23 Mar 2018

Headless Chickens to receive Classic Record gong at this year's Taite Music Prize

From RNZ Music, 4:12 pm on 23 March 2018

Headless Chickens are to receive the Classic Record award for their 1988 album Stunt Clown at this year's Taite Music Prize.

The Headless Chickens in 1987: Chris Matthews, Michael Lawry, Grant Fell, Bevan Sweeney, Rupert E Taylor

The Headless Chickens in 1987: Chris Matthews, Michael Lawry, Grant Fell, Bevan Sweeney, Rupert E Taylor Photo: Stuart Page / Audioculture

Independent Music NZ has announced the 2018 Classic Record will go to the Headless Chickens for their 1988 album Stunt Clown (Flying Nun).

The award acknowledges defining records from New Zealand's history and will be presented at the official Taite Music Prize ceremony on Tuesday, April 17th.

Headless Chickens in 1988

Headless Chickens in 1988 Photo: 2013 Simon Grigg / Audioculture

RNZ Music will be livestreaming the event from Auckland’s Civic Theatre.

Headless Chickens vocalist and guitarist, Chris Matthews reacted to the announcement with his trademark humour:  “When I heard we’d won … I was shocked and stunned... that there’s no prize money!

“I thought that on the 30th anniversary of the release of Stunt Clown I was finally going to be able to give up my day job. Oh, well, cheers and better living, everyone!”

RELATED: Headless Chickens: "We were being described as two-chord punks who strangled kittens."

The Headless Chickens formed in the early 80s in Auckland from the ashes of Children’s Hour.  They’re known for their early use of electronic elements and sampling, which was in contrast to the guitar-heavy ‘Dunedin Sound’ that was popular at the time.

Tragedy struck when the band’s bassist and main instigator Johnny Pierce took his own life in 1986. But the show went on, and Grant Fell - former Children’s Hour guitarist, returned from Australia to take over bass and band management duties.

The band went on to win the 1987 Rheineck Rock award, to much controversy: the award’s sponsors and local commercial radio thought the choice too left-field. Nevertheless, the group got their $60,000 prize money and used it to record Stunt Clown.

The Chickens’ first real chart success came in 1990, when their single ‘Gaskrankinstation’ made it to number 28. The song was eventually included in their second album Body Blow, which went double platinum in NZ.

Another single from that album, 1991’s ‘Cruise Control’ featured guest vocals from Fiona McDonald, who turned the song into a New Zealand pop classic and changed the perception of the group from dark experimentalists to crossover hitmakers.

RELATED: Taite Music Prize - finalists announced

In 1994, the group had a number one single - the first for a Flying Nun band, with their track ‘George’. After its release the lineup changed and in 1997 they released their follow-up album Greedy, after which they split up.

The band’s long-serving bass player Grant Fell died in January this year from cancer.

Members of the Headless Chickens speaking as part of the 2002 documentary Heavenly Pop Hits - The Flying Nun Story:

 The Taite Music Prize, which is in its ninth year, recognises albums from the past year that demonstrate outstanding creativity. It is named after the late Dylan Taite, one of New Zealand’s most respected music journalists.

The ceremony will include the presentation of the main award, the Classic Record award and the Best Independent Debut award.

Read more about Headless Chickens at Audioculture.