I didn’t mean to take five full months to make good on my promise, as a follow-up to this post on Danger In The Past, the debut solo album by Robert Forster, that I’d offer up some thought on its follow-up, Calling From A Country Phone, which originally came out in 1993, again on Beggars Banquet the long-time home of the Go-Betweens.

Again, I’ve picked up a copy thanks to it being reissued, on vinyl, by Needle Mythology in 2020, with the bonus of an additional 7″ single.

The first thing that has to be mentioned is that it is a totally different beast from the debut which had been recorded at the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin and the backing musicians were all part of The Bad Seeds.  By 1992, Robert Forster was back in Australia, living again in Brisbane with his new wife Karin Baumler.  He had a bundle of newly written songs, which he felt had a similar sort of vibe as much of the earliest material he had written for the Go-Betweens.

He decided his needs would best be met if he could return to the same small studio where it had all began in Brisbane back in the late 70s but to do so with musicians he didn’t know.  Acting on advice and a tip from an old friend who ran a record shop in the city, Robert went to a well known pub venue, the Queen’s Arms, where he saw a band called COW who also had members of another band called Custard playing with them that night.  He liked what he was hearing, and he asked if they would like to work with him to make a new album. All the musicians were at least ten years younger than him, and he had no idea if they would be compatible in the studio environment. It’s probably best, at this stage, to let Robert explain:-

It was risky and deliberate. I’d written ten songs from mid-1990 to mid-1992 in the Bavarian farmhouse where I had been living with my German wife.  Moving to Brisbane. my aim was to make a record to the exact opposite of Danger In The Past.  Why? The songs led me there, and you always have to follow the songs.

The studio…..was funky.  I hired a Hammond organ for the session and a four piece band could record together in the room. We weren’t making a huge contemporary rock record; in fact it wasn’t much like anything anyone was doing at the time. Unadorned, raw, with a cracked seventies AM radio vibe to it. Listening now, I am struck by its boldness and beauty – we really did go out on a limb.

(taken from the sleeve notes to the reissued album)

The one thing I can say is that I’m pleased I didn’t buy the album back in 1993 as I would have been quite disappointed. Almost thirty years on, and my tastes are a bit broader than before and my tolerance levels that bit higher.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that I’ve enjoyed many of the subsequent solo albums, as well as much of the material from the period when the Go-Betweens reformed, which means a lot more slack can be cut knowing better records would follow rather than worrying, as I would have back in the day, that Robert had lost it forever.

Calling From A Country Phone feels more like a collection of songs rather than an album which hangs well together.  Most of the tracks have an Americana feel to them, with pedal steel and violin often to the fore, along with that honky-tonk piano sound that I associate with scenes set in saloon bars in films or TV shows set in the Wild West.  The musicians brought on board for the album are quite clearly very good, nay excellent, at what they do, but I can’t help but feel there’s no real chemistry with Robert.

The main man perhaps has a sense of this too, mentioning further in his sleeve notes that it was unfortunate the band never got the chance to play outside of Australia and that perhaps the live experience would have better explained the record and what he was doing.

Anyways, that’s my take on it and there will likely be many folk out there who disagree strongly.  The album certainly gets a very good write-up in a number of places, with references to a gentle acoustic sound melding perfectly with the wistfully rueful vocals, as well as fine country-rockers with some typically trenchant lyrics and cinematic choruses.

Judge for yourself:-

mp3: Robert Forster – Atlanta Lie Low
mp3: Robert Forster – Falling Star

I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression, however, that I thought this purchase was a waste of money. C’mon, it’s Robert Forster and there’s a few moments on the album which could just about find themselves on an ICA of the solo material; but overall, while it’s not one I’ve had on heavy rotation since it landed in Villain Towers, it hasn’t been put in the cupboard to be completely forgotten about.

If I was to use the ratings deployed by some of the monthly music mags, it would likely be three stars;  in other words, a borderline pass.



It was sometime last year that I picked up the vinyl re-issues of the first two solo albums recorded and released by Robert Forster.  They are each things of beauty, coming finely packaged, complete with a bonus 7″ single and Robert’s newly supplied liner notes to help put things into context.

The debut album was Danger In The Past, recorded over just 14 days in June/July 1990, some six months after the Go-Betweens had broken up.  By this time, Robert was living with his new wife, Karin Baumler, in a Bavarian farmhouse which is where most of its nine songs were written.  A combination of good luck and knowing the right people enabled the album to be recorded in the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin.  His old friend, Mick Harvey, had taken on the task of producing the record, and in doing so had persuded Thomas Wydler and Hugo Race to join him in the studio.  In effect, it was Robert Forster and the Bad Seeds who convened for those two weeks with the end result being very much to everyone’s satisfaction.  Robert has since said it was one of his most treasured recording experiences, finally getting into the type of  studio hadn’t ever really had the resources to book, armed with songs which saw him move in different directions from before.  He has described the title songs as being….‘ like a folk song, and none of my songs on any Go-Betweens record were like that or had six verses. It had a classic folk chord sequence that Neil Young could’ve written, that Gordon Lightfoot could’ve written’

mp3: Robert Forster – Danger in The Past

I should also mention that Karin Baumler supplied vocals to the title track, he first of what would be many contributions to Robert’s wongs and live shows ever since.

I don’t want to go overboard with the music from the album, given the fact it contains just the nine tracks.  The album came out on Beggars Banquet, the label which the Go-Betweens had been signed to for the final few years, and while there wasn’t a single officially lifted from it, a promotional 45 featuring the jaunty, magnificent and poppy album opener, Baby Stones, (with its piano lines eerily similar to Don’t Go Back To Rockville) had been pressed up and sent to radio stations. A promo video was also shot:-

It’s b-side wasn’t on the album and when Needle Mythology issued the 2020 re-pressing they made it available on the bonus 7″:-

mp3: Robert Forster – The Land That Time Forgot

I’ll get round soon enough to posting something from Calling From a Country Phone, the follow-up album originally released in 1993.



Week-End is an annual music festival, first held in the German city of Cologne in November 2011. The third edition of the festival, on 11-13 December 2013 attracted a great line-up including Young Marble Giants, The Fall, Grant Hart, and The Pastels.

Robert Forster also performed over that weekend, linking up with the composer and arranger Jherek Bischoff for a unique concert consisting of Go-Betweens songs as performed by a string quartet. Prior to the show, and after a great deal of rehearsing, a number of the songs were recorded in the studio, two of which were subsequently released in 2017 on a 7″ single by Slowboy Records, an independent label based in Dusseldorf.

The credits on the back of the single reveal that Jherek Bischoff, as well as arranging the songs in question, also played bass while a backing vocalist was added to the first of the tracks.

Robert Forster: Guitar, Vox
Jherek Bischoff: Bass, Percussion
Mike Donovan: Backing Vox
Lola Rubin: Violin
Kalliopi Mitropoulou: Violin
Elisa Becker-Voss: Viola
Ruben Palma: Cello

The track to which the backing vocal was added dates from the very early days of the band. Indeed it was just their second-ever single, released in 1979 in Australia on the Able Label and written solely by Robert Forster. The flip side of this delightful and unusual 45, was from much later on, taken from the album Bright Yellow Bright Orange, released on the Melbourne-based Trifekta Records in 2003.

I had no idea that the single was in existence until I saw it while doing some on-line browsing of a record store in Stockholm, Sweden (as you do!!!). It was quickly ordered and arrived safe and sound a few weeks ago, purchased without ever being heard in advance….and as I said, it proved to be quite delightful.

mp3: Robert Forster w/ Jherek Bischoff & String Quartet – People Say
mp3: Robert Forster w/ Jherek Bischoff & String Quartet – In Her Diary

This is exactly why music blogs remain essential in the spotify/streaming age.




I went on Facebook last night and posted something. It’s not normally something that I do…I tend to use the place as a way of throwing out pithy one-liners in response to what others have said; indeed, I only joined up in the first place as it was the way to keep on top of certain announcements around events and ticket availability. But such was the magnitude of the happening that I felt I had to share my thoughts with my cybernet mates:-

They say good things tend to come in threes. Here’s some evidence….

I recently had the good fortune to catch incredible live performances, at small intimate venues, from two of my all-time favourites in the shape of Robert Forster and Belle & Sebastian.

Not too many things could top that. But the announcement that Aidan and Malcolm are reforming for three live shows this coming October does exactly that.

2016 started off real shit for music fans with far too many sad and untimely deaths. The summer has so far been an awful lot better…..

A wee bit of explanation.

Robert Forster is a total legend. But his visits to these parts are, naturally, few and far between and so the fact he was coming to Glasgow and playing, of all places, the wonderful space that is King Tut’s made it a ‘must see’. However, I was nagged by the fact that someone as talented and revered as him wasn’t playing a larger venue given the legacy of his time as a Go-Between and not forgetting last year’s Songs To Play was such a wonderful listen. I was concerned too that I’d go along and end up annoyed with folk who were only there for the old stuff and would show a lack of respect by talking their way through the material they either didn’t know or were less fond of. And in a venue with a 300 capacity, all it would take is a handful of such idiots to ruin the occasion.

My fears came to nothing as this was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of. Robert and his band got a rousing reception and the cheers for his solo material were every bit as loud as those for the songs by his old band. He was on stage for the best part of two hours, struggling a bit with his voice as he had a dreadful cold, but where many would have been tempted to use that as an excuse to hold back in a performance he seemed to use it to push himself that bit harder. He played around 20 songs with half coming from the Go-Betweens back catalogue…and he had such a talented group of musicians with him that it felt as if the clock really had been rolled back more than 30 years. It was bliss. I didn’t think I’d enjoy myself so much at a gig in 2016.

And then, just two weeks later I find myself at the Debating Chamber of Glasgow University Union (capacity 500 – 250 standing and same again seated upstairs). I’ve been in this space quite a few times but never for a gig….and by my reckoning it will be about the 75th different Glasgow venue that I’ve paid to see live music performed (must do a posting o that sometime). Belle & Sebastian are due on stage for what will be the first of three nights to celebrate their own 20th Anniversary and the 21st Birthday of the West End Festival, a highly popular event held every summer in the most bohemian quarter of my home city. I’m not sure what to expect as my expectations of the band have been gradually diminishing in recent years with recent albums leaving me disappointed and then there was a farce of a gig at the Hydro (capacity 13,000) in which they failed dismally in their efforts to put on a show in keeping with that size of venue. It was full of gimmicks, stage-managed to the point of ridiculous and just not in keeping with the band so many of us had fallen head over heels with.

Another show just under two hours long, with most of the material drawn from the very early albums and EPs , and almost all the songs being aired in the live setting for the first time since I didn’t have any X’s in front of the L in the label of my indie-kid t-shirts. And it was joyous and a celebration of everything that not only makes the band special but brings out the best in folk from my home city who know instinctively when they are seeing and hearing something special and react accordingly. There was no talking in between songs, no attempts to sing-a-long and drown out the band, and there was hand-clapping when the band sought a bit of accompaniment at the right times. I smiled at the opening note of the first song and I was still grinning as myself and Aldo made our way home in time for the last train thanks to the venue being in an area where there is an early curfew – this would normally be a bone of contention but not on a Monday night when there’s a long week at work ahead!

Two days later though, all of that gets topped.

Arab Strap were together for ten years from 1996. Since then, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have carved out successful and critically acclaimed solo careers which has played a part in how revered their original band had become since they walked off stage for the last time in December 2006. They jokingly (or so it seemed) said at the time said they might reform in another ten years.

The internet stirred last weekend when the band’s website suddenly carried the teasing message ‘HELLO AGAIN’ imposed on top of a very early promo photo. A countdown to Monday lunchtime led to a message to listen in to Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 on Wednesday afternoon. That was where it was confirmed they were getting together for three shows in October in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Furthermore, a download single was being available – a Miaoux Miaoux remix of The First Big Weekend – which would be released 20 years to the day when the actual weekend in question took place. Which just happens to be today.

I’ve purchased and downloaded the song and it is fucking amazing. A musical highlight not just of 2016 but of the 21st Century.

A year that was threatening to be the worst ever has suddenly, and very unexpectedly, taken a huge turn for the better.

mp3 : Robert Forster – Rock’n’Roll Friend
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian -If You’re Feeling Sinister
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You




His first words for a very long time:-

It’s been a good wee while since I last visited these familiar lands – some eighteen months or so – and whilst I could offer several (rather poor) excuses I won’t even bother. Instead, I’ll just present my annual ‘best of’ compilation (for both 2013 and 2014) and hope that makes up for being so absent. I hope to be around this pixel geography a bit more during 2015 but, aye, no promises I’m afraid. I’m still as obsessed as I once was with all things music; especially going to gigs and buying vinyl. Life just sometimes gets in the way of translating that into words about music. I’m sure you all know how that can be. Keep well and see you down the road.x

Welcome back Comrade. Your many fans will be delighted and hope that you stay good on the idea of posting a bit more in 2015. Seems apt that you’ve returned just as I’m in the middle of a series on the band which did more than any other to forge our much valued friendship.

This one’s for you:-

mp3 : Robert Forster – Rock n Roll Friend