First up (and these are in no particular order) is the Mutton Birds “Dominion Road” (below). The song was their first—and, I think, their best—single, but it peaked at Number 31. They had a Number One hit with “The Heater” (1994), but I’ve never heard it. I like the sound and lyrics of “Dominion Road”, and even though I have no idea which of New Zealand’s many Dominion Roads the song refers to, I like to think it’s Auckland’s, which I worked near for several years.
Next up, New Zealand’s top New Wave act, Mi-Sex “Computer Games” (1979, below). I never heard this song until I heard some compilation or other, but I liked it: It is SO much a part of its time. What I like even more is that they played a role in New Zealand politics. From Wikipedia (the Mi-Sex link):
Mi-Sex gained considerable publicity during 1980 thanks to then Prime Minister of New Zealand Robert Muldoon. The New Zealand government had slapped a 40% sales duty on records, much to the objection of the New Zealand Arts Council, record retailers and record companies. On 21 April, Muldoon claimed that popular music was "not culture", stating that "The records sold in this country are not Kiri Te Kanawa's, they are 50 to 1 those horrible pop groups and I'm not going to take the tax off them."
Mi-Sex were due to start a major New Zealand tour five weeks later, and—sensing an opportunity for publicity—invited Muldoon to attend their Wellington concert, an invitation which he accepted. The Prime Minister attended the concert and met with the band after their performance, but the sales tax remained.Any group that took on Robert “Piggy” Muldoon is okay in my books. Fortunatley, I like the song, too, which hit Number 5 in New Zealand, Number 2 in Canada and Number One on Australia—by far their biggest hit. Lead singer Steve Gilpin died from injuries in a car crash in January 1992.
The Exponents returned to New Zealand charts under this name (formerly The Dance Exponents) with the hit “Why Does Love Do This To Me” (1991, below). It reached Number 3 and went Gold. It’s still a part of NZ popular culture, 23 years later (especially at rugby matches…).
“Counting The Beat” (1981, below) by The Swingers continues in NZ popular culture as the music in Pak ‘n Save commercials on NZ television. The song went to Number One in both New Zealand and Australia, their highest-charting single.
Chris Knox is next with “Not Given Lightly”. It was a song that didn't gain much attention in its initial realease in 1989. But it gained renewed attention years later, not the least because it was used in a Vogel’s Bread commercial. It was also the final video played on Max TV, a free-to-air music channel whose frequency had been bought by TVNZ to get rid of competition, which we know because they never really did anything with it. In any event, this love song to "John and Leisha's mother" is pretty awesome in my book. Chris suffered a stroke in 2009, and hasn’t been heard from much since then.
And finally, not a video (since it isn’t one): “Nature” by The Fourmyula. This 1969 single reached Number One on the NZ chart and was later revived in a commercial for Meadowlea Margarine, not that it needed it: It was part of Kiwi pop culture history by then. The song was the Number One song on APRA’s list of the “Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time”. I’m not sure I would have placed it at the top (okay, I wouldn’t have…) but the ranking shows the regard that many people had for this song.
And, that’s it: This post has included some of the many New Zealand artists and bands that didn’t get posts of their own in this series. I included what was suggested to me and, especially, what I liked. This post tied up some of the loose ends, but by no means all of them: There are plenty of songs and acts that didn't make this list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them.
This post includes some of the best of the rest, the stuff I like but didn’t get to blog about. There’s so much more. I can only hope that people will explore NZ music without my guidance.
We still have one day to go…