Bones Hillman Profile

aka Wayne Stevens
Simon Grigg and Phil Judd
19 Nov 2020

When Bones Hillman died in early November 2020, it was reported globally, with obituaries in the Guardian, Billboard, the Age, the Australian, Rolling Stone and even the Daily Mail documenting the life of the bassist from Midnight Oil. New Zealand, too, remembered Bones. Social media was filled with personal and private tributes to a man who was not only a respected musician but often a personal friend or acquaintance. He was one of ours, one of us.

At home the dominant musical memory was not that of the Australian band, but overwhelmingly featured images or videos of two songs that had extra resonance for us, from an earlier band. In New Zealand, both ‘Counting The Beat’ and ‘One Good Reason’ by The Swingers, a band that had a life of a short three years, dominated the tributes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

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The October 1981 Swingers album Practical Jokers was released in New Zealand on Bryan Staff's Ripper label and in the rest of the world via Mushroom Records. With a cover designed by Phil Judd (as "Bud") it featured a re-recorded take of Counting The Beat with new drummer Ian Gilroy.
Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine
Bone Hillman and Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil, Germany 2019.
Photo credit: Publicity photo
The Swingers in 1979: Bones Hillman, Phil Judd, Buster Stiggs
The Swingers - Practical Jokers Tour
Photo credit: Martin Phillipps collection
Jimmy Joy, Zero, Buster Stiggs, Billy Planet, Bones Hillman. Taken for a fashion shoot by an Auckland Star photographer, October 1977.
Midnight Oil - Power and the Passion (Live in Sydney)
Bones Hillman performing in Nashville, Tennessee, October 2011.
Photo credit: John Mason II / Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
The Assassins outside Zwines, Auckland 1978. Dave Burgess, Spike Bastard, Geoff Fiebig, Jimmy Sex, Bones Hillman.
Photo credit: Publicity photo
The Swingers - One Good Reason (1981)
Midnight Oil - Forgotten Years
Buster Stiggs, Bones Hillman, Phil Judd
Photo credit: Photo by Murray Cammick
Looking down from upstairs at Zwines - l to r: Bones Hillman, Wayne Hunter, Ezra, Spike Nasty, unknown, unknown.
Photo credit: Photo by Fiona Clark
Midnight Oil - One Country
The Swingers at the Island of Real in Auckland's Airedale Street.
The Swingers in 1979: Buster Stiggs, Phil Judd, Bones Hillman
Bones Hillman and Jimmy Joy, Suburban Reptiles at Riverhead, 12 February 1978.
Photo credit: Photo by Stephen Penny
The Swingers 1982: Phil Judd, Andrew "Snoid" McLennan, Bones Hillman, Ian Gilroy
Spike Nasty and Bones Hillman from The Assassins. Both were former members of The Masochists who had played Auckland's first major punk gig in June 1977 with the The Suburban Reptiles and The Scavengers. Bones was also a member the Reptiles briefly. The Assassins would mutate into The Rednecks and Bones would later be a member of The Swingers, then Midnight Oil, and he became a leading session player in Nashville.
Photo credit: Photo by Fiona Clark
Terence Hogan's artwork for the 1980 debut Swingers single
Suburban Reptiles - Megaton
Midnight Oil - King of the Mountain
Bones Hillman, left, with Brian Ritchie, the Violent Femmes' bass player. 
Photo credit: Phillip Schultz
Phil Judd, Buster Stiggs, Bones Hillman in early 1981
The Swingers in 1981 - Phil Judd, Bones Hillman, Buster Stiggs
Bones Hillman with his former partner Hilary Young, Paris, 2017.
Swingers - 'Counting The Beat' (Ripper, 1981)
Bones Hillman and Jimmy Joy, Classic Cinema, Queen Street, Auckland, December 3rd, 1977
Photo credit: Photo by Murray Cammick
The Swingers - Counting the Beat (1981)
The final Swingers line-up, 1982: Andrew "Snoid" McLennan, Ian Gilroy, Phil Judd and Bones Hillman. 
Suburban Reptiles in Auckland's Jean Batten Place, October 1977. L to r: Jimmy Joy, Bones Hillman, Buster Stiggs, Zero, Billy Planet.
Coconut Rough, 1984: clockwise from left - Mark Bell, Eddie Olsen, Stuart Pearce, Bones Hillman and Andrew McLennan.
The Swingers, 1980: Buster Stiggs, Phil Judd, Bones Hillman
The Swingers in 1980: Phil Judd, Bones Hillman, Buster Stiggs

In addition to The Swingers' hit 'Counting the Beat', Bones Hillman played bass on one of NZ's unofficial NZ national anthems – Dave Dobbyn's much-loved hit 'Welcome Home'.



Mushroom Records