people" was a chart-topper for all female vocal group When the Cat's Away in November 1988. The self-produced video is heavy on 80s fluoro colours and overexposed whites, while the placement of the Cats around a single mic affords them plenty of chances to interact and enjoy each other's company (they're also seen out and about on Karangahape Road, and at a rugby league test). This cat video before cat videos overran the internet includes an actual cat.
One of the most commercially successful NZ acts of the 80s, all female vocal group When the Cat's Away reformed in 2001 around four of the original five members: Margaret Urlich, Kim Willoughby, Debbie Harwood and Annie Crummer. They announced their return with this electropop reworking of Sharon O'Neill's 1980 ode to the east — and a Rachel Churchward styled music video which used black outfits on a black background to give an Oriental lacquer-like sheen. O'Neill returned the favour when she played with the Cats on a subsequent tour and live album.
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.
This classic soft drink advert saw a supergroup of 80s music talent cooling off ... in a steamy L&P factory. The industrial-strength line-up — When the Cats Away’s Margaret Urlich and a blink or you'll miss her Annie Crummer; Ardijah’s Ryan and Betty-Anne Monga; Erana Clark, Peter Morgan, and DD Smash drummer Peter Warren — belt out a 60s Motown song (produced here by Murray Grindlay). Fane Flaws plays a supervisor loosened up by “the thirst quencher”. ‘Heatwave’ was a hit single in late 1987, with the group named ‘80 in the Shade’. The ad was named the year's best.
The first guest on this episode of the Neil Roberts hosted chat show is none other than Sir Robert Muldoon, who recounts a quiet lunch with the Queen, his confidence Winston Peters will be NZ’s first Māori Prime Minister, and his decision to perform in The Rocky Horror Show. When joined by UK actor James Faulkner (The Shadow Trader), Muldoon discusses the policies of “close personal friend” Margaret Thatcher before another Queen gets a nod, as When the Cat’s Away celebrate 'Melting Pot' hitting number one by singing the acapella opening of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
This collection celebrates more of the legendary TV moments that Kiwis gawked at, chortled with, and choked on our tea over. In the collection primer Paul (Eating Media Lunch) Casserly chews on rapper Redhead Kingpin’s equine advice to 3:45 LIVE! and mo’ memorable moments: from a NSFW Angela D'Audney to screen folk heroes Colin McKenzie and the Ingham twins.
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.