Download The Wellington App for more stories like this.

Hop into the history of The Wide Mouth Frogs

The latest addition to Audioculture, the “noisy library of New Zealand music” tells the story of the short but glorious career of Wellington’s all-female rock/pop band The Wide Mouth Frogs.

This tour poster for the Wide Mouthed Frogs, designed by Peter Chester, was banned from appearing in the Hawkes Bay Herald-Tribune.

By Mark Cubey

It’s appropriate that last week’s commemorations for Suffrage 125, the 125th anniversary of women winning the vote in New Zealand, included the addition to Audioculture of the long-awaited (for some of us) profile of pioneering all-woman band The Wide Mouth Frogs.

Singer Jenny Morris, who went on to Australasian fame, had her profile on Audioculture updated earlier this month, and Tina Matthews also been mentioned for her role as bassist in 1980s band The Crocodiles.

But now former drummer Sally Zwartz, a podcaster and zine enthusiast in Sydney, has gathered the collective recollections of those involved to tell the story of what happened when a group of talented young women got together in the whirl of post-punk anything-goes Wellington to create a band like no other.

Disclosure: I, along with two of my male friends (one a moving pictures editor in Sydney, the other an authority on Austronesian linguistics for the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) took suitably subservient roles as go-go dancers at the early stages of the Frogs’ career. Here’s a photo, with many more in the full piece.

The Wide Mouth Frogs, live at a 1979 Summer City gig (possibly Botanic Gardens). From left: Andrea Gilkison (guitar), Sally Zwartz (drums, obscured), Tina Matthews (bass), with go-go dancers Mark Cubey and John Bowden

Here’s the introduction by Sally Zwartz to her profile:

The Wide Mouth Frogs were, as far as I knew then, New Zealand’s first all-female rock/pop band. We were a six piece, mostly: Jenny Morris and Katie Brockie (lead vocals), Andrea Gilkison (guitar), Bronwen (Bronnie) Murray (keyboards), Tina Matthews (bass) and me (drums). We came together in late 1978 and did our first gig in December that year. Our last was at the inaugural Sweetwaters Festival, in January 1980. The precise details of our history are hazy in parts and there’s remarkably little documentary evidence to turn to – we have a few newspaper clippings and, luckily, the WMF accounts book, meticulously kept by Andrea. So, for this telling I’m relying mainly on an exercise of collective recall by the six of us, with additional help from others who were there. There are some gaps but overall that process of remembering produces a narrative of unusual unanimity. Which is a very fair reflection of what it was like to be in the band, all those years ago.

Read the full story, with some fantastic photographs, here: