Otara Phil Harmonic “Drummer Boy”

This is an interesting one. The Otara Phil Harmonic was a Phil Fuemana project, with vocals by Johnny Sagala and Ermehn, and Lole singing the chorus. This song might not actually have had NZ On Air funding. But the one thing I do know is that on Christmas Day 1994, “Drummer Boy” was at number 40 in the charts, before quietly slipping away into the silly season. But then they were up against Purest Form’s yuletide power ballad.

While the song is very loosely based around the classic Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy”, it’s not an overtly Christmas song. It has rapped verses with Lole singing about her “drummer boy” in the chorus. It’s very reminiscent of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s 1991 hit “Summertime” but with a random Christmas theme. But maybe that’s the problem. It’s too Christmassy to appeal as a regular hip hop track, but not Christmassy enough to become a yuletide classic.

The video is shot around South Auckland. It looks pretty low budget (which would suggest it’s not NZOA funded, but I’ve seen cheaper looking videos made with funding) but the quality of shots varies. Lole is filmed dressed like an office worker, sitting in a chair that looks like office reception seating. It’s like they popped in during her lunch break and filmed the chorus.

The rapped bits are done outside, around the back of some shops and it looks good. It’s the delicate balance of picking a location that looks edgy enough to work in a music video, but still looks like New Zealand.

But the best thing is the dancers. I like dancing in a music video. There’s not a lot of it, probably because it’s quite complicated to arrange and film, but this video gets it. A group of dancers break out some slow-mo moves, filmed in front of colourful roller doors as the golden-hour light makes everything look amazing.

Best bit: all the rappers sensibly wear sunglasses as they’re facing the bright sunshine.

Next… all the groove of the Pacific.

Love Soup “You”

1994-love-soup-youWell, this is an interesting video. Love Soup was Bic Runga’s high school band, a duo with Kelly Horgan, later of the Heavy Jones Trio. The Cashmere High pair came in third place in the 1993 Smokefreerockquest and part of the prize was a single and video to be released through Pagan Records. Only at around the same time, Sony had began to take an interest in Bic, signed her and bought her recordings from Pagan.

This left the tricky question of what to do with the “You” video. It had been funded and produced and therefore had to be broadcast. This was the old Bic and it wasn’t what she or Sony wanted to present as her New Zealand debut. So in order to tick the boxes, the video screened once, on a lazy afternoon, as a between-programme filler. No one noticed. But when it came time for Bic to properly launch her solo career later in 1995, plenty of people noticed.

The video itself focuses solely on Bic. Kelly doesn’t feature in the video at all, other than his guitar playing on the track. Bic dances around an empty house and on a rocky beach, while wearing long dresses and a garland of flowers. It’s different from the more stylish urban look she took for her solo videos. Because of this, while it’s a great song and Bic is already a skilled performer, it doesn’t quite feel like Bic Runga.

Bic is sometimes joined by a spooky figure, like a CGI shop mannequin. This CGI creature manages to make the video feel really weird. It ends with the figure attached to a wooden frame, in a crucifixion-like pose, floating off into the sky. This might actually be the most unsettling scene I’ve seen in all these videos.

The “You” video is an interesting glimpse into the early days of Bic Runga’s career. And it makes me glad that Sony were prepared to put a bit more money into her later videos.

Best bit: the weird winged creature that swoops past Bic as she emotes on the rocky shore.

Bonus: Watch the 1993 Canterbury final of the Smokefreerockquest. Love Soup start at 5:45.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… some yuletide beats.

Cosa “Still Water”

1994-cosa-still-waterCosa (formerly Cosa Nostra) was a project by producer Trevor Reekie of Pagan Records. “Still Water” is an atmospheric track with a some trip hop and dub styles.

The video was directed by Mark Tierney and has a slight sci-fi flavour to it, a bit like the dream worlds of “Inception”. On a deserted grassy hill, Trevor is beckoned by a curious Asian man who takes him to a relaxing day spa. Though being a slightly weird music video, this ain’t no ordinary relaxing day spa.

Trevor lies down and is pampered by a number of Asian women. Their benevolent stroking seems to take him into a room where some cool people are partying. Is it real? Well, is the relaxing day spa real? Is the Asian man real? It’s all getting pretty Matrix.

Lava lamps blob, parasols spin, bubbles are blown, belly dancers shimmy, fire poi are twirled and the partygoers laze around in a haze. It’s like everyone in the room took too many Neurofen Plus, except for the one guy who’s dancing. Yeah, there’s always the one guy who’s dancing.

But obviously this bliss can’t last. The Asian man appears again, which seems to signal the end of this trip. Trevor wakes up, finding himself next to the reflecting pond at Savage Memorial. It could be considered inappropriate shoot a music video at a mausoleum, but the dreamlike location of the memorial somehow fits with the fantasy/reality theme of the music video. And, well, you wouldn’t get that sort of experience at the Massey Memorial.

Best bit: the partygoer with pixie/Spock ears.

Director: Mark Tierney
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a secret debut.

Purest Form “It’s Christmas”

1994-purest-form-its-christmasPurest Form know how to deliver, and this time they’re delivering a delicious cheese platter for Christmas.

The four are found in three different locations. They can be seen out on the ice at Paradise Ice Skating. This might seem like a romantic Christmassy thing to do, but the four seem to the only people at the rink, making it feel more like a bunch of 12-year-olds having a birthday party treat.

Their second location is a white studio, where they are dressed in almost identical white suits, distinguised only by colour ribbons. So they look like they’re wearing the flags of England (red), Finland (blue), the Maltan city Zejtun (green), and the People’s Democratic Republic of Purist Form, which I have just invented (purple).

The third location is somewhat disturbing. The group are standing next to the unassembled Farmers santa. The santa seems to be getting a fresh paint job, and I think this was the precise paint job that made him look really weird and creepy and started the “Eeew! He looks like a paedophile!” meme. The santa is then shown being trucked to his ’90s home – outside the mall at Manukau. (Kinda cool that South Auckland got the santa for a while.)

This may not be an amazing song, but I’m so glad the video exists. Years later, it brings a special kind of Christmas joy.

Best bit: the acting set-up, complete with a phone box.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

And with this cheerful video – which remarkably happened to coincide with the festive season posts – I’m going to take a break for a couple of weeks and will be back on 9 January kicking off the new year with another new year – 1995.

5000 Ways To Love You has been going for almost six months now. I’ve reviewed over 150 music videos so far and have learned more about music videos in the ’90s than I ever though possible. But the best part of this project is getting all the information from people with tales to tell, and slowly see previously missing videos appear online. Thank you to everyone who’s contributed, but also cheers to those who just enjoy reading the site.

Here’s to more adventures in music videos in 2012!

– Robyn

Throw “Nowhere Near”

1994-throw-nowhere-nearthroAnother video uploaded by Failsafe Records, who comments, “I’m not really sure what this video is supposed to be about … but the colours are pretty.”

Well, I’ll try to explain it. There’s a couple who’ve recently split up. We see their previous relationship times in black and white footage. The man is trying to get back with the woman, but she’s not interested.

She goes to a bar and gets all a bit flirty with other dudes, finally leaving the bar (where a camera crew is filming outside). The man follows her, which is pretty creepy, but she jumps in a car with someone else and disappears into the night. He thought he had a chance with her. He just wanted to give their relationship the chance it deserved.

In the middle of this, there’s lots of footage of Auckland at night – the bright lights of the city. And we briefly get a shot of a clapper board. That and the film crew seen later suggest that maybe this whole video exists only in a filmic sense. In reality, there is no man stalking a woman in downtown Auckland.

Well, I think that’s it. It’s very much a video of its era. It doesn’t do much to sell the band – but as the Failsafe Records YouTube comments note – the band didn’t play live, so I’m sure they had even less interest in appearing in their videos.

Best bit: a reminder of the olden times, before cellphones were in common use, when people made urgent phone calls from phone boxes in the city.

Director: David Reid
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… before they were famous.

Springloader “One More Thing”

1994-springloader-one-more-thingI’m conflicted by this. The song is ok. The video concept is ok. But put together they just don’t work.

It’s an average ’90s indie guitar pop song with slightly miserabilistic undertones, but most oddly, the video uses standard rock visuals of red, gold and blue lighting and lots of smoke. So the song makes the video seem like overkill, while the video makes the song seem dull.

The camera seems really reluctant to get close to the band, instead whizzing past in an attempt to create urgency and excitement in a song that lacks it. And then the smoke effects seem to get out of control, obscuring the band like a thick Hamilton fog. If it were me, I’d go for something moody and black and white, put a mysterious dark-haired girl in it, and get the lead singer to give the camera some sex face.

After all the missing videos from earlier funding rounds, now things are starting to pick up. But it means that as well as videos from the amazing popular bands, all these little bands are coming through too and their work is of mixed quality.

Well, good on Springloader for getting a song recorded and a video made. It’s a pity they faded away.

Best bit: the old station wagon inexplicably parked on stage behind the band.

Director: David Reid
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… how (not) to win back your girl.

Shihad “You Again”

1994-shihad-you-againThis video reminds me of how much of a skinny-arse Jon Toogood used to be. The Fix street press had a cartoon about Jon disappearing when he took behind his microphone. But he had big hair which more than compensated.

“You Again” is a really fat, grunty metal pie. The video is shot in black and white, but with subtle washes of colour. That’s notable – it’s not the sepia rainbow that was in vogue only months earlier.

It’s such a strong, masculine video that’s it’s almost possible to forget this is still part of the world of showbiz. It’s a world where whiteboy dreads look really cool, especially when they’re tossed about in slow motion.

Shihad videos seem better when they’re focusing on the band playing the song, and less on video tricks. Here the four are just playing the song, showing how they work together – even when it’s kind of pretend for the music video.

Best bit: drummer Tom’s staunch-as sunglasses.

Director: Darryl Ward
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: the forecast is for fog.

Malchicks “Milestone”

1994-malchicks-milestonecksFailsafe Records are a YouTube goldmine. In their comments for this video, they note that as the band’s bass player (and vocalist on this song) had moved to Japan, the video was partly made up of videos of her hanging out around Japan.

It’s sweet tourist videos – long train rides with Japanese suburbs passing by, visiting temples, train stations, busy city streets at night. All new and different. Meanwhile back in New Zealand, there’s local footage of the Aotearoan countryside rushing past from a car, sheep blocking a country road, a golden sunset.

It’s showing the two countries at their best. The New Zealand traveller in Japan holds on to her memories of the peaceful Aotearoa rural scenes; when she returns to New Zealand, she remembers the lovely old shrines. The boring stuff, that doesn’t get remembered.

Best bit: the “REDUCE SPEED NOW” sign seen in the New Zealand countryside.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… skinny-arse hair rock.

Hello Sailor “Never Fade Away”

More nostalgia from Hello Sailor. The lyrics examine the sacrifices and the achievements made.

The video is centred on Hello Sailor playing on the street down the road from their old stomping ground of the Gluepot bar in Ponsonby. This is cut together with archival footage of memorable moments in New Zealand history – Olympic athletics wins, the Howard Morrison Quartet, World War II newsreel footage, the Beatles tour and Hillary on Everest.

The video seems like quite a strong effort to create something that is a very emotional experience for New Zealanders, but it’s hard to equate dying on a battlefield with winning a medal for the long jump.

The song is about remembering past glories and not letting them fade from our collective memory. But as I’ve discovered already with this project, it’s very easy for things to fade from memory.

Best bit: the sinking realisation that I can’t recognise all the notable Kiwis.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… holiday videos from Japan.