Peter McLen­nan has help­fully and cor­rectly blogged here about the strange fac­tual detach­ment that the pop­u­lar media in New Zealand — or at least some of it — has devel­oped over the past few days with regard to expat singer Kimbra’s guest spot on Gotye’s per­haps to be US num­ber one sin­gle Some­body That I Used To Know.

Says Peter: A cou­ple of NZ media out­lets have got a lit­tle over-excited about the chart placing.

Set­ting aside the gra­tu­itous rework­ing of a short­ish guest spot to the sta­tus of a ‘duet’ by TVNZ, sev­eral out­lets have now decided to anoint Kim­bra (who I hope gets there — she deserves it) with a myth­i­cal sta­tus as, to quote Stuff:

the first New Zealand artist to be linked to a num­ber one on the United States music charts.

or (TVNZ)

the first Kiwi to make it to num­ber one on the US music charts.

both of which are fac­tu­ally incor­rect state­ments of course.

The first New Zealan­der to make it to num­ber one in the US music charts was OMC, fea­tur­ing Pauly Fue­m­ana, with How Bizarre, a record writ­ten in New Zealand, recorded in Free­mans Bay, Auck­land, New Zealand and released world­wide on a New Zealand owned record label (dis­trib­uted by the Dutch Poly­Gram com­pany). It was, as any­one rea­son­ably knows, quite a feat and some­thing that Pauly and every­one else involved worked rather hard to achieve. We were told before that that it could not be done — and we did.

And Pauly was, as was I and oth­ers in the mix that got it there, rather proud of our achieve­ment. It also reached num­ber one in another 14 coun­tries and was lifted from the US plat­inum (almost dou­ble plat­inum — that’s 2 mil­lion copies folks) album of the same name.

In the US the deci­sion was made by Mer­cury, a US branch of Poly­Gram, to issue the sin­gle only to radio and use the air­play to drive album sales = more money. This was indus­try stan­dard at the time and many acts did it. The Hot 100 was no longer regarded a reli­able ref­er­ence to what was truly hot as a huge per­cent­age of records were, because there was no phys­i­cal sin­gle, ineligible

But — I argued — we wanted a phys­i­cal sin­gle so we could top the US Hot 100. Mer­cury came back and said the Pop Chart, based solely on air­play, had the same stand­ing in the indus­try, and — more — was the thing that decided the other impor­tant charts, Amer­i­can Top 40, and Rick Dees, which most Amer­i­cans heard as the US chart.

We agreed and waited — between June and August we totalled some 560,000 radio plays on US top40 radio (it passed a mil­lion later that year) and some 1o,000 video plays (most played US video of 1997 — 15,000) and finally I had a call from New York on August 16th, 1997. “You’re num­ber one, num­ber one!” screamed the woman from Mercury.

And so it seemed we were — we’d knocked off Mered­ith Brooks and we were num­ber one, although inel­i­gi­ble for the Hot 100 (which is often seen as the pre­mium chart by out­siders) because there was no phys­i­cal sin­gle. We were also num­ber one on Amer­i­can Top 40 and Rick Dees.

The irony was Poly­Gram Canada had taken advan­tage of the lack of a released sin­gle and shipped 300,000 across the bor­der, which — if they’d been counted — would’ve allowed the record to top the Hot 100 too.

We had a fax later that day con­firm­ing the chart, and a few months later a plaque from Mer­cury for a num­ber one.

The album was stick­ered with “Fea­tur­ing the num­ber one sin­gle “How Bizarre”.

The Bill­board site records it this way:

Jump for­ward 15 years and how we for­get. Pauly is no longer with us and reporters have decided that his­tory needs a tweak to make a handy head­line. After I saw the story linked above, I tweeted the Waikato Times reporter, Belinda Feek, and sug­gested that she was a cub reporter who was recy­cling a press release. She denied both — which of course made it worse: it was just very sloppy reporting.

Edit: Hav­ing talked with Belinda, I accept that her mis­take was the result of mis­in­for­ma­tion on the net, not sloppy reporting.

The NZ Her­ald and TVNZ didn’t bother to reply, which is their usual style when called up, and the Enter­tain­ment Edi­tor from Stuff emailed me try­ing furi­ously (albeit politely) to rede­fine what a “US Music Chart” is — and not doing that very well.

So, who to trust? Bill­board, Amer­i­can Top 40 and Ricks Dees and the US record com­pany, all of whom listed it as num­ber one, or a lazy ill informed reporter or two des­per­ate to cre­ate a story?

Dunno — you judge.

But either way, I think it’s beyond shabby to try and strip the credit for his achieve­ment — some­thing his fam­ily, friends and much of the nation was enor­mously proud of — from the late Pauly Fue­m­ana. It’s com­pletely wrong, which is why, I guess I’ve put fin­ger to key­board here.


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