David McComb is best known for having been the singer of The Triffids, unquestionably one of the greatest rock bands of all time and one that released quite a few albums of their fourteen year existence. As a solo artist, however, McComb recorded just one record, which is the subject of this week’s One Album Wonders.
David McComb was born on 17 February 1962 in Perth, Australia, to Dr. Harold McComb (a plastic surgeon) and Dr. Athel Hockey (a geneticist). The McComb family resided in The Cliffe, an historic home on McNeil Street in the posh neighborhood of Peppermint Grove. David and his four older brothers all attended Christ Church Grammar School in nearby Claremont. Despite, perhaps, his comfortable background, McComb would nevertheless emerge as one of Australia’s greatest poetic voices.
McComb began making music with Alan “Alsy” MacDonald in 1976 and MacDonald would remain McComb’s primary songwriting partner throughout what proved to be his short life. The pair first collaborated as part of a collective, Dalsy, and then Blöck Music, and then Logic, the latter of which changed their name after a single performance in 1978 to The Triffids. Despite having released some of the best music of the 1980s and the New Musical Express having gone so far as to proclaim 1985, the “Year of the Triffids,” the band were never very successful commercially. After one of their most musically adventurous but least commercially successful albums, The Black Swan, The Triffids called it a day in 1989.
McComb’s post-Triffids years were less fruitful, in large part because of his difficulties with drug addiction and associated illness. Following the dissolution of The Triffids, McComb and MacDonald formed Blackeyed Susans with Ross Bolleter, Rob Snarski, and former Triffid Phil Kakulas. Blackeyed Susans debuted with an EP, Some Births are Worse than Murders, in 1990.
McComb afterward returned to London, where The Triffids had been based for several years. There, in 1991, McComb and Adam Peters collaborated on a cover of “Don’t Go Home with your Hard-On” for the Leonard Cohen tribute, I’m Your Fan. The duo also released a single, “I Don’t Need You.”
McComb next assembled a backing band, The Red Ponies, comprised of Warren Ellis, Peter Luscombe, Bruce Haymes, Michael Vidale, and former Triffid “Evil” Graham Lee. McComb and the Red Ponies toured Europe and released the dancey single, “The Message,” on Stephen Street‘s label, Foundation. In 1992, McComb returned to Australia to study art history at The University of Melbourne… and occasionally perform with Blackeyed Susans.
From June to August 1993, McComb recorded what would prove to be his only solo album, Love of Will, with a band made up of Phil Kakulas and Daniel Denholm; ex-Red Ponies Peter Luscombe and Warren Ellis; and ex-Triffids Evil Graham Lee and Martyn Casey. Backing vocals were provided by McComb’s partner, Joanne Alach, singer-songwriter Lisa Miller, and Rob Snarski. Love of Will was released in December 1993 on White Label Records. Promotional videos were filmed for the singles “Setting You Free” and “Clear Out of My Mind.” According to McComb, “Clear Out of My Mind” was inspired by Geto Boys‘ “My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me.”
A few months after the recording of Love of Will, McComb provided backing vocals on Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds‘ Let Love In. Martyn Casey and Warren Ellis both ended up joining the Bad Seeds. Palmer went on to join Hunters & Collectors. Lee went on to perform with Paul Kelly, Robert Forster, and other musicians. Luscombe, Haymes, and Denholm also went on to perform with numerous musicians.
McComb formed one last band, Costar, who recorded a still unreleased EP. A planned Triffids reunion in 1994 fell through when McComb developed cardiomyopathy. Although he underwent a successful heart transplant in 1996, McComb continued to use drugs. He was involved in a car crash on 30 January 1996. He was hospitalized for one night and released the following day. He died on 2 February, a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday. His ashes were scattered amongst the pines at the family farm near Jerdacuttup. A documentary, Love in Bright Landscapes: The Story of David McComb of The Triffids, premiered on 13 August 2021 at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LA, Amoeblog, Boom: A Journal of California, diaCRITICS, Hidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft Contemporary, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, the book Sidewalking, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery.
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