New Zealand Music Month

Page 3 – Best New Zealand songs ever?

In 2001, to celebrate 75 years of its existence, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) invited its members and an academy to vote for what they believed to be New Zealand's top songs of all time. The clear winner was 'Nature', written by Wayne Mason in 1969. His band, the Fourmyula, took this acoustic song to number one on the New Zealand charts in January 1970.

Ironically, the Fourmyula never once played the song live. One reason given by Mason was that local audiences at the time were unprepared for local bands to perform original material. 'Playing our own music would never have filled dance halls ... we never played our own songs on stage: it was all Tamla Motown, Arthur Brown and "Everlasting love".'

The top 30 songs as voted by APRA and the academy in 2001 

  1. 'Nature', Wayne Mason (Fourmyula, 1969)
  2. 'Don't dream it's over', Neil Finn (Crowded House, 1987)
  3. 'Loyal', Dave Dobbyn (1988)
  4. 'Counting the beat', Phil Judd/Mark Hough/Wayne Stevens (The Swingers, 1981)
  5. 'Six months in a leaky boat', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1982)
  6. 'Sway', Bic Runga (1997)
  7. 'Slice of heaven', Dave Dobbyn (Dave Dobbyn with Herbs, 1986)
  8. 'Victoria', Jordan Luck (Dance Exponents, 1982)
  9. 'She speeds', Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, 1987)
  10. 'April sun in Cuba', Paul Hewson/Marc Hunter (Dragon, 1978)
  11. 'I got you', Neil Finn (Split Enz, 1980)
  12. 'Whaling', Dave Dobbyn (DD Smash, 1984)
  13. 'Not given lightly', Chris Knox (1990)
  14. 'Pink frost', Martin Phillips (The Chills, 1984)
  15. 'Jesus I was evil', Darcy Clay (1997)
  16. 'Weather with you', Tim Finn/Neil Finn (Crowded House, 1991)
  17. 'Blue smoke', Ruru Karaitiana (Pixie Williams and the Ruru Karaitiana Quartet, 1949)
  18. 'Dance all around the world', Corben Simpson/Geoff Murphy (Blerta, 1972)
  19. 'Lydia', Julia Deans (Fur Patrol, 2000)
  20. 'Blue lady', Graham Brazier (Hello Sailor, 1977)
  21. 'Drive', Bic Runga (1996)
  22. 'Chains', Che Fu/DLT/Angus McNaughton/Kevin Rangihuna (1996)
  23. 'Dominion Road', Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds, 1993)
  24. 'Glad I'm not a Kennedy', Shona Laing (1986)
  25. 'I hope I never', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1979)
  26. 'Tears', Fane Flaws/Arthur Baysting (Crocodiles, 1980)
  27. 'Be mine tonight', Dave Dobbyn/Ian Morris (Th' Dudes, 1978)
  28. 'I see red', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1979)
  29. 'Beside you', Dave Dobbyn (1998)
  30. 'Home again', Karl Kippenberger/Tom Larkin/Phil Knight/Jon Toogood (Shihad, 1997)

An alternative to the APRA top 30

After the APRA list of New Zealand's top songs in 2001, 3000 people voted for their top 50 New Zealand songs in an online survey in May 2006. Dave Dobbyn's 'Loyal' was voted the number one song on this list. In total, seven songs written by Dobbyn made the list, and this was a greater number than for any other songwriter. In the list voted by APRA, five songs written by Dobbyn were in the top 30, confirming his status as one of the country's most successful songwriters.

The APRA operations manager, Anthony Healey, felt that the common thread that linked the songs was their 'innate New Zealandness'. These are songs you would hear 'playing on a jukebox in a country pub, at a summer barbecue', and they are the ones 'we sing along loudly with at the rugby'.

The top 10 New Zealand songs as voted in the online poll were:

  1. 'Loyal', Dave Dobbyn
  2. 'Why does love do this to me?', The Exponents
  3. 'Slice of heaven', Dave Dobbyn
  4. 'Don't dream it's over', Crowded House
  5. 'Sway', Bic Runga
  6. 'April sun in Cuba', Dragon
  7. 'Home again', Shihad
  8. 'Victoria', The Exponents
  9. 'Bliss', Th' Dudes
  10. 'I see red', Split Enz

What do you think should be added to these lists? Fill out the Community Contribution form below (or email info@nzhistory.net.nz) and if there is some consensus, we'll add them to an additions list.

How to cite this page

'Best New Zealand songs ever?', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/music-month/natures-best, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016

Community contributions

32 comments have been posted about Best New Zealand songs ever?

What do you know?

Subject To Change

Posted: 02 Apr 2010

My top five New Zealand tracks: 1. CROWDED HOUSE - Better Be Home soon 2. THE HOLIDAYMAKERS - Sweet Lovers 3. PATEA MAORI CLUB - Poi E 4. DAVE DOBBYN - Oughta Be In Love 5. SIR HOWARD MORRISON - How Great Thou Art Best track of recent times is probably BLINDSPOTT's Phlex?

Griggy

Posted: 26 Mar 2010

Interesting that Nature didn't even win the Loxene Golden Disc award. Loved Fourmyula, but thought "Forever" and "Home" were better songs. "Let's think of something" by Larry's Rebels was also a good song. Others worthy of a mention may be "Culture" by The Knobz and "There is no depression in NZ" by Blam Blam Blam.

Chris

Posted: 01 Feb 2010

There has to be something on the Clean here (and some mention of Dunedin in the 80s) The release of 'Tally-ho' was a seminal moment in kiwi music and it is a classic, but my favourite song of theirs, although not by much, is "Draw(ing) to a (w)hole". It just takes me back to being in the UK (and missing Aotearoa) in the early 90s.

Grant

Posted: 28 Dec 2009

Heart and Soul by The Narcs

Wendy

Posted: 12 Jul 2009

"Lift Your Head Up High" by Peking man was a best ever NZ song

Jon

Posted: 24 Jun 2009

Don't Blind-spott deserve a place in the top 100 greatest songs of New Zealand? after all their music isn't too bad for a bunch of kids from the west-side(westies) of Auckland : )

nzchopper

Posted: 07 Feb 2009

Surely you're thinking of "pokare kare ana" - i heard a group of slightly inebriated kiwis singing this in a pub near putney in the 1960's when i was a uni student. It is almost a kiwi national anthem or it was back in the '60s/70s'

Lisa

Posted: 01 Feb 2009

wondering if you can help pls. My parents used to live in the bay of islands a long time ago. I recall them singing a well known song which I would like to purchase however I do not know the title. Part of the lyrics were "kare kare karehana by the side of rotorua ..." please let me know if you have any clues and many thanks for your help.

Daria Milne

Posted: 01 Feb 2009

No Commings

emmo

Posted: 04 Oct 2008

i reckon 'long ago' by the herbs should be there....

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