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
The more Greg Johnson videos I see, the more appreciation I have for his video oeuvre. There are are some rippers in there and “Sun Beat Down” is one of them.
Directed by Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly, it has a slick, ’90s western feel to it, probably influenced by the work of Robert Rodriguez.
Shot with a hazy orange filter, the video is set in a dusty yard between a warehouse and a railway track and a big ol’ Cadillac pulls up. So cinematic is the setting that I was even wondering if it was shot in New Zealand, but the car’s number plate and registration sticker reveal its Aotearoan origins.
Greg gets out of the car and he is a troubled man. As he swelters under the hot noon sun, he experiences flashbacks (shot in black and white) of himself getting up to no good with an attractive young woman and another man.
Back to the orange present and we discover the woman’s body in the boot of the car. Greg grabs a spade and wanders off, presumedly to bury her. So how did she die? Well, through flashback we see Greg and the woman in bed, having a good old pash. Then he’s on top of her, thrusting away and suddenly she’s dead, making him a certified dud root. (Before I saw this video I originally predicted he’d do a sex-face in the video. I didn’t realise how accurate that would be.)
It’s a stylish world full of sharp suits and big cars. There aren’t many bands that can get away with such a bold video, but the directors ensure everything in the film looks good. And it helps that Greg Johnson plays a perfect oily crim. Just don’t end up in bed with him.
Update: Director Paul Casserly tweeted some behind-the-scenes details of the shoot. The exterior was shot at “the old AFFCO works out the back of Onehunga” and the interior was shot at Hotel DeBrett (a popular video location due to its photogenic men’s toilets that feature in other videos). Paul’s nieces play the two dancing children and the playwright Linda Chanwai-Earle is the lady in the “weird devil costume”. Richard Long was the DOP.
Best bit: the little girl doing and Irish jig by the side of the train tracks. Fiddly-dee-dee, Riverdance!
At the end of this video, there’s a clip with James Coleman interviewing Karyn Hay about the video. She explains that the Verlaines’ American record label weren’t happy with the video because it didn’t contain enough “pop-star lip-synching”.
And indeed it’s a very non-commercial video. Despite being a lively pop song, the video goes for quite an abstract treatment. The video starts off seeming like a standard pop road video, with footage of rural New Zealand. But it’s shot in grainy black and white, with bleak scenes of lifestyle blocks. Even a trip to the beach in a bang-up old Valiant is stark, not sunny.
Later there’s colour footage of the back backstage at a gig, but it’s blurry and dimly lit. Hey, let’s throw in some kaleidoscope effects to make it even less pop.
But it’s not all bleak. Suddenly and unexpectedly there’s a drive-by on a field full of cherry trees, bursting with their brilliant pink blossoms. This leads to a live performance at the Glue Pot, where the band play to an almost empty pub, with a lone dancer grooving under a strategically placed pink spotlight.
So if you look at it in pop terms, yeah, it’s not a great pop video. But it is a great pop song with a cool video that has plenty of humour lurking within.
Best bit: The seven seconds of actual lip-syncing.
Note: keep watching after the video for the chat with director Karyn Hay.
Let’s Planet was the next project of former Chills drummer Caroline Easther. She played many instruments in the band and the Karyn Hay-directed video shows that, using rotating line-ups within the video. This was the only Let’s Planet song to have NZ On Air funding
Being a work of the early ’90s, the video makes liberal use of green-screen effects. Most of it involves Caroline or the full band against a wondrous backdrop, such as cows, flowers, a suburban street and ducks. The video also uses the grid digital effect, with lots of tiling, making the video look like the output of a Japanese photo sticker booth.
This video leaves me feeling a bit stuck. Nothing really happens in it, it’s just the band playing the song. Did the giant flowers have more impact in the ’90s when this sort of effect was new? Should the video have a bit of dirt amongst the flowers?
Maybe it’s ok for the video to be like this. Let’s Planet don’t seem to have an edgy rock side to them. They’re a sweet indie pop band who write thoughtful lyrics like “your indecision is costing everyone”. They almost seem to exist outside the realm of the regular world of music – a bunch of people who quite like making music, who recorded some songs and came up with an album. And they still appear to be doing stuff.
When an 18-year-old dude sings about “Scorpio Girls”, those “bad bitchin’ babes [who] get my guitar strumming”, you know it’s not realistically based on a reality of a man tormented by a never-ending influx of devilwomen messing up his life. It’s more likely about being an 18-year-old who wants to have sex but all the girls say no.
This “Scorpio Girls” video takes place in three locations – a live concert, a dark spooky room (via the Northhead tunnels), and the chamber of Scorpio Girls. The chamber is a white room where girls in black jeans and sweatshirts shove the band. It looks exactly like a bunch of girls who’ve been instructed to shove a band around for a music video, and most of them are obviously really enjoying themselves, looking more like “Whee-hee! I’m in a Supergroove music video!” than “Grrr! I’m a Scorpio Girl! Hide ur penis!”
This all goes to prove that the Scorpio Girls concept is a purely fictional construct. There are no Scorpio Girls, just fans who dig Supergroove. But it is good the song exists, because it has the great chant-along “Oooooh! Ah-ha!” bit.
Best bit: DIY lighting effects – waving torches while running through the dark tunnels.
After years of this video only being available on weird European websites, finally NZ On Screen have stepped up and are hosting it. Hooray!
It helps that the “If I Were You” video looks a bit like the opening titles of a Bond film, but instead of naked ladies, it’s the Straitjacket Fits that are presented in overlapping colourful images, complete with water shimmers and fireworks.
“If I Were You” was the Straitjacket Fits final NZ On Air-funded video, and indeed their final single. It’s not such a great swansong – all angry and paranoid (though with some lovely guitar), but the video manages to take the edge of the anger.
I am utterly charmed by this band. They are a five-piece folk-rock band, with a 100% geek membership. Their lead singer has a cherub-faced androgynous look going on, and they all look like they’ve been taking music lessons since they were kids.
The band play the song in a slightly shabby looking Vulcan Lane, in front of a wall of band posters (one for an Elvis impersonator). It seems like they’ve chosen an inner city location to make up for their own lack of cool, but they should have just owned their geekfulness. I meaan, they’re so geeky, the chorus ends with the hilariously anti-BJ line “stop going down”.
There’s one great bit where a band member steps up on a park bench, then almost immediately steps down, as if he knows that standing on a bench is not what a good citizen does.
It’s obviously low budget and a bit repetitive, but it captures the charm of the band and is a good debut as any.
Best bit: a brief shot of an old man enjoying an ice cream.
Note: this video has since been made private so it can no longer be viewed. Booo.
Watching this video is a little bittersweet, knowing that Emma hit a rough patch soon after and left the music industry for over a decade. In the video she’s young and seems to be singing a message of hope. If only.
The video is lovely, with slow black and white footage of Maori in small towns around New Zealand, including plenty of staunch-as bros looking real hard, eh. Meanwhile, Emma busks on the streets of Auckland, with passersby passing her by, though the infamous Queen Street busker stops for a look.
“System Virtue” feels like it has a positive and uplifting message, but Emma seems to have been studying the Shayne Carter style of singing, leaving the verses sounding like they might just be make up of interesting sounds, rather than meaningful sentences. And “system virtue” – what does that even mean? But does it need to have a meaning?
By the way, if you love this song, stay away from the album version on Oxygen of Love. The distinct jangly guitar and meandering bass is gone, with distracting backing vocals inserted. The general appeal and emotion of the song has been smothered with full-on pop production style, more suited to a Feelers track. But thankfully the one-two punch of the original recording and its video are how the song is best known.
Directed by Josh Frizzell, the “System Virtue” video won Best Video at the 1994 New Zealand Music Awards.
Best bit: the lady enjoying a cup of tea in an Arcoroc mug.