Found videos from the 1990s

Windswept beachiness, urban Balkan, Christchurch in the before time, racial unity, straight down, a ’90s fashion parade, tattoos, Auckland cool, velvet painting, getting seductive, and a bad lip sync.
Continue reading Found videos from the 1990s

Satellite Spies “It Must Be Love”

Satellite Spies had one good song – their 1985 hit “Destiny in Motion”. But it turns out their “It Must Be Love” was an ever bigger hit. While the video funding was given in 1992, the single was first released in 1994, then re-released in 1999, where it peaked at #9 and hung around the charts for almost five months. Take that, synthpop Spies!

The Satellite Spies of the “It Must Be Love” era were led by Deane Sutherland, one half of the original Spies. There’s been a lot of drama between Sutherland and the other original member Mark Loveys, resulting in the great Satellite Spies Wikipedia edit war of ’12, summarised over at Public Address.

But back to 1992. The synthpop is gone. “It Must Be Love” is a middle-of-the-road pop number. Everyone in the band has mullets – thick, lustrous fluffy mullets. We see the band playing at night, outside in a spooky location, with liberal use of smoke machine. Adding to the spooky is a vampire. He’s of the traditional Dracula variety – no Twilight glitter here – and he’s chasing after a dusky maiden.

Lead singer Deane seems to never blink in the video, giving him an eerie zombie-like appearance. Eventually ol’ Vlad sinks his teeth into the girl, vampirising her. She in turn sneaks up behind Deane and bits his neck, with his mullet conveniently swept to one side. Why, it’s almost as if he wanted to be bitten. But maybe he’s poisoned her with his pop zombie juice. I hope the group’s next video “Please Never Leave” explores this.

Best bit: Deane Sutherland’s cross earring, another remnant of the “Destiny in Motion” era Spies.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a lesson to be learned.

Greg Johnson Set “Talk in this Town”

“Talk in this Town” was the follow-up single to Greg’s debut song “Isabelle”. It has a similar folky sound, but with a more upbeat theme. It’s all about gossipmongers, a not uncommon subject in the world of pop.

The video opens with an introduction of the band – it is, after all, the Greg Johnson Set. They’re sitting around in a picturesque old building and it’s the early ’90s so everyone has statement hair. The guitarist has long golden flowing locks so it’s no wonder the director has made a feature of it. Greg bursts into the frame and he’s wearing a hat, perhaps aware that he can’t match his band’s hair action.

Just when this sedate portrait of musos threatens to get a little boring, the video throws in some drama in the form of gossipmongers. Shot in cold blue light, some women and men wearing dramatic make-up whisper, bitch and gossip with exaggerated facial expressions. Things even get a bit surreal with images of eyeballs and mouths, and eyeballs in mouths. It’s a good contrast, taking what could have been a very nice video and giving it a bit of an edge. There’s more to Greg Johnson than mandolins and folk-pop.

Things get even further from the ordinary with the appearance of a young women in a crucifix pose, wearing only body paint and a crown of thorns. A saintly aura radiates from her head. She suffers for the sins of all the gossipers.

As I’ve discovered, Greg Johnson’s videos did get edgier as his music career progressed, perhaps showing that he wasn’t afraid to take his videos in directions that the songs didn’t always suggest.

Best bit: the little girl doing a twirl in front of the band. I bet she’s the biggest gossip of them all.

Director: James Holt
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… sitting around the kitchen table.

3 The Hard Way “Many Rivers”

“Many Rivers” takes its chorus and inspiration from the Jimmy Cliff classic, “Many Rivers to Cross”. It’s full of contemporary hip hop beats with extra vocals provided by Sulata and Cherie. The video funding was granted before their massive hit debut single “Hip Hop Holiday”, so presumedly someone once thought this was the strongest song.

The video sees the three lads of 3 The Hard Way go to the beach, but it ain’t no sunny seaside moment. No, it’s the rugged west coast beach at Piha with Lion Rock towering in the background as the trio hang out on the empty beach.

Sometimes the beachside setting feels like it’s getting uncomfortably close to a literal depiction of the lyrics, but there’s still that feeling of unease that comes from such a wild beach. Here are three dudes decked out in fresh urban threads, alone in the wilderness. (Given they’re all wearing long sleeves and that the beach is deserted, I’d guess this was filmed on a chilly winter’s day.)

Sulata shows up for the chorus but she’s in Devonport with an evening cityscape of Auckland looking all sexy in the background. Things seem to be far more uplifting for her in the city, and sometimes she’s joined by the boys.

We also see the trio in their natural habitat – wandering K Road at night. It’s like a roll call of dearly departed K Road retail establishments – Deka, Rendalls, Modern Bags and there was even once a Hannahs.

But the video always comes back to the beach, finally leaving us with the trio as they wander off to metaphorically cross the many rivers.

Best bit: Deka, K Road – a good place for pick ‘n’ mix.

Director: Clinton Phillips
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… everybody have fun!

Urban Disturbance “No Flint No Flame”

“No Flint No Flame” was originally released when Urban Disturbance were known as Leaders of Style, but they rebranded after they kept being mistaken for a fashion posse. But along with the change of name came a reworking of their killer track. The LOS version was a goofy, fun song with mean samples, lol drugz, and a great chorus. The Urban Disturbance version keeps only the chorus and gets bigger, fresher and funkier and is a self-assured introduction to this group determined to make an impact.

The video sees the band performing in a studio where every surface (including the DJ’s desk) is draped with a crinkled slate-grey cloth. It’s 1993 and the streetwear of the earlier ’90s has been updated with grungy plaids, making Urban Disturbance look like they’d just wandered in from the Milford Track.

Keeping with the literal meaning of the chorus, a fire breather hangs out in the background, hoicking up some fiery entertainment. The trio are also joined by friends, including Dei Hamo.

There’s also a woman with a dalmatian. She’s waiting for a dreadlocked dude who is late. We see him rushing through downtown Auckland, no doubt aware that the dog is cuter and more loyal. This is the only time we see the urban landscape promised by the band’s name. I’m not sure shutting them away with a fire breather is exactly the best way to introduce this group. But their next video, “Impressions” takes it to the streets.

Despite this, the video doesn’t come across as the debut of a nervous young band. These guys feel like pros, and even though they’re stuck with the dramatically crinkled backdrop, it’s apparent that these guys have the moxy to go further.

Best bit: the Dalmatian, being all spotty and cool.

Director: Craig Jackson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… summer, autumn, winter and spring.

Fuemana “Rocket Love”

Funded in 1992 but not released until 1994, “Rocket Love” was a cover of a Stevie Wonder track and the first NZOA-funded video for Fuemana. Phil and sister Christina supply smooth-as vocals, along with a contribution from Matty J.

The video is based around the 1994 short film Funny Little Guy, a kitschy, romantic tale of a woman’s love for an alien. But sometimes it’s an awkward mix, with the beautifully photographed scenes from the film sitting uncomfortably alongside the simpler shots of the group green screened over the top.

But other times the kistchy B-grade style of the film suits the low-budget awkwardness of the video. One thing that makes the cinematic connection work really work is the subtle James Bond motif in the song. That makes the video come across like the DIY opening titles of Bond flick, with, er, Matty J taking the place of the sexy Bond girl silhouette.

Maybe the video is a little overpowering. There’s so much cool stuff going on on screen that it seems to make the song recede. I feel like I’d rather watch the short film and listen to the song separately, each doing their own thing.

Best bit: stop-motion background animation, featuring Elvis stamps, satellites and robots.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… headphones and kerbstones.

Unitone Hifi “Sitting by the Phone”

“Sitting by the Phone” was Unitone Hifi getting very very pop. Peter at DubDotDash has the interesting tale behind the song – after Teremoana previously had a song rejected from Deepgrooves due to it being too political, Unitone Hifi teamed up with her and went in totally the other direction.

The video is even more pop, positively revelling in the song’s popfulness. In a bright cartoony world, Teremoana and two pals hang out by a swimming pool. Over behind a wire fence, we also see three dudes hanging out, playing cards – presumedly they are too busy shuffling to phone Teremoana.

Bobbylon busts in with a verse, offering the male perspective (he <3’s her too). MC Just One pops up for a rapped verse, but his argument is less convincing. “I’ll tell you one thing, G, I’ll call when I call,” he raps. Seriously, a guy calling a girl “G” is at least as awful as being called “bro” or “dude”. Instant deal-breaker.

Now, the important thing to remember is that back in 1992, the only people who had cellphones were businesspeople. So when Teremoana sings of sitting by the telephone, she’s talking about the landline in her house. But it is to the video’s credit that there is no phone in the video. Instead Teremoana’s hanging out in the sun, with her friends – not a lovesick shut-in. It’s a sunny, optimistic video – just right for seeing in the summer.

Best bit: the green screen pool, a good use of technology.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… extraterrestrial.

Al Hunter “I Don’t Wanna Go To Work Today”

Country music singer Al Hunter’s ode to slacking was a single from his 1993 album “The Singer”. He was might not have been as cool as the Warratahs, but his album was critically acclaimed and, they say, should have turned him into a big star. Instead he’s more a cult figure, the discussion subject of many web forums.

We meet a sepiatone Al having his morning shave, going through the motions while his heart is in on holiday in St-Tropez. It appears he works in a dairy factory, which could be problematic if you weren’t really into milk. Then, away from this fantasy world, in colour, Al is performing the song with his band in front of a small crowd. Women with chambray shirts smile and awkwardly sway from side to side. That’s his fanbase.

Other things that Al would rather do instead of working: go for a hoon along the Southern Motorway, fantasise about “some film star in a negligee” (Keanu Reeves?) and get pissed in Paris. Man, if he’s that unhappy, why doesn’t he just quit?

Well, he does. He calls up his boss, gives notice and racks off to the Civic to see a film. Nice one. And the video ends with Al in the cinema watching a film of his favourite thing – playing with his band in front of the enthusiastic crowd.

Best bit: when the milk bottling plant gets jammed, which also serves as a metaphor.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… put your grunge shorts on.

Moana and the Moahunters “Peace, Love and Family”

After being part of the original trio of NZ On Air-funded videos, “Peace, Love and Family” was Moana and the Moahunters’ second funded vid, again directed by Kerry Brown. The song mixes up tikanga Maori with contemporary dance music, being probably the only pop song that starts with a staunch “Tihei mauri ora!” before launching into house beats.

The video isn’t trying to be cool (but does it anyway). It’s a joyful celebration of the values in the song – peace, love and family. We meet a large group of the Moahunter whanau. They’re having a good kanikani outside at what looks to be a traditional marae.

The serious verses are delivered with a matching visual tone. Moana earnestly singings the lyrics, overlaid with historic photos of Maori experiencing hard times. Her solution to these troubles? Why, peace love and family, of course. The colourful chorus kicks in and Moana’s joined by the Moahunters – Teremoana and Mina.

Back outside, everyone’s dancing it up, having a great time. This is not a world of the professionally choreographed music video. It’s uncles and aunties doing uncle-and-auntie dancing. And because it’s the early ’90s, everyone has their t-shirts tucked into their jeans.

The song turns into a bit of a free-for-all: Matty J pops up for a one-line cameo (“It’s not my problem, hey!”), Teremoana does a ragga rap, Moana has a sultry chant, and Mina finishes with a karakia

Best bit: the enthusiastic dancing from the lady in the pink powersuit.

Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… October 1992: having a sickie.