Haling from Auckland, Space Waltz were a New Zealand glam band, fronted by singer/guitarist/songwriter Alastair Riddell. After a major TV appearance that shocked the country, Riddell and Space Waltz were overnight sensations, but their success was short-lived.
Riddell formed Space Waltz in 1973, though they were originally called Stewart and the Belmonts. After deciding to focus on Riddell’s songs rather than the cover material they were playing, they changed their name to Space Waltz in 1974. Once the group solidified, Riddell’s bandmates were Greg Clark (guitar), Peter Cuddihy (bass), Brent Eccles (drums), and Tony Raynor (keyboards)
An early version of Space Waltz.
Looking to get the most eyes and ears on their new group, Space Waltz determined they should try out for the Studio One—New Faces TV talent contest. Their subsequent audition was a success and soon the group would be seen by a national audience. With a panel of judges and a variety show format—largely consisting of schlocky middle-of-the-road performers—the program was American Idol meets The Ed Sullivan Show. On the August 21, 1974 episode of Studio One—New Faces, Space Waltz were the final act of the evening. Performing Riddell’s “Out on the Street,” the unit—especially their singer—made quite an impression. As Riddell later put it, adults across the country were “shocked and appalled” by his band.
Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s is a 2016 collection of scholarly essays concerning the glam genre. In the piece “Spotting the Rare Sequined Kiwi: Three Approaches to Glam Rock in 1970s New Zealand,” author Ian Chapman writes about Space Waltz’s TV debut and how it impacted New Zealand’s youth:
The younger members of both studio and television audiences reacted to “Out on the Street” with unbridled enthusiasm, while Riddell’s energetic stage presence and unique appearance found similar favor. Performing in make-up and lipstick and wearing a flamboyant costuming, Riddell’s vocals were highly affected while his strutting, posing, and general air of commanding confidence engendered a wide range of reactions, again largely depending upon the age of the viewer.
Space Waltz were instantly famous in New Zealand, with EMI signing the band before the TV competition even ended. At the time, David Bowie was one of the most popular glam artists in New Zealand and Riddell was viewed as the country’s version of Ziggy Stardust.
“Out on the Street” was rush-released as a single, in order to coincide with Space Waltz’s second television appearance, which would be the Studio One—New Faces finale. The group did another Riddell original, “Beautiful Boy,” with Mike Chunn from Split Enz on bass. Ultimately, they don’t end up with enough votes to win the New Faces contest, though it hardly mattered. Before the vote tally, one judge on the panel exclaims, “My mother hates them!” But he also praises the unit, predicting “Out on the Street” will be a hit.
More after the jump…