Every year the APRA Silver Scroll is handed out as New Zealand's premier song-writing trophy. This Spotlight collection offers up a selection of past Silver Scroll champs, including classics ‘Anchor Me’ and ‘Not Many’. The awards began back in 1965. Since then winners of best song have included Don McGlashan (twice), Dave Dobbyn (three times), and members of bands Avalanche City and The Naked and Famous.
After winning attention both in The Thomas Oliver Band and with his solo lap steel guitar work, Thomas Oliver took away the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award with 'If I Move to Mars'. The video makes the most of the intragalactic theme, with a Gravity inspired/gravity-defying video made by a pair of effects wizards from Weta Workshop. The visually impressive result sees Oliver in a spacesuit, peacefully orbiting the Earth playing a custom space-guitar as the sun slowly rises behind him.
For Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s third album, frontman and songwriter Ruban Neilson didn’t have to go far for inspiration. The 'Multi-Love' of the title track refers to an emotionally fraught and short-lived ménage à trois between Neilson’s wife Jenny and “Laura”, a fan who took up lodgings at the couple’s Portland home. Director Lionel Williams takes an abstract view of the singer’s situation, with a 3D tour of a mutating, multi-level psychedelic funhouse. A playable version of the experience was released as an app for both Mac and PC.
Canadian import Tami Neilson showcased her range with fourth album Dynamite!, colouring her country roots with lashings of rockabilly and gospel — plus this track, where she channels torch singer Peggy Lee doing a “sultry nightclub blues” (as the Herald's Graham Reid put it). The black and white video reflects the deliberately retro, minimalist vibe of the song, with Neilson grooving at front and centre while guitarist, bongo drummer and a trio of doo-wop vocalists chime in behind. 'Walk' won Tami and brother Joshua Neilson the 2014 Silver Scroll songwriting award.
A delightful animation accompanies this number one single from folk-poppers Avalanche City. With its big, catchy, chorus, the song delivers the feel-good factor and the video captures its quaint essence perfectly with its cast of storybook pirates and penguins. Mass exposure for the song came when it was used for TV2 promos and it took off on release, going gold in four weeks (despite being earlier available as a free download).
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.
A piece of classic pop, this jaunty love song was co-written by former Brunettes member Lawrence Arabia (aka James Milne) and The Phoenix Foundation’s Luke Buda — and it won the pair the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award in 2009. Director Luke Savage’s warts-and-all video won’t land him a lot of work making lingerie commercials as his suburban swingers’ slumber party celebrates the human body and its imperfections in a way not often seen in music videos. Meanwhile, Milne remains poker-faced in the midst of the fleshy jiggling and wobbling.
The third single from Opshop’s triple platinum-selling second album Second Hand Planet reached number three on the NZ singles chart, and became the theme song for a string of heart string-pulling NZ Post adverts with its lyric “one day / you’ll realise how much you have me”. Director Luke Sharpe’s video has the band in semi-darkness, accompanied only by a smoke machine and the odd dreamy projection. Lead singer and New Zealand’s Got Talent host Jason Kerrison’s vocals are harmonised by Dianne Swann from When the Cat’s Away and The Bads.
Brooke Fraser took her inspiration for ‘Albertine’ from a girl she met in Rwanda who had been orphaned by the Rwandan genocide, which claimed 800,000 lives in 1994. Believing that “faith without deeds is dead”, Fraser resolved to tell the orphan's story to the world. A similar determination to be more than just a “voyeur of tragedy” is underlined in Anthony Rose’s elegantly understated video, which deals not in terrible statistics but the humanity of everyday people in Rwanda. ‘Albertine’ won the 2007 APRA Silver Scroll for songwriting.
Don McGlashan wrote this rousing secular gospel number for a key scene in No. 2, Toa Fraser's cinematic tribute to the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill. Beyond the screen it won an APRA Silver Scroll and spent 22 weeks in the charts. That sales success was helped in no small part by this Fraser-directed video which recreates the film's (eventually) joyous, party vibe. Cast and crew gather to watch the fruits of their labours and witness a backyard performance by Hollie Smith, McGlashan and the other members of the Mount Raskil Preservation Society.
Director Chris Graham toys with black and white in this performance-based clip, which accompanies possibly New Zealand's best-known remix. Graham shoots Scribe and company in colour, but apart from skin tones makes every ‘colour’ used either black or white: including the hoodies, caps, milk bottles ... and the dog. Film speed is tweaked to the beat, and the result is monochrome magic. Scribe is joined by a crusading crew of Kiwi hip hop luminaries (Savage, P-Money, David Dallas/Con Psy). 'Not Many' originally topped the charts as half of a double A-side, alongside 'Stand Up'.
The concept for this 2003 video sees the Nesian boys preparing for a party while snapping and sharing (probably then-expensive) 'pixt' photos of each other and the Mystik people in their lives. The perils of public snoozing in the mobile age are shown. As music video aficionado Robyn Gallagher has noted elsewhere, this snap happy, pre-smartphone video nearly anticipates that in the future, "an entire music video will be able to be shot on a phone camera." 'For the People' was a Top 10 single from Nesian Mystik’s hit album Polysaturated.
Taking as its subjects a boy discovering new sounds on the radio and a soundtrack that gives purpose to a woman’s life, ‘Misty Frequencies’ is a soulful hip-hop hymn to the power of music. Che Fu’s music video places the singer and his band in a giant Tetris-like computer game before plugging into a bush setting (locations representing his musical yin and yang of technology and passion?). A magic mushroom prefigures the tree ferns collapsing in a heap of CGI bricks. ‘Misty Frequencies’ won the 2002 APRA Silver Scroll for Che Fu and co-writer Godfrey de Grut.
Chris Knox has described this love song as being “about as naked as I get” and “utterly heartfelt in a way that ‘Not Given Lightly’ only hints at”. So it’s no surprise the video is perhaps his most personal, with striking images of his long-time partner Barbara Ward’s face, sometimes projected on and merged with Knox’s own image. Mix in some classic low-tech Knox animation and the simple big red heart image of the Beat album cover - and it’s a poignant little gem.
Auckland troubadour Greg Johnson won the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award for 1997 with this moody, tortured love song from his fourth album (and first for a major label), Chinese Whispers. The elegant, uncluttered video was directed and edited by Jonathan King. The video was shot in the Auckland suburbs of Newmarket and Parnell. With a narrative straight out of Hitchcock, Johnson is cast as narrator — and both the victim and accomplice of a blonde femme fatale in what appears to be a murder ... with a mysterious handbag the only clue.
When Bic Runga broke out in 1996, 'Drive' was the lead single from her hit album of the same name. Opting to stay with the simplicity of her original demo clearly paid off: the song earned then 20-year-old Runga the 1996 APRA Silver Scroll Songwriting Award. Director Justin Pemberton wisely creates a video that matches the song. Alternating black and white with colour provides a moody feel without drawing attention to itself, leaving Runga to deliver a delicate performance on a song that would have a major impact on her career.
Strawpeople Paul Casserly and Mark Tierney took themselves to Hong Kong (with guest vocalist Leza Corban) for this video. Corban's jazzy vocal and the chilled beats contrast with the hustle and bustle of the cityscape (still under the flight path of Kai Tak airport at the time). The trumpet is courtesy of Greg Johnson and the sampled voice is Richard Nixon talking to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon. Co-written by Tierney and Casserly with Anthony Ioasa, Sweet Disorder won the 1995 APRA Silver Scroll for songwriting, plus the songwriting gong at the 1996 NZ Music Awards.
Don McGlashan’s anthemic plea for safe harbour — written for band The Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award, and began a life of its own. It was used in the soundtrack of a short film (Boy), a movie (Perfect Strangers) and was given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But TVNZ’s use of it on National Party conference footage was a step too far for McGlashan, who took very public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video — a nominee for an NZ Film and TV Award — in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of perils await.
One of the gentler songs on Shona Laing's 1992 album New on Earth, this warm, Latin-tinged number is in polar opposition to the staunch, synth-laden stylings that won attention on her previous release South. Karyn Hay's purposefully minimal clip concentrates exclusively on Laing, highlighted by red and blue filters as she plays acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, the stylised symbols seen on her face form part of an interstellar background. Laing has called New on Earth "the best record I ever made". Mercy of Love won Laing her second Silver Scroll songwiting award in 1992.
This soulful despatch from the end of a love affair won Rikki Morris the APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award for 1991. It was produced by his brother Ian (aka Tex Pistol) who contributed a suitably epic 80s drum sound and won himself Engineer of the Year at the NZ Music Awards. The family connection extended to the music video where Rikki’s then wife Debbie Harwood (from When the Cat’s Away) played the former partner in the Super 8 footage (which the pair shot themselves). A stormy surf beach offers an appropriately tempestuous supporting performance.
The fall of the Iron Curtain was still several years away when Shona Laing wrote her first APRA Silver Scroll winner 'Soviet Snow'. The world had been "teasing at war like children" over decades of the arms race and Cold War brinksmanship and the threat of nuclear winter was very real. The video is a suitably chilly but dizzying montage that marries Russian iconography and Soviet imagery to the song's urgent synthesised beats. Laing later stripped 'Soviet Snow' of its synthpop trappings in an acoustic version on her 2007 album Pass the Whisper.
The Footrot Flats soundtrack marked Dave Dobbyn's first steps as a solo artist. Inspired by his love of 50s crooners, 'Oughta be in Love' accompanied Wal Footrot's wooing of Cheeky Hobson (but sung, perhaps mercifully, by Dobbyn and not Footrot's voice, John Clarke). The video shows Dobbyn hard at work as a jobbing soundtrack composer on a song that has taken on a life of its own. Winner of a Silver Scroll and Single of the Year, it has become a Dobbyn classic and perennial wedding favourite (even gracing Hayden and Loretta's nuptials in Outrageous Fortune).
Nick Sampson wrote Netherworld Dancing Toys' big hit 'For Today' during a summer spent working at a Taranaki freezing works. His love song has become a classic — aided in no small part by Annie Crummer's soaring vocal. The TVNZ video, directed by Radio With Pictures producer Brent Hansen, places the band in a studio (where Crummer sings with Kim Willoughby in a precursor to their time in When the Cat's Away) and on the Cook Strait ferry (where the shoot was nearly derailed when lunch in a Picton pub almost led to the band missing the return sailing).
The opening images of this video — the swinging guitar, fingers on the fretboard — make for a defining moment in Kiwi music video history. The clip was actually shot in Australia; by the time they recorded the song, The Swingers had relocated from Aotearoa to Melbourne. They would soon be history. Aussie cinematographer/ director Ray Argall ('World Where You Live') matches the beloved composition with colourful images, quirky humour, and an infectious dance finale. In 2001 music organisation APRA voted the chart topper fourth on their list of the top Kiwi songs to date.
This short clip marks the only known footage of John Hanlon performing his biggest hit 'Lovely Lady', via NZBC talent competition Studio One. The song ended up placing second, but went on to spend 20 weeks in the NZ charts. It reached number one, and won the 1974 APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award. Despite his immense success — he won another Silver Scroll the following year, and earned multiple RATA awards — Hanlon has faded somewhat from New Zealand’s cultural consciousness, since concentrating from 1978 on a career in advertising.
“Through falling leaves I pick my way slowly…” In 1970 a musical paean to getting your nature buzz topped the charts. ‘Nature’, by The Fourmyula, became a Kiwi classic: in 2001 an APRA poll voted it the best local song of the past 75 years. This 2010 Close Up report, from Auckland’s Montecristo Room, sees presenter Mark Sainsbury introduce the band's second performance of 'Nature' in Aotearoa (the band were overseas when it topped the charts). He quizzes composer Wayne Mason, and drummer Chris Parry recalls encountering The Clash while working in the English music scene.