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First published in October 2016


From the Dennis Hayes Collection

These photos feature Tom Swainson, Mike Farrell, Bob McKay and myself in our early Spyce of Lyfe Days. John Kelly (Nuthouse Van) was our Road Manager. - Dennis Hayes


Tom Swainson 1948 - 2016

A tribute from the surviving members of the Spyce of Lyfe 1966/67
Bob McKay and Dennis Hayes

1965 – The Survivors

Tom's drumming started when he was at Mana College in Porirua playing side drum in the Mana College Brass Band where he and another drummer Bob, became friends. In their final year at Mana College both Tom and Bob joined the Wellington Territorial Army band. 

(Bob, Dennis, Tom, Brian)

It was the hey-dey of pop music and on leaving college many teenage musicians began forming bands and so the Survivors was born at Porirua with Tom on drums -of course- and friend Bob on Lead Guitar.

The Survivors played all covers and pop music – much of which is still rated as classic even today –groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Beach Boys, the Who, the Kinks –to name a few that Tom’s first drumming gigs involved.

Many early band trips with the Survivors involved Friday afternoon flights from Wellington to Nelson where the 5 piece band would all don bright red shirts, black suits and black narrow ties.

(Brian, Bob, Tom, Dave, Dennis)

Dave Duffell joined the Survivors as lead singer early in 1966.  They would do a publicity walk around the Nelson CBD for an hour before heading to the Galaxy Lounge for the first gig of the weekend.

(At the Nelson Sports Hall, summer 1966 - Tom, Dennis, Dave, Brian, Bob)

The Spyce of Lyfe

The Survivors became the Spyce of Lyfe when the band invited Mike Farrell to join and play lead guitar.  Bob switched to Rhythm guitar and keyboards – with Dennis Hayes on Bass and Tommy on drums. The Spyce of Lyfe became one of Wellington’s top bands and played at all of Wellingtons top venues.   Tom came to the fore particularly when the band covered Jimi Hendrix, the Cream, the Blues Breakers and the Easybeats.

(Dennis, Bob, Mike, Tom)

But during the Xmas/New Year season of 1966/67 the “Spyce of Lyfe” went to the Mahia Peninsula and Gisborne playing every night at the summer holiday dances. The boys maintained long lasting memories of those days crammed with playing music, lots of laughs, and accepting the rough-and-ready conditions where the band mostly slept in halls, the van or in tents - and Tom enjoyed being a part of every minute of it.

Tom was the quietest and shyest of the band, but was always there when help was needed and a real gentleman. Not only was Tom a rock-solid drummer but his vocal skills and drum solos throughout his subsequent years of playing in New Zealand with Tom Thumb, Red Eye and Quincy Conserve were legendary.  

Despite not having been in the country of his birth for almost 40 years, the many expressions of sympathy expressed today, and the impressive tributes on social-media at the passing of Tom, are a true testament to the esteem in which he is held by so many.   It seems that everyone who knew Tom respected and loved him. He always had time, a smile and a listening ear for fellow musicians, promoters, and those who attended the various bands gigs.  

Rest in Peace Tom    

**   Over the years Bob and Dennis kept in touch with Tom with Xmas cards and occasional phone calls. Bob visited Tom in 2003 when he called into Dunk Island for a brief stop-over and they both enjoyed recalling and recounting some old ‘band-days’ stories.  

Bob and Dennis feel very fortunate to have both had long phone conversations with Tom in recent weeks and he expressed that he was enjoying his retirement. His sudden death is indeed a sad loss.


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