New local comedy series Coverband inspires NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner to select six favourite New Zealand cover versions.

Screening on TV ONE on Thursday nights, new sitcom Coverband reminds us of the enduring fun of a great covers band, and also features some classic Kiwi music. So let's mix the two up and choose "six of the best" NZ covers.

One of our most loved cover versions is Sweet Lovers by Wellington band The Holidaymakers. It spent six weeks at number one and was our biggest selling single in 1988. The song was written by soul legend Bill Withers, but it was one of his less well known songs, which perhaps contributed to New Zealanders almost seeming to claim it as their own. The song's success was no doubt helped along by its beautiful Fane Flaws music video, which won Best Video at the NZ Music Awards.

You can see Sweet Lovers here:


From a similar era to Sweet Lovers, and also a number one with a stylish music video was The Game of Love by Tex Pistol (Ian Morris of Th' Dudes). The Game of Love was originally a 1960s hit for Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. The music video was directed by the then teenaged Paul Middleditch, who went on to have a successful directing career across the Tasman.

See it here:


And what look at Kiwi covers would be complete without a nod to the queens of the cover version - When the Cat's Away. Singers Debbie Harwood, Annie Crummer, Kim Willoughby, Margaret Urlich and Dianne Swann mainly expected their cover band side project to be fun, but it went mega, with sell-out concerts and a record-breaking live following in the late 1980s. The band also recorded successful albums and singles, including this number one cover of Blue Mink's Melting Pot.

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You can watch Melting Pot here:


When the Cat's Away singer Annie Crummer also makes an appearance in this music video from 1985, for Sonny Day's hit single Savin' Up. Day was a working musician from the late 50s to the early 90s, but recorded infrequently. Savin' Up was his first single, and was a soulful cover of a song Bruce Springsteen gifted to his sax player Clarence Clemons. As well as Crummer, the other backing singers featured are greats Josie Rika and Beaver.

Here's Savin' Up:


Next up, a Kiwi cover version that has climbed high on the "cheese" scale with the passage of time (well it was released in 1980), but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is a great vocal performance from the young Jon Stevens. Montego Bay stayed at the top of the chart for seven weeks and was voted Single of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards. It was a cover of a one-off 1970 hit for Bobby Bloom, written for the second largest city in Jamaica, but the hokey cut-out palm trees of the music video's studio set were as close as Stevens and band got to the Caribbean.

See how Montego Bay has (or hasn't) stood the test of time here:
Montego Bay

Last but not least, a New Zealand cover version that is a cover of a New Zealand song - the Mutton Birds' chart-topping version of Nature, originally written by Wayne Mason for his band the Fourmyula in 1969. Nature was voted best NZ song in 75 years by the songwriters' association APRA in 2001. Once again, the music video was directed by award-winner Fane Flaws.

View Nature here:


For a more comprehensive selection of New Zealand cover versions, see this collection on NZ On Screen.

- nzherald.co.nz