The following was contributed by Dave Swift – the drummer for Mainly Spaniards, and now a journalist living in the United Kingdom:
Mainly Spaniards formed in early 1981 from regulars among the early Christchurch punk scene.
Uni student Richard James (vocals and guitar) wrote most of the songs. Nick Strong, another student, was on bass. David Swift (drums), a journalist and rock music reviewer on the Press, had played in the 1980 group Buying A Hat, while screen printer Mike Jeffris (guitar) played in several bedroom/rehearsal groups dating back to early 1978 and the original Mollett Street Market punk rock scene.
Mike was one of several to audition for the 4th spot in the band after months of rehearsals as a trio. Ross Humphries (the Pin Group) would have been a superb addition too but despite several rehearsals he was busy with other music projects. The name came from my own ridiculous idea of reading newspapers and circling any two words that taken out of context might work. a report on the press foreign news pages, (which I occasionally laid out and edited!) about a bus crash in Spain that killed 35, ‘Mainly Spaniards’, did the job.
We gigged through 1981 and 1982, playing at the two pubs in central Christchurch that hosted all the right names of the day. That was the DB Gladstone (Durham Street) and the Star and Garter (Oxford Terrace – demolished in the late 90s). As I recall, Mainly Spaniards only played once outside Christchurch and that was at the Empire Tavern in Dunedin with Ballon D’Essai in late 1981.
The highlight of our gigging career was most definitely two nights with The Clean at the Star and Garter in 1982. 500 people crammed in each night and The Clean, by then getting very popular, wanted us to play last. We did – and no one left before we came on….. we also supported/played with The Chills, The Pin Group, The Newtones, Sneaky Feelings and others.
Roger Shepherd, a mate of ours, had started Flying Nun Records and having seen most of our gigs offered us a single. FN014 (‘That’s what friends are for’ / ‘Questions’ / ‘Secretaries’ lunch break’) was recorded by Chris Knox on his famous 4-track in Paul Kean’s house in Sydenham in march 1982 and released in the middle of that year.
500 were pressed and sold out pretty quickly and it was a mild disappointment that we did not make the national top 40. Got good university radio station airplay, though, and nice words in Rip It Up when they did a feature on the Christchurch scene in 1982. My rock journalism rival, Rob White, was forced to give us an interview in the Christchurch star in 1982 owing to our popularity in the city.
Failsafe Records ended up releasing a retrospective compilation ‘The Absolute Truth’ compiling the groups material in 2021.
- Richard James (The Letter 5, vocals and guitar)
- Nick Strong (bass)
- David Swift (Buying A Hat, drums)
- Mike Jeffris (guitar)
- That’s What Friends Are For 7″ Single (1982, Flying Nun, FN014)
- The Absolute Truth (2021, Failsafe Records, SAFE113CD)