NZ Novelty Songs

The ‘novelty song’ occupies a peculiar niche in pop culture, with a definition as loose as baggy trousers. Taking in everything from comedy to dance crazes, global examples range from 'Disco Duck' to 'Crazy Frog', Weird Al Yankovic to 'Gangnam Style'. The novelty song is both disposable and (annoyingly?) enduring as a marker of a moment in time. This collection shines the Spotlight on local quirkish delights: from 'Shoop Shoop' to 'Māori Boy', 'Baked Beans' to 'Blue Monkey'. Disclaimer: NZ On Screen is not responsible for ear worms.

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Blue Monkey

Music Video, 1994 (Dance)

The career of TV infomercial queen Suzanne Paul took an unlikely turn in 1994 when she attempted to reinvent herself as a dance music diva (although the steps in question seem to be more inspired by line dancing). Paul told Metro magazine she did it to show she was more than "the intense over the top woman who sold things on television", but samples of her TV sales pitches — "1000s of luminous spheres" — blend in surprisingly well with Pitch Black member Paddy Free’s music (Boh Runga contributes vocals). The video was shot at the Staircase Nightclub on K Road.

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Baked Beans

Music Video, 1977 (Rock)

Dunedin band Mother Goose scored their biggest hit with this novelty song extolling the previously overlooked romance-promoting qualities of sauced legumes (and won extra marks for avoiding flatulence jokes). The Australian-made video references Queen's pioneering Bohemian Rhapsody clip and features Melbourne trans-sexual drag show performer Renee Scott as the recipient of one of the more bizarre pick-up lines. In his post Mother Goose career, keyboard player Steve Young (the bearded ballerina) directed The Chills' classic Pink Frost music video.

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Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop Cumma Cumma Wang Dang

Music Video, 1982 (Pop)

Looking like Borat out on the town, Monte Video's 'Shoop Shoop ...' invaded the pop charts in 1982. The novelty song written by — and starring — veteran Auckland musician Murray Grindlay reached No 2 in New Zealand, No 11 in Australia, and was released in the UK. TVNZ's chart show Ready to Roll found itself playing host to a hedonistic video filmed at Ponsonby's Peppermint Park nightclub with scenes of flagrant alcohol and tobacco use and a cast of transvestites. Follow-up album Monte Video featured song 'You Can't Stop Me Now', which seemed like a threat.

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Life Begins at 40

Music Video, 1983 (Rock)

A tongue in cheek paean to the joys of middle age, this jaunty, amiable rocker was an unlikely hit in the more electro-pop oriented early 80s. Written by Dave Luther, from folk pop group Hogsnort Rupert, it was the 12th biggest selling single in NZ in 1983. The all-singing, all-dancing music video, like so many of the era, was an Avalon studios television production. Less typically, by the standards of the day, it practically amounts to a major production with multiple sets and a cast of dozens while the band hams it up for all they are worth.

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Beers

Music Video, 2004 (Rock)

Life imitated art when Matt Heath and Chris Stapp transformed their Back of the Y house band into a real act. Here they make a determined bid to wrest the drinking anthem crown away from Th’Dudes’ Bliss with their own ode to the amber liquid. Heath and Stapp’s video takes the tribute to the six pack from pained conception through live performance to post gig acoustic sing-along by way of a hail of beer cans. It’s also a chance to revisit tried and true Back of the Y favourites: from flaming helmets and wrestling masks to dodgy stunts and pyrotechnics. 

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Culture?

Music Video, 1980 (Punk, Pop, Rock)

In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.

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Pretty Girl

Music Video, 1970 (Folk)

Captured on a single camera, Wellington band Hogsnort Rupert perform their number one hit 'Pretty Girl'. That their performance is interspersed with Christmas footage rather than anything more appropriate to its subject matter suggests that this clip was made for an end-of-year show acknowledging the song's status as New Zealand's biggest-selling single in 1970. It also won that year's Loxene Golden Disc Award. And, of course, it offers a chance for viewers to see the late Alec Wishart performing his immortal line "Come on, my lover. Give us a kiss."

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Māori Boy

Music Video, 2012 (Pop, Te Reo)

In a Mika-inspired cross cultural collision, this Māori music and comedy group blends traditional Māoritanga with the metrosexual world of fashion and beauty. Founded by former C4 presenter Jermaine Leef in 2010, they launched with this video which debuted on YouTube and received 100,000 views in 10 days. From Queen Street to the beach and bush, their appearance moves from Outkast-inspired nerd chic to a style best described as high camp haka; and boy band posturing mixes with lyrics tackling what it means to be a modern 'Māori boy' (“I play my Nintendo everyday”).