For a generation of music fans rock show Radio with Pictures was their link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from the Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Phil O'Brien, Karyn Hay and Dick Driver. RWP's run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 80s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple but artist interviews also featured and the show staged a number of televised concerts featuring leading local artists.
This concert from May 1983 finds Dance Exponents — one of five bands filmed for a Radio with Pictures live series — with their star on the rise, but yet to release their debut album. An irrepressible Jordan Luck and band mates Dave Gent, Brian Jones and Mike Harralambi perform six songs in front of an enthusiastic full house, at Auckland's premier venue Mainstreet Cabaret. Highlights include a sparse, urgent 'Victoria' and a barnstorming 'Airway Spies'. Opening song 'Perfect Romance' was only ever released in this version on a companion live album.
RWP presenters past (Barry Jenkin aka Dr Rock) and present (Karyn Hay) discuss clips selected by Jenkin whose choices very much reflect his musical epiphany at the hands of punk in the late 70s. This segment features three local acts and provides the opportunity to see a somewhat distant Johnny Volume (guitar in the Scavengers on their classic 'Mysterex') and to observe Chris Knox's considerable musical and visual progression from the punk of the Enemy to the altogether more experimental Tall Dwarfs (with one of Knox's classic animated clips).
The title belies this profile (made for TV rock show Radio with Pictures) of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate in their early days as the Tall Dwarfs. They traverse their past in legendary punk band The Enemy — with compelling performance footage — and the influential but ill-fated Toy Love. Knox’s seething disillusionment with the music industry is rapidly evolving into the DIY ethos that will reshape NZ alternative music. He is also typically confrontational as they busk in The Octagon while the closing acoustic performance is worth the price of admission on its own.
English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg chats with Richard Driver in this interview, shot in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall in Wellington, for TVNZ’s hippest music show. They have unlikely company in the form of Alice, an elderly passerby, and the affable Bard of Barking happily includes her in the conversation. With a rare Top 10 hit single on his hands, Bragg discusses commercialism, his brief army career, and writing both love songs and political songs. A pre-concert performance of his track ‘Days like These’, recorded at Victoria University, bookends the interview.
In April 1984 Billy Idol visited New Zealand to promote his second (and most successful) solo album Rebel Yell. Interviewed by Radio with Pictures legend Karyn Hay, he answers her call for a closing rebel yell, talks about the origins of his name and early hit 'White Wedding'; argues he appeals to the intelligence of his audience; criticises racism towards the United States, a country full of "ordinary people who struggle everyday"; and argues that confidence and "a pretty heavy attitude" are key to survival in a music industry that is more concerned with money than art.
Radio with Pictures producer (and future MTV boss) Brent Hansen talks to David Bowie, while he is in Auckland to star in film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. His darker 1970s days behind him, Bowie proves a relaxed and charming interviewee. Following a triumphant Broadway run in The Elephant Man, he discusses stage and screen acting, the use of his music in recent films and his own directing aspirations. Bowie explains the cut-up technique of writing learned from William S Burroughs, and looks forward to making his next album (the hugely successful Let’s Dance).
In New Zealand for his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour, David Bowie stops for a cigarette with Radio with Pictures, to talk about past, present and future projects. Bowie mentions recording hit album Let’s Dance in three weeks, and briefly touches on mysterious music and screen projects, and the "very funny" Ziggy Stardust concert film. Also mentioned: his opinions on Jagger versus McCartney, his desire to work again with Iggy Pop, and how he feels about making the cover of Time magazine. The interview is bookended with brief footage of Bowie's opening number at Athletic Park.
By 1987, TVNZ’s music video show Radio with Pictures was 12 years old — and producer (and future MTV Europe boss) Brent Hansen was looking to inject into the show some of the visual style now being exhibited by MTV. So he approached artist and musician Fane Flaws, and gave him carte blanche to create a new opening sequence. Animation was a new field for Flaws; but using the Eastern tinged, koto-driven composition ‘Calamity’ (by his former Crocodiles band mate Peter Dasent) as his theme music, Flaws created a unique and strikingly surreal piece that won two awards.
Rock’s wild man hits Wellington (and unfortunate bystander Rosie Langley) in this lip-synched version of single 'I’m Bored'. Filmed by a Radio with Pictures crew when Iggy Pop made a promotional visit to New Zealand in July 1979, the clip shows the legendary singer acting up around Parliament, and at a pub reception attended by local media personalities (including Roger Gascoigne). It’s an uncomfortable experience for some as Iggy pulls all his stage moves among the straight-faced (and partly straight-laced) crowd. The trip was promoting his third solo album New Values.
Former Velvet Underground member John Cale’s first visit to New Zealand in 1983 is marked with this Radio with Pictures special. Indie legends Tall Dwarfs opened for Cale, and part of their performance is captured too. The venue is Christchurch's Hillsborough Tavern, where the cameras catch Cale's intense solo readings of classic songs including VU's ‘Waiting for the Man’, and Cale’s own ‘Leaving it up to You’. The Welshman also reflects briefly on his early years in New York, meeting Lou Reed, and his then most recent album, Music For a New Society.
Despite a cold, superstar singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell is a most obliging interviewee for music show host Richard Driver. Having adopted a number of styles over the years, she says she has become a “neither/nor”: no longer easily categorised by radio as a jazz or a rock musician. She performs compelling acoustic versions of ‘Number One’ (from her then current album Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm) and the brand new ‘Night Ride Home’ which she doesn’t know how she’ll record. It would show up in a similar arrangement as the title track of her next album.
Dressed as a 1920's flapper bride, Karyn Hay introduces highlights from the TVNZ rock show’s televised concerts at the now demolished Mainstreet Cabaret on Auckland's Queen Street. The songs are Dance Exponents' 'All I Can Do' (with a sweaty Jordan Luck), an impassioned 'Billy Bold' from Graham Brazier's Legionnaires, Hip Singles' 'After the Party' (with snappy high kicks from Dick Driver), a brassy 'Outlook for Thursday' from Dave Dobbyn's DD Smash, a rocking 'Look the Other Way' from The Narcs and Coconut Rough's moment in the sun 'Sierra Leone'.
The ever combative Lou Reed had one memorably tense (and lost) Kiwi television encounter, with Dylan Taite. A decade later Keith Tannock fares better with the legendary New York rocker in this interview for TVNZ’s 80s music show. From behind impenetrable aviator shades, Reed is always on guard but happy to advocate for literate and thoughtful rock’n’roll, extol the virtues of the recently introduced CD, pinball and Police Academy, and express the hope that his music is “if not illuminating, at least interesting” and is at the very least, “good for a laugh”.
Music show host Richard Driver encounters “arguably the most famous person in rock’n’roll”. A very relaxed Mick Jagger is promoting his second solo album Primitive Cool when Driver interviews him outside Auckland’s busy downtown ferry terminal. The Rolling Stones singer’s sunglasses get a solid workout as he enthuses about his new band (which includes guitarist Joe Satriani), dismisses celebrity biographer Albert Goldman’s book about John Lennon, recalls encounters with Michael Jackson, and ponders the curious situation of being the subject of a tribute band.
"Once a band has made it here in Godzone, the big question is: where to now?". As presenter Karyn Hay put it back in 1981, there was only one answer — Australia. RWP reporter Simon Morris headed to Sydney to meet Kiwi musos who'd made it (Marc Hunter, on hiatus from Dragon), and those trying (Sharon O’Neill, Dave McArtney, Mi-Sex's Kevin Stanton, Barry Saunders from The Tigers). Hunter muses on Sydney brashness versus NZ introspection, O’Neill shyly promotes 'Maybe' to Molly Meldrum, and expat music producer Peter Dawkins explains what makes a hit.
Roving reporter Simon Morris talks to music movers and shakers in this special report from the 1980s cult music rock show. Auckland is on the cusp of the club boom and live music is waning. A youthful club promoter Russ Le Roq (aka Russell Crowe) flies the flag for the kids, Colin Hogg is unimpressed and a fresh faced Graeme Humphreys (aka Graeme Hill) fronts the Able Tasmans. Meanwhile, local acts are in short supply in Wellington. The live scene is healthier but radio certainly isn’t. The Pelicans (with a young Nick Bollinger) and Strikemaster perform.
This selection offers three variations on the opening titles for TVNZ's beloved 80s music show. The theme music is 'This Heaven' by Auckland synth pop act Marginal Era; the mid-80s can also be spotted in the pink colour choice and in the basic computer graphics. Variations among the three sequences lie in the contemporary and vintage artists chosen in the montages of video excerpts — but all are bookended by classic pop images of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
RWP reporter/director Brent Hansen (later head of MTV Europe) visits the South Island: checking venues, talking to local luminaries, catching live bands and generally taking the pulse of the local music scene. Flying Nun is on the rise (and just starting to attract international attention) although none of the label's major acts are playing near the RWP cameras. Christchurch is in flux waiting on the next big pop act to emerge, while Dunedin is a hive of activity with a new generation of Flying Nun acts starting to come through. Then there's Crystal Zoom...
In this RWP interview, Karyn Hay gets Split Enz members Neil Finn and Nigel Griggs to explain some of the band's songs before a January 1983 performance at festival Sweetwaters. Both are tired of doing True Colours tracks; the album "has followed us around like a bad smell for a year and a half" says Finn. He also admits 'I Got You' was "probably only about the third lyric I'd ever written", and touches on the BBC banning of 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat'. Griggs admits he has no idea what Finn's 'History Never Repeats' is about; Finn praises Griggs' "incredibly good bass riff" on 'Lost for Words'.
Richard Driver investigates late 80s campus radio for music show RWP, and finds stations that have outgrown modest beginnings. They have longer broadcast hours, a national co-ordinator (former Netherworld Dancing Toy Graham Cockcroft) and a profile in the industry. Further positives include their own style (a certain informality in presentation, perceived as a plus by many) and a commitment to alternative music and local talent. But there are also concerns about estrangement from student associations, and commercial success breeding advertiser pressures.
The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. As this documentary shows, the Ngaruawahia edition attracted an audience of 45,000 concertgoers.
Dylan Taite interviews UK punk rock legends The Clash at Auckland Railway Station during their 1982 Kiwi tour, in this RWP report. Squinting in the sunlight, frontman Joe Strummer is typically passionate about the power of music to effect change, and the importance of them staying together (although guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon would be fired within 15 months). With songbook at hand, they perform willing if somewhat ramshackle acoustic versions of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet’ and folk standard ‘Shenandoah’.
The Cramps arrived in Auckland for the first time in 1986, and revealed themselves to be not quite as odd as they appeared. In this short RWP interview, lead singer Lux Interior shows himself as intelligent and sincere. Above all, he’s a music fan. The band went on to play two great shows of their rockabilly style of rock'n'roll at the Galaxy (now the Powerstation), which were recorded for live album RockinnReelininAucklandNewZealandXXX. A devoted couple, Lux and Poison Ivy were together for 37 years (33 of them as The Cramps) until Lux’s death on 4 February 2009.
Richard Driver interviews members of touring Irish band The Pogues for legendary late night music show Radio with Pictures. Despite a daunting reputation, frontman Shane MacGowan is on his best behaviour (and in possession of a very clean pair of heels) as he and bandmates Spider Stacy and James Fearnley expound on the importance (and inescapability) of their Irish roots. MacGowan’s experiences with New Zealanders in London appear to be a private joke, but there’s nothing confusing about their opinions on being produced by fellow musician Elvis Costello.
Host Richard Driver introduces this short Radio With Pictures segment on the “band that made Milwaukee famous”. For the Violent Femmes it’s a long way from Wisconsin to Wellington. RWP hands control of the camera to the band: after goofing around in the ivy in front of Victoria University’s Hunter Building, the Femmes are presented with their first gold record in a nearby graveyard (New Zealand is “obviously a country with a high level of taste”). The first Femmes break up occured the following year. The band's cover of T. Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’ plays on the soundtrack.
In this 1987 Radio with Pictures excerpt, visiting English singer Billy Bragg performs a song in the Victoria University Student Union Hall. The Bard of Barking is intercut with Wellington street scenes: pensioners, punks, and pigeon feeding in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall. Taken from album Workers Playtime (1988), Bragg’s Valentine’s Day song is far from a Hallmark card, with droll rhyming couplets telling of a bruised, but defiant lover: “For the girl with the hour glass figure time runs out very fast / We used to want the same things but that's all in the past.”
A NZ Herald assertion that women’s music is just “gentle, political folk songs” leads off this report for TVNZ’s mid-80s rock show. It’s presented by Dick Driver from a showcase for women songwriters at Auckland’s much loved and missed Gluepot in Ponsonby. Featured musicians are singer/songwriter Mahinarangi Tocker, blues singer Mahia Blackmore and then member of When the Cat’s Away Dianne Swann. Those sensitive folksongs are in short supply but the same can’t be said for the obstacles encountered in dealing with a male dominated music industry.