Esme Stephens.

All the Hits and More – Part 2

Broadcaster and historian Peter Downes wrote to us in response to a recent blog entry about the history of popular music charts in New Zealand, with this fascinating behind-the-scenes background on music hits shows in New Zealand during the 1950s.

Peter Downes.
Peter Downes (courtesy of Peter Downes / Dave Smith).

 

I was pleased to see you’ve included the N.Z. Hit Parade (1952) on your blog.

It so happens that this was yet another of my “babies” and I thought you might like to have some background to it. In those days, apart from some radio drama, New Zealand Broadcasting Service producers were not allowed to be credited.

In the early 1950s most of the so-called “local” radio stations, that is those with a YX call sign, were running their own Hit Parades, with results taken from sales in their town’s record shops. I was a producer at 2YA in Wellington, and it occurred to me that if these results could be combined we would have a near enough to true measure of the most popular songs in New Zealand for that week. In fact it would create a N.Z. Hit Parade. My boss was enthusiastic, and the stations thought it was a good idea and willingly co-operated by sending me their weekly “charts.”

This was in contrast to commercial radio’s Lifebuoy Hit Parade, whose results were based mainly on charts in Billboard (USA) and later in The New Musical Express (UK). The Lifebuoy show was presented by 2ZB’s Rex Walden (pictured in the window display), who had a deep, dark chocolatey BBC type voice.

An advert in a shop window for the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, 1946 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).
An advert in a shop window for the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, 1946 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Documentation Collection).

 

Rex Walden introducing the Lifebuoy Hit Parade, c.1946

 

We couldn’t hope, nor did we try, to compete with the Lifebuoy show, but we had the advantage of being able to include songs recorded by New Zealand performers when they became bestsellers here but who would never have made the overseas charts.

Esme Stephens.
Esme Stephens (photo courtesy of AudioCulture).

An outstanding example of this was Between Two Trees, in the number two position for the year 1952. This American song had been recorded by the Andrews Sisters in the USA, but was only a minor success. However, a cover version recorded for the New Zealand Stebbing Recording label by Auckland singer Esme Stephens went viral (as they say) in her homeland. It reportedly sold well over 7,000 copies – quite remarkable for that time. It was accompanied by “the guitars of Buddy Kane”.

 

“Between Two Trees,” by Esme Stephens, courtesy of Stebbing Recording. A large back catalogue of early New Zealand recordings has been remastered and is available on the Stebbing Recording website. Continue reading

[Basil Clarke] in the New Zealand Players production of "Romanoff and Juliet." Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/2046-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22702922

Audio Curios: The Man in The White Coat

You may have asked yourself, “who is that man in the white coat who sometimes appears at the top of our blog postings … and what is he doing?”

Well, thanks to Peter Downes’ research, we know that his name is Basil Clarke and he was part of the “listening watch” during World War II.

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).
Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

The photograph shows Basil in the main 2YA control room in Wellington, listening to shortwave broadcasts from the BBC, allied and enemy radio stations.  The control-room was staffed 24 hours a day, and when the operator heard a newsflash or something of importance they would do a direct recording onto an acetate disc.  This disc could then be re-broadcast to radio listeners in New Zealand (this was how news of what was happening in the war on the other side of the world reached New Zealanders, in the days before the internet, television, or even tape recording technology –which didn’t come in until the mid-1950s).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Sound Collection contains many of these wartime shortwave recordings – an example being from exactly 75 years ago, when news came through of Hitler’s proclamation that Germany would march against Soviet Russia:

New Zealand Broadcasting Service, 22 June 1941

Continue reading

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Future Indicative

Recently Ngā Taonga acquired from RNZ a set of two radio series that have, over the last four decades, explored the issues and experiences of disability in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Spanning from 1978 to 2015 Future Indicative and One in Five offer us a fascinating insight into the changing attitudes and perceptions of disability over the last 37 years. 

Even the programme’s tag line demonstrates changes in language and attitudes.  The tag line for Future Indicative in 1978 was “Future Indicative: the concerns of those with disabilities and handicaps”.  It was later changed to  “Future Indicative:  A forum for the sharing and understanding of the special interests and concerns of the disabled”.  And finally “Future Indicative: Of special interest to people with disabilities”.

In 2002, the programme was replaced with “One in Five: the Issues and experience of Disability”.

In this excerpt from June 1984, Helen McConnochie the show’s first producer, introduces an item on diagnosing brain injuries by telephone.

Future Indicative, 17/06/1984

In total, we have acquired approximately 386* Future Indicative episodes and 526 One in Five episodes – a rich legacy of public radio programming.

*The smaller number of Future Indicative episodes is in part due to the Radio New Zealand practise of re-using master tapes.  Because of the cost of purchasing and storing open-reel-tape, once a regular programme had been broadcast the tape was generally erased and re-used.  This practise continued up until the late 1990s when CD-R technology and digital storage was introduced.  The Future Indicative episodes that survive are mostly on standard audio cassette.  These were probably dubbed off the master as a copy for the producer.

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

Audio from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of these items please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

 

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Bring a Plate

Every Friday Regina Smedley, who is originally from Malawi, presents Voices of Africa on Plains FM.

In this excerpt she chats with Kalyani Wijayawardana about some of the early challenges of moving to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Voices of Africa, Plains FM, 01/04/2916

This broadcast also marked Regina’s second year on air.  To acknowledge this, her family broadcast these special messages:

Voices of Africa, Plains FM, 01/04/ 2016

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

Audio from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of these items please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

 

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: “From one side of the fault line to the other”

The long-term experiences and effects of the Canterbury earthquakes are woven through the many and varied broadcasts on Plains FM – Canterbury’s community access radio station.  An example is captured in ‘Bookenz’ a weekly programme highlighting new books and their authors, from both New Zealand and abroad.

Recently host Morrin Rout talked to Canterbury poets Joanna Preston and James Norcliffe about their anthology of earthquake poems Leaving the Red Zone.

Bookenz, 15/03/2016

You can hear more episodes of Bookenz here

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

Audio from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of these items please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz