“It was only 10 minutes worth but it was like an oasis in the desert to hear live original music not being pandered down to by commercial values” - The late Bill Putt, bass player of Spectrum, on GTK in 2013
For New Zealand acts in the 1970s there were limited opportunities to make it onto local TV screens. But a little known Australian music show called Get To Know or GTK for short, provided a platform for bands and artists that had made it across the ditch to perform live to a large TV audience. The show captured performances, features and interviews of acts rarely seen locally, and for some it would mark the beginning of greater success in Australia.
From the early 1960s, New Zealand artists like Johnny Devlin, Dinah Lee, Allison Durbin, Ray Columbus and The Invaders, Max Merritt and The Meteors, and Bill and Boyd appeared on Australian music and variety shows like Bandstand (hosted by New Zealand born Brian Henderson) and the Go!! Show. Many more New Zealand acts would appear alongside their Australian counterparts and overseas music clips, lip-synching their hits on the iconic Countdown from the mid-1970s.
One of the more interesting and innovative Australian music shows in the early 1970s was GTK. Broadcast by the ABC, the show began in 1969 and ran until the mid 1970s. Although only 10 minutes long, it was broadcast daily from Monday to Thursday. Aimed at the youth audience, GTK also showcased reports on art, theatre, and fashion and hosted interviews with a range of people as diverse as Australian author and feminist Germaine Greer and graphic artists Gilbert and George. These reports would appear alongside features and interviews of overseas acts touring Australia at the time, including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, Frank Zappa, Steppenwolf, Jethro Tull, Elton John, Slade and many others.
One of the most important features of GTK was live studio performance. In the studio, acts typically recorded up to four songs and were encouraged to play music from their live sets including covers and original material often not heard on their recordings. GTK captured some great studio performances from Australian bands like Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Masters Apprentices, Wild Cherries and Coloured Balls. As there were so many New Zealanders fronting bands in Australia at the time, the show also captured great performances by Spectrum with Mike Rudd, Band of Light with Phil Key (The La De Da’s), Healing Force with Charlie Tumahai (Herbs), King Harvest with Leo de Castro and Freshwater with Murray Partridge.
Based in Australia since from the mid-1960s, Max Merritt and The Meteors were interviewed on GTK in 1970 while they were in London, about the band’s experience playing in the UK. The Meteors also provided one of the show’s highlights with their own half hour Memphis Special in 1971. It featured the band alongside a brass section and for some songs, American vocalist Sharon Redd. The Memphis Special captured the band at the very peak of its powers with Max’s raspy soulful voice very much at home singing Sam and Dave numbers like ‘You Don’t Know What You Mean To Me’, ‘Soul Man’, ‘Hold On I’m Coming’ and classics by Otis Redding.
Also based in Australia were The La De Da’s. They featured on GTK a number of times. Their performance in 1971 featured their classic ‘I’m Gonna See My Baby Tonight’, ‘I’m In Love Again’ (showing what a great vocalist Phil Key really was), and a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Around And Around’. The highlight was the band breathing new life into Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, largely thanks to some brilliantly understated guitar work from Kevin Borich.
The Human Instinct were also on GTK in 1971. They performed songs off their third album Pins In It, including a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Nile Song’, ‘Play My Guitar’, ‘Duchess of Montrose’ and ‘Rainbow World’, the only single issued from that album.
Like Billy TK in The Human Instinct, Ticket had its own guitar hero in Eddie Hanson and they appeared on GTK a year later, in 1972. From their second album Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, they played funked-up versions of ‘People Going Nowhere’ and the aptly titled ‘Bad Things In This World Make The Nice Things Nicer’ as well as an extended jam on ‘Gypsy Eyes’. They also played the rare and unrecorded ‘Over The Ocean’. Like The Human Instinct, the performance highlighted what a great live band they were and the brilliance of Eddie Hanson.
In 1973, GTK filmed a clip for Bitch, formally The Cleves, who had been based in Australia since the late 1960s but had moved to the UK at the end of 1971. The clip was filmed in a Tudor house in London; somewhat of an unusual setting for their glam-fuelled rocker ‘Wildcat’ made slightly more authentic by the bass player’s platform-soled boots. It was one of the band’s three singles and something of a mild hit in parts of Europe. Also in 1973, BLERTA, who were playing in Australia for the first time, were interviewed on GTK. Although the full BLERTA family, cast and crew were present, Bruno Lawrence answered most questions before things descended into chaos when asked about the “violence” of their children’s show, while Ian Watkin brandished a toy gun and described the group as a strange Hebrew sect encouraging children to rise against their parents and cut their throats. Timeless.
Perhaps fittingly toward the end of GTK’s reign, Split Enz were interviewed in 1975. It’s a fascinating and seldom seen glimpse of the collective awkwardness of the Mental Notes version of the band. Tim Finn responds intelligently to questions about the writing of the band’s material, their experience arriving in Australia (where they’d only just “turned professional”) and the initial audience reaction to the band’s first live performances (“blank incomprehension mixed with a little antagonism”). Finn also responds to questions about the complexity and theatrical aspect of the band’s music and performance and their future aspirations. Few clues are given in the interview that this unlikely collection of bow-tied librarians would become the New Zealand act that would have most enduring impact in Australia.