This was 1980 and, as half of Negative Theatre, I was working at the art centre as a songwriter/performer. Jonathan Zwartz was there as well as a bass player and we became friends.
He was part of the Rodents. They were a covers band mainly – playing soul music and they seemed so young and fresh from school yet playing mature, well-arranged epic songs. They were a part of the fabric of the music scene and had connections to earlier bands like Rough Justice.
They seemed to be steeped in some Wellington music al tradition – horn section, two lead singers, two drummers, dancers. They always got good crowds at their gigs and had people up dancing. Tim Robinson used to jump around on stage with his cowbell and then take over from Andrew Cross on the drum kit for a couple of songs.
Like the Primitive Art Group, I wasn’t particularly interested in the style of music they were playing for myself but I did go to see them play a lot – they were really good fun. I formed the Spines and took off in a totally different direction – we were all from out of town and had to work hard to get our audience.
I fell in love with Nikki, one of the dancers and we moved in together. Through her I socialised with them a bit and when Caroline left the Spines I asked Tim Robinson to take over on drums. He was a great player and hit the drums harder with a totally different feel and was on Punch/Your Body Stays. When he moved on to play with Rick Bryant we got in Andrew Cross briefly – another fine ex-Rodent drummer.
I think they broke up when Jonathan left to join the Crocodiles although I did see them play what may have been their last gig with Mark Hornibrook on bass. Several bands formed from the ashes – the Hulamen, Pelicans, Holidaymakers.
The Hulamen recorded a wonderful EP of original songs – Beer and Skittles and formed Eelman Records on which they released their various recordings much like the Braille guys only the music was very different. The Holidaymakers had a big hit with Sweet Lovers.
They all went on to do other things – Tim and Peter Marshall (the singer) moved to Auckland and got into the film world, Chis Green and Andrew Clouston (saxes) to Auckland too and played with Dave Dobbyn. Dave Armstrong (trumpet) became a leading journalist in Wellington, John McDougall (songwriter and guitarist) a teacher. Andrew Cross and John Niland (keyboards) took off overseas.
Tim came back to the Spines for another stint in the late 90s and remains one of my best friends to this day. Around that time John Niland returned to Wellington and was going to join us too at one point on piano and though that didn’t eventuate we became friends too.