PERTH LEGEND PERCY BUTTON: Who’s the Man of Charms Unseen? [Songwriting Story]

By MARC ALIANA

Back in 2016, I was touring in Australia as the lead guitarist with Burn The Floor. I’d had this punchy, repetitive guitar riff surfing the back of my mind for a while… So, one day off, I decided to get lost in the streets of Perth, in search of an interesting story that could inspire some lyrics to the lonesome guitar line.

As it turned out, inspiration awaited just a few blocks up from my hotel, perpetually hand-standing by the city’s Hay Street Mall. I approached the life-size, bronze-made statue of a legendary street performer.

Percy Button was a British-born acrobat and itinerant who migrated to Perth in the early 1900s, soon to become one of the city’s best-known faces. Hoping to lure a few shillings into his scruffy old hat, he would perform tricks and somersaults while people were waiting to see films, newsreels and theatrical performances.

Percy “the unwashed” was regularly turned away from business premises, yet was sometimes spotted dining fried eggs at a respectable restaurant. He had a reputation as an honest man, which ironically invited the authorities to arrest him every now and then, just so he could get a warm bed for the night.

In November 1929, a local newspaper dressed Button in a long-tailed suit, and ran a front page competition offering a prize to whomever could guess the identity of the cleaned-up man. Apparently, most people didn’t have a clue.

So there stood I, reading about this fascinating Australian myth from the most reliable historical source available: a bold, floor-embedded metal reproduction of an 87-year-old newspaper cover.

Hotel pen and notebook in hand, I went on to wander the streets of Perth until the lyrics to my song Front Page Superstar showed up to ride the wave on that guitar riff.

 

Percy Button Sculpture by Charlie Smith & Joan Walsh-Smith. Photo by diane b.

 


 

About the author: Marc Aliana is a rock singer, songwriter and guitarist born in Barcelona and currently located in Oakland, CA, who has earned nominations in the American Songwriting Awards and the Hollywood Songwriting Contest. Front Page Superstar is Aliana’s first official release and it serves as an introduction to The Entertainer, a concept EP that follows the rise and demise of an anonymous character’s desperate quest for success and celebrity.

 

 

2 comments

  • Roger Burnley

    Roger Burnley Hollywood

    great blog and story Marc! it made the song come alive..

    great blog and story Marc! it made the song come alive..

  • ALIANA

    ALIANA

    Thank you Roger!

    Thank you Roger!

Add comment