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?”

1994-ted-brown-how-is-the-air-up-thereTed 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 Das’ version but give it a bit of jangle and some smoothness.

The video has hints of the psychedelic world of the ’60s. They 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 with in a slightly psychedelic oval frame, with Ted in bad-ass mirror glasses. Maybe that’s the problem. The video seems a bit too bad-ass. 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.

3 The Hard Way “All Around”

1994-3-the-hard-way-all-aroundOver at the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, this video is ominously described as “LA style, basketball, moving images of cars etc projected in background”. The video does have a bit of a West Coast flavour, but there’s no mistaking its Auckland location.

“All Around” is a compass-points-themed shoutout, which also pays a fair bit of homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” (“You know we can!”) It made it to number 22 in the pop charts, and it’s a really upbeat track and actually had me bopping along, swept away by its infectious fun-time charms.

The video is set in various locations around central Auckland. There’s the trio in front of a pile of logs (?) with some green screens playing footage of old videos and the Auckland skyline behind that. They’re also in front of a large graffiti mural being done by DLT – and think this might be the first appearance of live graffiti in a NZOA video. (The second I’ve seen is Joint Force’s “Burntime” video, also featuring DLT.)

The video is accented with some animation – the flickery kind that was popular in the ’90s. Occasionally a compass, a globe, a cool dude playing a saxophone pops up to underscore the lyrics or music.

All this might seem influenced by LA, but this is how a lot of young Aucklanders were back then. There was a specific street culture that took its cues from America but mixed it up with its Pacific location. And this video captures a bit of that scene.

Best bit: hanging out under the Auckland Harbour Bridge, all pylons and security fencing.

Director: Clinton Phillips
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus: here’s a 1994 interview with 3 The Hard Way on TV3’s New Zealand music show “Frenzy”.

Next… alterno angel.

Jordan Reyne “A Long Way to Climb”

On the Deepgrooves website, the page for this video described how the iconic record label decided to take all their video production in-house, after getting sick of being quoted exorbitant rates from music video directors who had their eyes on the $5000 NZ On Air grant.

“A Long Way to Climb” was shot at an alley next to Cafe Alba on Lorne Street, Auckland, just around the corner from Victoria Street. Alba was the setting for Sulata’s “Never” video, and apparently it was close to Deepgrooves HQ. The video is shot in black and white 16mm film, which makes the inner city location look music-video perfect.

It’s a gentle, folky song given an urban treatment. For another artist this juxtaposition might not work, but Jordan Reyne has that slightly unusual, gothic, urban style that works well with the video. Even city girls get the blues.

For much of the video, Jordan sit arounds in the alley, thinking of her lost love. Occasionally we get blue-tinted flashbacks of a shaven-headed young dude messing around in the alley.

The video is moody and mysterious. It doesn’t attempt to literally illustrate things, but does pick up on the tone of the song. And for a low-budget music video, it’s done a pretty good job.

Best bit: the mysterious metal object the dude holds up to his face. Whoa.

Note: This video is now no longer available online.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… can I kick it?

Nathan Haines “Lady J”

1994-nathan-haines-lady-jAw yeah. “Lady J” is a very cool song and the video is the dopeness. Compared to the more polite album version, the video version of “Lady J” has more of a low end, with a rap added courtesy of Sonny Sagala (aka Dei Hamo). That detail lifts the song, taking it a step away from its melodic jazz roots and making it the sort of tune that the Ice TV gang would gush over.

The spunky video is directed by Josh Frizzell and takes on a kind of scrapbook look. Shapes containing Nathan, Sonny and other band members slowly glide or fragment across the screen. It looks a bit like a DVD menu screen from the ’00s, but there’s something that makes it just that bit more sophisticated.

Nathan looks quite different to his usual appearance. He has closely shaven hair and is wearing tinted spectacles. It somehow makes him look much older the young man of 22 he was – but perhaps this was intended. And it was something that hugely appealed to me at age 19 – a video evoking a cool, sophisticated world that seemed out of reach for me in from suburban Hamilton.

In a way, a trick is being played. The video is taking a jazz track and presenting it in such a way that it crossed over to the world of teen pop, like a gateway drug to a cooler world of music.

Best bit: the side silhouette of Nathan’s trousers. Good cut.

Bonus: here’s Nathan in 1995 talking about his album “Shift Left” from TV3’s music show “Frenzy”.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Strawpeople “Under the Milky Way”

1994-strawpeople-under-the-milkywayWikipedia lists 20 artists who’ve covered “Under the Milky Way”. But you know who got their first? Strawpeople, that’s who. Go, New Zealand!

Their version take away the ’80s post-punk sound of the original and gives it some smooth ’90s dance sounds. The video sticks with this vibe, making a sophisticated experience.

Stephanie Tauevihi is the star of the video, in an elegant black suit, big hair and bold make-up. When we see the other Strawpeople – Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly – they’re both playing guitars. This doesn’t normally happen in Strawpeople vids – they tend to lurk in the background, looking all mysterious. Here it’s like, oh, they’re just musicians. How disappointing.

But there’s plenty of oddness to make up for it. We see scenes of a nerdy woman hunched over a typewriter (like what I am doing *right now*, only with a laptop), a reprise of those fabulous Ioasa cheekbones, and a small boy with a globe of the world.

A lot of the footage is out of focus, as if we’re not quite allowed to see everything that’s going on. The rapidly panning camera isn’t going to show us everything. It feels like being a casual observer, with only a connection to Stephanie. Everything else that’s happening doesn’t quite concern us.

Strawpeople videos intrigue me. They simultaneously manage to seem very superficial and shallow, and yet also genuinely deep and meaningful. And I reckon that’s a perfect match for their music.

Best bit: the astronaut hugs nerd girl. Baby, he’ll take u 2 the milky way.

Directors: Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the finest lady.

Cinema “Kuru”

1994-cinema-kuruThe “Kuru” video is like a tourist in Tokyo, fresh off the plane, wandering about in awe at all the amazing things they’re seeing and experiencing.

The video hangs out in a train station. Even the ordinary sight of trains rolling into the station and passengers walking along the platform takes on new depth. The video takes the ordinary busy experience of a Tokyo train station, films it in black and white and slows it right down. It’s not the experience of a local, but it’s very much that of a visiting New Zealander.

Even the local television is wondrous. We catch glimpses of ads for music videos, television drama and the ubiquitous canned coffee drinks. Filmed off a flickering CRT television screen, it again takes something commonplace and turns it into the exotic. (Just imagine a Japanese video maker using clips of Shortland Street in a vid).

Kuru is a Japanese word meaning “come”, making it very seductive, beckoning video. Here’s someone who’s in love with Tokyo and wants to share the very particular things that have made the city so appealing.

Best bit: racially awkward coffee ad.

Director: Kane Massey
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a treat between meals.

Emma Paki “Greenstone”

1994-emma-paki-greenstoneCliff Curtis stars in the follow-up to “System Virtue” (after Bully in “Once Were Warriors, before Pablo Escobar in “Blow”). Cliff plays a trouble young Maori and we first discover him sleeping in his beat-up old car. This is filmed in black and white, but a burst of colour comes in the form of Emma, who gorgeously appears in full colour, decorated in the splendours of nature (ferns and stuff).

Back in the real world, Cliff is at work on a road crew. It’s hot work and he takes a break in the shade of a tree. There, next to a stop/go sign, Emma appears in front of him, which strangely reminds me of Edward appearing before Bella in “Twlight: New Moon”.

Cliff is caught slacking off but dramatically quits and goes into town to hang out with his pals – and consciously rejects a beer. There’s some good footage around the popular music video location of Karangahape Road.

Cliff is caught mackin’ on to someone else’s girl outside the McDonald’s, and after a light scuffle he storms off, eating his feelings at the White Lady food caravan. Mid cheeseburger, Emma appears again, and this time he understands.

Because this is a New Zealand story, nothing good can ever happen in the city, and redemption can only be found in the bush. Cliff makes his way to a waterfall, where Emma appears to him for a third time, turning his black and white world into colour. She presents him with a pounamu pendant, which is just what he needs. Together they are happy.

It’s a lovely video. I also like that it’s a video that isn’t afraid to have a serious plot. Director Kerry Brown has told the story well, but includes plenty of shots of Emma Paki on her own, looking amazing.

Best bit: The brief glimpse of a Playboy cover in the dodgy second-hand bookshop in St Kevin’s Arcade.

Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the sound of the underground.

Fuemana “Seasons”

1994-fuemana-seasonssons”Seasons” is a tale of changed emotions, featuring brother and sister Phil and Christina Fuemana, from their influential 1994 album “New Urban Polynesian”.

The video is shot in gorgeous golden tones, simply focusing on Christina and other members of the Fuemana posse. There’s a bit of animation on screen, something that was fashionable in the early ’90s. Simple leaf animations illustrate the passing of time. In other shots, a border with the names of the seasons surrounds Christina, sometimes in English, other times in Nuiean.

While the song is sung from the perspective of a woman, the subject matter involves a man. About halfway through there’s a little spoken interlude between Christina and the man, where he tragically reveals, “I do love you, but I’m not in love with you.” I’m not totally sure, but I think the man is voiced by a pre-OMC Pauly Fuemana.

“Seasons” seems like a really good example of of kind of sound that Fuemana developed. It’s cool, contemporary dance pop but with an unmistakable South Pacific vibe. And the video is even more so.

Best bit: the tambourine with a pair of praying hands on the skin.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a career change.

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.