I think I’ll just let RT 124 speak for itself.
mp3: The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane
Here’s the difficult(ish) to find b-side:-
mp3: The Go-Betweens – Heaven Says
I think I’ll just let RT 124 speak for itself.
mp3: The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane
Here’s the difficult(ish) to find b-side:-
mp3: The Go-Betweens – Heaven Says
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.
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.
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.
PS : ICA 201, a guest contribution, will appear tomorrow.
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
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
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.
** 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 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.
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!!!)
I said most of what I had to say yesterday. Here’s some more great songs.
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.
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.
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.
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-Kinney – Corin 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.
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.
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
Volume 2 coming your way tomorrow.
All three of these songs have been featured on this blog in the past, but not as one posting.
The single was released in October 1988 but again failed mysteriously to give The Go-Betweens a hit single.
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Was There Anything I Could Do?
As the heading of the post indicates, the single came with more than decent b-sides. Here’s those from the 12″ release:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Rock n Roll Friend
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Mexican Postcard
The blog has sort of taken a bit of a back seat in recent weeks as I’ve spent loads of time either watching football on the telly or making the most of the light nights and playing golf. With Euro 2016 coming to a conclusion soon (i.e. there’s not games on the telly every night!), I’m hoping to crank things up again in the coming days including a few guest ICAs that have been sent in.
ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 7 MAY 2008
(8 years ago to the day!!)
On many an occasion in this rundown, I’ve mentioned that I had major problems narrowing down which particular song should be chosen for a band. I reckon the biggest dilemma came with The Go-Betweens. How can I possibly ignore the merits of the genius, majesty and sheer beauty of Cattle and Cane – the track that is probably their best-known and best-loved song? Not to mention the gorgeous vocal delivery of the much-missed Grant McLennan.
The answer is that the follow-up single just means an awful lot more to me.
It was at the age of 20 that I finally moved out from underneath my parents’ protection and branched out to a place of my own. It was a student residency flat on campus in Glasgow City Centre. It was a two-bedroom job, complete with kitchen, toilet and shower. I had the single room, while my two flatmates shared a larger space. The rent for each of us was £510 – for a full year including the summer months.
I had a reasonable record collection, but one of my other flatmates had a collection that I reckon was probably only second to that of John Peel (for instance, he had every single that had come out on Postcard Records). It was a time when my musical tastes broadened more than ever before, thanks to hearing some old stuff for the first time, but also on account of new and emerging bands throughout the early and mid 80s. This was where I first learned about, among others, The Go-Betweens.
The location of the flat was incredible, a mere stone’s throw from the student union where we seemed to spend most of our free time. We’d spend hours every weekend getting ready to go out, taking turns to play some of our favourite songs, often dissecting the lyrics and melodies in a way that seemed very important and meaningful.
Every Friday and Saturday, the set-lists for going out would change, but there was one single from October 1983 that always seemed to get played – as indeed was the b-side:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – This Girl, Black Girl
Robert Forster’s manic delivery of the line ‘I feel so sure about our love I’ve wrote a song about us breaking up’ is one of the finest moments in pop history. As is the chorus that isn’t a chorus – ‘I want you baaaaaack.’ And don’t get me started in the great backing vocals.
There’s also a little footnote to this particular single that also helped it clinch selection ahead of Cattle and Cane.
This was another 7” which was ‘lost’ in Edinburgh all those years ago, although I did still have copies of the songs on a double compilation LP called 1978-1990. However, by the early part of this century, it was all CDs or digital and I just couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the b-side.
But….there came a day when, after much humming and hawing, I plucked up the courage to ask a bloke called Colin who at the time had a great blog called Let’s Kiss And Make Up that had previously featured The Go-Betweens if he could post an mp3 of This Girl, Black Girl. He willingly obliged.
Colin also later replied to other e-mails from me in which I asked for advice in setting up my own blog – and without fail he was always courteous, charming, witty and hugely supportive, especially in the very early days when I was unsure of what I was doing and terrified that I was out of my depth, making a fool of myself and wasting my time.
So if there’s a song from this rundown that I’d like to dedicate to anyone, then its this particular track.
Thanks comrade. I’m proud to call you a mate. Real proud.
How uncanny is it that, having more than six months ago set out to look back at this old series that the entry for The Go-Betweens would happen to fall just one day after the 10th anniversary of the sad and untimely passing of Grant McLennan……
Completing the look back to 1978 – 1990, a 2 x LP compilation from The Go-Betweens released just after they had initially broken up. Sides 1 and 2 were more or a ‘Greatest Near Hits’ comprising flop singles and some of the best-loved album tracks (and can be found in postings earlier this week)
Sides 3 and 4 however, are a bit different consisting of some rarities, radio sessions and previously unreleased tracks and is what made the purchase of the record so essential back in the day. Side 4 was curated entirely by Grant McLellan and he supplies the liner notes.
1. Dusty In Here
This song is about my father who died when I was four.
(Recorded in October 1982 in Eastbourne, England. Originally released on the LP Before Hollywood in May 1983 on Rough Trade)
2. A King In Mirrors
Emmylou Harris meets The Velvet Underground. I sang this is a French toilet during the Spring Hill Fair sessions but I prefer this earlier version. It’s spookier and more languid. I’m very happy with the lyric.
(Recorded in December 1983 in London and broadcast on 5 January 1984 on the David Jensen Show on BBC Radio 1)
3. Second-Hand Furniture
I had a dream about a divorced man who looked into a shop window and saw his old bed. I think it was snowing. The catalogue of objects was an ad lib. For some reason this song is popular in Stockholm.
(Recorded in October 1984 in London and broadcast on 29 October 1984 on the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1)
4. This Girl, Black Girl
There was an annual event in north Queensland country life called the Oak Park Races. People came together to race their horses and to congratulate each other on a good year or to console each other if it has been a bad one. I had just returned from a trip which included a recording session in Scotland, a close shave in Egypt and a six-week hangover in New York. I found myself in a tent three hundred miles from the nearest bookshop. My relatives asked me to play the guitar for them but I knew it was impossible to dance the gypsy tap to “I Need Two Heads” so I wrote this song.
(Recorded in August 1983 in Sussex, England. in Brisbane. Originally released in November 1983 as the b-side to on the 7″ only release of Man O’ Sand to Girl O’ Sea. It’s also, indirectly, the song that led to me starting up a blog, the original TVV, back in September 2006)
5. Don’t Call Me Gone
I’ve always liked country music. This is a typical mix of pathos and sentimentality in the tradition of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It comes close to pastiche but The Go-Betweens seldom genre hop so this is what it is.
(Recorded in January 1987 in London. Originally released in November 1983 as a bonus track on the 12″ release of Right Here)
6. Mexican Postcard
This is a super 8 film about a country I have never been to. For further reference listen to the soundtrack for “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid”.
(Recorded in August 1988 in London. Originally released in October 1988 as a bonus track on the 12″ release of Was There Anything I Can Do?)
7. You Won’t Find It Again
This is an acoustic version of a song that never made it onto “16 Lovers Lane”. It was a great summer and you could see the Sydney Opera House from the window. It was also only twenty minutes walk to Bronte Beach.
(Recorded in January 1988 in Sydney. Previously unreleased)
Just click on the song titles to get the mp3s.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the past four days. I have.
Continuing the look back to 1978 – 1990, a 2 x LP compilation from The Go-Betweens released just after they had initially broken up. Sides 1 and 2 were more or a ‘Greatest Near Hits’ comprising flop singles and some of the best-loved album tracks (and can be found in postings over the past two days)
Sides 3 and 4 however, are a bit different consisting of some rarities, radio sessions and previously unreleased tracks and is what made the purchase of the record so essential back in the day. Side 3 was curated entirely by Robert Forster and he supplies the liner notes.
1. 8 Pictures
Christmas 1978. The family are all around the tree and gifts are being given out. My brother has bought me the fourth Velvet Underground album “Loaded”. I’m walking around the house with the ugliest guitar in the world – a black Ibanez Les Paul that I wrote far too many good songs on, one of them being 8 Pictures.
(Recorded in July 1981 in Melbourne. Originally released on the LP Send Me A Lullaby in February 1982 on Missing Link Records)
2. I Need Two Heads
Grant and I leave Brisbane in late 1979 for London, then Paris, then London , then Glasgow where we record this song for Postcard. I wrote one song on the first six months of 1980. This.
(Recorded in April 1980 in Castle Sound Studios in Pencaitland, Scotland. Originally released as a single in June 1980 on Postcard Records – and for nearly 20 years was the only version of the song I had until I found a mint copy of the 45 going very cheap on e-bay – changed days now that vinyl is back in fashion)
3. When People Are Dead
I wish I’d written this two months earlier so it could have been included on “Tallulah”. The words are by Marion Stout, an Irish poet I met in London. The band sounds absolutely great.
(Recorded in January 1987 in London. Originally released in February 1987 as the b-side on the 7″ and 12″ release of Right Here)
4. The Sound of Rain
We were living in this house by the Brisbane river that had a very thin roof (or the rain was harder that year). This is a very pretty, soft tune about crossing that river and killing a girl in the West End.
(Recorded in November 1978 in Brisbane. Raindrop guitar by Peter Milton Walsh and drums by Tim Mustafa. Previously unreleased)
5. People Say
A classic 24 carat. An old school friend of mine is on piano and hammond organ. We were going for that ‘wild mercury sound’. Sometimes I think that this is the best song I’ve ever written.
(Organ and piano by Mal Kelly. Recorded in May 1979 in Brisbane. and originally released as a single the same month on The Able Label)
6. World Weary
Recorded in Sydney 1981 as a b-side to “Your Turn, My Turn”. Our first session with Melbourne engineering genius Tony Cohen. I have no idea what the song is about.
(Recorded in April 1981 in Sydney. Originally released a b-side in July 1981 on Missing Link Records. It’s just over 90 seconds long…..)
7. Rock and Roll Friend
Self-pity is a beautiful well to repeatedly dip in and find more reasons not to live, more reasons not to cheer. And the well is an illusion until the well runs dry and then you’re ready for another song.
(Recorded in August 1988 in London. Originally released in October 1988 as the b-side to on the 7″ and 12″ release of Was There Anything I Could Do? Robert would later re-record the song for inclusion on his solo LP Warm Nights, released in 1996.)
Just click on the song titles to get the mp3s.
Enjoy – Part 4 will wrap up the series tomorrow
As I mentioned yesterday, Domino Records are about to release G Stands For Go-Betweens – Volume One. which is a very thorough look back of the band’s output from 1978 through to 1984.
I’m giving it a bodyswerve as I can’t really justify the price tag of £120 but it has inspired me to feature all of 1978 – 1990, a compilation which looked back at the band just after they had initially broken up. Here in the UK, it came out on a single CD with 22 tracks and a double album with 28 tracks.
Today it is the turn of Side 2 which is again more or less a ‘Greatest Near Hits’ comprising flop singles and some of the best-loved album tracks, this time from 85-88.
1. The Wrong Road
We lived in London for almost six years. I shared a dark flat with a painter and then a comedian. The painter was obsessed with grey. The comedian loved Tommy Cooper. This song fits somewhere between these two things – GM
(Recorded in November 1985 in London. Originally released on the LP Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express in March 1986 on Beggars Banquet)
2. The Clarke Sisters
Old friends of mine originally friends of my mothers. They adopted me as some lost son. I spent many afternoons in their splendid company. They had a magnificent house that sadly was pilfered by antique dealers in their last years – RF
(Recorded in January 1987 in London. Originally released on the LP Tallulah in June 1987 on Beggars Banquet)
3. Right Here
Two friends of mine once worked in a funeral parlour. Constant exposure to the chemicals used in the preparation of the bodies turned them into addicts. I thought this would be a good subject to write about in a pop song. My friends heard it, and I’m happy to say, are no longer working for the Ministry of the Dead – GM
(Recorded in December 1986 in London. Originally released on the LP Tallulah)
4. 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 appeared on Tallulah but released as a single later on in August 1987)
5. The House That Jack Kerouac Built
My Irish phase. Unfortunately I’d been in London long enough to be on the edge of a truly appalling crowd of people. Bad bands, theft, sad energy and general devil-may-care attitudes that amount to nothing. I left them early and then in November 1987 we left London for Sydney – RF
(Recorded in January 1987 in London. Originally released on the LP Tallulah)
6. Streets Of Your Town
A pop song. A song written with car stereos in mind. Amanda doesn’t like the backing vocals. She says she sounds too Jane Birkin. I love them. I also love the guitar break by John Wilsteed. The BBC would only play this on sunny days – GM
(Recorded in May 1988 in Sydney. Originally released a single in July 1988 on Beggars Banquet and included on the LP 16 Lovers Lane one month later)
7. Love Is A Sign
There is a museum on the outskirts of Oslo that holds much of the best work of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. We were touring there in 1987. A married couple asked me if I would like to visit the museum. I went with them, got inspired and wrote this songs in the backseat of their car as we drove back to Oslo. I played it to them in my hotel room. The man smile. The woman said it sounded like a Blood on the Tracks out-take. They were a great couple – RF
(Recorded in May 1988 in Sydney. Originally released on the LP 16 Lovers Lane in August 1988 on Beggars Banquet)
Just click on the song titles to get the mp3s.
Enjoy – Parts 3 and 4 are on their way
Later this month Domino Records will be releasing a tremendous artefact called G Stands For Go-Betweens – Volume One. Containing four vinyl albums, four CDs and a 112-page book complete with liner notes and guest essays, it captures the band’s output from 1978 through to 1984. The vinyl consists of the first three studio LPs plus a specially compiled record entitled The First Five Singles while the CDs contain rare, hard-to-find and unreleased demos, recordings, radio sessions and a live gig. There’s also a few other things thrown in such as prints, posters and a reproduction of a 1978 press release while the first 600 folk to order through the record label will receive a randomly selected book from the late Grant McLennan‘s personal collection with a bookmark signed by Robert Forster (from now on referred to in this post as GM and RF)
It really is an enticing package but it comes with a hefty price of £120…and no doubt the same again for Volumes 2 and 3 for the later stages of the band’s career. And so with a heavy heart, I’ve passed on the chance to purchase. I’ll regret it in times to come but other than the majority of tracks on the CDs there would be nothing I don’t already own and I’d be shelling out for what would quickly become a lovely ornament.
I’m sure also that I will own some of the tracks coming onto the CDs thanks to my purchase some 25 years ago of 1978 – 1990, a compilation which looked back at the band just after they had initially broken up. Here in the UK, it came out on a single CD with 22 tracks and a double album with 28 tracks. It’s the latter which sits in my collection and which I’ve dug out for a bumper posting over the next four days.
It’s a really neatly packaged record. Sides 1 and 2 are more or less a ‘Greatest Near Hits’ comprising flop singles and some of the best-loved album tracks. Sides 3 and 4 contain some rarities, radio sessions and what had been previously unreleased tracks….and there were liner notes from the band’s two front men. In essence, it was an affordable prototype of the Domino Records release….
Nineteen Years old, depressed, nervous and probably distrustful. I wrote this, Lee Remick and 8 Pictures in what seemed like a month, after making the decision not to write about Universal Themes but about my feelings in the bedroom, Brisbane, driving my car and anything from overheard conversations – RF
(Recorded in May 1978 in Brisbane. Originally released as a single that month on the Able Label in Australia. The sleevenotes add ‘apologies for crackles on this track as it had to be dubbed from a disc)
2. Hammer the Hammer
Too many late nights in St Kilda, Melbourne. An incomplete meditation on loneliness and violence, sometimes mistakenly thought to be about drugs. Recorded during a lull in The Birthday Party’s “Junkyard” session. This was the last song we cut in Australia before moving to England – GM
(Recorded in January 1982 in Melbourne. Originally released as a single in July 1982 on Rough Trade)
3. 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. This version was released as a single in February 1983 on Rough Trade with the LP version, with a slightly extended intro, appearing on Before Hollywood, released in May 1983)
4. 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. This version was released a single in November 1983 on Rough Trade with the completely different LP version appearing on Spring Hill Fair, released in September 1984)
5. 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 it was my sister. She said that Marianne Faithful should sing it – GM
(Recorded in July 1984 in London. Originally appeared on Spring Hill Fair but released as a single later on in November 1984)
6. Draining The Pool For You
I wrote this melody in ten minutes in a London Hotel while waiting for Lindy Morrison to put on her lipstick. The lyric takes place in either Sydney or L.A. – a big mansion, an idiot movie star, luxury parties and the only intelligent, talented person there being me and I’m the hired help cleaning this guy’s pool – RF
(Recorded in May 1984 at Studio Mirival, France. Originally appeared on Spring Hill Fair)
7. Spring Rain
London, summer 1985. This seems a rough description of me around the time I started writing songs. There’s some Creedence Clearwater Revival in here – RF
(Recorded in November 1985 in London. Originally released a single in February 1986 on Beggars Banquet and included on the LP Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express one month later)
Oh….you just need to click on the song titles to get the mp3s.
Enjoy – more to follow the rest of this week
I am respectfully asking that you take a few moments to have a read over this very distinguished list of songs:-
Cattle and Cane
Man O’Sand to Girl O’Sea
Head Full of Steam
Cut It Out
I Just Get Caught Out
Bye Bye Pride
Streets of Your Town
Was There Anything I Could Do?
Love Goes On!
The songs have a few things in common:-
– every one of them was a single released by The Go-Betweens in the UK between 1983 and 1989
– every one of them was a flop with the best performing stalling at #80
– every one of them is a fantastic and timeless piece of music that shows no sign of dating
– every one of them is 80s indie-pop at its best
Sometimes I just don’t get it.
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Spring Rain
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – The Life At Hand
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Little Joe
This was the first single (and rather wonderful b-sides) lifted from the 1986 LP Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, arguably the band’s most consistent album in terms of quality. Nearly 30 years on and I am still bemused as to why neither Spring Rain nor Head Full Of Steam, the other single lifted from the album, didn’t get the band an appearance on Top of The Pops.
Oh and while I’m here, I’m asking for your indulgence to post another non-single from the album on the basis that there are times when I hear it and think is my favourite ever Go-Betweens song:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – The Wrong Road
The addition of cello, violins and viola take this way out of indie-pop territory and into something quite epic.
Of the quartet of WEEKLY music papers that were available in the UK back in the 80s, Sounds was my least favourite, mainly as it seemed more often than not to be aimed at the heavier end of the rock market. And yet, history shows that during its existence (1970 – 1991) it was often at the forefront of things ahead of the more renowned New Musical Express (NME), Melody Maker and Record Mirror – for instance it was the first of the three to give coverage to punk.
While the mid 80s saw the NME keep a reputation for reporting on and ‘breaking’ new scenes, Sounds began to increasingly concentrate on in-depth coverage of indie bands on major labels and less and less coverage to new or emerging groups. Allied to this was a series of vinyl giveaways with the paper, the first of which, in early 1987 was associated with Beggars Banquet under the title of Sounds Showcase 1:-
Here’s what was said on the back of the EP:-
After a lengthy absence The Cult return in prime strength to re-affirm their position among the world’s best rock groups. They’ve been recording their third album in New York with Rick Rubin producing, and have stripped down their sound to barbed-wire force. Outlaw is work in progress from these album sessions – the long-awaited new album will be aptly entitled Electric.
mp3 : The Cult – Outlaw
Not the recent single version, but the original John Leckie recording of the track, which presaged the staging of Mark E Smith’s play of the same title. Last year celebrating ten years of The Fall, this sparkling yet sinister track shows their continuing ability to surprise and stimulate with every release.
mp3 : The Fall – Hey! Luciani (original version)
The enigmatic Brix Smith weaves another fine web of 60s-inspired musical Americana. Spin This Web is the possible title track from The Adult Net’s forthcoming debut long player. Just who is Count Gunther Hoalingen?
mp3 : The Adult Net – Spin This Web
With a string of critically-acclaimed albums behind them, The Go-Betweens continue to produce distinctive quality pop songs, under the guidance of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. I Just Get Caught Out, specially recorded for this EP, is no exception, and heralds their new LP for April release.
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – I Just Get Caught Out
This is the first time The Cult have appeared on this or the old blog. It will be the last time cos they really are shit. Outlaw is bloody awful.
The Fall track is different enough from the single version to make it an interesting listen, while The Adult Net is a reminder of how close that band sounded to the poppier version of The Fall that was kicking around at that time…..which is of course no surprise as The Adult Net were The Fall without Mark E. Smith (except when he guested on their records as Count Gunther Hoalingen)
The Go-Betweens would later re-record this great bit of music and make it available on the Tallulah LP:-
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – I Just Get Caught Out
All three previous books on pop music written by Simon Goddard have been a delight to read and so I was bursting with excitement and anticipation approaching the release of his endeavours to tell the story of Postcard Records .
As someone who is old-fashioned enough to still want to walk into a shop to buy things rather than go on-line, I set out on a tour of book stores across Glasgow on the supposed day of publication only to find none had been delivered, although very helpfully I was informed some book and record shops were expecting copies in time for Record Store Day on Saturday 19 April.
Sadly, this didn’t prove to be the case. I could have gone to a personal appearance by the author the following day and picked up a copy but couldn’t reschedule pre-arranged plans. On Easter Monday the shops were closed, and come Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy with work to find time to get into the city centre shops. Thankfully, the late night openings on Thursday allowed me to take care of things. All that pent-up energy waiting to see what was behind the wonderfully designed cover led me to read the first few pages on the train home rather than do the usual thing of getting lost in music.
It was a strange introduction in that a short but informative prologue told the tragic story of Louis Wain, the Victorian and Edwardian era artist whose drumming cat became the symbol adopted by Postcard. It’s only a short journey from the city centre to my home…just enough time to read the seven-page prologue and whet my appetite for what was to follow.
Over the course of the next two nights, interspersed by a particularly tiring and troublesome day at the office, I devoured the remaining 240 pages of the book. And I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit iffy and sick as if I’d eaten something that was a bit off.
It pains me to say it but Simply Thrilled : The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records was a bit of a let-down. I’m not saying it’s a badly written or boring book – far from it – but the sense of excitement and anticipation of the chase of getting my hands on a copy was far greater than what I felt as I turned its pages.
The fault lies with the way the author has gone about the task. The publicity material churned out by the publishers says:-
“This is the preposterous true story of Postcard Records, the renegade label which, with its mad DIY ethic, kickstarted the 1980s’ indie music revolution. From its riotous punk origins to the intertwining sagas of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K, this is how they took on and triumphed over the London ‘music biz’ big boys, against all odds. Acclaimed music writer Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone involved in the making of the legend of Postcard Records. The result is a giddy farce involving backstabbing, ‘Arthur Atrocious’, gluttony, heartbreak, ‘Disco Harry’, cheap speed, ‘Janice Fuck’, disillusion, Victorian lunatics and knickerbocker glories. But it’s also the story of creating something beautiful from nothing, against all the odds.”
Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone and has seemingly taken everything they said at face value and published it. He himself knows such an approach is risky – in the foreword to the book he says what follows is a fairy-tale and not a documentary. He admits that many people’s recollections contradicted one another while others were distorted for what could be any of a number of reasons.
So what we get is a book which feels too much of an in-joke in which the main protagonists tell the story as they want it to be remembered and which, understandably, puts them in the best possible light. This book isn’t really the story of Postcard Records – it’s more the like one of those projects in which people are asked to give their memories of a time and a place – in this instance Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s – for a talented writer to record for posterity. I do admire the tenacity of the author in getting the notoriously reclusive Alan Horne, the brains behind the whole Postcard venture, to speak to him in such depth.
It’s quite clear that Simon and Alan spent countless hours together and there can be no argument that the mogul has a treasure-chest of wonderful anecdotes, many of which are embellished throughout the book. But such is the size of the shadow cast by Alan Horne that I can’t help but feel that the story would have been better told as an authorized biography of his life and times rather than having others come in and say completely contradictory things and so confuse matters.
In terms of the music, the main focus is on Orange Juice and Josef K which is fair enough given that between them they accounted for around three-quarters of the material released on the label. And while the chapter on the Go-Betweens is one of the most enjoyable in the book – Glasgow must have seemed like a strange and alien planet to Grant McLennan and Robert Foster – the dearth of material on Aztec Camera is a bitter disappointment. They don’t feature until well into the book and there’s not actually all that much said about them.
It’s almost as if this version of the story of Postcard comes to a crashing halt at the time Orange Juice decamped to a major label and Josef K called it quits in the aftermath of one disastrous gig too many in a Glasgow discotheque in August 1981. It certainly reads to me that Roddy Frame was signed to the label only because it allowed it to boast of having a 16-year old wunderkid on the books rather than the label owner actually liking his music. As such, it is no real surprise that Alan Horne makes no real effort to make a star out of Roddy.
Simon Goddard admits he has written a preposterous tale which means he hasn’t been able to come up with the definitive story of Postcard Records. And therein lies my disappointment in his latest book. In saying all of this, I am glad I bought Simply Thrilled. It has a number of very funny and outrageous tales although whether they are true or not is another matter.
It is also a reminder that the Glasgow of the late 70s and early 80s was not the greatest place in the world if you dared to be different and a bit of a dreamer. It was a conservative city in its outlook and its attitudes and all too often those traits made it a dangerous and frightening place for flamboyant and confrontational characters like Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins.
The book ends at the point in time when Alan Horne gets the opportunity to set up Swamplands as part of the London Records empire. How that came about is one of the best and loveliest stories in the entire book….but to say anything more would be to spoil things.
I think I can however, get away with quoting, in full, the afterword:- “So when is your book ending? Just with Postcard? Those were sort of my normal years compared to what came after. Seriously, the real nuttiness was when I went down to London. That’s a whole different soap opera of insanity there. Another story. God! That’s a whole other book…” – ALAN HORNE Here’s hoping.
It’s not that long since I posted all of the Postcard singles on the blog, so today I’ll link in a few alternative takes, all inspired by the book:-
mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity (flexi version)
(recorded April 1979 at an Edinburgh concert on a low-fi cassette by Malcolm Ross; made available on flexidisc with copies of Falling & Laughing as well as various fanzines)
mp3 : Josef K – Heaven Sent
(recorded for a Peel session in June 1981; given a posthumous release as a single in 1987 by which time Paul Haig had re-recorded it in a completely different style at the outset of his solo career. Oh and the tune is also near-identical to that of Turn Away as appears on the Orange Juice LP Rip It Up)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (NME Version)
(different mix from the Postcard b-side; made available on C81, a mail order cassette from the NME)
mp3 : Go-Betweens – Your Turn, My Turn
(a song Grant and Robert offered to Postcard for release as a second single on the label but which was turned down flat by Alan Horne)
Two of the finest musical acts that have ever graced the planet. One features a teenage boy wonder from a town just outside of Glasgow while the other lot come from Brisbane which is in the land down under.
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – I Need Two Heads
mp3 : The Go-Betweens – Stop Before You Say It
(Postcard 80-4 : November 1980)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Just Like Gold
mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters
(Postcard 81-3 : April 1981)
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Mattress Of Wire
mp3 : Aztec Camera – Lost Outside The Tunnel
(Postcard 81-8 : August 1981)
The b-sides to the Aztec Camera singles were later re-recorded for High Land, Hard Rain. The Postcard versions are way superior IMHO….
And now…..the moment I’ve been dreading….the Top 11 rundown.
The great thing was listening to all 11 records over and over and over again. The bad thing was agonising over which song should be #1 – all of the Top 4 were very serious contenders – but in the end, I went for the song that today still fills me with joy every time I hear it….and which even now, more than 30 years on, still has the ability to have me lose it completely on the dance floor whenever it gets aired at one of the Little League nights.
11. Poor Old Soul
10. I Need Two Heads
9. Chance Meeting
8. Mattress Of Wire
7. Radio Drill Time
6. Sorry For Laughing
5. Simply Thrilled Honey
4. It’s Kinda Funny
3. Just Like Gold
2. Falling and Laughing
1. Blue Boy
I’ve got it all wrong, haven’t I????
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.