Headless Chickens

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Headless Chickens
Headless Chickens at Homebake 2008
Headless Chickens at Homebake 2008
Background information
OriginNew Zealand
GenresRock, industrial rock
Years active1985–1999; 2008-2009
LabelsFlying Nun
Associated actsFiona McDonald
This Kind Of Punishment
Past membersChris Matthews
Fiona McDonald
Johnny Pierce
Michael Lawry
Grant Fell
Bevan Sweeney
Anthony Nevison
Rupert E. Taylor
Bevan Larsen
Flex - aka Simon Claridge
Angus McNaughton
Gerard Presland
John McDermott

The Headless Chickens was a New Zealand band. Going against the grain of the Dunedin sound that dominated the Flying Nun Records roster at the time, the Headless Chickens made extensive use of electronic instruments in their music.


The Headless Chickens recorded three albums, Stunt Clown (1988), Body Blow (1991), and Greedy (1997), plus various EPs for Flying Nun Records in the 1980s and 1990s.

The band first became known in New Zealand when they won the 1987 Rheineck Beer Rock award. The prize money from the award went into the funding for their innovative (for its use of sampling) 1988 debut album Stunt Clown.

The 1988 CD release of Stunt Clown compiled the vinyl release of this name with the 1986 Headless Chickens EP.

A second album, Body Blow, appeared in 1991 which featured singer Fiona McDonald. It was during this time with McDonald that the Headless Chickens would attract their widest audience. Two versions of Body Blow were released, with the revised and expanded 1993 version going double platinum in New Zealand.

This album spawned the single "Cruise Control" which became a hit in New Zealand and (in a remixed form) Australia. "Cruise Control" was notable for its sampling, particularly for elements of Shona Laing's 1973 single "1905" and the Crocodiles' 1980 single "Tears". Cruise Control was released in the 1980s and was quickly added to the flying nun records

At the time, the band's use of electronic elements and sampling in a "rock" setting was out of the ordinary and had an influence on many other N.Z. bands that followed them.

The follow-up 1997 Greedy album took several years to complete, and during that time several band members left, including singer McDonald. Greedy contained the track "George" which became a No. 1 hit single in their home country; "George" was the first (and so far, only) track from the Flying Nun Records label to achieve No. 1 status.

The Headless Chickens split up soon after the release of Greedy.

In 2002 Flying Nun Records released a 2CD best-of compilation named ChickensHits.

In July 2008 it was announced that the band would reform to play the Homebake Festival in Sydney, Australia on 6 December. The line-up would feature both Chris Matthews and Fiona McDonald.[1] They played further concerts in Australia and New Zealand and were scheduled to play at the Auckland Big Day Out in January 2009.[2]

On 27 January 2018, bassist Grant Fell died of cancer at the age of 56.[3]



Year Title Details Peak chart
1988 Stunt Clown 18
1991 Body Blow
  • Label: Flying Nun Records
  • Catalogue: FN206
1993 Body Blow
17 Platinum x2 (NZ)
1997 Greedy
  • Label: Flying Nun Records/Festival Music
  • Catalogue: FNCD320
2002 ChickensHits
  • Label: Flying Nun Records
  • Catalogue: FNCD467
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Featured appearances[edit]

The group have appeared on many compilations and soundtracks since 1990 in both New Zealand and Australia. The following is a list of these albums that have featured tracks by the Headless Chickens.

Year Title Label Track
1990 In Love With These Times Flying Nun Records Donca
1991 Aotearoa: Stand Strong '91 Festival Cruise Control
Getting Older 1981-1991 Flying Nun Records Totalling Dad's Car
Pink Flying Saucers Over the Southern Alps Flying Nun Records Railway Surfing
1993 Collision White Cruise Control
1994 Abbasalutely Flying Nun Records Super Trouper (ABBA cover)
1996 In The Neighbourhood Warner Music Cruise Control
Popeyed Flying Nun Records George
1999 Scarfies Flying Nun Records George
2002 Absolute Bliss Festival Cruise Control
2003 Give It A Whirl Propeller Records Gaskrankinstation
Natures Best 3 Sony Music Entertainment Cruise Control
2005 V8 Supercars Australia: A Full Tank of Rock Festival Mushroom Records Cruise Control


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
1988 "Soulcatcher" / "Donka" - - Stunt Clown
1989 "Expecting to Fly" - -
1990 "Gaskrankinstation" / "Crash Hot" 28 - Body Blow
1991 "Cruise Control" 6 -
1992 "Donde esta la pollo" 4 -
"Juice" / "Choppers" 7 -
1993 "Mr. Moon" 22 93
1994 "George" / "Cruise Control" 1 67 Greedy
1997 "Magnet" - -
"Dark Angel" - -
1998 "Secondtime Virgin" - -


Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 Headless Chickens Rheineck Rock Award Won[4]
1992 Body Blow NZ Music Awards - Album of the Year Won[5]
1992 "Cruise Control" NZ Music Awards - Single of the Year Nominated[5]
1992 Fiona McDonald NZ Music Awards - Best Female Vocalist Won[5]
1992 Headless Chickens NZ Music Awards - Best Group Nominated[5]
1992 "Cruise Control" NZ Music Awards - Best Video Nominated[5]
1992 Rex Visible (Body Blow) NZ Music Awards - Best Producer Nominated[5]
1994 "Juice"/"Choppers" NZ Music Awards - Single of the Year Won[6]
1994 Fiona McDonald NZ Music Awards - Best Female Vocalist Won[6]
1994 Headless Chickens NZ Music Awards - Best Group Won[6]
1994 Headless Chickens NZ Music Awards - International Achievement Nominated[6]
1994 Johnny Ogilvie ("Mr Moon") NZ Music Awards - Best Video Nominated[6]
1995 Johnny Ogilvie ("Cruise Control") NZ Music Awards - Best Video Nominated[7]


  1. ^ "Kiwi band Headless Chickens reform". stuff.co.nz. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
  2. ^ Kara, Scott (1 December 2008). "Review: Headless Chickens at the Powerstation". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  3. ^ Former Headless Chickens musician Grant Fell dies of cancer
  4. ^ "The Headless Chickens". Muzic.net.nz. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "1992 Winners". NZMA. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e "1994 Winners". NZMA. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  7. ^ "1995 Winners". NZMA. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2013.

External links[edit]