25 Iconic Kiwi Songs International Students Should Listen To – Part Two
Here’s part two of our list of 25 classic Kiwi songs that you should listen to when you are in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The rules are simple – one song is allowed per artist, though special mentions will be included at the end of each. This list is in no particular order. To find the first 12 songs in our countdown please click here.
You can find the entire list of songs in a playlist we put together on Spotify. Happy listening!
13. April Sun in Cuba – Dragon (1978)
Despite a chequered past, the band produced hits in the 70’s and 80’s, got inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame in 2008 and continue to tour/play today after reforming in 2006, 40 years after they first formed in Auckland, New Zealand. They made an early move to Australia from Auckland in 1975 to try and win over a bigger market. The band were notorious for enjoying the ‘Rockstar lifestyle’ and lost multiple members on the way (RIP Neil Storey – drummer, 1954 - 1976, RIP Paul Hewson – keyboards, 1952 – 1985 and RIP Marc Hunter - lead vocals (1953 - 1998). For their full story, check out The Dragon Story on NZ On Screen.
Special Mention: Rain.
14. Venus – The Feelers (1998)
This was the main song of 1999’s 5x platinum album Supersystem, which the radio stations in NZ couldn’t get enough of. The Feelers are a rock band who were formed in 1993 by James Reid and Hamish Gee, going from buskers to well-known Kiwi band in the space of a few years. In 2018 they went on a country wide tour to celebrate their 25th anniversary, joined by Andy Lynch (Zed) and Clinton Harris (Opshop), further cementing their legendary status in NZ.
Special Mentions: Pressure Man, Stand Up, Fishing For Lisa and Larger Than Life.
15. Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! – The Mint Chicks (2006)
The peak song of this pop punk band, Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! was also the title of the group’s bestselling and award-winning album in 2007, taking home multiple NZ Music Awards for best song, album, group and best album cover. After their 2007 success in NZ most of the band opted to move to the States and tour Europe. They stayed together for three more years before breaking up and pursuing their own projects in 2010.
Special Mentions: Screens and Bad Buzz.
16. Not Given Lightly – Chris Knox (1990)
The iconic song of beloved Kiwi musician Chris Knox, this song was the pinnacle of his solo music career. Knox is multi-talented – he first performed with Dunedin punk band The Enemy, before further writing his name into Kiwi music history with Toy Love. When they disbanded he formed Tall Dwarfs with guitarist and former bandmate Alec Bathgate. As well as a musician he is a painter and was a cartoonist and movie reviewer. He is also known as a key figure in the history of NZ’s independent Flying Nun Records label (owned by Roger Shepherd), which used his 4-track recorder for most of their early recordings in the 80’s. After suffering a stroke in 2009 and living today with seizures and the effects of the stroke, Chris has focused on painting, re-training himself to do everything with his left hand. His rebellious spirit and will to create are immense, even today.
Special Mention: A Song to Welcome the Onset of Maturity.
17. Pink Frost – The Chills (1984)
A simple yet soulful pop hit, Pink Frost’s lyrics, muted drums and guitar riffs are still instantly recognisable for Kiwis to this day. How legendary are this Kiwi band? Just ask all the artists who have performed alongside creator Martin Phillips, and the thousands of fans across the country. Even better, check out the Martin Phillips documentary, which was released this year.
Special Mentions: Heavenly Pop Hit and I Love My Leather Jacket.
18. Chains – Che Fu & DLT (1996)
After being ousted by Supergroove Che reminded everyone of his talent when he and DLT combined to create this legendary song. The song went to number one in NZ and won Che multiple awards at the 1997 NZ Music Awards. Polynesian rapper Che Fu, alongside hip-hop group Nesian Mystik and King Kapisi, revolutionised rap in New Zealand. He is still considered the major pioneer of hip hop and Pasifika music in New Zealand.
Special Mentions: Fade Away and Misty Frequencies.
19. Royals – Lorde (2012)
As popular in the US as she is in New Zealand, Lorde found superstar status when UMG released ‘The Love Club’ in March 2013. Royals was the major single on the album and it won her two Grammy Awards and sold over 10 million units worldwide. The song was the catalyst in launching Lorde’s touring career and she has since followed her debut EP up with the successful albums Pure Heroine & Melodrama.
Special Mentions: Ribs, Tennis Court and Melodrama.
20. Six Months in A Leaky Boat – Split Enz (1982)
Before Crowded House there was Split Enz. Founded by Tim Finn and Phil Judd, the band was at its peak from 1972 – 1984. The band were famous for their ‘New wave’ style and ‘total package’ style of performance with crazy stage shows, hair, costumes and makeup. Starting out in NZ, they moved to Australia and the UK. Six Months in A Leaky Boat charted in the top ten in New Zealand and remains a classic today. There have since been reunions in 1986, 1992, 2002 and 2006 but the inevitable split and end has come for the band.
Special Mentions: Message to My Girl, I Got You, Stuff and Nonsense, I See Red, Spellbound, I Hope I Never and History Never Repeats.
21. Counting The Beat – The Swingers (1981)
Kiwi as, this song will sound instantly familiar if you’ve ever been shopping at Countdown. The band were only around for a short three years, but in that short time, they managed to produce a catchy hit song that still plays regularly today.
22. She Speeds – Straitjacket Fits (1987)
This song, released on their debut EP in 1987, was the highest charting song for the band at number 10 on the NZ Top 40 charts and was voted the 9th best NZ song of all time by APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association members. Another Dunedin band signed to Flying Nun, the band were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Special Mentions: Down In Splendour and If I Were You.
23. Home, Land and Sea – Trinity Roots (2004)
This Reggae, Soul, Jazz and Rock band have been together for over twenty years and are still inspired to play and create even now. Their 2004 hit song and album, a tribute to New Zealand, has stood out over the years as iconic. All the songs on the album are tributes to NZ, with political messages sprinkled throughout, and this one is no different. Its timelessness and organic sound mean it is a must-listen to, even 15 years later.
Special Mentions: Aotearoa, Little Things and Egos.
24. Blue Smoke - Pixie Williams and the Ruru Karaitiana Quartet (1949)
This song is the epitome of classic and is the oldest on our list by two decades. The song was written on the troopship Aquitania, by Private Ruru Karaitiana, a member of the 28th Māori Battalion and sung by Pikiteora Maude Emily Gertrude Edith "Pixie" Costello (nee Williams), who was a self-taught singer. This was arguably the first New Zealand song that was fully recorded, edited and released for Kiwis by New Zealander’s – and the 26th of June 2019 will mark the 70th anniversary of its recording. It topped the charts in NZ for six weeks and sold 50,000 copies. On 12 July 2011, on Pixie’s 83rd birthday, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) presented Pixie with a triple Platinum Award for the song. Pixie died in 2013. RIP Pixie.
Special Mention: Lets Talk it Over.
25. Blue Lady – Hello Sailor (1977)
The bands first album was the first New Zealand made album to be certified gold, with the top single being Blue Lady. This featured the line-up of 1975-1980 members Graham Brazier, Dave McArtney, Harry Lyon, Lisle Kinney and Ricky Ball. The band were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of fame at the APRA Awards in 2011.
Dave McCartney passed away in 2013 and Graham Brazier died in 2015. RIP Dave and Graham.
Special Mention: Gutter Black.
Special number 26. For Today – Netherworld Dancing Toys (1985)
With the recent passing of frontman Malcom Black on the 10th May 2019, we had to include this hit from his band on our list. The group that formed at the University of Otago and lasted just three years from 1982-1985 will forever be remembered in New Zealand thanks to their catchy single. After the band broke up, Black became an entertainment lawyer and managed Crowded House. He released an album weeks before his death called Songs For My Family. Malcom Black is survived by his wife Julia and children Ruby, Awhina, Cilla and Martha. He was 58. RIP Malcom.
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