Look Blue Go Purple, 1983. Standing, left to right: Kathy Bull, Denise Roughan, Lesley Paris. Seated are Norma O'Malley (left) and Kath Webster. - Michael Smith

Look Blue Go Purple’s 1991 album Compilation is the winner of the 2024 Independent Music NZ Classic Record award. Part of the Taite Music Awards, the accolade is in recognition of an album which is more than 20 years old and continues to inspire New Zealanders. Members of LBGP – Francisca Griffin, Norma O’Malley, Lesley Paris, Denise Roughan and Kath Webster – share their thoughts on a selection of favourite New Zealand songs.

Francisca Griffin

Split Enz – ‘Give it a Whirl’

It’s late 1979, I’ve just cut off my hair and in a week I’m on my way to Canada to explore the new me and make my fortune. I sure did find a new me, and the fortune I found was that I REALLY loved music and wanted to learn how to play an instrument. A bass player I became …

In the 70s Split Enz was one of my favourite bands, when Frenzy came out of course I loved it – but most of all I loved ‘Give it a Whirl’. The way it rises as it starts – still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. And the Finns telling me to just ‘Give it a Whirl’:

No, never give up, giving in, it’s like kissing goodbye
There’s a thrill, that you’ll never know, if you never try
Why don’t you give it a whirl?

Thanks fellas, I did :)


The Clean – ‘End of My Dream’

It’s winter 1982, Martyn [Bull] has just come home from tour with The Chills, it was a triumph for the now three-piece. He’d pretty much slept all the way home in the back of the van, then the day after he arrived back we both woke feeling unwell. So off we went to our respective doctors. Knock on the door at 9 or so the next morning, Martyn’s doctor is standing there – of course it’s not good. That’s the start of the journey that we all know ended July 18, 1983. The Clean’Great Sounds Great has just come out, so it’s on high rotation on our stereo. I played ‘End of My Dream’ over & over, as he underwent a course of chemo … trying to make some sense & find some comfort in this sad, yearning, beautiful tune. I would do it all again.


The Beths – ‘Less Than Thou’

I love The Beths, what a perfect delight of a rocky poppy band they are. ‘Less Than Thou’ is another of those slow-build songs, and The Beths do it so well, I just cannot not dance when I hear it. I must look a bit demented when I’m on a walk with headphones on and it comes on! A coming to terms with heartbreak tune, Liz Stokes sums it up so well: “leave me out this time”. Timeless.


Norma O’Malley

Darcy Clay – ‘Jesus I Was Evil’

An energetic joy of a song, loved it since the first time I heard it on student radio back in the day, and saw the video. An effortlessly cool piece of rock’n’roll thrash recorded simply on a four-track in 1997. I never tire of the slightly off kilter wonky beat and the simple witty lyrics that convey a brattish sensibility that never seems to date – “I used to do things and say things, Jesus I was evil” – always makes me smile! In my opinion it still sounds as fresh and fun now as it did back then, it’s timeless and a genuine New Zealand classic. I can only imagine what Darcy Clay might have gone on to achieve had he not died so tragically young, such a talent and such a loss.


Fetus Productions – ‘What’s Going On’

Where to begin with this wonderful song from Fetus Productions – I thought it one of the most sophisticated things I’d ever heard back in the early 80s when it was released. Recorded in 1981 and 1982 in Sydney and then released on Flying Nun in 1983. From the nonchalant cough and the simple “hello” at the beginning to the very end it is a complex, spacious and captivating piece of music. A background heartbeat from the kick drum and straightforward yet quietly uplifting lyrics that pack a punch. An incredible melody in general. but the organ break scattered throughout the song is a thing of great and special beauty to my ears and something I never tire of. Blessed with the kind of pristine production that never dates – this song could have been recorded yesterday and would still be as fresh and relevant now as it was 40 years ago – a quiet masterpiece!


Estere – ‘I Spy’

A perfectly crafted nifty little pop song by the hugely talented Estere. Released in 2014 it was written by her and also self produced – the production alone is such a credit to her: slick, bright and fresh! I’m a sucker for a bit of whistling so this song had me from the git-go. I love the quirky yet intelligent lyrics – “rubbish bins fuller than the children” and “you’re lucky if you’re born in the right domain”, “gobble them, grind them”. Couple the lyrics with a cracking melody and the interesting song structure, and you have a song that sounds like no other, surely always a marker of a great talent and a great song. Hope she goes on to make many more gems like this wee beauty.


Lesley Paris

Marie & the Atom – ‘Isol’

This song struck me the first time I heard it. ‘Isol’ is from 1983 Yellow Read Aloud EP by Auckland group Marie & the Atom who were Gill Civil, Virginia Were and Sarah Westwood. They came to Dunedin in 1984 and played a show with Look Blue Go Purple at an art gallery in Dowling Street. I wish I had a better memory of this show.

This track, ‘Isol’, is a thing of beauty, managing to sound experimental and spontaneous, yet cleverly crafted at the same time. With elegantly swooping strings and bass, keyboards and percussion, the song has an ebb and flow rhythm that carries Gill Civil’s vocals: “there is no one who will fish me out of the sea”.

There’s an unsettling other-worldly-ness to ‘Isol’ that puts it in a realm of its own. I loved it then and it still astounds me 40 years later.


Nelsh Bailter Space – ‘New Man’

The 12" EP cover is a full colour photo by Alister Parker capturing a detail of a styley metal film projector. Sleek packaging for the mighty powerful machine of a track contained within.

Driven by Hamish Kilgour in smacking motorik mode, Ross Humphries on bass, with Glenda Bills on keyboards, you can hear the sparks flying between them all. Sparks fired from Alister Parker’s molten metal guitaring. I really do love this harsh, huge song they are building in there. “Look to the forward/ not to the back” is a fine maxim too. On Alister Parker’s continuum from The Gordons to Bailter Space, this short late 80s Nelsh period is well worth hanging around in. There are six tracks here and the other highlight, courtesy of Hamish, is the glorious version of The Clean’s ‘I’m In Love With These Times’.


The Clean – ‘Getting Older’

Euphoria! This song is EPIC. Led by David Kilgour’s climbing/descending guitar line at the beginning, shared by Bob Scott’s bass and Hamish’s call-to-attention snare drum – this song has made me run to the front at their gigs, dance on tables at the Empire, sing at parties (and in my own kitchen), loudly harmonising “any other pla-aaace” and punching the air to “1, 2, 3, 4”.

It’s difficult to write about this existential pop song now that Hamish is no longer on the planet but the coolly precocious lyrics are of their time.

‘Getting Older’ is definitely getting more poignant as we get older (if we’re lucky). And I know I’m lucky to have grown up with The Clean, a phenomenon of a live band, you never knew what kind of Clean gig you were in for but they were always “on” and often “out there”. Thank you David, Bob and Hamish (RIP).


Denise Roughan

Suburban Reptiles – ‘Saturday Night Stay at Home’

This was a song that got me on my feet the moment I first heard it at about age 15, from its intriguing opening bars to its trashy raucousness and fantastic vocals from Zero (RIP); one of those songs that inspires you to be in a band of your own, especially as a young woman. Reputedly one of the first two punk bands in New Zealand, the Suburban Reptiles captured the sound of punk, but their sensibility was more art rock, especially by the time Phil Judd joined in and wrangled this song into shape. You can hear the sound of the soon-to-be Swingers throughout, which isn’t a bad thing. The Ghost Club had designs to cover it (we even had a friend who played saxophone), but it stayed in the too-hard basket for too long, and we abandoned the idea eventually. Has anyone ever covered this song?


The Gordons – ‘Adults and Children’

Another of those loud, heavy songs that made my scalp tingle the first time I heard it, and it still does. The fact that the main lyrics are more or less recited from the back of a pill packet is genius, coupled with the thunderous sound of just three instruments. Nothing I’ve heard sounds anything like it. It’s unabashedly abrasive music that’s also great to dance to. I can’t deny that I’m drawn to this style of music; it has an energy that drags you in and throws you around, and not necessarily physically. It must have been great fun to play live.


The Clean – ‘Twist Top’

The Clean has always been one of my favourite New Zealand bands. Their music endures down the years. I have numerous favourite songs by them but ‘Twist Top’, from Unknown Country is once again a song that gets me out of my chair and dancing. It’s a Hamish song, and a particularly groovy one at that. It’s a pure pop gem that rollicks along sounding joyous all the way. But the lyrics are also cautionary, referring to the “monkeys in the suits … doing such a beautiful job of squashing all the slobs … ah, the misery of money”, delivered in Hamish’s inimitable style. I also love that this song is a kind of time capsule: it dates it with the refrain “Three million people can be wrong”, presumably referring to the population of New Zealand at the time, which seemed to be stuck on about three million for ages to my memory. Thanks Hamish, we miss you.


Kath Webster

Chris Knox – ‘The Outer Skin’

It’s the lyrics. This song, oh my god, it makes me cry with its tender sentiments. “We’re as close as two coats of paint on a windswept wall.” Chris Knox has so many absolutely genius songs but this one, jeez. I love the version by Sean Donnelly on the Stroke Songs for Chris Knox project – it’s fuller and warmer than the original and it’s wonderful to sing along to. Which I do, especially in the wooooaoaoh bits. In my car. Up loud. The original was on the Duck Shaped Pain album and Chris sings it accompanied by that distinctive tinny keyboard, in an angular way that almost makes a mockery of the song’s beauty. Like he’s aware it could have been a ballad, a loving quest into closeness between humans, how it can be impossible, but nah, he’ll just lay it out in slightly gloomy tone, with a tinge of the defeated. Painful but honest.



Snapper – ‘Hang On’ / ‘Buddy’

When I bought the Snapper EP featuring this song, wrapped up in its glorious cover art, I’d recently left Dunedin and was sad about it. It cheered me up, immensely and instantly. It played high-rotate while I danced about feeling reconnected with what I’d left behind, the shape of those times burning into my new life, the potent tonic I badly needed. The sheer energy of ‘Hang On’, the urgency, the edgy confidence, the buzz of that song thrilled me with its super cool drone, driving rhythm and bright, cutting guitar line. Gorgeous. And yes, you gotta make up your own mind, you gotta feel good about doing wrong, you gotta hang on, yeah – hang on. Then came the ‘Buddy’ video! I remember being surprised and impressed that these people – Christine, Peter, Alan, Dom – had biker connections. Until that moment I hadn’t thought they could get cooler, but hey.



Tiny Ruins – ‘How Much?’

There were several contenders for which song would be one of my top three from the more recent era of New Zealand music, with so many truly incredible singer-songwriters with stunning voices, but this song is the ear-worm. Gorgeous bass, groovy swinging rhythm, swirls of otherworldly surprise and while the story of it – pondering the future of a new relationship – is an old one, Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins) puts a new lens on it with the best question to ask a new lover. How much will you invest? It’s cool, calm and real. There is power in its sureness. It’s such a simple and effective hook, the sliding How much? I also love this song because it was introduced to me by someone who knew I’d like it, who put it on and watched my reaction. I like how music connects in that way and when I hear ‘How Much’, I think of Bella.