Growing up as a kid in the sixties most of the ‘homegrown’ music we heard was local cover versions of overseas artists songs – almost like a karaoke country or lamb dressed as mutton. There were notable exceptions of course and some mighty bands and singers.
Into the seventies there was a shift and the songwriters emerged, bands playing their own material. There was the Loxene Golden Disc Award, New Faces and The Great Ngāruawāhia Music Festival they all showcased this change and inspired me to write songs. The quantity and quality of original local acts just kept on growing to the Nambassas and the punk and reggae movements towards the end of the decade. Louise and I started performing my songs at this time and played some pretty big gigs around the place though we didn’t make a huge splash.
The eighties saw the rise of the Flying Nun sound and a string of cool Auckland bands. In Wellington there was a darker, harder edge to the post-punk groups and that’s where we formed the Spines. It was good timing, there was a healthy and active music scene with plenty of large venues and people went out to see live music and bought the records. There was Radio with Pictures and Rip It Up and a strong national touring circuit of bars and campuses and independent record labels sprung up.
The Spines were part of all that, recording and gigging and we played alongside a huge range of bands playing various styles of music. We had no real style of our own and were constantly evolving through line-up changes and the development my song writing and we always sat just outside – not part of any movement, fashion or club of bands.
In the nineties we almost dropped right out although we continued to record and play around Wellington. I shut myself up and worked on my guitar playing and a whole crop of new songs and was quite insular but I’m sure there was a lot of good music at the time.
I have to say I dearly love a lot of New Zealand music and I’m proud that it is but I still see it as music that has to stand on its own without any tag. It’s a special place with influences from all over the globe and that’s reflected in the different flavours it has. It has produced some of my favourite songs and songwriters almost in spite of itself.
Although the Spines didn’t make much of a dent in New Zealand music history the individual musicians that played with me over the years certainly have. Ex-Spines have been members of these Kiwi bands:
The Chills, Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, Midge Marsden Band, Body Electric, Muttonbirds, Trinity Roots, Orchestra of Spheres, Steroids, Beat Rhythm Fashion, Tim/Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Front Lawn, Jews Brothers, Barry Saunders, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Shona Laing, Jive Bombers, Six Volts…
…And a lot more besides.