The Beauty of the Beasts
Hotel Great Northern | Friday 1 March | 9pm | $51.55
Last year Tex Perkins felt the calling.
Like a scene in the Blues Brothers, he put out the call to his Beasts of Bourbon mates, from Beasts of Years gone past: Let’s get the band together and record.
This had come hot on the heels of an intensely emotional final performance spurred on by bassist Brian Hooper who was terminally ill and was hell bent on playing one more show.
‘Brian wanted the Beasts to play and he was determined to play at his own fundraiser. He was a fighter. The guy was told after his accident falling from a balcony that he’d never walk again, but indeed he did. Brian was a fighter. There was no guarantee he would make it to the gig, so we were prepared for anything. Come showtime there he was in the wheelchair with the oxygen mask and surrounded by nurses. He was wheeled on and it was amazing. We fired up the band. It wobbled for a minute and then it felt like it always did. I remember thinking that somewhere in the middle that this is the last time this will happen. The last time I’ll be able to play with Brian and Spencer. We knew Spencer was ill; he’d had liver failure four years ago. But it wasn’t actually cancer until recently. He was there and he played, and it was truly one of the most amazing and inspiring things anyone there had ever been to.
‘After that happened it all felt like anything is possible; what an incredible effort Brian had made. I think his wife had thought it was part of his morphine-based delusion. He wanted to get in the studio and make a punk rock record and she’d tell us to humour him, but the day after or two days after the benefit we all rang each other and Brian and we said let’s quickly get into the studio one last time. It wasn’t to make a record; it was more a case of it’s beautiful to do a gig together but to be in the studio and to make music together and be together – that was the intention – the expectation of what had to come out of it was low, but Brian died exactly a week after the benefit.
‘We all gathered for his funeral and that coming together gave us the opportunity to be together at the same time. The day after Brian’s funeral, we put out the call: “All Beasts still standing meet at this studio,” and what came together was all the people who had been in the band but many of them not at the same time, Boris hadn’t played in the band since 1990 and Kim left in 93, and he hadn’t been in the band at the same time as Charlie because he replaced him. So there was this new version of the band – not the Beasts of Bourbon, but the Beasts nonetheless. Our main goal was to get Spencer performing and to be with him in the studio and record with him one last time – he offered up a song called At the Hospital, a black-humour song about what he’d been going through, so that set the precedent for the rest of the music. We thought this record should be about what was going on, and it became a concept album, not just a tribute to Spencer and Brian but a reflection on our lives.
‘We have been writing songs about other people’s misfortunes and deaths – it would be hypocritical not to do it about our own – one day the storytellers become the story. Some of the songs are about the mythology of the band and the reputation of the band and the price that was paid for that reputation. We make our choices and we live with them. I think Brian and Spencer did that. It was particularly sad with Brian who just had two young children.’
This is an extraordinary story. Tex tells it so passionately it feels like I’m watching a film. Except it’s not a film. It’s a bunch of ageing blokes who wear black and still play loud music.
‘I feel a real love for these people and this band and I want to hold onto them, I want to not waste any more time,’ says Tex.
‘There were no expectations with the recording. We didn’t really mean to make an album, but it came together so well – it was so strong, it was undeniable.
‘As for the tone of the record, it’s not sad, or heavy and dark; in tone dare I compare it to Back in Black?’
Spencer Jones also died last year. The Beasts still standing for the show at the Hotel Great Northern are Charlie Owen, Boris Sujdovic, Tony Pola, Kim Salmon, and Tex Perkins. Don’t miss this show. It’s going to be beyond awesome. Dark, funny, twisted, and loud. Really fucking loud.
Like rock’n’roll is supposed to be.