Kim Salmon & The Surrealists, circa 1992 (l-r Kim Salmon, Tony Pola, Brian Hooper). Pic: B. W. Ward
Kim Salmon has had a lot of Brian Henry Hooper in his life.
Hooper played bass from the foundation of Kim Salmon & The Surrealists in 1987, along with drummer, Tony Pola. They went on to release such incendiary albums as Hit Me With The Surreal Feel (1988), Just Because You Can't See It ... Doesn't Mean It Isn't There (1989), Essence (1991), Sin Factory (1993, which broke them through to bigger audiences both home and internationally) and 1995’s self-titled album.
Salmon, Hooper and Pola also famously played together in the Beasts Of Bourbon. They all featured on 1991’s The Low Road album and continued – in various degrees - into the following decade. They have shared a lifetime of edgy, uncompromising rock’n’roll together.
And so it was that last Friday evening at the Prince Bandroom in Melbourne, Salmon – with the New Scientists - took to the stage with many others to perform at I Get Up – A Benefit For Brian Hooper. It was the first of two fundraisers for Hooper (the second being in Perth this Friday), who has been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. It also featured a reformed Beasts Of Bourbon, Adalita, Gareth Liddiard, Mick Harvey, Rosie Westbrook and Six Ft Hick.
From all accounts, it was a night of emotional and epic proportions. Mythical, perhaps, if it weren’t for the fact that it actually happened.
“The atmosphere was, like the name of the song we wrote together, Intense,” Salmon tells Around The Sound. “It was loaded with love and affection; heavy with anticipation, but buoyed up with levity and a hearty sense of fun.”
In a herculean effort, Hooper took to the stage for a half-hour set with The Beasts Of Bourbon, surrounded by medical staff. It stopped the room.
“Brian’s entry to the stage was as grandiose and theatrical a gesture as I can think of,” Salmon recalls. “All of the photos of him surrounded by nurses in his wheelchair and breathing apparatus giving off vapour and catching the light that have saturated the social media in the last week attest to that. He totally orchestrated this. He said it was a way to get the nurses who’d all wanted to see him at work after having got to know him, into the show.
“I’d have to say that the audience responded as they would to a such a well-orchestrated piece of theatre. It was a heroic gesture and a wonderful way to focus the audience’s attention onto the performance, the band and its members particularly Brian and of course Spencer Jones whose life and health is also in the balance. The Beasts ended their set to a rousing encore!”
Hooper has always been something of a quiet, yet charismatic figure onstage, with his bass playing placing his own indelible fingerprint on many great Australian rock’n’roll albums.
“I think Brian is seen by most punters as a Johnny Thunders or Keith Richards type figure,” Salmon notes. “I think it’s a good analogy, not just because he has their swagger and devotion to the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but also their enthusiasm for songwriting, arrangement and composition. As an example, Chase The Dragon and I Fell are a couple of the great riffs! He wrote those riffs. They are fun to play!
“As a friend, I think mostly of Brian as the guy who shares the lion’s share of specific rock’n’roll adventure memories with me from all of those European tours we did together throughout the 90’s in the Surrealists. I’m dearly going to miss having him to share them with.
“Interestingly, for all his swagger and grandiosity, Brian is someone who could be counted on to bring a realistic and down-to-earth perspective especially when one is needed for decision-making.”
Salmon will perform this Friday in the Perth leg of I Get Up with James Baker and other friends. It also promises to be very special.
“I’d just say come along, show your affection and support,” he says, “and, above all, enjoy the show and the life of Brian.”
I GET UP AGAIN: a benefit for BRIAN HOOPER features KIm Salmon & Friends, The Kill Devils Hills, Gareth Liddiard, The BIble Bashers, King Pig, The Teenage Dreamers (Salmon and Baker), The Floors, The Beautiful Losers, The Painkillers, The Polite Society and more. Full details via www.facebook.com/events/650593431953700/