Almanac Music – Friday’s for funerals, Saturday’s for brides: Tex, Don and Charlie

As an unreconstructed country boy, I love a stubby holder. So, last night at Adelaide’s premier live music pub, the Gov, my pace accelerated as I approached the merchandise table.

T-shirts. CDs. Vinyl. Yes, yes. What’s this? Coffee mugs. Fair enough, but where’s the stubby holders? Then I saw it. A linen rectangle. A Tex, Don and Charlie tea towel. Ah, my first ironic tea towel. I considered. I could, I guess, use it to dry my Wagga Wagga souvenir spoon (ironically purchased too).

Tex Perkins has a massive voice, an instrument of booming sonics and attack. Doubtless, others could tell me if it’s a baritone or bass, but I do know the timbre is entrancing. If human voices can possess a narrative then this one plots panther danger, underworld trickery and tropical heat. It reminds me of Captain Beefheart, and those monochrome images of Bikini Atoll or Maralinga nuclear blasts. When singing, he doesn’t adopt the central personas so much as become possessed by them. 

Fittingly, we’re in a pub for these are pub tales, and my only regret is we’re not suspended on stools, in a wobbly circle, and nodding over beers at our sage raconteurs. The songs of Tex, Don and Charlie have incontestable gravity and lonely geographies. The music slinks through inner-city grime, but mostly slouches in the dust and dusk north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and owes a debt to the 1950’s and our cheerful beginnings of despair.

Don Walker sits at his keyboard, his silver mane flopping in time, while his voice is a diverse instrument. At its most intimate it absorbs and pacifies, but in the upper register, it can fall into Willie Nelson parody. His gifts are his words and his stories, and in these rests an unrushed economy, and a vernacular deep with hot tears, smiles and snug hearts. Beyond “Flame Trees” he wrote “Harry Was A Bad Bugger.” Don’s an icon.

Phantasms drift about the Gov, and I think of Tom Waits and his tunes, all swarthy menace and ragged swagger. I think of Bruce Dawe and his depictions of rural lives, wrecked. Spinifex and scrub. Lyrical and parched places; ferocious light, sky. There’s landscapes in the soundscape. I think of romping observation, but also agedness and its introspection, prowling upon me.

Into this evening, I imagined Charlie Owen’s guitars. Plaintive acoustic, spiralling lap steel, his elegiac electric. Barely speaking, but with boyish enthusiasm, he paints our stage. With splashes of surf, we move along his removed beach. As if to counter these sparse yarns, and our collective flouting down at the dread, his strings urge the joy of the quiet minutes.

I come away into the windy midnight troubled and exhilarated by cold grey Saturdays; brokenness; Tex’s denim jacket bouncing like a St Kilda uniform; the black and white tableau of a double bassist; mosquito nets; sharks at funerals; Elvis; deliciously tired and unfussy drumming; eulogies; paychecks and gratitude.

 

Read David Wilson’s recent account of his night with Tex, Don and Charlie here

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Well played, Mickey. Excellent summation of what I am sure was a wonderful evening.

    “The closer I come to the heart of the matter, the farther away I get” (Postcard from Elvis).

  2. That teatowel, Mickey, needs a rapid collection of wine stains and gravy stains and holes created by unintended brushes with serrated steel.
    Lovely pace here.
    Images.

    “Troubled and exhilarated” – I like that.
    Rings bells.

    I’ve listened a bit recently to all three of Tex, Don & Charlie’s albums- spanning an incredible 25 years.

    Well played those men.

  3. Thanks Smokie. The Adelaide Entertainment Centre (not an oxymoron) is across the road from The Gov. I know where I’d rather see a band. “Whenever It Snows” was a highlight as was “Sitting In A Bar.” Best (first) Wednesday evening I’ve had in ages.

    E.regnans- each of their albums is a treat. Hopefully, the next one emerges before 2029! Don’s lyrics, Tex’s voice and Charlie’s guitars: all hall of famers! Thanks.

  4. Peter Crossing says:

    Thanks for the great report Mickey. We also enjoyed the show. Caught the tram to the Gov in fact, along with a tram-and-a-half load of school students heading to the Primary Schools Music night at the Ent Cent over the road.
    We chose the “Dinner and Show” option, the dinner section of which stretched out about an hour longer than it should have, I reckon. Presumably so punters would spend more time at the bar. We toasted TD&C with a Kilikanoon shiraz. In fact, several. Seemed apt.
    Great music.
    Some rough edges to the band which added to the quirkiness.
    Showman Tex really does have a good voice and yes Mickey, the swagger, but tonight his bravado is cranked at the lower end of the spectrum.
    Don’s wonderful lyrics. Great songwriter. Laconic drawling delivery. His choice of shirt drew sarcasm from Tex (“awful”) and in blues guru Joffer’s captured pic it takes on an ethereal glow. Seems apt.
    Charlie’s guitar was sublime at times but I also loved the way Garret Costigan’s pedal steel soared over it all or filled in a space.
    My best songs in a terrific set-list –
    One Step Ahead of the Blues
    Harry Was a Bad Bugger
    Postcard from Elvis
    What I Done To Her
    Sitting In A Bar (love the lyrics …. there’s a cold gray Saturday/Comin’ in under the door)
    Missed the tea towel but we did liberate a few of the celebratory drink coasters.

  5. Thanks Peter. If Wikipedia can be trusted Tex started in music as a roadie. I guess one day at sound check he bellowed into a microphone and…

    Sitting in a Bar is almost a spoken word/ stand-up routine. It’d slot nicely into a Tom Waits set list too. But there’s some wonderful imagery in it as well.

    When I learnt a double bassist was in the band I smiled as this always adds to the music and the theatre for mine.

    Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks Peter.

  6. Those 3 albums are treasures – I can’t wait till 2029. The teatowel will come in handy to wipe the cd covers (if you, like me, still buy CDs, that is).

    How great is ‘Girl with the Bluebird Tattoo’? I believe it inspired the Stieg Larsson trilogy.

  7. DBalassone- a story I was going to include occurred in 2008 when I tried to buy Sad But True on CD. I searched online, rang record stores, visited merchants, eBay. No luck. And in those pre-streaming days I then encountered only silence. Dark times indeed. Rectified in 2016.

    2029 is difficult to imagine. Still with seven Crows flags to enjoy life will be good. And we’ll be under the governor-generalship of Sir SK Warne, so all will be sweet. Won’t it?

  8. Luke Reynolds says:

    The past few years I’ve gone the T-Shirt option at gigs.
    Sadly I couldn’t get to a T, D & C show. Mrs R has protested that I’ve used up my gig quota for the year, with one pre-purchased gig to go. She’s probably right.
    Sounds like a great night. Thanks Mickey.

  9. Thanks Luke. Last year we became fans of the Day on the Green series and attended two, which were excellent. So far this coming summer’s concerts are unappealing for mine, but last week a new set was announced and took my eye, until I realized the band I’d most like to see, the Lemonheads, were playing everywhere except South Australia.

    Damn you Dando, you dodo.

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