Photo By Julian Wu
know David McComb well. Only as much as one musician knows another whom
they solely meet at gigs. A bit of a chat at sound check while you're
thinking about what songs youíre going to play that night. Or maybe youíll
exchange some views on the local scene while the sound guy tunes the fold
back. Either way it can often be nothing more than chitchat while each
performer gets into their zone. So I guess you get to know these people
through their music and this, although obviously being a huge part of
someone like Dave, is still not the whole shebang. So itís for these
reasons that I say I didnít Ďreallyí know him.
not on the W.Minc label but Iíd often hear his name around the office.
Both Graham and Steve were close friends of his and he would regularly
come up in conversation. Whether it was his new musical work or his past
adventures which both Graham and Steve at one time or another were
even remember when I was first introduced to him or for that matter if I
ever was. But I guess it was when he started playing small gigs around
Melbourne with his new band, Costar. They played with Ashley and me one
night at the Continental and I remember they had this sort of fragile
chaos about them. The band themselves were pretty loose and Dave really
didnít look too well. But he had these incredible songs and such a
fantastic delivery. It was obvious looking around the room that many
people watching the show were really into him and probably had been for
some time. With health problems keeping him quiet on the live music front,
they were enjoying his return to the stage.
release of my first album for W.Minc, I Listen to the Night, I
began writing songs for the next CD. After a long time playing an
improvised style of music I felt the need to develop more as a songwriter
and was fortunate to know some great songwriters to aspire to and learn
from. Dave was of course one of these and after mentioning my interest to
Graham Lee I received a clipboard full of Daveís lyrics that hadnít
developed into finished songs yet. From this collection I found the words
to Evil Feelings, a song that appeared on my second album, Soul
Witness. As fate would have it Dave never got to hear the finished
version of our one and only collaboration.
couple of occasions Dave joined me on stage and I remember one New Yearís
eve at the Standard Hotel Fitzroy when he sang Dylanís Lonesome Hobo.
Crammed behind that little balustrade at the end of the room with us it
seemed that he was performing the song beyond his physical limitations.
Holding my shoulder to balance himself Dave sang, and it was powerful and
dramatic and captivatingÖ even scary. Another time he guested with Ashley
and me at the Continental Cafť in Prahran for a Ďlive to airí on 3RRR FM.
Thankfully Julian Wu captured the night on tape. Although the recordings
havenít seen the light of day yet, Iím sure they will and when they do
people will hear him singing a great version of Lou Reedís Sweet Jane.
discovering his music. One night recently on PBS FM they featured some
live material from The Triffods - recorded at the Prince of Wales in St
Kilda back in í84 and another show somewhere in Europe
playing to a very enthusiastic crowd. They also played a recording of his
last line up, Costar recorded at the Espy. (Hooray for public
radio!) Some performances were polished and others raw and at times on the
verge of falling apart. But it was all refreshing and interesting and had
meaning to it. The sort of music people like me will hear in years to come
and be intrigued and seduced by, music thats impact will still be
relevant. Listening how he leads the band simply by his commitment to
delivering a songís emotion. And it doesnít have to be pounded into a
three-minute structure either. Heíd build with certain vocal lines and
make it clear to his band where he was going and what sort of musical
energy was required.
still very clear to me that Dave McComb was the real thing and in a lot of
ways I regret not knowing him better than I did, but then I realise that
even without getting to know him well, he taught me a lot.