Songs by New Zealand artists were rare in the charts in the early 1960s; it would be April 1967 before a New Zealand act made it to the top, when The La De Das had a number one hit with ‘Hey Baby’. With television being a new arrival in the decade, on screen footage was also rare — but in this Spotlight we've rounded up six of the 10 local number one hits of the 60s. Mr Lee Grant was a dominant force (appearing twice here), Shane spent six weeks at number one with ‘Saint Paul’, and the chart toppers also include a clip of John Rowles' first number one, ‘M’Lady’.
Taken from hit music show C’mon, this short clip has Mr Lee Grant performing his first number one hit ‘Opportunity’. After leaping to attention — and suffering an awkward landing — he recovers quickly to offer a jaunty performance on a psychedelic set, complete with American flag motif. The song (a cover version) charted in May 1967, helping cement Mr Lee Grant’s position as one of the country's premier pop stars. He would top the local charts twice more — and come close another time — before leaving New Zealand in March 1968, in an attempt to conquer the United Kingdom.
Thanks to You topped the New Zealand music charts three weeks after its release in 1967, and earned Mr Lee Grant the Loxene Golden Disc Award. In this performance on C’mon, introduced by the legendary Peter Sinclair, he performs the hit in a distinctive three piece suit against a changing psychedelic backdrop. Mr Lee Grant’s Kiwi tour was split between shows for his sometimes hysterical teenage fans, and cabaret shows for the adults. The combination made him one of the country’s most popular acts, and saw him named 1967’s Entertainer of the Year at the NEBOA awards.
This Janice Weaver song was originally recorded by American singer Morgana King (who played Mama Corleone in the first two Godfather films). Allison Durbin's epic version featured backing from Quincy Conserve and was produced by Howard Gable (who she later married). The biggest selling release by a New Zealand artist in 1968, it topped the local singles chart and won the Loxene Golden Disc. Durbin's performances from the televised Loxene awards show and a TV special have long since been lost but this grainy Australian TV clip of her finest moment survives.
In 1968 John Rowles scored a top three hit in the UK. Late that year he returned to New Zealand to a rapturous welcome. A fly-on-the-wall documentary was made about his homecoming tour, from which this clip of Rowles performing ‘M’Lady’ is taken. On the tour he launched 'M’Lady' as his next NZ single; he tells an Auckland DJ that it's his best "uptempo" song yet, and the tune scores scenes of Rowles galavanting around a playground with a cigar, pretending to drive a tractor, and licking an ice cream on the beach. 'M’Lady' went on to top the Kiwi charts.
'Saint Paul' was one of the biggest hits by a NZ artist in the late 60s. Written about Paul McCartney by American producer Terry Knight, it borrowed liberally from Beatles songs (eventually with their publisher's permission) and played an early part in the "Paul is dead" conspiracy theories. Shane’s version went to number one and was the 1969 winner of the Loxene Golden Disc for local song of the year. This footage from the awards show comes complete with interview by host Peter Sinclair and as many groovy special effects as TV could muster at the time.
‘Rain and Tears’ was inspired by a reworking of Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major’ by Greek prog rockers Aphrodite’s Child (featuring Vangelis and Demis Roussos). Auckland band The Hi-Revving Tongues had their biggest hit with their version, which topped the New Zealand singles chart in 1969. This footage is from the Loxene Golden Disc contest, where they won the group award, and were nominated for best song. It’s a restrained performance which gives little hint of the band’s more psychedelic sound — or their enthusiasm for onstage pyrotechnics.