Saturday, November 17, 2012

Radio With Pictures

A recent Facebook posting by a friend of mine relating to the pioneering pre-MTV 1980s New Zealand music television show Radio With Pictures, prompted me to recall just what a huge influence that particular show had on my own taste in music. RWP, as it became better known, introduced so much great new music to my world – not only the stuff from overseas, but homegrown music as well; gems from labels like Flying Nun probably wouldn’t have otherwise had much exposure beyond the confines of student radio, and even at that, student radio remained something of a mystery to the vast majority.

I became such a fan of the show I recall the sense of genuine loss if ever I missed an instalment. In its later years, by which time I’d acquired something (that used to be) called a VHS Recorder, I’d sit there for its hour-long duration (anorak optional), oblivious to everyone and everything else, hand hovering nervously over the ‘record’ button in case I missed something game changing …

In terms of other pre-MTV music television, there was also Ready To Roll, a chart-based countdown show that ran for half an hour on a Saturday evening, while a tweenie show called Shazam also enjoyed a short run, albeit with a much narrower brief.  Oh, and the midweek American catastrophe that was Solid Gold … if I nearly forgot about that one, it is merely because that one was utterly forgettable. That was generally it though, and it would have been almost inconceivable back then that one day we’d have 24/7 music television on multiple channels (and most of it, complete cack).

So it was the Radio With Pictures show late on a Sunday night – as a lead in to the weekly Sunday Horror – that the most discerning music consumer held out for. It was the true pioneer of the art of music television in this country, a show that combined casual chat with state-of-the-art video, and one that pushed boundaries beyond the conformist norms of generic chart shows and teen pop excesses. And the proliferation of local product, particularly in a post-punk context, made it unique and special.

It would take me on a series of short trips, in ecstatic three or four minute bursts … to somewhere exotic and far flung, or just as often somewhere more comfortable, familiar, and closer to home. It provided sound and visuals to a world I didn’t otherwise know very much about. Back then, I missed it at my peril.

Now, I just plain miss it.

(For me, the definitive RWP period was the Karyn Hay era, early to mid Eighties. I was a bit too young when Dr Rock presented the show in its formative years, and I could never really warm to Hay’s successor, Dick Driver, after he mocked my dancing style that time at the Albert pub in Palmy circa 1982 … when he was fronting a band called the Hip Singles in his pre-TV incarnation. Arse.)

Here’s a series of opening sequences for the show ... music from Auckland synthpop band Marginal Era ..



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