The early eighties in Wellington was the best place and the soundtrack for me was what I suppose you would call post punk. It was a new type of music and I loved it – Echo and XTC, Furs and the Cure, Magazine and Joy Division, Dexy’s and Only Ones, Stranglers and Members, Japan and the Mekons
Barry Jenkin was on the radio late at night introducing Wire or Gang of Four and Pere Ubu was everywhere
Local bands too were tearing it up – Shoes This High, the Steroids and Beat Rhythm Fashion were my personal favourites in Wellington and we’d get bands like Toy Love the Gordons and the Clean passing through. We had Naked Spots Dance and Life in the Fridge Exists. Then the Skeptics moved to town and hooked up with Brent and John from the Gordons they brought a whole new energy to the place with Writhe Studio.
I did some roadie work on a few big shows back in those days and one was Siouxsie and the Banshees at the town hall. I was wandering backstage through the green room and Robert Smith was standing there drinking a beer. He was all made up, about to go on stage to play guitar for the Banshees and he offered me a drink from the rider and made a joke.
When they came on I managed to get right up the front and Siouxsiewas on fire. The Wellington punks started spitting and she hurled her mic at them, swinging it round like Daltrey and Robert Smith’s guitar playing was impeccable throughout.
I went to quite a few gigs in that capacity and probably the most memorable was Echo and the Bunnymen at that same old town hall. I was right up the front again and it just went off – the Bunnymen and Heaven Up Here took the tough Wellington crowd to the logical limit. At one point I was getting punched in the ribcage by a strange woman who thought I had written a song about her and some young punk girls pulled her off me. They turned these big spotlights on the audience at the end when they played Over The Wall as she was dragged out.
The Spines started life through this time and it was these bands that inspired the music we played and the songs I wrote. The Wellington audiences in those days were pretty hard-core and I felt we had to keep growing and trying new things – push the boundaries without the show-biz.
It was never the New Romantics or the hairdresser brigade for me – I liked the harder edged sounding stuff and over the years the Spines have supported bands like; Hunters and Collectors, the Hoodoo Gurus, the Violent Femmes, the Buzzcocks and the Fall and that kind of audience always got what we were trying to do.
The music for me that ran down the back of the eighties was just as important, colourful and lyrical as the great music of the sixties or the seventies – even more so because I feel I had a part in it.
The Ghost of Electricity – War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary