Upper Hutt Posse “Stormy Weather”

1991-upper-hutt-posse-stormy-weatherLet’s go back to April 1991, the very first NZ On Air music video funding round. When I started 5000 Ways, I could only find two of the three videos in this found. But it turns out that four days after I posted the entry saying the “Stormy Weather” video wasn’t online, it was uploaded to YouTube by its director, Upper Hutt Posse frontman Dean Hapeta. Nice one!

“Stormy Weather” starts provocatively with footage of riot police, which I’m guessing was from the Springbok Tour protests. We discover D Word is watching this on his TV. It affects him deeply, prompting him to pick up a Sharpie and notepad and make a list of the troubles of the world.

The video is made with a green screen, with members of the Posse performing against scenes of global strife. Nuclear bombs, Bastion Point, troubles in the Middle East, the KKK, bombs over Baghdad – these are a few of my least favourite things.

But despite all this strong imagery, the song itself is laid back, with the ever-popular “Funky Drummer” drum loop and a particularly smooth chorus courtesy of Teremoana Rapley’s silky vocals. And it’s just as well. With lyrics like “I got a real strong fear, you know, that things will only get worse”, there needs to be a little sweetness.

Despite the international influences in the song, it’s a very New Zealand video and it seems a perfect choice for being one of the first three videos to receive NZ On Air funding.

Best bit: the really nice handwriting on the list of troubles

Director: Dean Hapeta
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The Front Lawn “The Beautiful Things”

The Front Lawn was a film/theatrical duo (or trio). They wrote really good pop songs and made really good music videos, but they weren’t quite mainstream. If they (or a similar band) were around today, would they get NZ On Air funding? Don McGlashan still does, but he writes serious grown-up songs now.

“The Beautiful Things” is a slightly sinister song, looking at the love of material possessions. It’s set in a manic 1960s television advertising world, where the grinning salesmen attempt to convince viewers to buy things to make all their pain go away.

I say “1960s”, but it’s more that kind of retro ’60s style that was big in the ’90s. And there’s layer upon layer of green screen trickery and cheesy computer graphics. All this stuff must have seemed quite cool and cutting-edge back then. Video editing software was cheaper and more accessible, so you didn’t need to be The Cars or Dire Straits to do rad computer animations in your video.

The Front Lawn made short films as well as their live performance work, and they’ve taken full advantage of the music video medium to make an entertaining video that doesn’t just promote the song, but adds another layer to its message.

It was a pleasure to rediscover this song and the video. It doesn’t quite sound like a song of its era, such was the magic of The Front Lawn.

Best bit: Harry snogs his mop wife.

Director: Fane Flaws
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… The promise of stormy weather.

Moana and the Moahunters “A E I O U”

This is where it begins. The first funding round had only three videos, but they managed to cover the extremes of New Zealand pop. The first was Moana and the Moahunters’ ode to indigenous cultural pride, “A E I O U”.

But was its NZ On Air funding considered newsworthy? A 3 News story makes no mention of that – the focus is more on the message of the lyrics. And it’s noteworthy that back in ’91, a national news story was “Hey, check out this music video!”

Watching the video itself, you can tell the early ’90s have come to New Zealand. Moana’s wearing a peasant blouse and waistcoat – Vanessa Huxtable chic. Moana performs the song with her girl group the Moahunters in front of a green screen, while Māori-influenced graphics swirl around behind her.

There’s no pretending that the world of the green screen is real. There are wide shots that show the edges of the screen, and the cold concrete floor of the studio (warehouse? suburban garage?) they are filming in.

This video features the familiar rotating NZ On Air logo in both bottom corners of the screen instead of the usual one corner. NZ On Air originally get a bit carried away with their branding requirements or was the video’s producer not quite sure what to do with it?

It’s a bright, cheerful music video, that nicely matches the uplifting house beats. It’s a perfect video to begin our journey into the world of NZ On Air funding.

Best bit: Moana’s dad, looking cool as.

Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Don and Harry versus the bright shiny world of consumer culture.