Anchor Me - the Don McGlashan composed song re-released by Greenpeace to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rainbow Warrior bombing - debuted at number six in the singles charts yesterday, raising awareness of the bombing among a generation of New Zealanders too young to remember it.
The single, a collaborative effort in which the artists donated their time and resources free of charge, is a great example of how to generate a major media buzz around an issue.
"How else could you create so much noise in the media with no media budget," said Nick Worthington, creative director of Greenpeace's ad agency Publicis Mojo, which does pro bono work for the environmental campaigner.
"You could not buy the amount of air time that the song has had through getting played on radio, music channels and being talked about in the media," said Worthington.
Greenpeace started thinking about how best to mark the anniversary earlier this year. "We approached Publicis Mojo and said the anniversary's coming up what do you think we should do," said Greenpeace New Zealand's campaign manager Cindy Baxter. Nick Worthington at Mojo talked to Brian Kessler at production company Flying Fish who suggested a single.
That was in April and, given that the anniversary was fast approaching, Greenpeace booked a recording session at York St Studios for the weekend of May 14 even though it had not yet decided which song to do.
At a round-table discussion in which ideas such as Herbs' Nuclear Waste were tossed around Nick Groenendaal of Flying Fish suggested Anchor Me.
"It was then a question of approaching Don," said Baxter.
A love song written by McGlashan about his wife, Anchor Me was released by the Muttonbirds in 1994, reaching number 10 in the singles charts and winning a 1994 Apra Silver Scroll.
Greenpeace's Steve Abel - a musician himself - approached Don, who agreed to gift Anchor Me to Greenpeace despite having previously turned down commercial approaches to use the song.
"Don said it was fine to use the song but didn't want to be involved himself," said Baxter.
He felt because it was his signature track if he re-recorded it it would be more about him than the Rainbow Warrior bombing, she said. Lots of hurried phone calls ensued to round up a group of musicians to use on the track.
"We made a definite decision to go for younger artists," said Worthington. "There was definitely a consensus that we wanted to go for a broad fan base and didn't want it to be a hippy-fest."
"Goldenhorse's Kirsten Morelle was the first to say yes, but was heading overseas so we had to record her first," said Baxter. "After that it was just a matter of who was around at the time."
The final line-up included Che Fu, Adeaze, Anika Moa, Hinewehi Mohi, Pluto's Milan Borich and David Atai and Donald McNulty from Nesian Mystik. Murray Grindlay produced the track.
The single was released on July 4 and is being played on most major radio stations. Festival Mushroom Records (which put out the single) creative director Jonathan Hughes says he's very pleased with the debut, especially since the video was delivered quite late.
He thinks it has the potential to get to No 1. The expectation is that it will achieve gold - more than 5000 sales - in the next three to four weeks.
Worthington describes the exercise as a wonderful collaboration.
"It was about taking a 20-year-old event, marking it in time, making it relevant again and re-engaging people with Greenpeace and their issues."