One of my favourite LPs is 1978-1990, which consists of four sides of vinyl featuring 28 of the very best songs from The Go-Betweens.
What makes the double album that wee bit more special is that every song gets a little commentary from either Grant McLennan or Robert Forster which taken together provides a potted bio of the band. While going through the CDs the other day I stumbled upon this 4-track sampler issued by Beggars Banquet. Like the LP, the songs have notes attached.
I’m not sure if it was ever made available commercially…I picked mine up from a shop in Glasgow that was well-known for putting promotional material on general sale to try to make a little bit more cash. The sticker on the front reminds me I paid £2.49 which wasn’t bad at all. It’s listed for sale at £6.99 plus postage on Discogs just now.
Here’s the songs and what can be found in the sleeve notes:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane
Written in summer on a borrowed guitar in a Paddington bedroom, London. The other rooms were occupied by unconscious friends. The rhythm struck me as strange, the mood as beautiful and sad. The song came easily, was recorded quickly and still haunts me: GM
(Recorded in October 1982 in Eastbourne, England. Originally released as a Rough Trade single)
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Bachelor Kisses
We came back from Christmas in New York having lost our record company somewhere along the way. I wrote this in immigration having been refused entry to the United Kingdom. The first person who heard the song was my sister. She said that Marianne Faithful should sing it : GM
(recorded in July 1984 in London. Originally released on the Sire album ‘Spring Hill Fair’
mp3 : The Go Betweens – Man O’Sand To Girl O’Sea
In rock’n’roll terms The Go-Betweens always take the checkered flag. This road running slice of beauty and mayhem – I can distinctly remember turning to the band and saying “let’s burn this land”. And by Jesus we did : RF
(recorded in August 1983 in Sussex, Originally released as a Rough Trade single)
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Bye Bye Pride
Cairns is a lazy, small town full of boats and cane fields. It is also unbearably hot. An old army officer once said to me that the heat took away his pride. He then sucked loudly on the straw in his gin and headed out to the first hole. I was his caddy so I followed him : GM
(recorded in January 1987 in London. Originally released on the Beggars Banquet album Tallulah)
It’s hearing these songs again that remind me of the heights that this band were capable of reaching. The notes also show just how talented they were as wordsmiths, both in song and in prose. It is a mystery as to why they never crossed over to obtain the commercial success that they so deserved.
Cattle and Cane in particular is a very very special song. Nowadays, it makes me sad as it reminds me of Grant’s sudden and very unexpected death. But at the same time, it is a song I associate with some of my happiest days, weeks and months on Planet Earth when I fell properly in love for the first time.
Man O’ Sand….made my 45 45s at 45 list back in 2008 – as much for the cracking b-side that accompanied it as the single itself. Two songs that play a major part in my decision to start a blog all those years ago.
RIP Grant. Thank you and your comrades for such amazing and timeless tunes.