The NZ Music Hall of Fame | Te Whare Taonga Pūoro o Aotearoa has announced the induction of the five incredible women who performed together as When The Cat’s Away back in the late 1980s, and subsequently, have each left a lasting legacy in forging a path for others, on-stage as well as behind the scenes.
Annie Crummer, Debbie Harwood, Dianne Swann, Margaret Urlich and Kim Willoughby will be inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame at the delayed 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards ceremony in December. They will be recognised for their individual contributions to Aotearoa’s music scene, the inspiration they provided to local artists and audiences, and their importance in shaping New Zealand’s popular culture.
“All of us had toured for years in original bands,” wrote Debbie Harwood in her introduction to Ian Chapman’s 2010 book Kiwi Rock Chicks: Pop Stars and Trailblazers. “As the touring circuit dissolved and radio shut its doors to local music, surviving as an original band became almost impossible. At this time, as video became the new radio, local artists were competing with the huge video budgets of overseas bands. Our videos looked tragic in comparison, and it perpetuated the self-effacing Kiwi attitude that New Zealand music was crap. It was a tough time. The only way to get to the people at this time was to tour the length and breadth of New Zealand, relentlessly building up a live fan base.”
A chance meeting at the 1985 Aotearoa Music Awards, where four of them were finalists, led to the idea of getting together as fun five-piece vocal group When The Cat’s Away. The Cats toured for two and a half years before their big hit, Melting Pot, shot them to national acclaim and the top of the NZ singles charts in 1988.
“The idea formed to get together, have some fun and sing a bunch of songs that we like, learn some harmonies. I don’t think anybody pictured it as being as popular as it became,” says Dianne Swann.
Their very different hard-fought journeys within the music industry have indeed left a legacy that is well worthy of this recognition.