Headless Chickens “Expecting To Fly”

1998-headless-chickens-expecting-to-flyThis song was originally on the Headless Chickens first album, “Stunt Clown”, but it was remixed for the “ChickensHits” greatest hits/remixes album in 2002, with this single released in 2003. So what’s it doing in the 1998 funding round? Well, the band originally received funding in 1998 for the song “Chicken Little”. This video didn’t get made, but the funding stayed on the books until the Chooks were ready to make another video in 2003.

The band are totally absent from the video. Instead the screen is occupied by some very attractive young people. The video seems to have been a promo for the spring/summer 2003 collection from the iconic Dunedin fashion label NOM*d.

Directed by Rachael Churchward, the video is shot in black and white and is set in a bleak landscape. The models mooch around in a miserable holiday camp, going about ordinary domestic tasks. Doing the dishes at a stainless steel sink never looked more awful and yet so glamorous.

It’s interesting having a video without the band. It feels like the band have taken a step away from the spotlight, in preparation for their demise. Sometimes the models lip-sync the song, and other times select lines of the song are subtitled – a visual reminder of the lyrics. Somehow there’s enough of the Headless Chickens character for the video to work. It’s a bit dark, a bit depressed and still stylish – all hallmarks of the Chickens.

After the mixed quality of videos from “Greedy”, I’m glad the band has ended with a good video. Sure, it’s no “Donde Esta La Pollo”, but for a swansong, it’s a good one.

Best bit: the ceramic chicken, never forget.


Director: Rachael Churchward
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… future boys tell us.

Headless Chickens “Smoking Big Ted”

1998-headless-chickens-smokin-big-tedThe Chickens are totally absent from the video, which is not surprising, given how detached they looked in previous videos. Instead the video is focused on bodybuilders, with bronzed bodies and posing in tiny garments.

When I was 12, the mother of one of my classmates came along to talk to the school about her life as a bodybuilder. She’d picked it as a woman’s mag said it was the fasted route to weightloss, but she had become hooked on bodybuilding competitions. She ended her talk by stripping off her tracksuit and doing some poses in her posing bikini. It was simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring.

And like my classmate’s mum, there’s something very ordinary about these guys. They seem like people who’d otherwise be accountants, teachers, dentists and housewives, who one day decided that bodybuilding looked like good fun. Even the star of the video, wearing a cowboy hat, moustache, posing pouch and a giant cobra tattoo, seems mild-mannered.

I’ve previously felt that other singles from “Greedy” were let down by the videos. Well, this is kind of the opposite. The video is fun, funny and rather striking to watch, yet the song feels a little unfinished, like a hastily composed keyboard riff with “c’mere” growled over the top.

With “Greedy” being their final album, I wish they’d gone out with a bang rather than this gradual fade to grey.

Best bit: the brief interlude at a gym, keeping it real behind the scenes.

Note: This video has previously been available on YouTube, MySpace, MTV Australia and even for sale on iTunes, but now no one has it. This is the kind of thing that happens.

Directors: Jeff Holdaway
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a fishy tale.

Headless Chickens “Dark Angel”

1997-headless-chickens-dark-angelI’m going to keep talking about how I love the Headless Chickens third album, “Greedy”. “Dark Angel” was the opening track and it instantly takes me back to my first year in Auckland, 22 and trying to figure how where I fitted in in the crazy city.

Despite my likage for the song, I’d never seen the video. It reminds me of the “Mr Moon” video, with colour layers floating over the top of the black and white band.

But this time around Fiona is gone, but there is a woman in the video. Taking inspiration from the opening titles of Bond films, the video features shots of a naked lady. Who needs a girl in the band when you can just use female body parts in the video?

I started to think about the woman. What if she was actually a Bond girl, Chookie Galore, a good girl who got involved with the Headless Chickens gang. Has she come to seduce you, Mr Bond?

There’s a strange vibe in this video. It’s very stylish and has a pretty colour palette, yet there’s a very strong masculine feel to it. The band have a sluggish yet menacing look about them. I wonder if the naked lady and the colours were thrown in to balance it out, to add a touch of femininity to what might have otherwise been too grunty.

I get the same feeling with every video from “Greedy” – something wasn’t good with the band. While the music sounds fine, the videos feels like something had broken in the band and was being held together with the thinnest thread.

Best bit: the brief glimpse of a little bird figurine. I sense a theme.

Note: This video was on YouTube, MySpace and MTV Australia, but now it’s not.

Director: Jonathan Ogilvie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Venice of the South Seas.

Headless Chickens “Second Time Virgin”

1997-headless-chickens-second-time-virginThe Headless Chickens returned with another single off their final album, “Greedy”. “Second Time Virgin” is a filthy, dark song, far removed from the sweet edges of Fiona-era Chickens.

The formerly sprawling band is now a tight three-piece, and they play the song whole surrounded by racks of mysterious colourful chemical substances. The world of colour goes underwater, with Chris donning some swimming google and going underwater with some colourful balloons.

A rubber ducky bobs sinisterly in the water, reminiscent of the ducky on the cover of “Greedy”. But I wonder if it just seems a bit evil because of the dark world of the Chooks. And speaking of fine feathered fiends, an actual chicken makes an appearance in the video.

I’m going through a similar experience to what I felt watching “Magnet”. I like the Headless Chickens and I really like this song, but this video just seems a little lacking. “Go! Go! Second time virgin! You want to!” No, it doesn’t convince me to give up my second-time-virginity.

Best bit: Chris’ head appears in one of the mysterious jars.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… fun with model aeroplanes.

Headless Chickens “Magnet”

“Magnet” was the first single from the post-Fiona Chooks. It’s a ghostly love song with an unseen singer (Rachel Wallis) providing Fiona-esque backing vocals.

The video takes place at night in a wasteland, complete with an upturned car. Back when this was made it probably seemed like a cool dystopian fantasy, but now there are parts of Christchurch that literally look like this. Chris also spends some time inside a munted car, and the band performs in the ruins of an old warehouse that looks like Detroit decay porn. The video is like a premonition of 21st-century disasters.

There’s a lot of tiredness in this video. The song feels tired, the band looks tired and the environment seems to be on the verge of just collapsing, with the facade of civilisation being just too much effort.

It’s not a bad song – I should make that clear. In fact, it’s easily one of the Headless Chickens better songs. It’s just that the video seems to reveal more about the band than the song.

Best bit: the ruins of an old motherboard, kissing goodbye to computers.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Jan’s furry friend.

Headless Chickens “Super Trouper”

1995-headless-chickens-super-trouperI once knew a goth guy who loved this song. He wasn’t a Headless Chickens fan or an Abba aficionado, but the power combo of the Chickens covering Abba was what did it for him. That and the “Su-pa-pa trou-pa-pa” chorus.

It’s a song about the loneliness of being a touring pop star, but it’s a situation that could apply just as much to a New Zealand indie industrial rock band. This was the first post-Fiona Chickens recording, so it makes sense that of all the songs the Headless Chickens could have chosen for Flying Nun’s “Abbasalutely” tribute album, they picked the one about the difficulties of being in a band.

The video is shot in black and white, with the band performing on an airport tarmac, including plenty of shots on top of and around planes. It’s a clever setting, a hint at the reality of life on tour: lots of aeroplanes, lots of airports.

The band are all wearing sunglasses. I’m willing to accept that it may have been a very overcast, glary day, but it also makes the Chickens look reluctant. They don’t quite want to connect with their audience, again fitting with the lyrics.

There’s something just not quite right with this. While the video looks great, it all feels a bit like a lazy effort.

Best bit: when the lively backing singer jostles her way into shot.

Director: Jonathan Ogilvie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a killer catsuit.

Headless Chickens “George”

1994-headless-chickens-georgeWhen Fiona McDonald was announced as one of the judges on NZ Idol and hoardes of teens commented online that they’d never heard of her, this is what I pointed them to. The Headless Chicken’s only number one single, and indeed the first number one for a Flying Nun artist.

It’s a dark song, a reminder of how awful and self-destructive relationships can get. And when compared to the band’s more lively earlier videos, it’s a sign of how far the Fiona-era Chickens came in such a short period, and how the group didn’t have much further to go.

The video is equally dark. Fiona, never afraid to not be pretty in a video, is filmed with harsh uplighting, giving her a similar shawdow moustache to Che Fu in Supergroove’s “Can’t Get Enough” video.

A tattoed man creeps towards the camera, an old man offers a birthday cake iced with “George”, other band members stare at the camera, making it clear that they too know of the terrible thing that has happened.

I love that a song like this can make it to number one in New Zealand. Everything is OK.

Best bit: Old George holding his cake, standing by an open fridge door.

Directors: Marcus Ringrose, Gideon Keith
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the sailor boys return to their old neighbourhood.

Headless Chickens “Cruise Control (Eskimos in Egypt mix)”

1994-headless-chickens-cruise-control-remixFirst, let’s watch the original “Cruise Control” video from 1991. It’s not hard to see why some Headless Chickens fans didn’t like Fiona having joined their favourite band. It’s like light vs dark, good vs evil. The sunny, cheery Fiona vs the gloomy goth Chris. But as it happened, “Cruise Control” was the gateway drug for my love of the Chooks.

A few years later it was remixed. The problematic Shona Laing sample was removed, Fiona’s vocals double-tracked, and most of Chris’ rap disappeared. It was a heavenly pop hit for the Australian market, with the video cheekily funded by NZ On Air.

The band are hanging out in a car, with a bewigged Fiona playing a forlorn passenger. The rest of the band take turns driving, as well as playing cards, reading the newspaper, talking on giant cellphones, sucking on lollipops, and displaying a Knight Rider banner.

It feels like the Chickens are mocking the trappings of success, and acknowledging that sometimes things aren’t always so happy.

Best bit: the establishing shot of Auckland, just to prove that they’re actually on the (pretend) road.

Director: Jonathan Ogilvie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the battle between goth and pop.

Headless Chickens “Mr Moon”

This is probably the most hard-sell, down-the-barrel-of-the-camera the Headless Chickens have made yet. Chris and Fiona take turns at singing the song in close up, with the rest of the band in the background. They both look utterly beautiful, in that dark sexy Headless Chickens way.

The song is bookended with sampled dialogue, and this is represented by various Chickens miming the words, as well as a reel-to-reel recorder being played like an instrument. The massive influence of street fashion in the early ’90s is also apparent, with Fiona wearing a Stüssy cap. Stüssy was so very cool.

The video is in black and white, with floating, overlapping circles (moons?) of pink, purple and a third which a overlaps to turn the monochrome into colour. Like the song, the visuals manage to be dark with tiny uplifting moments that only serve to make the dark even darker.

Best bit: The lone appearance of a person wearing a chicken head.

Director: Jonathan Ogilvie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

P.S. Owen reminds me that this song uses the chorus melody of “The Sleepwalker” by This Kind of Punishment, perhaps best known for being covered by Cat Power.

Next… the perfect indie guy lover man.

Headless Chickens “Choppers”

“Choppers” was released as a double A-side single with “Juice”. And it’s the perfect pairing – the sweet “Juice” is the yin to the brash yang of “Choppers”.

The video takes place atop Rangitoto, and on the lavafields of the volcanic island. Even though the city is in the distance, across the water, the Chooks are still really cool. Fiona’s even wearing a baggy sweatshirt for Planet magazine. In fact, they don’t look like they’re making a music video, they look more like they’ve gone to Rangitoto because Auckland was too mainstream and Rangitoto is more relevant.

The slight military theme of the song is hinted at with the setting of the old Rangitoto bunker, and the title aircraft is seen in shadow as it flies over the bushclad slopes. Is this the first NZ On Air-funded video to contain a helicopter? Thrilling!

Best bit: dancing around the trig station.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Jan melts.