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