The Fourmyula – Nature (1970)
The chart-topping impetus of New Zealand artists in the late 60s continued into 1970. The new decade got off to a fantastic start with the very first New Zealand No.1 also being the first to be written by a local. One of the most beloved songs in the great New Zealand song canon, 19-year-old Wayne Mason’s ‘Nature’ is an ode to the healing power of mother earth. Lifted from the Fourmyula album Creation and actually released in 1969, the song hit the top spot in February 1970, where it remained for four weeks. Selected as a single – to Mason’s surprise – by producer Peter Dawkins, it still sounds gorgeous today: its “doo doo doodoo” chorus and crowning line “nature enter me” are hard to resist singing along to. Nearly a quarter of a century later the song demonstrated its enduring appeal when a harder-rocking version by The Mutton Birds also became a hit, reaching No.4. ‘Nature’ was voted New Zealand’s number one song of the last 75 years by APRA members in 2001.
John Rowles – Cheryl Moana Marie (1970)
An all-time Kiwi classic still beloved today, John Rowles’s tribute to his then 11-year-old sister Cheryl Moana (the Marie was added from another sister’s name), was recorded in England with top producer Norrie Paramor. Written in England by Rowles as New Zealand’s entry in a Rio De Janeiro songwriting contest, ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’ remains his signature track. An openly sentimental ballad – “back home she’s waiting for me” – this is up there with ‘Ten Guitars’ as a singalong at heartland parties. It notched up a solitary week at No.1 in April 1970, deposing the Beatles ‘Let it Be’ and usurped by Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Trouble Water’ in turn. Not only was ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’ a hit in New Zealand but it also made the US Top 40 and sold more than a million copies worldwide. Rowles used the royalties to buy his mum a house in Te Atatu.
Craig Scott – Star Crossed Lovers (1970)
A massive hit but one in which controversy over the lyrical content is hard to understand today. Concerning a Catholic who’d fallen in love with a non-Catholic, ‘Star Crossed Lovers’ was initially banned by the straight-laced NZBC who refused to buy it from label HMV. Only intervention from the Catholic church hierarchy, following pleas from producer Peter Dawkins, reversed the decision. Chosen by Craig Scott and Dawkins together, this was Scott’s first solo single following his split from Revival. Dawkins pulled out all the stops for his new signing, bringing in Garth Young for the arrangement, the Quincy Conserve rhythm section and brass and strings from the NZSO. ‘Star Crossed Lovers’ hit No. 1 in June 1970, spent four weeks in the top spot and launched Scott to superstardom. Written by Brill Building songwriters Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka, the song had earlier been a hit for Sedaka in Australia. At a press conference for his New Zealand tour later that year Sedaka, with Scott in attendance, publicly thanked a certain “Craig Stevens” for recording his song.
Hogsnort Rupert’s Original Flagon Band - Pretty Girl (1970)
Penned by the band’s Dave Luther for his skiffle-pop band comprising of ex-pat Englishmen from his Wellington Diamond United football team, ‘Pretty Girl’ lodged for three weeks at No.1 in August 1970. Ironically, by the time the single topped the chart Hogsnort Rupert had broken up, disappointed by the few hundred sales the single had garnered in its first six or so weeks of release. As C’mon had done in the 60s, TV show Studio One was to prove influential in creating hits for New Zealand artists. Chris Bourn, producer of the series, asked the band to make a video showing the latest release from the previous year’s contenders. One Thursday night screening of the video on the primetime show, including the cheeky Alec Wishart line “Come on my lover – give us a kiss”, was all it took to turn ‘Pretty Girl’ into an overnight sensation. The next day the song’s producer Peter Dawkins rang Luther excitedly to say that retailers had ordered 2000 copies that Friday morning alone. Out for dinner later that night with his wife, Luther was astonished to be pestered for his autograph. By the following Monday the HMV record presses went into overdrive to keep up with demand. Eventually selling more than 50,000 copies, ‘Pretty Girl’ became the biggest-selling single of 1970 and went on to win that year’s Loxene Golden Disc Award.
Maria Dallas – Pinocchio (1970)
Signed to Viking by Ron Dalton, Morrinsville country singer Maria Dallas bookended her career with her two biggest hits. In 1966 her very first single, ‘Tumblin’ Down’, written by Taranaki-born Jay Epae, took out the Loxene Golden Disc Award. The spritely novelty song ‘Pinocchio’, by New Zealand writers June Littin of the Fair Sect, Mel Chandler and Des Huia, chalked up an impressive six weeks at No.1 in August 1970. The track was another to benefit from extensive TV exposure, being one of seven performed by Dallas on that year’s Studio One series. At just 1:43 long and backed with the “exotic” ‘Umm Bala Bomba’, by Christchurch songwriter John McDonald, this was to be Dallas’s final hit.
The Rumour – L’amour est L’enfant de la liberté (1971)
1970 had proved to be a banner year for New Zealand No.1 hits. Five different tracks topped the chart, with four of those written by locals. Together they spent a cumulative 18 weeks at No.1. By contrast, in 1971 The Rumour’s gentle light jazz-tinged ode to peace, written by the band’s Shade Smith, was the only New Zealand single to hit No.1, remaining there for four weeks in October. The song was beloved by radio; Smith’s mum kept a diary note of every play she heard. Very much on message for the post-hippie singer-songwriter era – “Love Is the Child Of Freedom” – Smith had been inspired by the phrase in the book The Art Of Loving by German-Jewish war refugee Erich Fromm. The song’s French title gained more significance in light of New Zealand’s vociferous protesting of France’s nuclear testing in the Pacific; Smith later used the track in his musical Sink The Warrior.
Steve Allen – Top Of The World (1973)
The long-standing Viking label scored its second No.1 hit in May 1973 with this local version of The Carpenters’ smash by Steve Allen. Oddly Dean Scapolo’s chart reference book The Complete New Zealand Music Charts 1966-2006 pairs this with the Carpenters’ version creating in effect a joint No.1, so there’s no real knowing just how big this song was in isolation. Either way, the Richard Carpenter-penned track is credited with a solitary week in the No.1 position. Allen’s vocal delivery certainly gives the Carpenters’ version a run for its money, though the backing is not quite as lush as the strings-backed original. Allen was a prolific recording artist, narrowly missing out on another No.1 later in 1973, when ‘Join Together’, his theme tune for the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, peaked at No.2.
Space Waltz – Out On The Street (1974)
One of the defining features of rock ’n’ roll is of course rebellion: songs which alienate older people conversely thrill younger audiences. It had been a while since New Zealand produced a hit as polarising as ‘Out On The Street’. New Zealand’s biggest glam-rock smash certainly split the nation as menacing, androgynous vocalist (and songwriter) Alastair Riddell beamed into New Zealand lounges on the New Faces TV talent show. Given that there was only one TV channel it was inevitable that talent shows had to cater to a wide spectrum of music types; Space Waltz was very much at one end of the spectrum. Tipped off by Chris Bourn before the show went to air, EMI’s in-house producer Alan Galbraith was impressed enough by the version of the song recorded at the NZBC studios to sign the band. Space Waltz featured an all-star line-up that included future members of The Angels (drummer Brent Eccles), Split Enz (keyboardist Eddie Rayner), and Citizen Band (guitarist Greg Clark). A fantastic track, influenced by the David Bowie/ Roxy Music art-rock scene in the UK, ‘Out On The Street’ spent two weeks at No.1 in November 1974.
John Hanlon – Lovely Lady (1975)
By 1975 John Hanlon found himself under pressure from Pye Records boss Tony Vile to follow up the runaway success of his LP Garden Fresh, which featured the No.5 hit ‘Damn the Dam’. Hanlon and producer Mike Harvey submitted ‘Lovely Lady’ to the Studio One TV series, for which the song had been specifically written. Studio One had rejected the song previously so the pair sent it in again as something of a joke. Surprised to be accepted second time round, Hanlon duly appeared and performed the song with the NZBC backing band. Repeated exposure on the series – Hanlon appeared in week two and ended up coming second – turned the song into a massive hit. Released on the Tim Murdoch-founded Family label, ‘Lovely Lady’ eventually reached No.1 in January 1975, spending three weeks there. Despite not being one of Hanlon’s favourites among the many songs he has written, ‘Lovely Lady’ went on to win that year’s APRA Silver Scroll. And Tony Vile was more than happy with the album sales of Higher Trails which featured the track.
Mark Williams – Yesterday Was Just the Beginning of My Life (1975)
HMV/EMI’s production line of male solo hitmakers continued with Mark Williams following Mr. Lee Grant, Shane and Craig Scott to the top of the charts. Producer Alan Galbraith made regular visits to Australia visiting music publishers to find songs for his artists. A demo of this track caught his attention at a meeting with venerable firm Albert’s. Written by the legendary Easybeats duo Harry Vanda and George Young (older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm), Galbraith had just the singer in mind. Mark Williams on the other hand, took some convincing. However the final recording proved Galbraith right, with radio play and live performances by Williams, as opposed to TV appearances, driving the single to a three-week stint at No.1 in June 1975. Williams’s expressive, soulful vocals and superb backing by Redeye resulted in a recording that still holds up well today. Galbraith later heard that Vanda and Young were not that enamored with the final version, but felt they were probably happy enough with the publishing royalties.
Mark Williams – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (1977)
Williams was more on board with Alan Galbraith’s vision for this 1959 Buddy Holly classic. Always one of Galbraith’s favourite songs, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ had already been a hit earlier in the 70s for Linda Ronstadt. Piecing together an all-star backing band and with Dave Fraser arranging, Galbraith gave the song a light disco feel. Williams delivered another superb vocal performance resulting in a smash hit that spent a solid four weeks at No.1 in June 1977 and became the biggest-selling single of the year. Immediately after this Galbraith became Williams’s manager, and both moved to Australia.
John Rowles – Tania (1978)
By 1978 John Rowles was running short of cash and needed a hit. Staying at a friend’s house in Los Angeles Rowles thought back to his last huge hit ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’ and decided to try his luck again. This time he wrote about his high-school-aged sister Tania (whose middle name Marie had earlier been tacked on to Cheryl Moana’s for rhyming purposes). Recorded at EMI Studios in Lower Hutt as a track on the album This Is My Life, producer Mike Harvey corralled a who’s who of Kiwi backing musicians and singers including the core of Redeye, the Yandall Sisters, Red McKelvie, Kemp Tuirirangi and Martin Winch. Rowles’s golden tonsils, unerring skill with a melody, and the sentimental lyrics – which included a spoken-word interlude – proved irresistible to the New Zealand public. ‘Tania’ held the No.1 spot for four weeks in March 1978.
Jon Stevens – Jezebel (1979)
Younger brother of Frankie Stevens, Jon Stevens hit the jackpot with his very first single which spent five weeks at No. 1 at the tail end of 1979. Initially signed with Rocky Douche’s Marmalade Studios, demos sent to CBS’s New Zealand boss John McCready convinced him to license the artist. McCready was building a local roster and had already tasted success with Sharon O’Neill. The final released version of ‘Jezebel’, by UK songwriter Eddie Howell, was a hybrid of recordings made by Steve Robinson in Wellington and Jay Lewis in Los Angeles. Concerning a two-timing woman, the line “she wooed me then screwed me but what the hell” certainly raised eyebrows at radio at the time, but not enough to stop it being one of the biggest hits of the 70s.