Greg Johnson Set “Come On”

1994-greg-johnson-set-come-onGreg Johnson takes a further step away from the straight folky video of “Isabelle” and introduces a popular video theme of the ’90s – freaky friends. But being a gentle acoustic folk-pop song, it’s a classier version of the usual leather and latex scenario.

We find Greg lying on his canopy deathbed, surrounded by his nearest and dearest. He’s so poorly that he starts to imagine a curious collection of people. There’s an elegant angel, played by Tandi Wright who was just months away from becoming known as the trouble Caroline on “Shortland Street”.

And model Colin Mathura-Jeffree can be spotted along with a geisha, a strongman, a corseted lady and a blue-painted person. These were the innocent days; the days before he had a flavour of gourmet ice cream named after him. It’s a strange side effect. Almost 20 years later these supporting players in the video suddenly stand out as celebrity cameos.

While the bedside anguish goes on, Greg has a flashback in the form of a home movie. We’re off to the seaside with a small boy and his mum, a free-spirited, dreadlocked lady. I assume that Greg is the person filming the outing, the recipient of loving states from the woman and the boy.

Back on the bed, there is still great sadness. When even a fabulous geisha can’t cure all ills, you know it’s bad news.

Best bit: child Greg’s hipster-style pencilled-on moustache.

Director: James Holt
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the love revolution revisited.

Ted Brown and the Italians “How is the Air up There?”

Ted Brown was (and still is!) a great songwriter and performer. I saw him opening for the Mutton Birds in 1993 and he blew everyone away. But yet chart success eluded him. His biggest hit was when the Strawpeople covered “Love Explodes”.

“How is the Air up There” was a 1966 hit for garage rock locals the La De Das. Ted and his Italians keep the crunch of the La De Da’s original version but give it a bit of jangle and some smoothness.

The video has hints of the psychedelic world of the ’60s. The band perform the song against a blue studio background, lit in red. It comes across a little sinister and menacing, with the shadows and red light looking like all that’s missing is a pitchfork and stick-on devil ears.

We also see the band in a more civilian form, shot in colour within a slightly psychedelic oval frame, with Ted in bad-ass mirror glasses. Maybe that’s the problem. The video seems a bit too badass. It’s sarcastic, sneering, aggressive. It’s a great song but the video feels like Ted is angry at me and I don’t like that feeling.

Best bit: Ted’s impeccable pronunciation of “air” and “there”.

Note: in 1995 a DLT remix of the song was used as the theme music for TV3’s New Zealand music show “Frenzy”.

Director: Craig Jackson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a stylish collection of freaky friends.

The Weather “That’s the Main Thing”

1994-the-weather-thats-the-main-thingI’d been looking for a Dribbling Darts song from around 1994 called “Do What U Like”. It turns out I should have been looking for a Weather song from 1997 called “That’s the Main Thing”. The Weather is kind of a rejig of the Dribbling Darts, a Matthew Bannister project. The song is all about personal liberty (how American!) but done in a very groovy, laidback way – so laid back it took three years and a new band to get around to making the video?

Director Peter McLennan gives some background into the video:

i directed the video for Dribbling Darts – Do what you like. They made it about two years after they got funding.

the band had the concept for the vid – them dressed in diff eras of pop, incl Matthew Bannister as Diana Ross w Supremes, beatles

The video goes through different styles of pop video, starting with a black and white 1960s folk trio, a heavily made-up 1980s synthpop group with hexagonal electronic drums and eyeliner, an elegant diva accompanied by a violinist and cellist, an energetic new age hippy trio, and an urban hip hop crew. The Red Hot Chili Peppers did a bigger budget version of this idea in 2006 with “Dani California”.

It’s all very fun. The trio enter every scenario with great enthusiasm and a lack of self-consciousness. Mr Bannister in particular carries out his lead singer role with great enthusiasm, no matter how much make-up he’s wearing or how glamorously he’s dressed.

And as much fun as the video is, it still ties in with the central theme of the song – “do just what you like, that’s the main thing”. Now I feel free to get in touch with my inner homegirl.

Best bit: the thought of a parallel universe where The Weather are a notorious hip hop crew.

Director: Peter McLennan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… alternative fuel.

Supergroove “Can’t Get Enough”

1994-supergroove-cant-get-enoughThis is pretty much the ultimate Supergroove video. Like a lot of their vids, it feels like every single effect in the video editing software has been used. Why have all seven band members in shot when you can have a border of 20 Supergroove heads around the shot? And shall we throw in some flames for good measure? Yeah, why not!

And then there’s the issue of the harsh lighting on Che Fu making his nose cast a shadow like a Hitler moustache. And remember, kids, this was before hipsters made bad moustaches cool.

The video was directed by Supergroove bassist Joe Lonie (then going by the name Jo Fisher) and Matt Noonan and was impressively awarded Best Video at the 1995 New Zealand Music Awards.

But at the heart of the video is Supergroove, doing a tight, twitchy performance. Even the band members who aren’t always performing still keep the energy going.

And let’s not forget that the song is called “Can’t Get Enough”. That attitude has been also applied to the video, with every shot filled up with layer upon layer of effects. If there was ever a quiet moment, ever a feeling of stillness, the entire Supergroove universe would have collapse upon itself. The band (average age 19) were young, hugely successful and were teeming with energy and ideas. If the video had been more subtle or calmer in any way, it wouldn’t have been enough.

Best bit: the awkward kneeling dance steps near the end.

Director: Joe Lonie, Matt Noonan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Missing videos from 1994

There’s a Rockquest winner, some more bogan rock, a bit of hip hop, and some reggae.
Continue reading Missing videos from 1994

The Mutton Birds “In My Room”

1994-the-mutton-birds-in-my-roomTwo Mutton Birds videos in one funding round! This is outrageous! “Heater” was released in February, the same month as this funding round, where as “In My Room” wasn’t released until a couple of months later.

“In My Room” didn’t chart as well as “Heater” (only reaching 14, compared to the number-one spot for “Heater”) and its video isn’t as much fun. In the lyrics, the protagonist of the song seems to live a similar shut-in life to that of Frank from “Heater”, though the “In My Room” guy seems to have better luck with the ladies.

It’s very performance based, with the band playing the song in a room, sometimes joined by cardboard cutouts of the themselves. The video is shot in black and white with colour tints, and it’s just a bit boring.

It seems like the video is too much about the band and not enough about the song. Yeah, they’ve set it in a room, literally, but that’s not really want the song is about. Maybe Virgin blew their budget on “Heater” and only had the $5000 left for “In My Room”.

Best bit: the window frame that, when it’s out of focus, looks like the as-yet-unbuilt Sky Tower.

Director: Leon Narbey
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Tim’s Irish roots.

Head Like a Hole “Spanish Goat Dancer”

1994-head-like-a-hole-spanish-goat-dancerMore high-jinks from the HLAH lads. This time they are under the influence of a goat (presumedly a Spanish goat, that is also a dancer) which is making strange things happen.

First a pack of dogs roam the streets, leading an unsuspecting cyclist to the goat. The action then turns to a suburban house where the band are subverting the kitchen with a crossdressing housewife and 1960s-style cheesy ad salesman.

Then the goat is on the street where a demonic preacher sternly preachers to a crowd gathered below. What further chaos could the goat cause? Well, he finds HLAH’s rehearsal space and gets all Batman on them – DOOF!

One thing’s to be said for HLAH – they make visually exciting videos.

Best bit: the dinosaur kitchen cleaning spray.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… adventures in a room.

Halucian “Good Morning Mrs Earth”

1994-halician-good-morning-mrs-earthWinners of the 1993 smokefreerockquest, Halucian got themselves a music video directed by Stuart Page. It incorporates lots of old footage of things like nuclear explosions, floods, volcanos, hurricanes, and Galloping Gertie, the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows bridge.

The band plays in front of an old scrapheap, suggesting they live in a post-apocalyptic world with no girls, leaving them to personify the earth as “Mrs Earth”. I reckon she is a benevolent mother who looks after them as the last humans on earth, soothing her with their Faith No More-inspired anti-lullabies.

But the most exciting thing about this video is discovering that Halucian’s long-haired lead singer is young Mr Sean Clarke, who went on to front Augustino with shorter hair but no less presence or voice. Some people, they’ve just got it.

Director: Stuart Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… bitchin’ in the kitchen.

David Kilgour “Beached”

1994-david-kilgour-beachedHalfway through watching the “Beached” video, I realised that this video would have looked so much better on a cathode ray television – the format it was created for.

“Beached” set in a dystopian future or maybe even another planet. D. Kilgour plays an alien or an astronaut who wanders around a beach, all along. He then ends up at a house, makes his way though a technological room, crawls through a pipe and is back on the beach.

It’s like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, both plotwise and with production values. All that’s needed is for the lone adventurer to shocking be revealed as actually being a New Zealand indie star escaping from the pressing demands of promoting his new album by escaping into a fantasy world.

Best bit: the DIY astronaut headgear.

Director: Stuart Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a world without girls.

Able Tasmans “The Big Bang Theory”

1994-able-tasmans-the-big-bang-theoryIt’s full of stars. The Abel Tasmans get all metaphysical with a journey through space.

Explosions, chemical equations, planets, sun spots, a singing moon, constellations, rocky terrain and and the shadowy silhouette of a band that doesn’t want to be in their video. Or, you know, the awesome visuals speak for the music far more than a band performance would.

I’m stuck. It’s a “System Virtue” situation. The song sounds good, but I don’t know what the lyrics are so it doesn’t quite come together. I’m just going to literally assume it’s about astrophysics and enjoy its spacy graphics effects.

Best bit: the disembodied clapping hands.

Director: Ronald Young
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… beached as, bro.