Kenny Rogers and The First Edition hit it pretty big in the late sixties, multiple Top 40 hits, strong record sales, and relative credibility throughout the industry. As they entered the 1971 they eventually parlayed their success into a network variety show called Rollin’ On The River that would feature more cutting edge guests than their variety show counterparts. Guests like Ike & Tina Turner, Tony Joe White, and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks.
A few years later, as their star began to fade in the United States, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition were bonafide superstars in New Zealand. In 1973 their show was canceled, and their full length LP Monumental, bombed in the United States, but it went gold on the small island nation. Thus, Rollin Thru New Zealand was born.
Rollin is a travelogue that is part long form rock video, part tourism board video, part tour documentary that follows Hippie Kenny and his band of merry makers on what seems likes missionary work throughout the country. It’s like no rock film you’ve ever quite seen, but something you’ve always hoped existed.
It’s an eclectic mix of themes that is actually quite compelling in its own contrived way. There are beautiful scenics of the countryside overdubbed with a Kenny Rogers waxing poetic about the differences between America and New Zealand. The band going from town to town and winning over the locals via public jamborees. Amusing man-on-the-street interviews of dumbfounded Americans being asked about New Zealand. Elaborately staged rock video sequences with singer Mary Arnold singing on a snowy mountain top, and Rogers walking around an old mining camp with a pick axe. There even these really campy celebrity softball montages, of the band playing softball with the locals, complete with high-speed antics of wacky sitcom.
The most fantastical sequence, however, has got to be when Kenny and the band are in a bucolic countryside with local youth strewn all about them as they serenade them with the traditional “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. Kenny has his arm around a native Maori boy, and cajoles him to participate. Slow motion footage of the band members and children riding horses on the hillside.
Here is your moment of Zen: