Perception of local videos
Although some bands disliked being put through the Avalon mill, appearing on Radio With Pictures via a video clip soon became a crucial vehicle for exposure to the local scene, and bands tended to watch the playlists closely. As the Sneaky Feelings’ ‘Better Than Before’ put it, “Every Sunday night at 10 we’d sit and watch the music show end/And we’d discuss just how it was that they got on instead of us.”
Karyn Hay (RWP host): They just knew they had a home with us. They knew that we were simpatico and we were just on the same page, so if it was new and original and coming out of New Zealand, we would play it. It didn’t really matter in terms of the actual production values of the video, that was irrelevant. It was just good music and the visuals married up, especially with the Dunedin Flying Nun contingency because they really knew what they were doing, even though what they were doing at the time was very alternative; it isn’t now, you know. And we had that philosophy too, that it was as good as anything elsewhere in the world, and it was groundbreaking in that regard so we needed to promote it.
Bruce Russell (The Dead C, Xpressway impresario): While the primary aspiration was to make records and play gigs, having a video on Radio With Pictures was something which by the mid-80s you would expect a decent band to have the opportunity to do. Look Blue Go Purple, for instance, made two or three videos and because they were a big part of my social scene I can certainly remember it. When we knew that their video was going to be played it would be an occasion pretty much for a Sunday night shindig, drinking and carrying on and watching the video.
Simon Morris: [on whether local videos fit in alongside international ones] I think they did. I think the main reason they sat well with the overseas clips is that we tried to get as much variety within the show as possible. Our motto largely was, “if you like this clip, you’ll hate the next one,” and vice versa. There was one of those sort of things where you’d think, “oh Jesus, that’s going to look a little bit rough if you put it up against there because it’s the same sort of music but clearly a lot cheaper clip.” But after a while people rather liked seeing the New Zealand stuff, so we worked fine.
Peter Blake: We did our best to balance international with local content. We took care to showcase a large number of New Zealand artists. I think it’s fair to say there were more artists suitable for RWP than for RTR, simply because that was where the majority of local recorded music existed at the time, as there wasn’t a burgeoning original pop market. So there was balance from week to week, and it was nice to get our quota of local content into RWP. Sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we didn’t.
¶ Some viewers of the show recall Radio With Pictures reserving a slot at the very end – just before the Sunday horrors began – for a New Zealand video, often one that was somewhat left-field. Producer Brent Hansen strenuously denies that such “ghettoisation” took place. In the absence of easily accessible records of the show’s playlists, this point is unable to be verified, and the debate is left to people’s competing recollections.
John Chrisstoffels (The Terminals, music video director): Yes, some, and there’s some funny stories, yeah absolutely it was almost like the thing tacked on at the end.
Bruce Russell: Certainly some people resented the ghettoisation. Your aspiration was if you made a video it would be played once in that slot [at the end of the show], in that special ghetto slot. And some people probably were quite negative about that.
Brent Hansen: We would usually have an opener which almost invariably wasn’t a New Zealand song, depending on who they were. And then they would be in twos and threes – so there would be a link of information, tour guides, album covers, news from the NME – and in those days the NME was the bible. And then there would be two or three of something – and New Zealand bands would be in one of those brackets, usually in the middle of the show. Certainly I don’t ever remember closing on a New Zealand band unless it was like a Live at Mainstreet or one of those sorts of concerts. But, generally speaking, they were just in the mix. We never ghettoised it. The only way you might say it was ghettoised was that it was usually played with another New Zealand band because it seemed only fair.
¶ To some observers, the show’s ambition to legitimise New Zealand music by having locally made videos played back-to-back with international bands backfired. Soon after the launch of MTV in 1981, the music video budgets for international acts began to increase exponentially, but the time and resources available at Avalon remained limited.
Brent Hansen: A lot of the bigger acts looked more comfortable on Ready To Roll than they did on Radio With Pictures because they had the budget to compete. You go from that to Russell Mulcahy and massively expensive stuff; Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was over a million dollars. And they blew the world from crappy little multi-camera concert pros to super high-end David Bowie videos and Talking Heads videos. I mean it just made the New Zealand stuff look so poor and it was just a factor of effort and money. It’s crazy.
Andrew Fagan: It contributed to the huge schism between the two; the overseas artists being regarded as good and the local artists being regarded as bad because the videos were so low budget.
Independent music videos by TVNZ
Not all of the videos made for Radio With Pictures were made at Avalon, though. Partly attributable to the costs associated with transporting bands to Avalon, and partly to the ingenuity of TVNZ staff in the regions, many videos were made on location, in bands’ natural habitats. Some bands worked with their own hand-chosen (or, on very rare occasions, record-label appointed) directors, many of them emerging filmmakers or freelancing photographers or cameramen. But many had music videos made by enterprising TVNZ employees who squeezed the planning, shooting, and editing of the clip into their normal work day.
Music videos had occasionally been made this way since the 1960s, when NZBC crews put together clips for the likes of The Underdogs (‘Sitting in the Rain’, 1967) and The Avengers (‘Love, Hate, Revenge’, 1968), which were used to fill programming gaps in the schedule. Peter Janes, who joined NZBC in 1967, worked on some of these clips, and found like-minded people with whom he practised shooting and editing by making music video clips on his days off, such as one for The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’. When the demand for greater volumes of music videos intensified in the early 1980s, Janes’s experience was called on to cover the Dunedin scene especially.
Peter Janes (music video director): Mostly by that stage we had our own cameras, but we used NZBC footage, like old news stock. We had 400 foot of film and if we did an interview and it only lasted 350ft we’d get 50ft and call it a short end. You couldn’t really start an interview with 50ft because you know by the time you got going you’ve got to change mags, and politicians and whatever didn’t like that. So we used to take all these short ends and use them for our own films.
Keith Tannock (contributor, Radio With Pictures): But some of the cameramen of a certain generation, who’d been around a while, and who were very interested in what was going on in the music scene, used their spare time to also shoot stuff. And they would beg, borrow, and steal film stock and other equipment – sometimes with the knowledge of TVNZ and sometimes not – and they’d shoot clips that would end up on Radio with Pictures.
Peter Blake: I wouldn’t want to put a number on it but there were quite a lot made that way. In addition to Avalon studio clips and in-house originated location clips, I worked with and funded a number of independent filmmakers to produce film clips. This gave us a location look and a different feel from the Avalon studio look. Filmmaker Bruce Morrison in Auckland would be a good example. Quite a number of quality clips were made this way. Some film clips were made with TVNZ film people, including Peter Janes in Dunedin, who covered a lot of the early Flying Nun bands. Staff directors Brent Hansen and Simon Morris directed some, including ‘For Today’ by the Netherworld Dancing Toys and ‘Beatnik’ by The Clean respectively. You got a different look, a location look, a film look and post editing allowed more flexibility.
¶ While these regional music video directors had a greater variety of locations to work with and more time (if they could find it), they arguably had even fewer resources than the staff bunkered at Avalon enjoyed. Although their normal day job was covering local news, they typically weren’t paid any extra above their salary for producing these videos for shows like Radio With Pictures, nor were they provided a budget for the shoot.
Peter Janes: Well that was me, we never had any money. I was working for TVNZ and particularly in Dunedin, when I started down there, and I went down there in 1978 I think it was. Because I’d worked in Wellington I knew a few of the muso people on Grunt Machine and Radio With Pictures, Peter Blake particularly. I’d be shooting, we’d be shooting my missus of the day – she was a journalist and she worked on the local town and around show, it was called The South Tonight or something – and she would say, “oh this band’s coming to town, we’ll do an interview,” and we’d con the news people into letting us do an interview. Then we’d say to the band, “we’ll do a clip with you at the same time.” We did that with a couple of bands, The Crocodiles, and same with Toy Love, we did ‘Good Old Joe’, where there’s an interview at the start of that, and then we did the video. Flight X-7 was another, that was just us doing it because we could. There was no money in it, there was no thought involved even. We’d just go out to the band, you know, “shall we shoot a clip here,” or there was a little bit of thought, because I always liked to do a bit of live footage, and enhance it with a bit of wacky stuff as well. Like on [The Crocodiles’] ‘Telephone Lover’, with a shoot going down to the bedroom, this bachelor’s pad with a mirror on the ceiling and parcel chute going down to the ground floor. We did the Toy Love interview in the graveyard, so we decided to shoot the actual clip there, so it was all on the spur of the moment. No, I hate all this planning. You can overthink these things. So I thought, “my thing is to just knock it on the head before the band gets bored,” and just make it as funky and get as many shots as you can, because if you go back to the editing room and you’ve got a song that’s four to five minutes long, you’re running out of footage very early on unless you keep repeating yourself, so I learned early on you had to shoot the shit out of it.
Alec Bathgate: [on shooting the video for ‘Good Old Joe’] We’d come back from Australia so we returned and we did a final tour, and we split up at the end of that tour, so we would have just been passing through Dunedin. We probably would have done the Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, so we would have only been in town for a few days. I think it was very much that sort of situation, grabbing a camera and like, “oh where can we go?” I don’t think there was any more planning than that, it was just, “let’s drive down the road to the cemetery,” which wasn’t that far away from TVNZ – and just shoot something very quickly. That was shot within an hour or a couple of hours, and so there was the clip of us miming, and a short interview that goes with it. It was very controversial, because people when it was screened were offended that we were desecrating the graveyard, and there was a whole flurry of letters to the Otago Daily Times. I think my mum kept them for me because this went on for quite a while, and only died down after a week or two, but just because some people were really angered by it and other people kind of supportive, it just kept going for a bit. There were still just two TV channels back then, so I imagine those local news programmes probably got quite high coverage coming straight after the national news, so they were probably watched by quite a few people. I remember I was at home with my parents when it was screened, and my mum said, “there’s going to be a lot of trouble over this,” which was the first time it actually occurred to me that it might upset people, because I didn’t think anything of it. The actual graveyard was quite derelict, no one was taking care of it so, you know it wasn’t like it was pristine.
Paul Kean (Toy Love, The Bats): Graveyards are very sacred places. You’re taught as a kid to never walk over a grave and here we were, crawling over the bloody things! There was no intent to abuse those peoples’ sacred patches or anything like that, it was just a great location, and if anything it would be to bring attention to a place that could be forgotten.
Peter Janes: Chris Knox was in that sort of enclosed graveyard site, and he had a habit of swallowing stuff. Just before he did that, just before we rolled, he must have filled his mouth up with gravel, because he came down and he was spitting it out as he went. I once saw him in The Cook, and he sang a great version of the Bob Dylan song ‘Positively 4th Street’, but he’d got a mouthful of an ashtray. It was disgusting, ash and cigarette butts, and as he sang – I wish I’d had a camera there – but as he sang he was spitting it out over the people in the front, but it was just such a dynamic rock and roll moment, it was just fantastic. He’s a great performer Chris you know, they were worth going to see when they were happening. So yeah, it didn’t surprise me that he swallowed the gravel.
Peter Blake: I’m not sure how Peter [Janes] managed. Quite honestly, I take my hat off to him. He helped us out so much and in turn the Dunedin music scene. He may have put in some overtime work sheets from time to time, which weren’t directly attributed to the programme [laughs]. Film stock may have been procured through dubious channels – hey I’m joking! – but I respect him very much. He put in a lot of effort and coordinated the filming and editing himself. There were times I wouldn’t know he was working on a clip for the likes of The Chills or The Verlaines and it would suddenly arrive completed on my desk.
Peter Janes: I would just shoot the band if they came to town, and the office, the newsroom would be saying, “why isn’t Peter Janes back by now?” or “Peter Janes is still out shooting a bloody clip.” But it was in the days where nothing much happened in Dunedin, so they really didn’t miss us. We could stay away for hours and not cause them any issue. Everything I did pretty much was [on TVNZ] time. Sometimes I’d get contacted by Peter Blake or Tony Holden, or Alan Thurston or Peter Grattan from Shazam!, who would just ring up Dunedin and say, “can we have Peter Janes?” and they’d say, “you can’t have him this week because he’s on news, but you can have him next week, and we’ve set you aside four days,” or whatever. So that worked for them because they had enough crew down there to shoot their Spot Ons, and their news and all the stuff that they shot, but they had spare days where they could just keep a cameraman busy and a soundman busy with the stuff that came from Auckland, so everyone was happy. But I didn’t get extra money.
Keith Tannock: When bands came to town, like the Neighbours, which was a Rick Bryant band [with Sam Ford and Trudi Green], I specifically remember shooting that one. And there was a band from Timaru called The Tigers, I think, that we shot a video for because they happened to be in town. They would often do a residency at the Captain Cook in Dunedin, which would start on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and run through to Saturday night, with a Saturday afternoon matinee, rather incredibly. That meant that if we shot it for them early enough in the week, we could have a promo out for them by the weekend. If memory serves, a clip would often go out on a Thursday or Friday night and give them a bit of a boost. Midge Marsden would be another one we did that for – there were a few.
¶ Similar to the production work Peter Blake was doing in Wellington on his days off for bands like The Knobz and The Body Electric, regional directors helped local bands make and release their music. One example of this is the work Pat O’Neill was asked to do to get a video made for Heavenly Bodies, Mick Dawson’s post-The Enemy band in 1980. Before the days of Flying Nun, there was little record label interest in the Dunedin scene, so Heavenly Bodies was unsigned and unrecorded. Yet, in order for a music video to be made, there had to be a recorded song to set it to. Tony Holden, the producer of Radio With Pictures at the time, commissioned Pat O’Neill to arrange the recording and production of the song, as well as to make the video. In recognition of the extra labour this entailed, a contract for extra payment to O’Neill was arranged. However, because O’Neill was already employed as a cameraman by TVNZ and it wasn’t typical for TVNZ staff to be paid for this extra work, there were some concerns about creating confusion amongst TVNZ payroll. So the contract was drawn up in O’Neill’s wife’s name instead.
Pat O’Neill: I’ve actually got the correspondence regarding the Heavenly Bodies clip, and that was, it went to air in August 1980. I got permission to use the main studio at DNTV2, and the control room. We got Heavenly Bodies in and we recorded them on the tape, the 4-track or might have even been an 8-track, that they had in the control room at DNTV2 and so we recorded the audio first and then sent that up to Tony Holden, and we had to play with it a little bit. A couple of young technicians, Neil Dolman and Geoff Hooper, they did the audio side of it and I organised getting the band into the TV studio space. Using offcuts and one of the DNTV cameras, I shot a wee clip for The Heavenly Bodies back home. It was quite interesting about the whole event, it was from nothing and this was pre-Flying Nun, pre- all of that thing, so it was quite a historic early recording really of that whole era. It never came out as a record. I think it was pretty much spur of the moment, what do we do now? You know, it was free form, I don’t think we storyboarded. There were some places around Dunedin that were cool to get, like the Big Daddy’s hamburger shop and the Octagon. Partially collaborative, partially me thinking, “well, what will I do now?”
I would have used DNTV facilities [for editing], and then we sent it up to Tony. I actually have the contract here from Television New Zealand, and this is for 26 August 1980 for Ready To Roll, even though the letters I’ve got from Tony [Holden] are from Radio With Pictures. My wife was the named person for Heavenly Bodies, and they paid Heavenly Bodies an appearance fee of $339.57. It was probably done like, “who do we say for the group?” So I just said put my wife’s name down, and it’s got in brackets after her name “for Heavenly Bodies,” so she was treated as the agent for Heavenly Bodies, possibly because they couldn’t pay me. It was sort of parallel to TVNZ, it was done in my free time. That’s why I do view it with quite a bit of mirth, to think that in a way I got away with it, because NZBC/TVNZ in the 70s and 80s was still public service, they had sort of quite strict rules, and that’s probably why the contract couldn’t be made out to me, that’s all I can suppose. Whereas I think Peter Janes’s things were done as part of his work for DNTV. So this one was quite a little alien thing, and quite a buzz to think that they let us use the facilities to do that. One in a million, it wouldn’t have existed otherwise, so from that perspective it is probably quite a classic piece of film work actually.
¶ As at Avalon, the director tended to have the greatest creative input into the clips made on location in the regions.
Keith Tannock: A lot of the time though, bands were guided by what the cameraman thought. A lot of the bands had very definite ideas – of course, some of the ideas on zero budgets were unrealisable [laughs]. But nonetheless, as they got more confident, they would have had more idea of what they wanted and how to go about it. They would have relied on the experience of the cameramen. I guess they could say no, but they more or less did what they were told. It was free publicity, after all. And they understood that and went along with it.
Peter Janes: [on whether the bands had a say in the editing] No not really. They’d be happy just to shoot an interview, be on the TV that night. They knew we were doing a clip, and they’d collaborate there, and we’d have a bit of a fun day, or morning out with them. It would be sort of enjoyable and then they’d go back and play a gig that night, and they’d be off to Invercargill the next day or wherever. So really it was all me directing basically, you know just sort of saying, “use that shot there.” I sort of knew where footage was and what we got ... there’s a Newmatics one which obviously I didn’t shoot enough for, because there’s a guitar solo which just goes on and on, so I just had one shot on the guitar, on the fretboard. It seemed to sort of work, it was in sync and the guy played pretty well, as if he was really playing and so I just let that shot play, but if you did that nowadays they’d say, “oh it’s boring.” I did like holding onto a shot, there’s that bit in the Wallsockets at the end of that documentary where it’s a close up of this woman, the blonde woman, and she’s singing about Sylvia Plath, and the shot just stays on her for the whole time. We had two cameras there but it was just mainly my shots that were used, and that shot of her, it’s mesmerising, it’s powerful. So I just thought, well why cut away? So that was basically a matter of necessity but it also to me, it’s the strength of the performance that sort of holds it together.
Keith Tannock: There’s a thing called A and B roll there. We must have done this with some of the videos, where we’d cut the shoot onto two rolls and would roll them out at the same time when it went out. There’d be an instruction on the script that would say “mix to B from A,” so you could do a wipe or a mix from different sections of it. It was slightly sophisticated although maybe not sophisticated enough for the day. So you’d have two rolls of film, some of which would have big black blank bits on it, blank tape, and then it all matched up when it went to air. That was the only way you could see it in its final form. We didn’t know what it looked like sometimes until it went to air. We had an idea, obviously, but that was the first time we’d seen it.
Selected music videos
Although, as Alec Bathgate mentioned, these video clips made by TVNZ were usually intended to be seen only once, many of them have become iconic thanks to repeated showings over the years on various music television shows, video and DVD compilations, and now on the internet. The creative personnel involved explain how some of the more fondly regarded videos were made.
The Dance Exponents, ‘Victoria’ – 1982
Simon Morris: I was living in Christchurch at that stage. After a year of Radio With Pictures I got transferred to Christchurch for a year to work on some stuff down there. I think it was sort of a career thing, but it drove me nuts after about three or four weeks because I just wanted to get back to rock and roll really. So while we were down there I discovered The Exponents just because I went to a pub once and there they were. There was me, there was a couple of drunks and there was Donna, who was their sound and light person, so we were the only ones there and the band still was having the world’s greatest time. I thought, “Jesus, anyone who can be that positive in such a negative bloody setup they have something going for it.” So we ended up doing a few clips with them, I think the only one of which still exists is ‘Victoria’. I had Mike Single, who was the DOP and we had a small crew but compared to what I was used to it was huge – we had lights, we had grips and people like that. It meant we had time to be able to work something out and I told Mike sort of roughly what I thought the story should be and how it should work and he came up with some great ideas about how it should be shot and things like that. I loved it when we were doing those sort of things because you just had the luxury of a couple of days’ shoot and a day or two editing.
[On the nice parallel where the pimp flicks the cigarette at Jordan Luck’s car near the beginning, then Jordan Luck flicks his cigarette at the pimp at the end as he drives off with the girl] I got very excited about that, and I told Jordan about it and he said “yeah there’s only one problem.” – “What’s that?” – “I don’t smoke.” – “You’re smoking now, mate. You don’t even have to puff it, just hold it.”
The Great Unwashed, ‘Obscurity Blues’ – 1983
Peter Janes: That was Roy Colbert’s house and he did have a music room. There was a keyboard there and there was a funny little thing that Hamish Kilgour put up against his face. That was probably spur of the moment too, but it was a rainy hazy day I think, and we were on the peninsula up where that stone wall was. It was over the back of Larnach Castle, I think it was. It just worked beautifully for that mood of the clip, but really that was just chance. We just went for a drive, I said, “Walk along there and I’ll get this profile shot of you walking.” It just had that sort of feel to it, I loved that. In fact that’s one of my favourite clips. I’ve only just found it again because I thought that was lost, but then saw it on YouTube. I loved the wide angle lenses. You’ve got to do a mixture between wide angle lenses and tight lenses because the tight lens will give you a flattering shot of someone’s face, and you get the emotion and intensity that way. Yeah, I was an early hand holder, I used to hand hold shots because it would give a shot a bit of an energy, you could move quickly and grab a better angle. Sometimes it’s just chance that the person is beautifully lit, because I probably didn’t spend too much time on the lighting. I would have whacked a light in there to make sure I’d get an exposure, but you know the more time you dick around the more bored the people get, so you’ve got to work fast with musicians sometimes, because otherwise they just get bored and you don’t get a great sort of act or image from them. You do something and you think, “fuck, that worked,” and same with walking along the wall, the stone wall, it was just lucky that it was all sort of a misty day. Sometimes you just get lucky with the mood.
The Verlaines, ‘Death and the Maiden’ – 1982
Peter Janes: It was Cargill’s Castle, I think. We turned up at this flat, on the street that Records Records was on [Stuart St], and I expected just The Verlaines to be there, but half of Flying Nun was there: Shayne Carter, The Chills and Martin Phillipps were there, and they just turned it into a bit of a fair, and somebody had bunnies in the house. That worked into it and he put one in his pocket. So these were just sort of things that happened. I was a news cameraman so I’d spot things and think, “I’ll get a shot of that.” I was trained to be observant, so you’d get the coverage but you’d also be getting nice little moments that happened, and then we thought, “well okay we’ve got enough there, where shall we go?” So we said, “I don’t know.” I don’t think I said Cargill’s Castle, but Tony said it was good up there, so everybody jumped in their cars and we got up there, and some of them climbed trees. I just got down on the floor, there was a broken floor or something, so I jumped into this pit and looked up at them. I think they might have had the music playing, but I was just getting shots of them until they got bored, and then there was another shot of them running over the hill. Martin Phillipps was up the tree, bouncing up and down on a branch. So it’s all just sort of footage that was captured, in a day, basically in an afternoon. The silhouettes looked so nice because you don’t have to spell things out, just nice movement, that’s just chance you know, silhouettes in those clips.
Sharon O’Neill, ‘Maxine’ – 1983
Simon Morris: She’d gone to Sydney and had a couple of minor hits but this thing was kind of more major. But, being Sharon O’Neill, she’d made this rather dark gloomy sort of video about people being killed and junkies and all that. That kind of video could get played on Radio With Pictures but it couldn’t get played on Ready To Roll at 6 o’clock. It was a hit, though, so Pete said, “Quick, we must get a video up.” So we knew that Sharon was coming over to do a couple of concerts and I got together with a guy called Waka Attewell and the two of us had a morning to be able to figure it out. And an indication of how sort of ad hoc it all was, we had one day and we started shooting as Sharon got off the plane, we just kept going. I knew Sharon back in the day because I’d done a lot of session singing with her and stuff, so she was pretty cool about it. But it was touch and go that we were going to get the thing finished.
Netherworld Dancing Toys, ‘For Today’ – 1985
Brent Hansen: I was there for all that shot, we just went across Cook Strait and back and were lucky that was the day it was. But the ferry company was more than happy to help us out – I mean I guess they were the only company around in those days so I guess it was good advertising for them. The Netherworld Dancing Toys were a whole different game. Those guys were smart, they were ambitious – I mean their music was up and down I think but they wanted to do a good job but they were also just a bunch of students who were part-time musicians which was incredible. So I am absolutely sure that they probably had problems getting to the boat on time and they are not going to hold the boat for a video shoot right? But we got on board so it must have all happened.
The Narcs, ‘Lazy Susan’ – 1984
Brent Hansen: Shooting on 16mm – it was a very small tolerance in terms of when you could shoot and when it would just be white-out. So we all went down to Wanaka and we spent possibly a week there cheaply – I think we might have had free accommodation given to us by a THC or something. Treble Cone was keen to get something done even though they never got any kind of branding. So what we would do was go onto the ski field and they would check the lighting and if the lighting was no good, The Narcs went skiing. And I just went back to my hotel room because I am not a skier and at night I would go up with the guide with a quadraphonic stereo on a snowplough and we would listen to Pink Floyd on this. We had a lot of time. Treble Cone had their own chopper so sometimes we were able to … a couple of times they allowed us to use the chopper on a trip to do something else – we just did a pass by and shot it so that is how that worked. I am pretty sure it wasn’t part of the budget – it was just there. There was just lots of time. Sometimes we would get an hour shoot and sometimes we got less. So it got stretched out over a week. Peter just let me stay there because he wanted me to do it – the music wasn’t really my cup of tea, but they were actually good and ambitious young guys – they were keen. So we just kept shooting while we had the chance and we had Mike Single, one of the great directors in natural history. I mean that is the thing you forget about TVNZ is that amongst all of us – and there were some pretty amazing people – it was an amazing period with interesting people. If you look at all the people that worked at TVNZ during that period and you look at what they went on to do you would probably find some pretty amazing stuff. So that is all that was – it was a lucky break and we were in an isolated space with a very limited number of windows of opportunity to shoot a video and lots of time to sit around and think about it and therefore to arrange stuff. So if we couldn’t shoot on the ski field then we could take the car on the road and do a bit of the traffic. But if you look at it now, it looks relatively modern, that video. It was one of the few ones that I was allowed to shoot outside of the studio. It was probably the band’s idea. It wouldn’t have been my choice. I am not interested in skiing. I just got assigned. I just got told by Peter Blake to go and do it, I didn’t have any choice over anybody. I couldn’t pick and choose and that didn’t worry me.
Liam Ryan: The reason we did that was because I think CBS must have arranged with TVNZ to do kind of a feature on The Narcs. We’ve all got sort of ski sweaters on and stuff like that and talking about how we’re trying to get to Australia and things like that. But I remember when we did that clip we waited for like four or five days in Wanaka until the weather was right and then they drove us up in the dark up to the top of Treble Cone and then they filmed us and took photographs of the band from a chopper which came up as the sun came up. If you look at the cover of the Great Divide album it’s got the sun coming up behind the band and that’s actually not Photoshopped or anything, it’s the actual photo. That’s the extent they went to. And the funny story about that was that when they’d finished filming the clip they lowered the chopper down and took all our instruments up. They said, “throw your instruments up here,” and we threw them all in thinking, “oh we’ll be in next,” but then they threw out four sets of skis and said, “see you at the bottom.” I’d never skied before. An hour later I could ski, you know, by the time I got to the bottom! But I was quite amazed at the “generosity” or how the hell that happened for us because the TVNZ had a whole film crew with Brent Hansen down there waiting for the weather to be right to get us up there and do it. In the midst of it all our drummer had a fight, an altercation somewhere, so he didn’t get up to make it up on the very day that we were doing the film clip. He couldn’t be found at four or five in the morning if he was still drinking Sambuca on the other side of town. So we had one of our roadies with a balaclava on. If you look at the first part of that clip you’ll see this guy’s got the ski goggles on and the balaclava. It’s actually Jim Rowe, who was our lighting guy. Then halfway through the clip they found Steve and choppered him up and then Jim whipped the balaclava off and they cut Steve into the clip. We had a good guy with us, a guy called Tony McLaughlin who leaned out of the chopper and got those great photos.
Brent Hansen: Were The Narcs happy with their video? They might have been, I don’t really know. I don’t think I ever talked to them again after that – I think it was just do our job and then off we went, we were just part of the process. And that is how it is when you are a hired gun.
This is the fourth in a series of oral-history articles about Radio With Pictures. Dr Lee Borrie teaches art and music history and research at Ara Institute of Canterbury. He completed his PhD in 2007 on the rise of rock and roll and youth culture in the 1950s in the context of Cold War America's containment culture. The bulk of the material used is from interviews conducted as part of a research project examining music video production in New Zealand prior to the establishment of NZ On Air funding.
Our colleagues at NZ On Screen
Frank Stark, NZ Listener
Michael Higgins (producer), Give It A Whirl TV series
Matthew Bannister, Positively George Street: A personal history of Sneaky Feelings and the Dunedin sound, Reed Books, Auckland, New Zealand