In 1980, between ending Negative Theatre and forming the Spines, I jammed with a few groups of people and one of those bands was the Tin Syndrome. It was Mark Austin with David Long and Peter Robinson was the keyboard player.
Pete was a talented guy and a mass of contradictions – really shy and yet not shy at all, very serious yet a great sense of humour, he was quite eccentric and well-reasoned with a vast knowledge of music.
We walked the same paths in the city and I saw him a lot over the years. When Bar Bodega first opened in the nineties he became a regular and part of the big extended group of wayfaring characters that washed up there. He worked odd, late hours for Datacom and the Bodge never seemed to close in those days.
In 2002 Mark Austin agreed to produce my solo album on the condition we remake Your Body Stays – he said Peter had been working on a piano arrangement for it.
I went to his place overlooking the Aro Valley, it was wall-to-wall keyboards, albums and old coffee machines and he sat down like a mad professor and played that haunting piano line over my chords and I sang along with tears streaming down my face. Here was this guy who had painstakingly worked up a monumental arrangement of my best loved song – he had delved right into the core of it and got the feeling exactly right.
When we came to record it Pete put down the piano first and we built it up from there with Riki Gooch on drums and the late AK Goss on bass – it’s very special.
So he wound up joining the Spines line-up that came together at that time and he did his homework on the songs. He did several gigs with us mostly at Bodega and he was great to play with live – he really delivered. Then his job and health got in the way and he drifted away from the band and then his mum died and things got tough for him.
He bought an apartment in Palmer St and moved in with all his records and keyboards and old coffee machines. It was close to his work and Bodega and he was happy there. I became part of a loose group of his friends and we would often wind up all crammed into his place listening to prog late into the night.
Over the last couple of years I know he’d been quite sick and had had some big scares but the last time I saw him he didn’t look well but was quite upbeat so it came as a surprise but no surprise to learn he’d died.
Just now I had a listen to some live recordings we did with Pete back in the day and his playing is extraordinary, bringing a separate flavour to each song – the Lions sounds like The Peddlers. He brought a Garth Hudson or Doctor John sensibility to some tunes and he was Mike Garson or Rick Wakeman in others but his live playing on Your Body Stays is pure Peter Robinson – true grace.