Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Gift of the artist 2002
Perth in 1978 had the Victims and the Triffids. The punk (or post-punk) explosion had imploded rather quickly in Australia, even if the country came to creating their own American or English equivalent three months later through the pages of the NME or across the import shops. Both bands used the tricks of the punk trade to DIY and not to rub shoulders with A&R suits in the hopes of that big record deal to propel them to fame and stardom. The Triffids were never famous, at least not in Australia. And they’re not famous now. Key songs and albums have been since dredged up and are today regarded as 80s classics by Australian music writers and beyond.
Now there’s a book by Bleddyn Butcher, a 500-plus page account of the band’s beginnings and ending, primarily focusing on the band’s singer, songwriter and spirit - David McComb. Save What You Can. The kind of writing and immaculate accounting in this shape and form is usually reserved for the likes of Bob Dylan, or the Velvet Underground; two artists of the 1960s that McComb coincidentally fancied. There’s no back fence to climb over to get through the story of David McComb, nor the band he created to drive his songs from a foolscap page to a lit stage. And consequentially, Butcher takes the long, scenic way and approaches the 21 years of the band ‘til their demise in 1989 with a sense of detail and care. This is what creates a difference between an encyclopedia entry on the internet and a book on your hand. You want to pick up a music biography knowing when you’ve thumbed the last page, there are no more questions left to ask. That’s it. The story’s told.
Bleddyn Butcher is a name you see on the back of anyone’s record collection that’s decent. Usually on the back and credited for what’s in the front, courtesy of his knack in taking superb photos. The Moodists. The Go-Betweens. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The Birthday Party. Ed Kuepper. Laughing Clowns. The Apartments. Crime & the City Solution.The Triffids. All of these artists sort fame and fortune in Europe. Some slept in hotels, others on floors – some both, depending on the circumstances. Armed with a camera or a typewriter, he was somehow always there - documenting the path of Australian independent music; something he's managed to do terribly well in the last thirty-plus years.
It’s been years (and years) that this book has been in the making, and finally it's complete. The day of the Triffids is upon us.
Save What You Can: The Day Of The Triffids by Bleddyn Butcher is available through Treadwater Press or any respectable bookseller.