DAVID MCCOMB – LOVE OF WILL
David McComb is best known as the singer of The Triffids, unquestionably one of the greatest rock bands of all time and one which released quite a few albums over the course of their fourteen year existence. As asolo artist, however, McComb recorded just one solo record, which is the subject of this week’s One Album Wonders.
David McComb was born 17 February, 1962 in Perth, Australia toDr. 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. Nevertheless, McComb would emerge as one of Australia’s greatest poetic voices.
McComb began making music with Alan “Alsy” MacDonald in 1976, who was the primary songwriting partner throughout what proved to be his too short life. The two first collaborated as part of the collective known as Dalsy, then as Blök Music, and followed by Logic, which after just one performance in 1978 changed their name to The Triffids. Despite their having released some of the best music of the 1980s and NME having gone so far as to proclaim 1985, “The Year of the Triffids,” they were never commercially successful. After one of their most musically adventurous but commercially less successful albums, The Black Swan, The Triffids called it a day in 1989.
McComb’s post-Triffids years were less prolific, in large part because of his difficulties with drug addiction and associated illnesses. After the dissolution of the Triffids, McComb and MacDonald formed Blackeyed Susans with former Triffid Phil Kakulas, Ross Bolleter, and Rob Snarski and that band released an EP,Some Births are Worse than Murders in 1990. McComb returned to London, where The Triffids had been based for several years, in 1990, and the following year he and Adam Peters contributed a cover of “Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On” to the Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan and also released a proper single, “I Don’t Need You.” McComb next formed a backing band, The Red Ponies, comprised of former Triffid “Evil” Graham Lee, Warren Ellis, Peter Luscombe, Bruce Haymes, and Michael Vidale. Backed by his new band, McComb toured Europe and released the dancey single “The Message” onStephen Street’s Foundation label, which folded in 1991. In 1992 McComb returned to Australia to study art history at The University of Melbourne… and occasionally performed with Blackeyed Susans.
From June to August 1993, McComb recorded what would prove to be his only solo ablum, Love of Will, with a band comprised of former Triffid Martyn Casey and Phil Kakulas on bass; Peter Luscombe on drums; Barry Palmer and “Evil” Graham Lee on guitar; Bruce Haymes and Daniel Denholm on keyboards; and Warren Ellis on violin. Backing vocals were sung by Joanne Alach, Lisa Miller, and Rob Snarski. Love of Will was released in December 1993 on White Label and promo videos were filmed for “Setting You Free” and “Clear Out My Mind” — both of which were released as singles and the latter of which was (according to McComb) inspired by Geto Boys‘ “My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me.” A few months after the recording ofLove of Will, McComb sang back-up on Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ Let Love In and his own band’s Martyn Casey and Warren Ellis both ended up joining Cave’s. Palmer went on to join Hunters & Collectors; Lee performed with Paul Kelly, Robert Forster, and other musicians; and Luscombe, Haymes, and Denholm also went on to play with numerous musicians.
McComb launched one last band, Costar, who recorded a still unreleased EP. A planned Triffids reunion in 1994 was put on hold when McComb’s health worsened and McComb developed cardiomyopathy. Although he underwent a successful heart transplant in 1996, his continued abuse of drugs did his health no favors and after being involved in a car crash on 30 January, 1996, he was hospitalized for a night, released, and then died on 2 February, a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday. His ashes were spread under the pines at the family’s farm near Jerdacuttup.
Predictably, since McComb’s death The Triffids’ stature has grown and they’ve inspired a documentary (about the masterpiece Born Sandy Devotional), tribute concerts, and Bleddyn Butcher’s book, Save What You Can – the Day of the Triffids. Additionally, a book of McComb’s poetry was released a few years ago as Beautiful Waste. A crowd-funded documentary titled Love in Bright Landscapes: The Story of David McComb of The Triffids seems still to be in production (or pre-production), directed by Jonathan Alley. Most encouraging is the fact that every proper studio album by The Triffids has been re-released and are therefore relatively easy to enjoy. On the other hand, McComb’s Love of Will has unduly suffered over the intervening years since its release from its relative obscurity. Shortly after its initial release it received a second pressing by Mushroom in early 1994 but soon after went out of print and remains so to this day. It was only produced on audio cassette and compact disc but if you find a copy, do snag it. In the meantime, you can listen to it online if you wish.
Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities; however, job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, and Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.