A decade later, John McDougall told Rip It Up (May 1988), “The first band that I saw that really impressed me was Rough Justice. We thought that was the kind of music that we really enjoyed and wanted to play.”
Their first Onslow school band was The Wetas where, “we learnt our instruments together,” said McDougall. They evolved into The Rodents and in 1979 (the 6th form year for most of the band) they played their first parties.
The group included Onslow school students Peter Marshall (vocals), John McDougall (guitar), Andrew Cross (drums), Tim Robinson (percussion), Andrew Clouston (saxophone), Johnathan Zwartz (bass) and Graham McQueen (percussion). The band opened for Pop Mechanix and Ambitious Vegetables (later The Mockers) while some players were still attending Onslow College. Another key member of The Rodents was the slightly older John Niland on piano.
“they romped through Tamla and Stax numbers with panache”
– George Kay
When The Rodents played the main stage of the January 1981 Sweetwaters Music Festival on the Monday afternoon, they got a rave review from Rip It Up writer George Kay: “With unerring skill and feeling they romped through your favourite Tamla and Stax numbers with a panache that almost eclipsed the originals. ‘In the Midnight Hour’ and ‘Take Me To The River’ were worked out with authority and a couple of originals combined realism and rock steady stealth. It was lead vocalist Peter Marshall whose sheer intuitive interpretations were little short of sensational. Future assured.”
Despite the great review, The Rodents soon fell apart. In the March 1981 Rip It Up Wellington Rumours column, it read, “Rodents fulfilling current obligations with Mark Hornibrook on bass. At least two Rodents soon to leave – regular bassist and trumpeter required.” By June 1981, the Rip It Up Rumours column reported that “sundry ex-Rodents rumoured to be putting together a new band with original songs and a heavy reggae flavour.”
The Rodents recorded two songs with Tony Burns at Radio New Zealand, the soul classic ‘In The Midnight Hour’ and an original ‘My Girl She's Gone Away’. The Rodents originals included ‘Barking Up the Wrong Tree’, recorded by Hulamen in 1982.
The departure of vocalist Peter Marshall to Auckland, hastened the demise of the Rodents. The 11-piece band did not release any recordings but members of the band would go onto have success in other Wellington bands, including the Hulamen, The Pelicans and Holidaymakers.
David Armstrong - trumpet
Andrew Clouston - saxophone
Tristan Corkeek - guitar
Andrew Cross - drums
Chris Green - saxophone
Peter Marshall - vocals
John McDougall - guitar
Graham McQueen - drums, percussion
John Niland - piano
Tim Robinson - drums, percussion
Johnathan Zwartz - bass