Look Blue Go Purple


Look Blue Go Purple

Look Blue Go Purple was the most important band in Dunedin throughout the mid-1980s. Musically they weren’t necessarily the most proficient, and in terms of song-writing they weren’t the most prolific, but in terms of the scene they were far and away the most irreplaceable group – they were the glue that held everything together. And they made great records, and played the greatest gigs.


Starting in early 1983 as a loose and fairly tribal collective, much like the Raincoats had been in a bigger town the previous decade, LBGP learned how to play as a group, and they taught plenty of others what being in a group was all about. Paradoxically, although they certainly showed that gender wasn’t relevant to being in a rock band the way the average dickhead thought it was, their career actually showed how in other ways, it was. As a group of strong-willed, talented, and determined women they achieved collectively, without stars, and without leaders. And they had the best parties, period. Every human pyramid ever built is dedicated to their memory.

Their line-up remained solid throughout their 1983-88 career, a twin guitar attack of Denise Roughan and Kath Webster, with Norma O’Malley on organ and flute, Kathy Bull (now Francisca Griffin) on bass and Lesley Paris on drums. Pretty well everyone sang at some point. A blogger has observed recently that they seemed to owe a debt to the contemporaneous LA ‘paisley underground’ scene, which was fair, though it could be said of all Dunedin bands of the era, and was more a matter of common influences. Certainly they wore those 60s influences on their sleeves, absorbing the earlier work by the likes of the Clean, Sneaky Feelings and especially the Chills in processing these into an indigenous template that a second wave act like LBGP could work within.

They recorded just three EPs – their single-minded devotion to the archetypal format of the day alone shows their quintessential status as a Dunedin band. Their first EP, Bewitched was recorded in 1985, once they’d hit their stride as an awesome live act. The live clip of Buffy St Marie’s ‘Codeine’ from a 1986 TVNZ special shows their irresistible rhythm at its finest. YouTube it today.

They followed with LBGPEP2 in 1986, which featured their best known track – ‘Cactus Cat’, and then finally, once they began to feel they’d explored all their collective musical options, they recorded the farewell This is This in 1988.

Once they splintered apart, they immediately launched into a bunch of other acts, including the 3Ds, Cyclops, Chug, and Olla. During the 1990s LBGP’s influence was mainly felt through these later ventures, as well as in the 1991 CD compilation of all their studio recordings. Now it seems common-place for women to play rock in NZ, though the roster of genuinely rocking all-women bands still remains fairly light. And for that reason, we should all celebrate Look Blue Go Purple for the audacious pioneers and kick-ass rockers that they will always be.

Bruce Russell

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