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A tribute to Brian and The Tridents

The recent passing of Brian Lyons has shed light on the incredible story of The Tridents – quite probably this nation’s first rock band whose members were Old Paradians.

The tale has been related by Paul Power - a final year student of the class of 1957 - who wished to pay tribute to his old friend, who died on June 28 at the age of 74.

Paul recalled that Brian ended his time at Parade East Melbourne after what was then the equivalent of today’s Year 10, and that their paths first cross beyond the walls of the Old Bluestone Pile.

“I met Brian through the Irish connection,” Paul said. “He had three sisters who were Irish dancers, and we came together to learn the bagpipes. It was only then that we discovered that we were from the same school.”

The pairing of Paul and Brian came with the formation in 1951 of the Irish National Association Pipe Band – an offshoot of the Melbourne Irish Pipe Band which, as Paul said, “had been going for 50 or 60 years since the late 1800s but split due to a disagreement”.

“They asked my Dad, who was President of the Irish National Association at the time, to be President of the new group,” Paul said.

“Some people from the Melbourne Irish Pipe Band came across to start it. They brought some boys from the old St Ignatius Boys’ Pipe Band in Richmond to play, and they then trained some new players which included myself and Brian.

“I was 11 or 12 then so Brian would have been 10 or 11.”

Paul remembered that he and Brian rehearsed with the band, under the tutelage of Jim Daly and Pat Ryan, in the hall at St Brigid’s Fitzroy. They also spent many more hours practising together.

A fond memory involves him and Brian accompanying the dulcet tones of the Parade College choir and all schoolboys standing in the voluminous choir stalls at the Melbourne Town Hall.

“Brian and I played the bagpipes at what was the speech night at the Town Hall. A popular song at the time was “My Bonnie Lassie”, which was a version of “Scotland the Brave” and even though we were Irish pipers we knew some Scottish tunes.

“That night I remember Brian and I stood either side of the choir playing the bagpipes to the strains of “My Bonnie Lassie”.

Paul revealed that Brian and fellow Old Paradian Peter Roberts, together with another gentleman Max Barker, whom Peter met while undertaking National Service, formed a band, then unnamed, in 59.

“They used to practise in a hall at Buckley Park, between Essendon and Keilor. I think it was an RSL Hall and they used it because it had a piano in it - and because the keyboard player, who knew Peter from their national service days, lived out that way in Pascoe Vale.

Paul remembered that Peter volunteered Brian’s name as The Tridents’ sax player, “at a time when they also had about six guitar players, “one of whom thought he could sing when nobody else thought he could”.

“Then one day Brian and Peter invited me to attend a practice. During that practice they made the call ‘Let’s do Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, knowing the then vocalist didn’t know the song, but I did. So I ended up singing the song and became the lead singer.”

Paul added that it was from this point that his commitments to the Irish National Association Pipe Band – which incidentally led the St Patrick’s Day procession up Bourke Street - and The Tridents began to overlap.

“The Tridents’ first paid-up gig happened at somebody’s work do at an oval in Warrandyte. That happened in May 1960 and the rock band continued until 1975.

“I’m not even sure that the band had a name at that first gig, but Peter came up with it. At the time there was a brand of petrol called Neptune, and the sign carried a picture of Neptune holding his trident.  Peter thought it was a good idea to carry the trident name.”

Paul recalled that after leaving school, Brian took up employment as a dental equipment salesman “and a short time later joined a company called Rose Music in South Melbourne, which was subsequently bought out by Yamaha”.

“Brian worked with Yamaha with much success until he retired 10 years ago. He also ran the national piano competitions through Yamaha,” Paul said.

Paul also remembered that Brian left The Tridents after a year or two to join another group, The Planets, and Peter followed suit a few years later. Paul then bid adieu to The Tridents in ’75, and the band continued for six months or so before disbanding, although the pipe band continued until the late 1970s – early 1980s.

“In those days of a Saturday night The Tridents would play at Springvale and The Planets at Moorabbin, “ Paul said. “These were the dance nights, as you’ve got to remember back then that the pubs didn’t open their doors to rock music until the late 1960s.

“In the early days we were playing a lot of Bill Haley, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, and towards the end we were playing Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Diamond.
“For the most part it was fun. At peak, we were playing five nights a week, at places like the Newmarket Theatre, the Brunswick Town Hall and we did Ballarat every second Wednesday for many years. Then, when the pubs opened we played at places like the Village Green. At one stage, four Old Paradians were playing in that band, Brian, Peter, Terry Dillon and myself.”

The surviving members of The Tridents were reunited in 1984 and again in 2008, but Paul very much doubts another get-together. He does however have in his keep some precious recordings on reel to reel, and has since had some of the material digitised.

Brian, he remembered, gave up music completely. “At a time when his daughter was little, Brian played at The Stokehouse - and then one day he just gave it up, a bit like someone giving up smoking,” Paul said.

“At the last reunion in 2008, Brian came, but he didn’t play.”

In relating the tale of The Tridents, Paul accredited his old friend Brian as “relatively quiet, but a good conversationalist who was very interested in world affairs and loved to travel. “He wouldn’t tell you he was going anywhere but then you’d get a card from some exotic place in Russia or China or somewhere,” Paul said.

“Brian was a lovely guy, salt of the earth as you’d say. He wasn’t a student who set the world on fire while at Parade, but he was an extremely talented musician. From his start as a piper, he became an exceptional sax player (both alto and tenor saxophone) clarinettist and flautist. ”

Brian is survived by his daughter Belinda, son-in-law Chris, and adored grandchildren Riley and Matilda.

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