In 1972, Shona Laing took to the stage of TV talent show New Faces armed with an acoustic guitar and a song packed with such emotional intensity it seemed unfathomable to think she was only 17. 1905 launched Laing's career, securing her a record deal before the show had even gone to air, and unleashing a unique and important voice for our musical future.
See Shona Laing performing 1905 here:
Gutter Black gave Hello Sailor their first big hit - crashing the charts in 1977, and going on to enjoy a second life three decades on as the theme song for Outrageous Fortune. Originally titled (the somewhat less catchy) Sickness Benefit, the track was anchored by some soon-to-be trademark fretwork from Dave McArtney who, in his own words, was merely doing a "whiteman's attempt to play that ska rocksteady beat".
See Hello Sailor performing Gutter Black here:
Th' Dudes began their recording career in 1979, with the now-classic Be Mine Tonight. Fronting the song on vocals and lead guitar was a fairly unlikely looking character named Dave Dobbyn. Little did we know, over the next 40 years, that man and his guitar would go on to deliver a steady stream of some of our most iconic songs.
Watch Th' Dudes perform Be Mine Tonight here:
The soundtrack to 1981 opened with a scratchy riffed intro that quickly gave way to one of the catchiest tunes in Kiwi music history. Counting the Beat was a juggernaut, catapulting The Swingers straight to the top of the NZ and Australian charts, and remaining there for months. Closing in on 40 years on, and, despite having been used to sell everything from L&P to Countdown, it's still impossible to resist.
Watch The Swingers Counting the Beat here:
In 1986, Neil Finn's anthemic guitar ballad Don't Dream It's Over took a sound born of Te Awamutu and delivered it all the way to the stadiums of America (and back to the steps of the Sydney Opera House), creating one of our biggest international hits along the way.
Watch Crowded House Don't Dream It's Over here:
Meanwhile, back in Grey Lynn, a work of pure lo-fi genius was being crafted. Chris Knox's Not Given Lightly matched his signature DIY loops and distortion with one of the most heartfelt love songs in our history. Underlying its apparent simplicity were lyrics that gave the game away - the creation of a "love song to John and Leisha's mother" prompting him to add, "This isn't easy, I might not write another".
Watch Chris Knox Not Given Lightly here:
There was no shortage of guitars (or lengthy tresses) when it came to Push Push's 1991 chart-topper Trippin'. Fronted by the irrepressible Mikey Havoc, the band channelled the hair metal scene, bringing a slice of LA-glam to New Zealand, by way of the North Shore.
Watch Push Push Trippin' here:
At the much quieter end of the scale was the fragile beauty of Bic Runga's Drive. Released in its original demo form, stripped back to its acoustic bones, the track announced the arrival of a potent force in New Zealand songwriting.
Watch Bic Runga Drive here:
Opening with one of the most recognisable riffs in the land, Shihad's Home Again remains a standout in their seriously impressive catalogue. As anyone who has seen the band live will attest, no one delivers guitars with quite the same brute force and wizardry as Shihad.
Watch Shihad Home Again here:
Underpinned by the most identifiable guitar style to have emerged from New Zealand, the "Maori strum" is a big part of what makes Tiki Taane's Always on My Mind so great (the ridiculously catchy melody probably doesn't hurt either). A sound right back through our music history, the singalong style can be heard in hits from Don't Dream It's Over to SIX60's Don't Forget Your Roots.
Watch Tiki Taane Always on My Mind here:
You can see more great Kiwi music moments here, in NZ On Screen's Turning Up the Volume Collection.