Good Reading : September 2009
BOOKBITE 1 Vagabond Holes by Chris Coughran and Niall Lucy The haunting music of Aussie 1980s rock band The Triffids captivated a generation but it took a lot of hard work to get there. A fter playing in perth for three years and saving as much money as we could, we headed for sydney. It could have been melbourne, but Jill Yates had set up home in sydney and I could stay with her, and that was a start. When we got to sydney, margaret and our sound guy Jason decided they had fallen in love and wanted to go back to perth. this was just before our very first sydney gig. We enlisted the help of Jill Yates on keyboards, and she accompanied us on a tour of melbourne. In sydney we were lucky to meet sally Collins, who was managing the sunnyboys at the time and gave us supports at big underage shows. We did our own poster runs and stepped on a few toes of the local promoters by covering theirs with ours. We either didn’t know what a cut-throat industry pub-rock advertising was, or more likely did it to get attention. After the first trip to sydney – which had been made in my Kombi van, which could not make the journey again – we bought ‘Happy Wheels’, a second-hand toyota Hi-Ace van named after a silly television commercial. I remember one occasion when Alsy used Happy Wheels to help a friend move house in sydney. At that time we kept all of our effects, pedals, leads and electric gadgets, in a big plastic rubbish bin. Alsy had unloaded some of the gear from the van and absentmindedly left the bin by the side of the road. He soon realised and drove back to find the street full of empty bins; the garbage truck had just made its round. the triffids headed out to Lucas Heights rubbish dump on the outskirts of sydney, a massive landscape of stinking mountains, to search for our equipment. We consulted with the staff and waded through the most likely pile for a bit before accepting the needle-in-a-haystack reality. Another little blow to our cause. We would return to perth periodically from here on, but largely to rest and do profitable shows. Now with an established following and low overhead costs we would save up for our next venture, which would be europe. We crossed the nation by road too many times to remember; two or three of us in Happy Wheels and others taking their turn on the killer bus trip. the focus for the band was always the next record. playing and touring were obviously important, but our hard work and thriftiness were directed towards the goal of self-funded recording. Apart from our first single, Stand Up – the result of studio time won in a 6Nr radio competition – we paid for all our recordings (hence the numerous midnight-to-dawn sessions, when studio time is cheaper). Dave was incredibly prepared for all sessions. He would have track lists and production notes in one of his many notebooks. I remember 48 goodreading ı september 2009 one of these notebooks, containing all the work for Treeless Plain, had a narrow escape on a trip from Frankston to st Kilda, in melbourne. We had just got back from playing with the Uncanny X-men at the pier Hotel (a premier Agency gig) when Dave, panic-stricken, realised he had left his notebook on the roof of Happy Wheels after we’d loaded the gear in Frankston. He rushed out to find his notes scattered around the prince of Wales Hotel car park, a speed-bump having finally dislodged the notebook from the roof of the van. Dave was lucky that day! Pavement on the first day of summer It creaks in the sun like an old mattress long unsprung. Disused in the winter months, now it scalds: a strip of simmering grit against the bitumen’s black – now frying globs of ice-cream, now pinching cigarette butts in sandy cracks. Dogs and children skip across its bright concrete skin. Saltwater dripping from a woman’s bare shoulders is smelt thirty metres downwind. On this first day of summer, we secondhand Europeans divine old pangs for the ocean, find dormant antipodean thirsts and cravings reawakening – pullulating – in our genes. They insist that pavement obeys the obstinate tug of beachtide. The sea reinvites the pleasure of our skin; evening light yellows thin bodies swimming half shadowed at close of day. As they splash and play and glisten on the foreshore’s rim, a sea breeze whips whitecap spray across the pavement, up through pines and electric pylons, splicing it among spines of office blocks high above the bay. Into the night, heat seeps away. Extracted from Vagabond Holes: David McComb and the Triffids ($35.00) and Beautiful Waste: Poems by David McComb ($24.95), both edited by Chris Coughran and Niall Lucy, published by Fremantle Press.