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The first Rock'n'Roll record recorded outside the US was Johnny Cooper's recording of Rock Around The Clock for HMV in the mid-1950s. The first rock'n'roll hit by a New Zealander was Johnny Devlin's hit Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which is reputed to have sold 100,000 copies for Phil Warren's Prestige label in 1959-60.
Throughout the 60s strong rock scenes developed throughout NZ and there were hundreds of bands playing and many NZ acts charted. Amongst the key acts were Max Merritt & The Meteors, The La De Das, Ray Columbus & The Invaders, The Fourmyula, and Larry's Rebels.
Some of the more influential bands in the 1970s were Th' Dudes (whose guitarist Dave Dobbyn formed DD Smash in the 1980s), Dragon, Hello Sailor and Split Enz, fronted by Tim Finn, and later, his brother Neil Finn who went on to form Crowded House.
The 1980s saw the emergence the indie labels led by Propeller Records in Auckland and Flying Nun record label in Dunedin and Christchurch who were highly influential in the development of modern indie rock. A distinct style of indie music, known as the Dunedin Sound, was promoted heavily by Flying Nun, and saw some success internationally for bands such as The Chills, The Clean, and Straitjacket Fits, particularly on American and European college radio.
This decade has begun to show quite a diverse range of rock groups varying from garage rock to electronica, notable bands include:
Fly My Pretties (Folk Rock)
Black River Drive (Rock)
Flight of the Conchords (Alternative Rock/Folk Comedy)
The Naked and Famous (Electronica Rock)
Phoenix Foundation (Progressive Indie Rock)
The Datsuns (Hard/Garage Rock)
Villainy (Alternative Rock)
Six60 (Alternative Rock/Electronica/Soul/Reggae)
Fat Freddy's Drop (Reggae/Funk Rock/Dub)
I Am Giant (Alternative Rock/Post Grunge/Nu Metal)
Cairo Knife Fight (Multi Genre Rock)
Notable mentions to other New Zealand rock bands
It can hardly be said that success has been sought by the great number of New Zealand groups that continue to work seriously within the general domain of rock. Among these number groups such as The Dead C, The Clean, Tall Dwarfs, The Bilders, The Verlaines, Beastwars, Split Enz, Swamp Thing and Pluto.