The Spines Profile

Gary Steel
17 Mar 2015

Long before mock metallers Spinal Tap ingratiated themselves into the public consciousness, worlds away both musically and geographically another vertebral group called The Spines were plying their indescribable wares down in Wellington.

From 1981 through 1987, Jon McLeary’s outfit weathered then typical local apathy and incomprehension and constantly fluctuating line-ups to produce a solid body of idiosyncratic and occasionally brilliant work over a 7-inch EP, a 12-inch single, a 12-inch EP and two albums.

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A Jon McLeary painted Spines poster from the early 1980s
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The Spines at Newtown Festival, Wellington (2009)
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Jon McLeary at Wellington's Bar Bodega in 2014
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The Spines' debut EP, Fishing, released on Ripper Records in June 1982 and co-produced by Bryan Staff
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The Spines at San Francisco Bath House, Wellington at a fundraiser for Darren Watson and Jeremy Jones' bid to take the Electoral Commission to the New Zealand High Court over the Commission ruling that the song and video Planet Key was an election advertisement. Left to right: Jon McLeary, Malky Taylor, Les Knight.
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The Spines, 3 Volts and Death Commandos at Clyde Quay, 1984
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The Spines 1983: Tim Robinson, Rob Mahoney and Jon McLeary
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The second Spines release via Bryan Staff's Ripper label, Punch was co-produced by Ian Morris and Andy Drey in 1982 but not released until March of 1983
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The Spines circa 1982: Caroline Easther, Jon McLeary and Rob Mahoney
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The Spines at The Gladstone in Christchurch in 1985: Jon McLeary, Wendy Calder and Ross Burge
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The Spines circa 1982: Caroline Easther, Jon McLeary and Rob Mahoney
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1986's Idiot Sun album, produced by Brent McLachlan at Wellington's Frontier Studios and released via Flying Nun. The cover painting is by Jon McLeary.
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The Spines, 1986: Jon McLeary, Ross Burge and Wendy Calder. The kid is Gus McLeary.
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The Spines meet The Body Electric. Left to right: Alan Jansson, Wendy Calder, Garry Smith, Jon McLeary and Andy Drey
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The Spines meet The Body Electric. Left to right: Jon McLeary, Wendy Calder, Alan Jansson, Andy Drey and Garry Smith.
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Jon McLearly, Neil Duncan and Andy Drey, circa 1982
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The Spines play Southern Cross Tavern, Wellington, March 2015
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The Spines, 1987. Left to right: Neill Duncan, Jon McLeary, Ross Burge and Wendy Calder.
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Jon McLeary and Riki Gooch in the 1990s
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The Spines circa 1984: Jon McLeary, Wendy Calder and Ross Burge
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Jon McLeary's original artwork for the April 1982 issue of In Touch magazine, with a story on The Spines
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The Moon was the third release from The Spines. Issued via Wellington indie Jayrem, the line-up was Wendy Calder, Ross Burge, Neill Duncan and Jon McLeary, who also did the cover painting.
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Jon McLeary and Riki Gooch in the 1990s
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The Spines - Lily and I (1982)
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Naked Spots Dance, Riot 111 and The Spines, year unknown but likely 1982
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Trivia:

Contrary to some reports, the Fishing EP was recorded at EMI in Petone, not the short-lived Sausage studio, the birth place of the legendary **** Terrace scene compilation. McLeary confirms that Negative Theatre did however, record at Sausage.

Jon McLeary’s solo album The Miscreant was sent to Flying Nun, but was never released. After all these years, he’s still waiting for the tapes back.

Caroline Easther went on to drum for Beat Rhythm Fashion, The Chills, The Verlaines, Let’s Planet and Barry Saunders, amongst others.

Neill Duncan has performed with Six Volts, the Jews Brothers, Darth Vegas and many others. He lives in Australia and continues to perform after losing an arm to cancer in 2012.

Ross Burge is one of NZ’s most in-demand and well-travelled drummers, having performed with the Mutton Birds, Sharon O’Neill, Dave Dobbyn, Sneaky Feelings, Bic Runga, Tim Finn, Rick Bryant and Anika Moa. Phew.

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Members:

Jon McLeary - vocals, guitar

Caroline Easther - drums, vocals

Rob Mahoney - bass, vocals

Neill Duncan - sax, drums

Wendy Calder - bass

Tim Robinson - drums

Gregory Brice - drums

Ross Burge - drums

Anthony Donaldson - drums

Andy Craig - bass