Tod Johnston stares at the empty stage at the Charles Hotel and is confronted by the reality of Perth music pubs lost.

It will be 30 years in August since Johnston fronted V-Capri in the Perth band's first gig at the Floreat Hotel and he can barely believe the dramatic change in the State's music scene.

Tod Johnston. Picture: The West Australian/Michael Wilson

Gone are most of the pulsating beer-barn venues that his band and others would rock in front of more than 1000 punters a night in the 1980s - the Charles standing alone as the last bastion of the time.

"The joy of memory," Johnston said of an era he claimed was triggered by Perth band The Boys.

"Some of the great bands played on that stage and I can remember being a young fella, just turned 18 and coming to watch bands, getting this vibe of live music which you could feel as well as see.

"All of a sudden, you were going to a pub and you could feel the kick drum.

"When I look at my guitars, I'm very much aware that all of them have a history and have lived a life and the music industry in Perth has lived a life."

Johnston recalled at least 10 bands playing over three nights each weekend with a $5 cover charge to a minimum of 1000 payers at the respective Perth pubs venues.

The bands included V-Capri, The Frames, The Jets, Seal and the Beam, Dick and the Dames, Loaded Dice, The Motors, The Fingerprints, The Helicopters and Perfect Strangers.

The venues included The Overflow, Nookenburra, Raffles, Floreat, The Stadium at the Herdsman, The Stage Door, Morley Generator, Booragoon Tavern, Karrinyup Tavern, The Daily Planet at the Windsor, Victoria Hotel, Steve's, Broadway Tavern and 21st Century at the Charles.

But all of those venues, save for the Charles, are gone in the live music sense of what they were back then.

Charles Hotel owner of 21 years, Chris Angelkov, said various reasons for the Perth pubs kill-off included noise complaints from residents, increased anti-social behaviour, more strict drink-driving laws, young people coming out later at night after "pre-loading" on packaged alcohol bought from bottle shops and major supermarket chains and tighter policing of numbers allowed in venues.

"Nearly every decision that has been made has gone against the publican and made it so much less profitable," Mr Angelkov said, claiming only the value of the land where the Charles Hotel stands had allowed him to retain a live music presence.

Johnston is still playing with his band PeaceLove & All That Stuff after 20 years and has watched with interest how the requirements for music success have evolved.

"The interesting thing for me is that the young guys and the young girls coming through have had to go through iTunes, YouTube . . . it's a different marketing strategy," he said.

See Agenda in today's The Weekend West as Johnston looks back on a well-staged life.

The West Australian

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