AN IMAGINARY CONCEPT ALBUM : #98 : THE GO-BETWEENS (Vol 1)

Continuing the headlong rush towards #100 in the series.

It’s impossible to do justice to The Go-Betweens in one ICA, so here’s the first of two successive days of me tearing what little is left of my hair out to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Side One

Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea single (1983) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

As I’ve said before, the single (and its b-side) which was indirectly responsible for me starting to blog back in 2006.  An absolute belter of a 45 – but let’s face it they all were – and a completely different version from that found on the LP Spring Hill Fair. Angular guitars, a pleading desperate lyric and a rhythm section that drives things along to a perfect beat….oh and not forgetting the vocal harmonies.  Perfection in just under three and a half minutes.

Streets Of Your Town from 16 Lovers Lane (1988) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

See that thing I mentioned about perfection….feel free to apply it to this too. This was rightly released as a single and was the closest they ever got to a chart hit…..when it reached #80.  There’s all the evidence you need to realise just how criminally ignored this band throughout a stellar career that saw nine studio albums all told (six in the period 81-88 and three when they later re-formed between 2000-2005, the last of these being just 12 months ahead of Grant’s unexpected death from a heart attack at the early age of 48)

Going Blind from The Friends Of Rachel Worth (2000) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

The re-formed band was Grant & Robert with musicians who hadn’t been part of the original line-up but whose pedigree was incredibly impressive.  The keyboards came from Sam Coomes who has long been an integral part of the USA west coast indie scene while his then wife, Janet Weiss, played the drums.  On this track, Janet was joined in the studio by her two fellow band mates from Sleater-KinneyCorin Tucker on vocals and Carrie Brownstein on guitar.  This indie super-group in turn gave us something delightfully 80s at the turn of the century.

Here Comes A City from Oceans Apart (2005) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

If you need proof that the second incarnation of the band could make music that was as enjoyably catchy and infectious as in their mid 80s pomp, then look no further than this, the opening track of what proved to be their final ever record.  Sure, it owes a lot to the style and delivery of David Byrne but there’s little wrong with that.

Spring Rain from Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

Yet another flop single.  It always bemused me that so few fans of The Smiths fell for the charms of The Go-Betweens given the fact that the two bands were responsible for the best indie-pop with a guitar bent of the era.

Side Two

Right Here from Talullah (1987) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

Another great pop song that was given a release as a single only to be criminally ignored.  I make no apologies for the fact that so many 45s are on this volume; it only demonstrates just how cloth-eared radio station producers were in their continual failure to not put the songs on daytime playlists.

When She Sang About Angels from The Friends of Rachel Worth (2000) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

This was a band, who when they slowed things down, were every bit as effective as when they cranked out another indie-pop classic.  Two examples on this ICA are back-to-back – this first being from the comeback album in 2000 with a tune that Roddy Frame himself would have been proud of…..followed by….

Cattle and Cane single (1983) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

The single version is some 20 seconds shorter than the version on the LP Before Hollywood.  I’ve mentioned before that this is a very special song to me for a number of reasons; nowadays, it makes me sad as it reminds me of Grant’s sudden and very unexpected death but it is a song, along with a few others, that I associate with some of my happiest days, weeks and months on Planet Earth when I fell properly in love for the first time.

Some facts : It was written as a recollection of childhood in a London flat in an effort to combat homesickness with the band as far away as can be from their native Australia, cold and skint and fearing they’ll never succeed.  It was written using the acoustic guitar belonging to the owner of the flat while he lay comatose from drug abuse.  The guitar belonged to Nick Cave.

Sublimely beautiful.

Draining The Pool For You from Spring Hill Fair (1984) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

One of best things about The Go-Betweens is the complete contrast in styles from the two lead singers.  It enabled a much wider range of songs and tunes to emerge from the recording process and things were never dull.  Robert is the first to admit that he’s most the most classical of singers, but he’s still going strong today releasing a series of top-notch solo albums and when he tours he’ll slip in quite a few of the tunes from the days of his old band.  I love it when he plays this break-up song that is witty and clever and far from sad.

This Girl, Black Girl b-side to Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea single (1983) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

Just because.

Volume 2 coming your way tomorrow.

12 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY CONCEPT ALBUM : #98 : THE GO-BETWEENS (Vol 1)

  1. not much to say, starts and ends in utter perfection. and not a bad tune inbetween. saw Robert live a few years ago, a magnificient moment.

  2. Beaten to the punch. I’ve farted around for ages trying to do justice to one of my favourite bands. Inspired by the gloriously expensive G is for gobetweens ended up with 3 covering 3 pls each and with the requisite 50/50 split between grant and Robert songs. Just haven’t been able to get the words right. Think you sum it up perfectly in the contrasting writing styles meant that there was the perfect blend of sugar and salt. Know you have already completed but a perfect bonus track would be Roberts recording of one of grants last songs he wrote Demon Days

  3. Not bad, my friend, but if tomorrow’s post doesn’t feature ‘People Say’, I’ll recall my subscription!!!

  4. I bought “Streets Of Your Town” as I slightly knew of the band, but since I had a new cd player and the 3″ cd single came in a long box, where the amber disc fitted in the middle of a traffic lights cover, I just went for it. It didn’t need the gimmicks, it stood as a fine song in its own right. I love it as much today as the first time I heard it. And on the theme of the ‘traffic’ stuff, it set me on the right road to discovering the rest of their catalogue.
    Many thanks for this compilation – great choices.

  5. When you did a double for Morrissey, I thought 20 songs would just about do it for me. Easy. Today is a completely different kettle of fish. I love this comp. Like Dirk, I have a couple of musts I hope show up tomorrow, including one more from Oceans Apart (could two from that album made the cut?), but quite an effort today. Well done.

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