Spencer P Jones. Spencer’s untimely and tragically premature passing was a lowlight of 2018. The only silver lining was the outpouring of love for the man, his music and his unbridled generosity. There will never be another like Spencer.
Beasts of Bourbon, Prince of Wales. Has there ever been a more emotional gig? Brian Hooper wheeled onto stage by nurses from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, plumes of smoke emanating from his oxygen mask. Spencer Jones, frail but determined to accompany his fellow Beast on stage for one last time. It was as sloppy as the Beasts once were, way back in the day. But it was beautiful.
Brian Hooper - "What Would I Know?" Recorded at Andrew McGee’s Empty Room property-cum-recording in Nagambie, Hooper’s reaction to the initial recording sessions was scathing. “It’s all shit,” he told me one day. But McGee saw enough in the recording to convince Hooper otherwise. A mixture of love, passion, pathos, self-loathing, resilience and gusto, this is a record brimming with emotional depth and musical complexity. RIP, Brian.
Jackson Briggs and the Heaters. James McCann put me onto these guys. Grinding country rock jams that should go on forever. They’ve got a new album out. Listen to it. Enjoy. Repeat.
The Breeders, Forum Theatre. It had been almost 25 years since I first saw The Breeders, at the Big Day Out in Adelaide, February 1994. On a Sunday night at the Forum Theatre The Breeders proved their every bit as vital as they were back in the day. I could listen to that riff in ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’ anytime.
The Beasts Croxton Park Hotel, Thornbury, VIC Saturday, February 23, 2019
I’m pretty sure Spencer Jones is the only member of the Beasts of Bourbon, past or present to have played the Croxton Park Hotel, back in ita heyday. That would have been in 1982, when Spencer was playing guitar in the psychedelic cabaret troupe North 2 Alaskans.
Back in those days The Croxton – ‘the Croc’, to its more familiar patrons – was a bastion of the suburban beer barn circuit. AC/DC played there back in the day, Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Chisel, all the Oz pub rock greats.
The Alaskans didn’t really fit in with the pub rock crowd, but they were as funny as a fit, and damn good musicians too. The Alaskans were, in hindsight at least, a link in the chain that led to the formation of the Beasts of Bourbon.
Brian Henry Hooper being attended to by his angels, his nurses. Carbie Warbie photo.
Four weeks ago Brian Hooper lay in intensive care, surrounded by family and his closest friends. The tumour doctors had found on Hooper’s lung just before Christmas was preventing Hooper from breathing without medical and mechanical assistance. Specialists suggested the even Hooper’s short-term survival was in the realm of miracles.
It wasn’t the first time Brian Henry Hooper had been told to fear the worst. Just over 14 years ago Hooper was told by specialists he may never walk again, after the balcony he was standing on at a gathering in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula collapsed, sending Hooper crashing to the ground, his back mangled from the fall.
Over the next 12 months, Hooper pulled himself back from the edge of permanent paralysis. Hooper’s resilience and psychological strength astounded all around him. In late 2004 Hooper limped back on stage with the Beasts of Bourbon for a gig at the Greyhound Hotel. Towards the end of the set, his battered spine unable to withstand the trauma of standing any longer, Hooper lay on the ground. His bandmates, save for Tony Pola on drums, followed suit, three battle-hardened rockers lying prostrate on the stage in sympathy for their comrade-in-arms.
Michael Halloran is playing upstairs at The Tote with Light Magnetic on Thursday 14 November.
Michael Halloran is busy, but he’s not in a hurry. Back in Melbourne from Mexico to see family and friends and to squeeze in a couple of live shows and some recording, Halloran is taking things as they come – organically, if you will.
“That’s where I’ve kind of got to now,” Halloran muses. “Fuck the whole organising and rehearsing, I’m too old for that – maybe not too old, but I’ve got my experiences.”
Having left Melbourne for New York five years ago, Halloran’s nominal home base is now in Mexico, where he runs a bed and breakfast. Earlier this year, Halloran returned to New York to put down some tracks with long-time collaborator Dee Pop and expatriate Australian musician Rob Mason:
“I lived in New York for about five years so I’ve got a lot of musical contacts and friends. It’s a very strong musical community,” Halloran says. “I’ve had this idea that I’ve wanted to do recently, which is to record with different people at different places. Basically to turn up there, stay for a month, get a feel, get back into the vibe and check some unique music, stuff that’s going on.”
London-based trio Dear Thief's fantastic record (yep, vinyl) is a couple of years old but I doubt they've had much press.
They seem to be an occasional band rather than a constantly gigging behemoth; nonetheless they sound exactly like some sort of rabid mammoth wandered into the No studio and went berko.
Those of you who notice such things might think you're being reminded of a particularly vicious Fall gig - drums, bass, guitar - but I find myself rather startled to realise that it's time I pulled out my "Woman" LP again.
In April 2007 I sat opposite Spencer Jones and Greg ‘Tex’ Perkins in a booth downstairs at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda. The occasion was an interview to promote the release of the Beasts of Bourbon’s first studio album in 10 years, "Little Animals". Having recently arrived back from a short tour of the United States, Spencer and Perkins were weary from the long-haul flight.
Perkins was in Beasts mode – cocky, enigmatic, and just prickly enough to remind you who was the tough guy here. Spencer was, as he always was, just Spencer – the cowboy hat, a faint smile, and a reassuring honesty that defied his decades of service in the duplicitous, ego-obsessed world of rock’n’roll.
A fraught fraternal atmosphere hung over the interview. Spencer and Perkins had been friends, band mates, fellow reprobates and occasional antagonists for the past 25 years. They were like brothers, Perkins once mused, and like brothers they loved and fought. And Spencer and Perkins were the only remaining links to the genesis of the Beasts of Bourbon, an irreverent make-shift band thrown together to fulfil Perkins’ gig commitments at the Southern Cross Hotel, way back in June 1983.
Boris Sujdovic, Tony Pola, Kim Salmon, Tex Perkins and Charlie Owen are The Beasts.
The Beasts of Bourbon formed, somewhat by accident, in 1984. If you were 12 today, would you really be inclined to take the trouble to listen to something recorded by a bunch of blokes who started back then?
Well, the hell with your boring old 12-year-old self. The new album by the Beasts of Bourbon's direct descendants, The Beasts, is called "Still Here" and it rates seven (if not eight) bottles (out of five) in my books. It's really simple: "Still Here" is essential if, as you claim, you're a Beasts of Bourbon fan, or if you think of yourself as someone who loves rock'n'roll.
After an extremely emotional final performance with the Beasts of Bourbon, Tex Perkins hit upon the idea of getting all of the band’s members, past and present into a recording studio with no particular agenda other than to do just that.
It was more of a celebratory thing he had in mind than anything. Sadly, bassist Brian Hooper didn’t make it along as he passed away a week after the Beasts’ last show.
Assembled in Melbourne's Soundpark Studio a couple of weeks later were, Charlie Owen, Boris Sujdovic, Tony Pola, Spencer Jones, Kim Salmon and Tex Perkins. They were unprepared, save for some some sketchy ideas, loose ends and a couple of covers. With limited time the band knocked together a collection of jams pretty much true to the crazy modus operandi employed back when “The Axeman’s Jazz” got laid down in that fateful eight-hour session in 1983.