This video appears to have initially been chosen for NZ On Air funding, but ended up not receiving it. But I’ve included it because it’s such a weird little part of New Zealand music in the late ’90s.
“Legal Sunscreen” was inspired by the massive hit single “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, released by Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann. “Everybody’s Free” was a spoken word track based on life advice by Chicago newspaper columnist Mary Schmich, set to dance beats.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, the Canadian-born lawyer Christopher Harder penned a similar tune with a legal theme, giving various advice to listeners. Some of it is wise – be polite to the police – but other advice seems a bit, well, lawyery. Would anyone actually say “Is this a consenting kiss, touch or act?” to their date?
The video is a low-budget number. Dramatic black and white footage of the lawyer is cut with grainy video of the police, street life and other slices of urban badness. Occasionally key terms flash across the screen, making it seem like a sexed-up PointPoint presentation.
Retrospectively, the song has a bittersweet tone, as Christopher Harder was struck off the law practitioners roll in 2006, and later underwent rehab for drug and alcohol addiction.
Musically it’s not great. It feels more like a novelty single than the original did, but I’m not sure it was intended as a novelty. It feels like it’s quite earnest, expecting that it really will change people’s lives.
But perhaps it has. The song still has an enthusiastic audience online. YouTube commenters express their thanks for the sage advice, and the video is posted in forums by people wanting to share its tips. I like to think because of this song, there are just that many more people in the world being polite to the popo.
Best bit: during the safe sex section, there’s a brief microscopic shot of some sperm.
Next… the importance of dressing warmly.