NZ On Screen's Nicky Harrop blows the cobwebs off some classic cover versions recorded by local artists.

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix ... the history of popular music is strewn with acts for whom a cover song has proven no compromise to credibility, or success. So too in New Zealand, where many a local muso has launched, revived or sustained a career with a well-chosen or well-timed cover.

Auckland band The Underdogs started out somewhat ahead of their time, playing their bluesy tunes as Beatlemania continued to rage throughout the country. By 1967 however, British R&B had reached our shores, and the group had a local hit on their hands. Sitting in the Rain was a cover of a song by UK legend John Mayall, but The Underdogs' version would become far better known in our neck of the woods. This video, one of our earliest music promo clips, sees the band looking impossibly cool, though not particularly grasping the concept of lip-synching.

See The Underdogs Sitting in the Rain here:

In 1980, Jon Stevens cemented his pop god status by delivering his second consecutive number one single in New Zealand. The song that saw him stay at the top was Montego Bay, a cover of a one-off 1970 hit by Bobby Bloom, paying tribute to the second largest city in Jamaica. Conjuring a relaxed Caribbean vibe - via cut-out palm trees and a perilously unbuttoned shirt - the video makes for a great slice of 80s nostalgia.

Watch Jon Stevens Montego Bay here:

Wellington band The Holidaymakers hit the jackpot with their debut release - a cover of a little known song by Bill Withers. Sweet Lovers claimed the number one spot for six weeks, and went on to be named Single of the Year at the 1988 NZ Music Awards. Sadly, after a second single failed to shine as brightly, the band soon went their separate ways.

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Watch The Holidaymakers Sweet Lovers here:

A chance meeting at an earlier NZ Music Awards led to the creation of When The Cat's Away - a group comprised of five top Kiwi female vocalists. Featuring Margaret Urlich, Debbie Harwood, Dianne Swann, Annie Crummer and Kim Willoughby, the Cats released a run of successful cover singles, the biggest of which was Melting Pot. Originally recorded by British band Blue Mink, the When The Cat's Away version was a big hit locally, topping the charts in 1988 and setting them up for a huge summer tour.

See the When The Cat's Away version of Melting Pot here:


When Cat's Away vocalist Annie Crummer went solo, she once again harnessed the power of a good cover. See What Love Can Do had first been recorded in 1985 by Eric Clapton. Seven years later Crummer released her version, featuring reggae legends Herbs, and scored a top three single. See What Love Can Do launched a successful standalone career for Crummer; earlier this week she was named in the Queen's Birthday honours list as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music.

Watch Annie Crummer See What Love Can Do here:

When The Mutton Birds went looking for cover version inspiration, they kept it local and went for the best. In 1992 the band released their version of The Fourmyula's Nature, a song that would soon be voted number one in APRA's 'Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time'. The track sees frontman Don McGlashan sharing guest vocals with Jan Hellriegel, accompanied by an award-winning video directed by Fane Flaws.

See The Mutton Birds Nature here:

You can see more Kiwi cover versions here, in NZ On Screen's Spotlight.