RocKwiz was – is – so much more than just a great music quiz show. The abundance of live performances that the show has featured includes some phenomenal music that could not - and simply would not - exist if it wasn't for the vision of the show's producers. And let's not forget the outstanding RocKwiz Orchestra, who have garnered praise from pretty much every artist with whom they've worked.
The musical highlight of any given show is more often than not the duet between the guests. There's been well over 150 of them since the show started in 2006. In part one of a two-part feature, we pay tribute to RocKwiz with some of our favourite duets.
"Fairytale Of New York" by Tex Perkins & Clare Bowditch
A song that's been the focus of a fair bit of attention of late, and not just because we're nearing Christmas, is The Pogues' "Fairytale Of New York." Shane McGowen and Kirsty McColl were a bit of a sweet and salty mix – grain and grape might be a more appropriate analogy – and Rockwiz forged a suitably disparate pairing for their version of the Pogues' scurrilous yuletide classic for their 2007 Christmas Special.
"Stray Cat Blues" by Chrissy Amphlett & Chris Cheney
It's a bit bittersweet revisiting this one. Chrissy appeared on Rockwiz in 2005 – Episode 16 to be exact – a couple of years before she revealed that she had MS, and some seven and a half years before cancer took her life. She's in devastating form here, as is Living End main man Chris Cheney, on what is a powerhouse version of the Stones' nasty classic.
"Suspicious Minds" by Tony Hadley & Kylie Auldist
"Suspicious Minds" is one of those songs that crosses all genres and tastes. It is simply a great song. Written by Texan songwriter, Mark James and made iconic by Elvis in 1969, it was again a hit in the '80s thanks to the Fine Young Cannibals. Still, it's Elvis's version that '80s superstar Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet revisit here, together with Melbourne soul sister #1 Kylie Auldist. Hadley's timbre captures something of Elvis; Kylie souls it up; and the Rockwiz Orchestra really shine as they play the parts that the legendary American Sound studio house band played on the version everyone knows. From late 2008; Season 6, which ran well into 2009, was a good one for Rockwiz!
"Slipping Away" by Max Merritt & Catherine Britt
It's not usual for a Rockwiz duet to feature a song made famous by either artist. Still, Max Merritt is such a local legend, and "Slipping Away" is such a momentous song that the producers weren't going to split hairs over this one. A song that really should be routinely included in any playlist of '70s classic rock, "Slipping Away" gave Max the biggest hit of his career (It reached #2 here and #5 at home in New Zealand in 1975.) This duet with country singer Catherine Britt from October 2008 really brings out the country elements of what is a superb soul song. Kasey Chambers had previously dueted with Max on it when he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame a few months earlier, and Gina Jeffries had also recorded the song – as her first single – back in 1992.
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" by Gina Jeffreys & Doc Neeson
And speaking of Gina, here she is, doing Dylan with Doc. From November 2007, some 7 years before we would lose Doc. "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" is, of course, one of Dylan's most country tunes, but that doesn't phase Doc, who was no doubt playing similar material in the Moonshine Jug & String Band with the Brewster Bros in pre-Angels days. Indeed I'm pretty sure The Angels were still listening to Dylan in their Alberts blood & thunder days; the Dylan influence on the melodies of such Angels classics as "After The Rain" and "Love Takes Care" is undeniable. The reggae arrangement is a surprise – assumedly inspired by Robert Palmer & UB40's 1990 hit version, but I'm not complaining.