Louise Loft – In the early days it was with Louise in Negative Theatre - we had a rare chemistry and played off each other’s strengths. The man/woman relationship that was at the centre of what we were trying to do and our little song dramas played out those eternal themes.
Caroline Easther – In 1981 when we first formed The Spines it was Caroline and me at the core of it until Rob settled into playing bass. She was a brilliant drummer and perfect backing singer. She loved my lyrics and encouraged me to write music in a different way. Caro and Rob were both jazz players too and taught me a lot about time. The humour in that line up too and the confidence – we weren’t afraid of anybody and the three of us sounded like a six piece band. A bit of a blueprint for the Spines’ future – no sexist shit, no limits and always improve. Caro was always so great to be around – so tall and stunning yet down to earth and funny. When she left to pursue her place in NZ rock history she had our full support and she will always have a place in my heart.
Wendy Calder – Wendy and I went through so much together and we recognised each other straight away. From that first rehearsal we locked in what was to be. A child prodigy, she is a musician of the finest order and between us we re-vamped the Spines. She learned Rob’s basslines overnight and we went on to fashion one of the most musically adventurous NZ bands of the 80s with Ross Burge and Neill Duncan. With Wendy I could write in whatever time signature or key I wanted and she could see the song through to a place where you could dance to it.
Anna Gillespie – Anna played keyboards and I jammed informally with her a couple of times. She had classical chops and we started working on arrangements for some of my songs. A gig came up at Summer City and though I didn’t have a band as such, both Wendy and Caroline were in town and we put together a nearly all-girl Spines – Anna. Wendy, Caroline and me. It was an odd gig and we flirted with some of the ska material of Caroline’s period and some of the more hardcore stuff from Wendy’s time. It should have been a dream come true – sharing the stage with three beautiful talented women playing my songs but Anna was nervous, we had technical difficulties on the day and we lacked focus.
Then all through the 90’s it was a boy band and it got dirtier and more bluesy.
Vanessa Stacey – Vanessa started singing with us off the back of my solo album and brought the female back to the Spines for the new millennium. She sang lead on Weathered Lines and Identify My Love and it was like the old days with Louise – a strong woman belting out my lyrics and with another performer with me out front.
Katie McCarthy-Burke – Katie was only with us for one gig but she was really good. Playing keys and a fine singer – it would have been an excellent band. She had a great feel for the songs but she moved away to have her son and it never went any further.
Hannah Fraser – So it’s a big welcome to Hannah! It feels like she’s in the bones of the band, already a part of the story. With her keyboard, violin and voice we could do anything. She has a great feel for my songs too and is already taking them other places. It feels like we’ve got that family balance back – it feels complete again.
The women in the Spines have always kept us honest and informed my songwriting. We’ve never been a boys’ club – always told both sides of the story. None of them have ever had any problem with the lyrics to my songs – even though most of them are about women from a man’s perspective.
If there is a common thread, it is that they are all deeply talented musically, deeply attractive as women and all funny as all hell – I thank them to the bottom of my soul.
The Spines get a small mention in the NZ rock bible, Stranded In Paradise and it’s all about the fact that we had a woman drummer before anyone else – that’ll do me.