Rock from the Edge (4)
By Keith Newman (Copyright 2002-2004)
Creative Kiwis with export success

Revision four: 14-03-2004
  Movie crossover
Who else crossed over, movie soundtrack writers or artists who got their songs in the movies
  Classical and country
May not go into book but would be good for the record
  Conclusion So what does it all mean? An update to 2004
  Kiwi Music Gallery (two pages of photographs from Keith Newman's collection)
  Sources and resources   A need to know basis
I need to know about Kiwi international rock, jazz, country success, particularly in the 60s and 70s so we get the record straight. I think it's going to be difficult to track the future. It's going to be amazing. This is my effort to archived the pioneer. Help me by submitting information, making corrections, supply pictures )
Movie crossover

You might even consider Russell Crowe a musical success having started with his own band aged 16-years and under the stage name Russ le Roq recorded several songs, including the prophetic I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando. He continues to work with Australian unit 30 Odd Foot of Grunts (TOFOG) which has played the US and UK circuit to some acclaim for a number of years. Of course he’s better known as an internationally successful actor having starred in more than 20 movies. If we were to list our contemporary successes in that field it would fill a book on its own and go back to pre-Blerta days. Geoff Murphy played trumpet and co-wrote the Kiwi classic Dance All Around the World with Corben Simpson and collaborated with Bruno Lawrence on all manner of movie experiments before achieving acclaim with Wild Man (1977), Goodbye Pork Pie (1980), Utu (1983) and the Quiet Earth (1986).

Classical and country

In classical music we’ve also made it big on the international stage. Inia Te Wiata, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Melvina Major and Hayley Westenra and Deborah Wai Kopohe are all known on the world stage.

Hayley Westenra however remains one of New Zealand best selling artists locally and internationally. She featured in a best of New Zealand tour to the US in 1993 which played to full houses in large concert venues and also starred Ben Morrison, Tim Beveridge, Gray Bartlett, Brendan Dugan and Taisha.

It was announced in January 2004 that 16-year old Westenra had sold one million copies of her album Pure worldwide. The last artist to sell a million was OMC in 1996. Pure released in September 2003 became the best selling debut album in the history of British classical charts. She is also the New Zealand Top 50 chart record holder for having the number one album for 15 weeks and had sold about 150,000 copies. Here album was released in the US in March.

US-based Kiwi Keith Urban won Best New Male Performer at the American Country Music Awards in Nashville in May 2001. He also scored a number one record on the influential American Radio and Records chart in October 2002. Urban who has worked with Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks moved to Australia when he was six now lives in Nashville.

In country music Tex Morton was the ultimate pioneer attaining a strong following in Australia and North America during the 1950’s. He was a recording star, singer-songwriter, circus entrepreneur comic book author, Hollywood screen actor and hypnotherapist.

John Hore toured Australia in 1964 for a round of night clubs, hotel and TV appearances. The Top Twins have a strong following in Australia and London. Gray Bartlett (MBE) however is New Zealand’s top selling instrumentalist having achieved a number two spot on the Japanese charts in the late 1960s and accumulated significant sales in China and Australia since then.

The Convairs were apparently in the UK in the mid sixties, the Folkestone Three (known as the Harbour Lites in the UK) went to the there in 64.

Eddie Low has been writing and recording as well as touring for over 40 years. The former member of the Quintikis Showband, which toured extensively throughout New Zealand in the 1960s, toured as a solo act with Howard Morrison, John Hore, Paul Walden and Peter Posa. From 1970 he began getting work outside New Zealand including Fiji. The blind performer was invited by the Country Music Association of America to take part in the Grand Ole Opry birthday celebrations held in Nashville and recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville He toured Canada and US several times to support his singles. In the late 70s he moved to Australia where he regularly appears on the club scene and on radio and TV.Michael Scorey is billed in the UK as ‘New Zealand's Billy Bragg’, a ‘wandering minstrel’ and a ‘street poet’.  His album Angel Station made the finals of the NZ Music Awards in the Folk Category in 2002.

Country performer Glen Moffatt has regularly toured offshore and spent considerable time impressing the Australians and his music has received high rotate airplay on a number of stations there. Former Kiwi country recording star Noel Parlane is now living and working  in Brisbane.

Singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist Wayne Roland Brown has collected over 130 musical instruments from 32 countries. He has been assimilated into Australia and US. His song Essential Sensual was included on the soundtrack for the movie Cocktail and he appeared on a CD collaboration with Australia’s instrumental group Tone Patrol in 1987.

New Zealander and Nashville favorite, Kylie Harris has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and shared the stage with Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, The Irish Rovers and Charley Pride.

The most widely appropriated song from New Zealand may be Farewell to the Gold  by Paul Metsers which was performed on a number of albums and picked up by Bob Dylan (bootleg 1991 Himself) and performed as The Miners Song at Youngstown Ohio, in Nov 1992.

Kiwi icons the Topp Twins. have toured internationally since 1987 and received rave reviews for their shows in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US.  Their distinctive brand of entertainment has attracted something of a cult following through their appearances at folk music festivals in Canada, fringe theatre festivals in Edinburgh and Adelaide, comedy festivals in Montreal and Melbourne, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and just about every major country music festival in Australia. In fact the Topp Twins have become one of Australia’s most popular country music acts.

Back to Kiwis in Australia & the US

So what does it all mean?

There’s something about living in New Zealand that brings out the best in creative people. Perhaps its being on the literal edge of the world that makes us feel like we have to prove ourselves, to make do with what we have and turn it into something that others need or want.

If we’d begun to recognise musicians and songwriters forty years ago as being part of a legitimate industry worthy of building up and managing we could by now be reaping billions of dollars in export earnings from international success.

Being successful in the New Zealand music business however, remains a do-it-yourself affair unless you are one of the fortunate few to achieve high radio and television exposure and have a record company that believes in your export potential.

Many who venture out on their own are faced with few suitable venues, record and management deals that leave them in debt and a less than cordial reception from the major radio networks. The consequence for the would-be pop or rock star is often financial crisis, disappointment and burn out. Many are forced to quit their dreams and ‘get a real job’.

We’re not very comfortable blowing our own trumpet, banging our own drum or telling the world or even each other that we’re good at what we do. There’s a place for genuine humility but no marketing or advertising agency or even record company would recommend those qualities if trying to sell our music offshore.

Despite being up against the world and "market forces", we know it’s up to us to affirm that we have what it takes, because no-one’s going to hand it to us on a plate. We know that we have a heritage, a legacy of beating the odds, an instinct for survival.

New Zealand has done exceptionally well considering its tiny 3.8 million population. It has produced the kind of determination that conquers the highest mountains (Sir Edmond Hillary, Everest, 1953) and helped split the atom (Sir Ernest Rutherford) and a heritage of musical and artistic talent that is now accepted as being of global quality.

Our musical talents have filled auditoriums with their sheer vocal presence  (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Inia Te Wiata, Dame Melvina Major, Hayley Westenra, Deborah Wai Kopohe) and unique brand of pop music (Split Enz, Crowded House, Dragon, Hello Sailor, Fur Patrol, Zed, Chris Knox). Those acts were simply the groundbreakers to open the way for the world to realise Kiwi creativity is alive and well and will not be subordinate to the tall poppy syndrome or any other form of dumbing down. Unless the answer to a 2002 Metro quip  “can you have the tall poppy syndrome and still be a wilting violet?” is in the affirmative.

There’s no doubting the evidence New Zealanders for the size of the place have done bloody well on the international scene.

Europe, the UK and the rest of the world need genuine, honest creativity in the midst of the regurgitated hits of the past and the fluff and crassness that passes for pop in many parts of the. New Zealand by contrast has something down to earth, honest and passionate, which has already proven itself over decades and remains a relatively untapped export industry.

In December 2003 New Zealand artists accounted for six of the top 10 albums and 15 of the top 50. Hayley Westenra, Scribe, Brooke Frazer, Bic Runga, the feelers and Elemeno P all rated. This has been the strongest showing of Kiwi music for many years. New Zealanders are also continuing to appear all around the world and are coming to international recognition through their recording and performing successes.

While this document largely focuses on those who made an impression in the earlier decades I have tried to keep it up to date as modern day artists continue to prove that Kiwis can fly. all contributions gratefully received and published.

The best talent will continue to export itself with no financial return to this nation unless we formalise the means to get behind the industry and have artists establish their financial base here. It’s time to be prepared, get CVs up to date, make sure our musical heritage is in a digital format with the copyrights secured and the stage act well rehearsed and rearing to go when the new breed of A&R managers come calling.

Back to Rock Exports intro

Resources and research
Bruce Sergent's thorough site of Kiwi rock:
(Ray Columbus, Peter Posa and Max Merritt photos from Bruce's site)

The Kiwi Edge:
Kimball Duncan’s pages on the Australasian rock scene

Oldies website:
Andrew Schmidt:
Stranded in Paradise
(John Dix)
Hostage to The Beat
(Roger Watkins) 1995
When Rock Got Rolling (Roger Watkins) 1989
Endless research and interviews by Keith Newman.
Ricky May, Frank Gibson Jnr, Mike Nock, Shona Laing and Billy TK by Keith Newman

Individuals who’ve helped with key information so far:
Maurice Greer, Suzanne Lynch, Dalvanius Prime, Phil Yule, Ray Columbus, Bill Hester, Lynne Thompson of Wild Rose Music,  Alison Poulsen, Andrew Schmidt, Rikki Morris, Vicki Perjanik, Bruce Sergent, Kimball Duncan,Gray Bartlett, Vaughan Rapata,  ....

A need to know basis  This article will remain a living document, open for updates, adjustments and changes until I find a good reason to publish it in hard copy, along with other Kiwi rock history I am gathering. One or two sentence explanations containing quips, details and dates about  offshore record sales or achievement by New Zealand musicians, bands, producers are being solicited. Can you help?  Email responses, updates, corrections to Keith Newman:
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