'One-hit wonder’, ‘rags to riches and then back to rags again’ – call it what you will, but the fact remains that the infectious 1996 hit ‘How bizarre’ by OMC – the Otara Millionaires Club – is the biggest-selling New Zealand record of all time.
A genuine worldwide hit, the song went to number one in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and Austria. It spent 36 weeks on the United States Billboard's Hot 100 airplay charts, peaking at number 4. It reached number five in the United Kingdom, and it made the Top 10 everywhere from Portugal to Israel. Between its release in December 1995 and 2000 OMC sold somewhere between three and four million records worldwide. Somewhat surprisingly the song only came in at number 34 on the Australasian Performing Right Association’s top 100 New Zealand songs of all time.
‘How bizarre’ was co-written by Alan Jansson and the late Pauly Fuemana, frontman of OMC. Fuemana formed OMC in 1993 with his brother Phillip and Paul Ave, although by 1995 he was essentially a solo performer. Jansson, who also produced the song, was one of New Zealand’s most successful hit makers. He was formerly of Wellington 1980s bands the Steroids and the Body Electric (whose single ‘Pulsing’ spent four months in the local charts).
Simon Grigg, who originally released the song on his Huh! label, credits Fuemana and Jansson with creating the urban Pacific sound:
a fusion of the mishmash of sounds that New Zealanders are exposed to. It’s the classic Kiwi strum meets punk rock meets disco meets a South Pacific beach party meets classic soul meets reggae and everything in between. Alan's fusing of acoustic guitars with hip hop loops became a globally recognisable sound, and is quoted as an influence by a variety of artists around the world.
OMC enjoyed further international success (especially in Europe) with the singles ‘Right on’ and ‘On the run’ and the album How bizarre (1996). But the wheels fell off in 1997 with ‘I love LA’, a single from the Mr Bean movie soundtrack that was described as ‘an almighty flop, a terrible record, and a career killer’.
In recent times more has been made of the fact that Fuemana squandered a multi-million dollar fortune accumulated from the success of ‘How bizarre’. Caught up in the hype of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle with fast cars, luxury hotels and drugs, it seemed light years from the humble beginnings of his home in Otara. But the global success of ‘How bizarre’ can never be taken away. The song continued to earn Fuemana around $50,000 a year from musical royalties until his death after a short illness in January 2010.