AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #200 : THE GO-BETWEENS (3)

The visit earlier this year to the cinema to enjoy Right Here led to me going on a bit of a Go-Betweens binge immediately afterwards; I even managed to slip Bye Bye Pride into a pre-matCh play list at a Raith Rovers game not too long ago.

It also got me looking again at the two previous ICAs in November 2016. I still think they stand amongst the best in the entire series, but it also made me realise just how many superb songs had been left off. This was partly down to me trying really hard to stick by my first principle of an ICA, namely that it shouldn’t necessarily comprise what I think are the ten best songs, nor should it be my ten favourites songs, but instead should hang together as a ‘perfect’ LP with five tracks on each side. Oh, and I also wanted to ensure there were five songs from each of Robert Forster and Grant McLellan.

Thus it is that the landmark 200th ICA is my stab at a third volume for possibly the greatest band to ever emerge from Australia….sometimes I do think it is them but on other days I can’t see past The Bad Seeds. This time around there’s a co-composition, which I really should have found room for previously but in looking at both volumes, I’m still struggling to see where it would have fitted in and at what other song’s expense. But there’s five lead vocals from each of them.

SIDE A

Lee Remick (debut single, 1978)

The one which made it all possible. My thinking behind it not being included on either of the previous volumes is that, by the time I made my own discovery of the band some five years later with the release of Before Hollywood, they had developed a more sophisticated and less jarring sound. Lee Remick, and indeed its superior b-side Karen, are both great little numbers but in the grand scheme of things have the feel of demos rather than finished products.

Robert’s autobiography and the documentary helped shed a bit more light on things and made me appreciate just how much of an achievement it was getting the band and new label up and running in Brisbane in the late 70s given how in so many ways the city and the state of Queensland was ridiculously insular and backward-looking, with a particularly oppressive police regime which wasn’t slow in using violence against anyone wanting to be creative in a modern way; not that Robert, Grant or record-label owner Damien Nelson ever really got caught up in such stuff, but Brisbane in the late 70s was the least likely of the big Australian cities to spawn a band like The Go-Betweens and it was no real surprise that before too long they were on the move to elsewhere in the country and then to the UK.

To Reach Me (from Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, 1986)

The fact the band had two main singer-songwriters was both a strength and a weakness. On the upside, it allowed listeners to enjoy two quite different approaches to work with Grant for the main (but not exclusively) being the arch-exponent of great pop songs, often about love and life while Robert was a bit more celebral (but again, not exclusively). This one kind of crosses the two in that it’s a love song (of sorts), set to a complicated yet catchy tune with a lyric that is almost Cave-esque with its imagery. It’s all quite magical.

The weakness? The music press, lazy in extreme, wanted a sole focus of attention for the interviews and profiles. The band didn’t play the game and lost out.

The Clock (from The Friends of Rachel Worth, 2000)

I wasn’t too sure about Robert and Grant’s decision to reform the band after more than a decade. I had my doubts about whether they were capable of recapturing the magic of the golden era, especially given that the other key members were nowhere to be seen. I certainly haven’t listened to the three final albums anywhere near as much as I did the earlier material, and indeed would still say I wasn’t wholly familiar with them in comparison in particular to Before Hollywood, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, and 16 Lovers Lane. The binge of recent weeks, however, has seen them get more airings than any others, and while I’m still not sure about Bright Yellow Bright Orange (2003), the albums on either side are now much more appreciated.

The Clock, on first, and indeed subsequent early listens, seemed a little bit inconsequential, but it’s one of those from which an exposure to repeated listening reveals a bit of musical depth, even although it is not really close to much of the 80s output.

Hammer The Hammer (single, 1982)

The band’s fifth single, but the first to feature Grant on lead vocal (and as such, the first of his own compositions to be chosen for a 45). I hadn’t until reading the book quite realised how little interest Grant had in music until he was pestered to form a band by Robert, a point also reinforced by the film. This meant that Robert, having been keen to pursue such a career had more than a head start in terms of having sufficient songs of quality to issue as early singles with Grant first of all learning the rudiments of bass and acoustic guitars before really turning his attention to song writing.

There’s a great bit in the film where Robert describes the song writing issue it as being akin to him driving a car, and he’s away ahead of Grant, but out of nowhere his friend appears in the rear view mirror, getting ever closer and eventually passing him, which he felt happened with the writing and recording of Hammer the Hammer, and which would continue thanks to the likes of Cattle and Cane, That Way and Dusty in Here, all of which were among the strongest and most enduring songs on the band’s sophomore LP.

Robert’s response was to seek to up his own game and start penning songs that would have him catch up……………….

Part Company (single, 1984)

The band had been very unlucky timing wise with the debut album.  Rough Trade had been very enthusiastic but then along came The Smiths and the label decided to put all its eggs into that particular basket.  The Go-Betweens were offered to, and accepted by Seymour Stein at Sire Records.  It proved by a poor fit, with the label not quite sure exactly how best to pitch the band to the record buying public. An expensively produced album, Spring Hill Fair, was recorded in rural France but it wasn’t a terribly happy experience for all concerned.  Despite this, the album still manages to incorporate some of their finest moments, including Part Company, which was Robert’s attempt to compose a song that was more literate than before and the first stage in catching-up to the quality of the songs of his mate.  But it was bonkers of the label to have it as the lead single.

Robert still plays this at solo gigs….and it never fails to be met with huge acclaim.

Side B

Head Full Of Steam (From Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, 1986)

Don’t Let Him Come Back (new version, 1986)

The opening track to side-B of this ICA is one of the great long-lost singles of the 80s.  The bitter experiences around the recording of Spring Hill Fair had made the band determined to get it right next time around, which they more than did with Liberty Belle….the album which was certainly the high point of the band’s time as a four-piece.   They also brought in a few friends to assist on some songs, and Tracey Thorn supplies a wonderfully understated backing vocal which perfectly complements that of Robert, whose deadpan performance is just perfect.

The b-side to the single was a real treat.  It was a superb re-recording of a very early song, originally issued as the b-side to 1979 single People Say, and in which Grant, Robert, Lindy and the other Robert give us something which could easily be held up as the definitive indie-jangly song of the era.

Apology Accepted (radio session 1986)

The original version closes Liberty Belle….and as much as I loved it when I first heard it in the mid 80s, nothing prepared me for just the majesty of this radio session, broadcast on the Janice Long Show on BBC Radio One in May 1986 and made available when the parent album was released in an expanded 2-CD form in 2004.  It has a slightly faster tempo than the original, but for me its the way that the piano solo in the middle of the song is brought to the fore that makes it the superior version….but it was a close run thing.

Bachelor Kisses (from Spring Hill Fair, 1984)

The NME review of this, when it was released as the second 45 from the album stated:-

“Song of the week.  Only when we’re confronted with a song so perfectly turned, lines so finely balanced and a melody so achingly sweet as Bachelor Kisses are we forced to notice how hollow most contemporary pop rings.”

High praise indeed, particularly when you recall that for the NME in 1984, contemporary pop in their eyes had an indie-bent and included bands such as The Smiths, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Scritti Politti and Prefab Sprout.  I’m not sure I’d go as far as the NME reviewer did as I’ve long felt that Bachelor Kisses gravitates towards soft-rock territory in some ways but it’s a song of which I grew increasingly appreciative of in later years as bitter-sweet love songs came to mean something in my life.

Finding You (from Oceans Apart, 2005)

If nothing else, reading the book and watching the film brought the realisation that I had been so wrong to have dismissed Finding You simply as a mid-tempo piece of sombre sentimentality.

It wasn’t widely known, but at the time Grant was battling all sorts of demons in his life.  The Go-Betweens had reformed but, and this comes out especially in the film, he was a desperately unhappy and lonely man.  It’s really little wonder that it was tunes and lyrics such as this which were pouring out of him, although it did take a contribution from Robert to provide the final touch, thus delivering one of the few genuine Forster/McLennan compositions.

And its chorus captures my own issues with this blog after all these years….don’t know where I’m going, don’t know where it’s flowing…………but the thing is, these ICAs, and in particular the stuff it has enabled me, and hopefully you as readers, to find over the now 200 efforts, makes it worth it.

JC

PS : ICA 201, a guest contribution, will appear tomorrow.

BONUS POST : RIGHT HERE (A FILM REVIEW)

I attempted to get an ambitious new series underway a few months back in that it was to involve a lengthy look back at the career of The Go-Betweens via separate chapters in Robert Forster’s excellent autobiography, Grant and I. The series stalled, not through any lack of enthusiasm on my part, but simply that I really couldn’t do the series justice as all too soon I had run out of superlatives for the contents of the book and the songs of the band.

I fully intend at some point in the future to have an extended look at the band, and indeed the solo careers of the two principal songwriters, most likely via a long-running Sunday series, although I’ve also been thinking that I might devote an entire month to the subject matter….

In the meantime, I wanted to reflect on Right Here, a documentary which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival as far back as June 2017 but which has, for various logistical and financial reasons, taken until now to get a cinema airing around these parts.

I went along to the Glasgow Film Theatre for the early evening showing just last Friday, accompanied by Rachel aka Mrs Villain. We unexpectedly bumped into our old friend Comrade Colin in the cinema café – I say unexpectedly but then again, the Comrade is as huge a fan of the band as myself and so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was also going to be in the audience. The surprise though was that he had been to the earlier matinée showing just a couple of hours previously but was so taken by the work that he wanted to have a second and immediate viewing on the back of him posting these words on social media:-

“I’d seen this brilliant Go-Betweens documentary, ‘Right Here’ (Dir : Kriv Stenders), before, via a questionable WWW link, but I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of watching this on the big screen, with a proper sound system. There were moments of pure joy, utter elation and dark humour, but also tears, sadness and anger, especially when hearing from Lindy and Amanda on life after ’16 Lovers Lane’. And, well, the ending that we all know is inevitable. Grant’s tragic death at the age of 48.

“The film is an incredible monument to a story, or rather, a set of competing narratives and ego performances, about yet another band would should have and could have. And they did, in a way, and against all the fucking odds. But they did this very much in their own way, to their own tune. That striped sunlight sound lives on but only in the records we have in our collections (“The Go-Betweens were…” run the final credits). Lindy’s still clearly mad about Robert, but also mad *with* Robert. Heartbreaking. Grant is missed by all, especially Amanda. And Robert too of course, his best friend, his muse.

“This is simply one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen about a band that are ingrained into my fabric and DNA. A band who had no hits. A story about a band in the middle. 10/10”

He’s quite right you know……

Relationships were essential to the band moving in the direction that it did between 1977 and 1989 and complicated, ever-shifting relationships at that. It’s testament to the skills of the director that he elicits really positive contributions from all past members, clearly proud of the contributions they made to that initial run of albums, while also enabling them to vent what, in many cases, appear to be pent-up anger and frustrations at how they were, to all intent and purposes, cast aside by Grant and Robert. The Comrade has already given his take on Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown, but there’s also some very telling testimonies, particularly from ex-bass players Robert Vickers and John Willsteed and, on reflection afterwards, also from early drummer Tim Mustapha, who was cast aside in a way which really did give an early indication of what would remain an almost undetectable ruthlessness on the parts of the two main principals.

The documentary has benefited immensely from the 10 year gap between Grant’s death, by heart attack, and the filming getting underway. It’s a period in which Robert has been able to reflect fully on things, including him exorcising a number of demons through the writing of his book. I think it’s also enabled him to come to understand that, on occasions, some of both his and Grants’ behaviour and their attitudes towards their band colleagues were less than stellar and any offered excuses centring around the temperaments of creative geniuses don’t really wash. There’s certainly a sense of lingering regret in a number of his contributions, particularly towards the end of the film, very much in contrast with the first hour or so in which there is a real and deserved celebration of the band’s legacy, wonderful contributions from a diverse range of talking heads including musicians such as Mick Harvey, Lloyd Cole and David McClymont, friends and family such as Sally McLennan, Clinton Walker (a well-known and highly regarded cultural figure in Australia who almost steals the show) and Damian Nelson, and those involved with the band professionally such as Bob Johnson and Roger Grierson. Oh, and the archive footage of videos, TV appearances and still photographs is an absolute joy….as, of course is the music which is constantly in the background or the forefront of many scenes.

I’ll just echo the Comrade – Right Here is simply one of the best and most all-round satisfying music documentaries I’ve ever seen. Informative, engaging, entertaining (there were many moments which resulted in a smile or a laugh, often when Clinton Walker was offering his thoughts) and ultimately very moving with it abundantly clear that Grant is still missed each and every day. It also made me more determined than ever to get myself to Australia, ideally to catch Robert play a solo show in Brisbane.

mp3 : Go Betweens – Right Here

JC

THE THIRD POST FEATURING EXTRACTS FROM ‘GRANT & I’

 

Now that The Go-Betweens have been knocked out of the ICA World Cup, I can safely turn my attention to the third in this very occasional series in which I’ll tell the story of the band’s musical history through the pages of the excellent memoir from Robert Forster.

The first two parts dealt with the release of singles in Australia and took us to up to November 1979 when the duo decided to take their chances in London.

“A few things were immediately clear.  We bought the NME on the day it came out, and that shrinking of time and senses of being at the centre of the action was thrilling.  It was also what made one thing spectacularly apparent – The Go-Betweens were going to get nowhere in London.  The scene was too big, the walls too high, and we knew no one in the music business.  We’d travelled sixteen thousand kilometres to advance the career of the band without bringing one telephone number.”

The duo went to a gigs, seeing Gang of Four, The Raincoats and Scritti Politti on one bill, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and A Certain Ratio together on another, while also on other occasions catching The Cramps, The Fall, The Cure and The Pretenders.  As their savings ran out, and after a brief interlude in Paris for Robert and Greece for Grant they picked up menial jobs to get by.  In due course, via a fellow Australian who worked in the Rough Trade record store, they got to meet Geoff Travis and let him hear Lee Remick but he dismissed it as being too poppy although he was willing to put the single on display in the store.

Two months later, Edwyn Collins, David McClymont and Alan Horne turned up at the same shop trying to get the owners to take the first ever Postcard single off their hands.  All three had previously taken notice of Lee Remick when it had been played on the John Peel show and Alan Horne was intrigued enough to ask the Australian working in the shop how a copy had made it way to London from Brisbane.  Having heard that Grant and Robert were in London, he put together a package and asked if it could be delivered to them.  The package consisted of a single, some promo photos of Orange Juice and a handwritten letter inviting them to come to Glasgow and record a single for Postcard Records.

It would be fair to say that neither Grant nor Robert knew what to make of Falling and Laughing as it was unlike anything else they had heard during their time in London.  But with nothing else happening, they pursued the offer and on 1 April 1980. they took the train to Glasgow.  Their first impressions was that ‘it immediately felt right.’

They would spend six weeks in Scotland, playing gigs at which Steven Daly of Orange Juice would drum for them, on bills alongside that band and Josef K.  Grant was put up in a spare room in Edwyn Collins’ flat while Robert was accommodated by two art school friends of David.

Watching Orange Juice on stage opened up their eyes to what was possible.

“There was a Beatles ’62 thing about them.  Own humour. Own dress style. Own songs and sound in the heart of a city. Immediately obvious was their superiority to the bands we’d seen in London, drowning as many of them were in reverb and effects.  Orange Juice had clarity, which made their stinging songs and each member’s contribution all the more powerful. ‘Falling and Laughing’ sounded much better live – like a classic, in fact, but they had at least half a dozen of them. Grant and I, five metres back from the stage, were counting.”

They ended up in a studio just outside of Edinburgh where they cut the two sides of the 45 for Postcard.  They were team-tagged in the studio with Orange Juice and looked on as they recorded Blue Boy and Lovesick.

“It was clear that something special was happening.  It was whiplash pop, miles removed from the doom of the Joy Division imitators or the rumble of The Fall.  Orange Juice had cut a major record that, give any kind of chance, would break the band and all those who sailed in it along with them.

Which makes our decision to leave in late May all the harder to explain. Why go when we had a single recorded for a fast-rising label and were living in a city we dug?  I was missing Lindy – that was the nub of it.  First love had bitten hard. It was six months since I’d seen her, and six months seemed to be the length of time I could endure without her.”

Robert therefore put his personal life before that of the band. It wasn’t easy – he was left to make his way back to Australia alone, with his air fare paid by his parents.  Grant went to New York but agreed to talk about things when he himself eventually got back home.   Neither of them hung around long enough for the Postcard single to be pressed up and copies taken back to Brisbane, although Robert did have a cassette copy, along with a battered Nu-sonic guitar that had been gifted to him by James Kirk.

mp3 : Go-Betweens – I Need Two Heads
mp3 : Go-Betweens – Stop Before You Say It

 

JC

 

THE SECOND POST FEATURING EXTRACTS FROM ‘GRANT & I’

Click here for a reminder of the first post.

It may have been limited to just 500 copies, but the release of Lee Remick/Karen in the late summer of 1978 had generated a bit of a buzz around Go-Betweens.

“We mailed our record to the Australian and overseas press, where it was widely and positively reviewed, and to a select group of people who were important to us. We also targeted a list of record companies , one of which, Beserkley UK, the London-based home of Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, overwhelmed us by offering a worldwide multi-album deal.”

The label had also suggested it would be willing to release each of Lee Remick and Karen as singles and encouraged Robert and Grant to come up with b-sides. They went about this with some gusto, walking around Brisbane with a huge swagger and self-belief. Only to find that when they asked the label that the costs of the studio time be repaid that all communication suddenly stopped.

“The deal was off, as was our fast track to stardom; we were getting a crash course in the music business and the cruel, cruel world outside the environs of Brisbane.”

By now, Robert had finally, at the age of 21, left the comfort of his parental home and moved into the house in which Grant had been living for a number of years, in what is described as a bohemian lifestyle with a group of friends. The house, on Golding Street in the Toowong district of Brisbane, was now the recognised centre of all Go-Betweens activity and it was there that many of the next batch of songs were composed.

In another arty part of the New Farm district in late 78/early 79, a band called Zero ruled the roost. Robert’s book records that Zero had started out as a fierce, feminist group, whose core members Irena Luckus (vocals/keyboards) and Lindy Morrison (drums), had added a new male bass player in John Willsteed who had helped the band move towards a post-punk direction with their live set including covers of songs by Gang Of Four, Wire and XTC. Robert was so besotted with the drummer that he changed some of the lyrics of one of his new songs, People Say from “So pack your bags your saxophone/I’m gonna take you to Rome” to “So pack your bags your drums/I’m gonna take you till the kingdom comes”.**

It may have been corny, but it did help. Robert was now in the first serious relationship of his life, with a woman six years older than him and one who had a huge, dynamic personality with confirmed views on politics and life in general. It was a seriously steep learning curve for him.

The next few months were frantic. A new drummer, Tim Mustafa had been recruited into Go-Betweens, and with the addition of Malcolm Kelly on keyboards, they went into the studio in May 1979 to cut a second single for Able Records.

mp3 : Go-Betweens – People Say
mp3 : Go-Betweens – Don’t Let Him Come Back

The latter was the first Forster/McLellan joint composition. If you have one of the copies of this single, expect to get around £500 if you put it up for sale.

The single would be released in September 1979. The success of the debut meant the label pushed the boat out this time and pressed up 750 copies.  But before it hit the shops, Tim took his leave of the band. A stand-in drummer, Bruce Ashton, enabled some supporting gigs, all in Brisbane.

“There was no organisation in place to play Sydney or Melbourne: you had to move there. I was conflicted about leaving, the dream of escaping Australia with Grant, two drifters off to see the world – and there was a lot of world to see – severely shaken by my relationship with Lindy. Things became further complicated when I joined Zero as a stand-in guitarist.”

Robert and Grant made up their mind to go to London which they eventually did in November 1979. That chapter in their story, which includes a spell in Glasgow, will be told next time round.

JC

PS

** In later years, the original lyric would be re-adopted, as per this live performance in August 2005:-

mp3 : Go-Betweens – People Say (live at The Tivoli, Brisbane)

A BOOK REVIEW…..AND A POINTER TO A NEW OCCASIONAL SERIES

A short time ago, I went along to a cultural gathering in my home city.

Robert Forster was appearing at Mono, a location that is part music-venue, part vegetarian cafe and part record-store that is owned and run by Stephen Pastel.  Robert was going to take part in an interview to promote his recently issued book Grant & I : Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens and in the process sing a few songs.  It was an event that I’d have more than willingly paid a fair bit of money to get to and yet the tickets were free.

It was, as you’d expect, packed full of folk who had been Go-Betweens devotees at one time or another. I knew a lot of people in the room,many of who have become close friends in the near eleven years since I began this blog.  It was always going to be a special and emotional evening, not least as the Australian band were indirectly responsible for me getting my finger out and launching TVV and I’ve still never quite gotten used to the fact that Grant McLennan is no longer with us.

It turned out to be everything I could have wished for and more, thanks to the opportunity to meet Robert at the end of the night, have a photo taken with him and have him sign a copy of the book, with the dedication to The Vinyl Villain.  I’ve only one other book with such a dedication and it came from Grace Maxwell and Edwyn Collins;  I tend to shy away from having my records and books ‘defaced’ with signatures.

The following day I started reading the book and soon found it all-consuming.  Robert is an extremely talented and entertaining writer and of course the story he gets to tell is rather extraordinary.  The blurb on the back nails it perfectly:-

Beautifully written – like lyrics, like prose – Grant & I is a rock memoir akin to no other, Part ‘making of’, part music industry expose, part buddy-book, this is a delicate and perceptive celebration of creative endeavour. With wit and candour, Robert Forster pays tribute to a band who found huge success in the margins, having friendship at its heart.

It’s easy to forget that this was a band who never enjoyed the success in the 80s that their collective talents and output deserved.  The albums were well received but their singles all flopped despite most of subsequently proving to be timeless classics (unlike many others from the same decade).  They recorded for numerous labels, finding themselves dropped all sorts of strange and unrelated reasons looking on as so many of their contemporaries hit payola. But not once does the author feel the need to settle any old scores or cast aspersions on those who did get rich and famous – indeed I think there was just one swear word within its 330 pages and the profanity was followed by an immediate apology in brackets!

Instead, it is a celebration of the fact the band had a lengthy career, initially from 1977 -1989 and then again when they reformed in 2000 through to Grant’s sudden death from heart failure in May 2006.  The book has a strong supporting cast including long-standing band members Lindy Morrison, Robert Vickers and Amanda Brown, various friends, family and band associates. There’s also many wonderful cameo appearances dotted throughout from other leading Australian musicians, the Postcard Records cognoscenti and all sorts of producers and artists.

Much of the book is set in Australia, and at different times paints wonderfully evocative pictures of the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, It certainly made me want to get on a plane and go see these places for myself.  It is rich in its description of life in London in the 80s, getting across the bizarre notion of musicians who were hugely respected and appreciated by just about everyone in the industry and yet rarely had more than £50 a week per person to live on.  There is a lot of self-deprecating wit on display throughout, punctured occasionally by a sentence or two that is genuinely shocking with revelations about personal circumstances that a sharp reminder that rock stars are human beings and suffer from the same type of frailties that impinge on the rest of us mere mortals.

But here’s the thing.  Having devoured the first 80-90% of the book in a matter of days, it took me weeks to pick it up again and finish it. It was all down to knowing that the hero dies in the end and I just didn’t want to face up to that. I had to be in the right frame of mind for finishing it off…but despite my best efforts I did find myself upset and crying.

I am delighted that Robert Forster has produced a masterpiece, as fine a music memoir as I’ve ever read, and given I have about 200 such books lying around the house I’m in a reasonable position to make such a judgement.  Even if you know little or nothing about the band, there is much to enjoy from the writing and the telling of what is a wonderfully played out story of two soul mates who perfectly complemented one another.

The book has given me an idea for a new, occasional (at best monthly) series and that is to look at the music and offer up some of Robert’s words as an accompaniment.  Staring right back with the debut single, released originally in 1978 on the Australian indie Able Label and restricted to just 700 copies.  If you want one nowadays, be prepared to shell out almost £1,500.

mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Lee Remick
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Karen

The latter was just about the first song the university student Robert Forster wrote. By this time, one of his best friends was fellow student Grant McLennan; Robert had been rebuffed by Grant in an effort to form a band as Grant was far more interested in and occupied by cinema.

Robert had instead formed a three piece called The Godots who were down to play in a Battle of the Bands competition in Brisbane. The set had to comprise one cover and four originals, one of which would be Karen, receiving its first ever public airing.

“My songwriting had also improved, taking a lion-sized leap with the completion of a simple, predominantly two-chorded number, a paean to the female librarians at the university – helpful, distant women I idealised – that swelled and built over three choruses to end in a shouted climax of the song’s title”

“An attentive silence came over the room as we began the song, brought on by the hypnotic beat of the long introduction; I was sensing a power I’d never known as I stepped up to the microphone to deliver the opening lines.”

Grant McLennan was in the audience watching his friend perform, perhaps sorry that he had declined to be in the band. They didn’t win the competition – in fact they weren’t even billed as The Godots, a misunderstanding with the organisers leading to the band being introduced as the less pretentious sounding The Go-Dots. By the end of the year, that band were no more and Grant, having been aware that Robert was writing other songs, including one that was all about Hollywood actress Lee Remick, said that he was willing to take away a cassette copy to listen to back home during the Xmas/New Year break of 1977/78. The rest, as they say is history.

Worth mentioning too that Lee Remick herself, many many years later, did meet Robert Forster and accept the gift of one of the singles that bore her name. She revealed that she was aware of its existence and was charmed by it. Robert, in the book declares the meeting as one of the highlights of his entire life.

JC

 

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

One of the reasons I began blogging was to feature some great songs that were often hard to track down thanks to them only ever being released as b-sides on vinyl that was often long deleted.

Today’s offering is an example of one such track – a piece of music by The Go-Betweens that many other bands at the time would have loved to have been able to offer up as a single rather than something that’s almost a throwaway:-

mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Wait Until June

It first appeared in July 1988 as the b-side to the dreamy yet sinister Streets Of Your Town, which was about as close to a UK hit as the band ever got.

This song was once rare and difficult to track down. But, as would become increasingly common, later re-releases would see albums come back to the shelves and racks with bonus material, usually consisting of long-lost b-sides and live recordings from a particular era, and was the case back in 2004 with 16 Lovers Lane. Things have moved on even further with i-tunes, spotify etc. making just about everything in the back catalogue immediately accessible.

So technically, Wait Until June isn’t all that difficult to get a hold of nowadays, but there’s got to be something different about the mp3 being via a needle settling into the groove. Especially when it hits the bit that jumps and skips at the one minute mark (you’ve been warned!!!)

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #99 : THE GO-BETWEENS (Vol 2)

I said most of what I had to say yesterday. Here’s some more great songs.

Side One

That Way from Before Hollywood (1983) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

Until now, I don’t think I, or indeed anyone, has ever opened up an ICA with the closing track of an LP. It just goes to show how many great songs there were back in the day that they could put this gem at the end.  It certainly would make you want to get up and turn the record back over immediately.

The House That Jack Kerouac Built from Tallulah (1987) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

Having failed to crack open the markets with the first four albums, everyone involved threw the kitchen sink and the rest into the recording of Tallulah including the addition of a fifth member on violin and oboe. It was a record greeted with some scepticism on its release as a result of to its lush production and move away from indie-guitar pop, but which is now regarded as a bona-fide classic.

The Wrong Road from Liberty Belle and The Black Diamond Express (1986) : lead vocals by Grant McLennan

The thing is, the path that would lead to Tallulah had in some ways been set by this track from the album released the previous year.  The addition of violin, cellos, viola and organ take this to places the band hadn’t explored before and the result was one of their finest ever songs.  Epic.

Was There Anything I Could Do? from 16 Lovers Lane (1988) : lead vocals by Grant McLennan

FFS. How did this single not get any airplay?

Surfing Magazines from The Friends of Rachel Worth (2000) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

Here’s a band that came out with some of the best lyrics of their generation falling back on a variation of la-la-la-la-la for the chorus and pulling it off with some style.

Side Two

Bye Bye Pride from Talullah (1987) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

In which the decision to bring in a new member who plays oboe is totally justified in four minutes flat.

Rock and Roll Friend b-side to Was There Anything I Could Do? (1988) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

A song that became synonymous with Robert’s efforts to get back in the saddle after Grant’s shock death in 2006.  It must have been very tempting just to pack it all in. Instead, he went into the studio and recorded The Evangelist, his first solo LP in 12 years and hit the road and in every show he played this (a song he had re-recorded himself in 1996) and dedicated to his late band mate.  It’s worthy of a place on this ICA for that alone notwithstanding it is such a fine number.

I Just Get Caught Out from Tallulah (1987) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

Another great little failure of a pop single.  I defy you to listen and not dance.

Dusty In Here from Before Hollywood (1983) : lead vocal by Grant McLennan

A  ballad just to mix things up a bit and because it fits in well at this point on this ICA.

Dive For Your Memory from 16 Lovers Lane (1988) : lead vocal by Robert Forster

Couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end this ICA. The other song that Robert often dedicates nowadays to Grant; there’s something poignant that he once wrote a line ‘I miss my friend.’

Don’t we all?

Bonus 45 : The debut single from 1978.

mp3 : The Go-Betweens : Lee Remick
mp3 : The Go-Betweens : Karen

Tune in tomorrow for ICA #100 as it features a tale and a half from Badger.