The Go-Betweens - what's it all about?

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When the Go-Betweens first sailed over my horizon, the discrepancy between the extravagant claims made on their behalf and the unimpressive racket of the records made levity the easiest response. But they won't quite go away: I am frequently surrounded by G-Bs fans, and again and again I return to what bits of their oeuvre I have, trying to work out whether it's really any good, and if so, why.

I don't think the G-Bs are terrible, and I remain to be convinced that they're as good as their enthusiasts say. What I repeatedly find them is *difficult*. I don't understand the lyrics; there are few memorable melodies; even the rhythms are often perverse and hard to follow. None of this is necessarily bad - far from it. But I would like to appeal to those in the know: what is the point of the Go-Betweens? Why, exactly, should we persist in trying to overcome the obstacles they set before us?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 13 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I'm not sure I can answer this in objective terms. I can quite believe there are people in the world who wouldn't like the Go- Betweens, so I'm not sure you *need* to persist in trying to like them. I can't say I liked them the first few times I heard them, but suddenly it clicked, and I never looked back (although I wouldn't say I liked all of Before Hollywood or Send me a Lullaby in particular). It's something to do with their awkwardness -- the over-done lyrics, the clumsy guitar breaks, the willingness to try out half-arsed attempts at, say, funk (Cut It Out) -- and the sense that these are too ordinary, if eccentric blokes. There's something to the chemistry between them, the way they counter-balance each other's worst excesses ("No Robert! Not another one-chord spoken word piece with abstract lyrics..." "No Grant! Not another ballad in which your girlfriend's about to leave you"), especially on stage when one of them will turn and look at the other as if he's really proud of something the other's done.

I know there''s more to say, but I'll have to think it through :-)

alex thomson, Tuesday, 13 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I've heard, or at one time owned, virtually everthing they've ever done and I still don't 'get' the GBs. The odd track is good (That Way, As Long as That, but it's difficult for me to ignore the lack of memorable tunes, Forster's horrible voice, the sheer ORDINARY-NESS of their usual mid-paced plod, and the lack of highs and lows.

Lyrics are not that important to me, so that doesn't save them. I've concluded that GBs devotees are just looking for completely different things in music, whatever they are, and we're just worlds apart. Like Pinefox, I'm curious to know what it is that people see in them, but I doubt that we'll find out.

Dr. C, Wednesday, 14 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

The G-Bs seem like an odd band to struggle with if you find them difficult. I just see classy pop and it sounds good to me. That's my Ned answer, anyway.

Otis Wheeler, Wednesday, 14 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

listen to PEOPLE SAY (it´s all you have to do)

Jens, Wednesday, 14 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

to me the go betweens mean gentle humour (Surfing Magazines) great pop hooks & melodies (Bye Bye Pride) inspired, ornate lyrics (you in freezing weather, snow cuffs on your wrists, me down by the river, and london no longer exists - love is a sign), oneiric, uneasy beauty (cattle and cane) and two finely matched voices. I *love* robert's voice, it's raw and beautiful.

However, they did not always wear the right trainers. And I agree that some of their album stuff is shite. I hope you keep listening, it's a filthy lie that pop music is always instantly "get"-able. Sometimes you have to persevere, dontcha? I hated Television the first time I heard them and they're now my fave band ever. i admit to loving the GBs on first listen, though.

hymie, Friday, 16 February 2001 01:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
I hate them because I don't know what 'Proustian' means - even though I saw the film where Jeremy Irons does Ornella Muti doggystyle.

Geordie 'Inadequate' Racer, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I'm still waiting for an explanation, pleez

Still unenlightened, Thursday, 19 April 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

In the sleeve notes to the 1978-1990 compilation, Robert Forster describes how a couple he met inspired him to write "Love is a Sign". Someone who can get picked up by a couple and take advantage of and appreciate the situation enough to be able to say "they were a great couple" is great.

That people find The Go-Betweens difficult puzzles me. I worry that I'm not attuned to the music enough to hear what's difficult about it. As for the melodies not being memorable, I don't know. I think I listen to them as a background to Robert Forster's voice and the subjects he sings about, and they add tremendously to the pathos of the songs. I don't think Robert Forster and Grant McLennan are clever lyricists, but I think they write with great feeling, and they see things that someone I could admire would see. It's the details.

If you don't like Robert Forster's voice or if lyrics don't matter to you, I can see how it would be hard to get into them.

By the way, I bought, read, and sold back this paperback called _The Go-Between_ by J.P. Hartley from a great used bookstore when I was in Amsterdam. I think a film was made based on the book with Lee Remick in the leading female role. Does anyone know if that's where they got their name from?

youn, Friday, 20 April 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Name from movie-title: fer sure. Everyone ripped off half-forgotten art-movies and/or b-movies in those far-off days. All About Eve/The Honeymoon Killers/One-Eyed Jacks.

(like hear'say doing Simon and Garfunkel covers w/o the creative integrity)

mark s, Friday, 20 April 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Ow! That was nice, Mark.

I probably don't need to say here that lyrics do matter to me. I think it's possible, or arguable, that the G-Bs' lyrics are the best thing about them. I still think they're melodically weak. Occasionally (I'm thinking of 'Part Company') that doesn't matter, and can even become a kind of virtue.

I do think this band is a grower. I like them more than I did. But I still think they're somewhat overrated, because their tally of great tracks still seems to me rather small, given how long they've been at it.

Their records also tend to include really bad guitar solos.

the pinefox, Thursday, 26 April 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
I thought we'd finished with this; but in the Guardian the other day, a piece not only comparing them to B&S and the Velvets - silly, really, when they sound little like either - but also saying they'd kept melodic songwriting alive. What's wrong with this picture?

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 April 2003 11:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

They're charming, vulnerable, whimsical and winsomely eccentric. You Americans wouldn't understand.

colin s barrow (colin s barrow), Thursday, 24 April 2003 11:17 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I love the Go-Betweens and will defend their music - but I won't defend what some hack wrote. Preposterous that they kept melodic songwriting alive. The B&S comparison - I think someone in B&S in an early interview cited the Go-Betweens as an *influence*. Writer just repeating what he heard.

dave225 (Dave225), Thursday, 24 April 2003 11:22 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

They sing about ponies 'n' that kinda shit (Rather poncey) too much on the pre-break-up albums. But I like Friends Of Rachel Worth a lot. Haven't heard the new one.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Thursday, 24 April 2003 17:57 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

colin - do you think American's regularly read the Guardian? think before you post.


a bit whispy, when I was younger I yawned violently to them, no I'm older and it all makes sense to me know *weeps*

James Blount (James Blount), Thursday, 24 April 2003 18:05 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

it all makes sense to me NOW rather (I should think before I post)

James Blount (James Blount), Thursday, 24 April 2003 18:07 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

three years pass...
Listening again, naturally.

Liberty Belle LP.

Liking 'In The Core Of A Flame', just now!

the gofox (the pinefox), Thursday, 11 May 2006 15:27 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i only ever owned the Liberty Belle one, and it's got 3-4 really good songs, but overall they were too limp (lazy, weak melodies & iffy vocals) to get me interested. RIP anyway.

timmy tannin (pompous), Thursday, 11 May 2006 15:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

So pinefox has evolved...

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Thursday, 11 May 2006 15:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

"they were a great couple" caught my attention too. that type of sentiment can be taken as 'great' like for you but i can also see others looking at the two guys as annoying troubadours who think 'what kind of a man actually says mush like 'they were a great couple'? probably just to catch birds.' i think it's almost a prerequisite to like this band that the listener be able to tap into his own romantic side. i agree that on music alone they could cause a non-romantic to scratch his head and think 'what's the fuss?'

Carlos Keith (Buck_Wilde), Thursday, 11 May 2006 19:33 (twelve years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

ooh la la

Drooone, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 02:30 (eleven years ago) Permalink

wonder if he'll bring the show down south?

mrlynch, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 05:42 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I was wondering what he would do next -- and I don't blame him for catching his breath and looking back a bit, after everything.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 05:45 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I like the GoBetweens just fine and dandy, but I never loved them they way I loved their more racous countrymen such as The Triffids or The Moodists. At the more gentler end of the spectrum I always thought The Chills sounded more like how the 'tweens were described - and they never did anything as good as Pink Frost.

Sandy Blair, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 06:26 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Hasn't someone (maybe it was you Sandy) said pretty much exactly this before?

Drooone, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 06:32 (eleven years ago) Permalink

goddamn i'd so go to that if i wasn't going to be in london then

electricsound, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 07:43 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I was wondering what he would do next -- and I don't blame him for catching his breath and looking back a bit, after everything.

not surprisingly, this coincides with the release of a split 90s best-of by he and McLennan solo

energy flash gordon, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 12:31 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I always thought The Chills sounded more like how the 'tweens were described - and they never did anything as good as Pink Frost.

Um, wrong, in that while "Pink Frost" may be the absolute single peak of Martin Phillipps work there's so much else very close to that summit.

Mr. Odd, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 18:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Funny, these memories, but I remember sitting with Martin Phillipps as he gazed at that double album Go-Betweens anthology (on vinyl) and told me how his goal was to make an album half as good as the Go-Betweens worst!

deedeedeextrovert, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 19:48 (eleven years ago) Permalink

saw this thread as "cattle and cane" came on. weird.

Steve Shasta, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 19:58 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Hard to believe it's been more than a year since McLennan's death.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 20:02 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Yeah, memories are funny. I recall a schoolboy... wait, no, I recall sitting with Martin and he's EXTREMELY modest about the quality of his work. His best is on the same level as Grant and Roberts.

Mr. Odd, Wednesday, 23 May 2007 20:05 (eleven years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_nn90p-tIg

what a pretty song. though, sometimes i forget how awful and pointless so many mid-1980s videos were.

amateurist, Saturday, 24 October 2009 02:18 (eight years ago) Permalink

The song that introduced me to the Go-Be's. I don't get why this song is called overproduced; to me there's just enough reverb on the guitar hook, synth, and vocal to give it that nuevo Orbison vibe.

lihaperäpukamat (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 24 October 2009 02:21 (eight years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

From an interview with one of the guys from No Age on Pfork this morning, regarding new album influences:

Pitchfork: Is there any brighter, more poppy music you have been listening to lately that might be having an influence?

RR: Yeah, actually. The Go-Betweens have been on rotation. They have a really interesting sort of sound collage. That and this band Disco Inferno have been two references for us in a lot of ways. There's a fun-ness in there. Disco Inferno is really heavily sample-based, but still has this pop element. There's this record D.I. Go Pop that I have been listening to a lot during the creation of this.

I just wish he hadn't adopted the "ilxor" moniker (ilxor), Thursday, 28 January 2010 15:33 (eight years ago) Permalink

That's interesting .... Haven't really been nuts about the No Age I've heard, but a Go-B's influence would be welcome! Hey if you're wondering what the latter day go-betweens were all about, my friend put together a best of the 2000s mix of the band over yonder .... http://ow.ly/11qAR ... it's very good!

tylerw, Thursday, 28 January 2010 17:07 (eight years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

Would go to this but I'll probably be watching a lot of football, should be ashamed of myself

Bees Against Racism (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 May 2013 13:35 (five years ago) Permalink

One of my fave t-shirts:

http://www.gobetweensstore.co.uk/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/mclennanT-large.jpg

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 2 May 2013 13:55 (five years ago) Permalink

man i would so go to that hangover lounge thing if i lived in london. i don't even know what it is but I'd go! was just listening to a pretty wild bootleg of the trio go-Bs from 1982. kind of amazing they made tallulah a couple years later -- this thing is spikey as hell.

tylerw, Thursday, 2 May 2013 20:51 (five years ago) Permalink

I actually prefer the earlier work, especially Before Hollywood, over the late '80s stuff like 16 Lovers Lane. I dunno, I just find a track like 'A Bad Debt Follows You', with its spiky guitars and shifting time signatures, much more interesting than the U2-isms of 'Quiet Heart'.

The Jupiter 8 (Turrican), Thursday, 2 May 2013 21:15 (five years ago) Permalink

"Quiet Heart" only sounds like U2 because of "With or Without You."

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 2 May 2013 21:22 (five years ago) Permalink

The female harmonies in Streets Of Your Town are the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. Beyond that, I dig Spring Rain because of that guitar riff that's in Kingpin that I spent 10 years trying to identify. That's about it for me though.

kaleb h. (Everything You Like Sucks), Thursday, 2 May 2013 21:32 (five years ago) Permalink

Hey, don't ruin "Quiet Heart" for me by making a U2 association!

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 2 May 2013 23:16 (five years ago) Permalink

feel like i've heard Forster say that song started out as a jesus and mary chain thing?

tylerw, Friday, 3 May 2013 04:07 (five years ago) Permalink

My fav T-shirt ever.
http://www.gobetweensstore.co.uk/products/hammert-large.jpg

Jazzbo, Friday, 3 May 2013 11:20 (five years ago) Permalink

where the streets of your town have no name

i don't get the u2 thing at all, but yes i would love to hear more spiky guitar go-betweens a la man o'sand to girl o'sea

dschinghis kraan (NickB), Friday, 3 May 2013 11:27 (five years ago) Permalink

Every line in "Quiet Heart" reverberates ("We're trying hard to keep this warmth in"). Plus: harmonica solo instead of guitar!

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 May 2013 11:30 (five years ago) Permalink

http://damienpower.com.au/2013/04/spleen-archives-grant-mclennan-interview/
coincidence not

MatthewK, Friday, 3 May 2013 12:27 (five years ago) Permalink

Worse than BYBO or Send Me a Lullaby?

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 23:34 (five months ago) Permalink

at any rate the remastering problem was solved

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 23 January 2018 23:34 (five months ago) Permalink

I struggle to rank the recordings but I can say that I almost never feel any need to revisit Oceans Apart or BYBO.

Not all of Lullaby works but I've listened to it an awful lot over the decades. I'm very forgiving when things are so odd rhythmically.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 03:45 (five months ago) Permalink

For me BYBO and Lullaby are the other two in the "weak tier", but Oceans is the weakest for me. I do actually like all of them though!

Is the mastering fixed on Spotify? Get a load of that bridge on Finding You! Sounds like a FM radio station broadcasting a recording of another FM radio station.

SA, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 14:55 (five months ago) Permalink

Lavender is the only weak spot on Oceans Apart for me. Finding You, Born To A Family, The Statue and This Night's For You are some of my favourite Go-Betweens moments. Bright Yellow Bright Orange is by far the weakest of the reunion releases, but it's still a really solid listen. Send Me A Lullaby is their only below average release. It's surprising really as most of those early singles around the same time were great, especially Hammer The Hammer and I Need Two Heads.

kitchen person, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 15:12 (five months ago) Permalink

Ongoing amazement that "This Night's For You" hasn't been licensed for every beer commercial on TV. Basically the Lowenbrau theme x 1000.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:16 (five months ago) Permalink

BYOB's problem, I told Forster when I interviewed him in 2006, was the self-production wasn't up to the band's increasingly ornate arrangement ideas. They'd regained their confidence and needed a producer up to the task.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:22 (five months ago) Permalink

i've been wanting to buy Oceans Apart but now i'm a little gunshy, don't want to wind up with the first version. sounds like the remaster was out only a few months after the initial version?

omar little, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:40 (five months ago) Permalink

we'll create an ad hoc listening committee for you

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:41 (five months ago) Permalink

i expect a report on my desk by Friday

omar little, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:46 (five months ago) Permalink

BYOB's problem, I told Forster when I interviewed him in 2006, was the self-production wasn't up to the band's increasingly ornate arrangement ideas. They'd regained their confidence and needed a producer up to the task

I'm sure he appreciated your input and took it into account

the word dog doesn't bark (anagram), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 19:05 (five months ago) Permalink

Oceans Apart still sounds like shit on Spotify, notably the digital distortion on the chorus to This Night's For You. I'd otherwise rep for this album being top 3 GoBs but no, the lousy mastering is just too deflating.

doug watson, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 19:12 (five months ago) Permalink

He did mention in hus memoir how dull BYBO sounded.

Xpost

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 19:21 (five months ago) Permalink

Oceans Apart still sounds like shit on Spotify, notably the digital distortion on the chorus to This Night's For You. I'd otherwise rep for this album being top 3 GoBs but no, the lousy mastering is just too deflating.

― doug watson,

I still own the original shit version, still love it. I've never let shitty mixing affect my enjoyment; it's the songs. That same year Sleater Kinney released a similarly shit-sounding album that happened to be mediocre because half the tunes were retreads.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 19:33 (five months ago) Permalink

I envy your tolerance of overly loud mastering.

doug watson, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 20:08 (five months ago) Permalink

where can we stream the doc btw?

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 21:31 (five months ago) Permalink

Oceans Apart is great. Sadly, as it's Grant's last recorded work, I think Robert is strongest here. Grant's tracks stray a little too close to the middle of the road for my taste. Whereas Robert comes out with all cylinders firing on Here Comes A City. And I have a particular soft spot for Darlinghurst Nights, as I was living in Darlinghurst at the same time as they were and I'd see them round. I even know what restaurant Robert means when he's talking about gut-rot cappuccino and spaghetti...

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 22:38 (five months ago) Permalink

Forster has been the strongest writer since 1988, but McLennan rose to the challeneg in OA.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 24 January 2018 23:21 (five months ago) Permalink

The Statue is my favourite Go-Betweens song.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:30 (five months ago) Permalink

ABC (Aus) is streaming the documentary for another week or so, though one might need to convince the server you're in Australia.

http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/go-betweens-right-here/

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Thursday, 25 January 2018 06:06 (five months ago) Permalink

just for info that ABC link is actually a 60min TV cutdown of the full doco which is about 90 minutes

what got lopped i have no idea

emsworth, Thursday, 25 January 2018 09:32 (five months ago) Permalink

Oceans Apart is definitely a Top 3 Go-Betweens LP for me

Well bissogled trotters (Michael B), Thursday, 25 January 2018 10:30 (five months ago) Permalink

XP: re 60 vs 90 minutes, there is (or was) a good half an hour of 'extras' on the site too, in maybe ten installments, which may or may or not make up the balance.

I just dug out BYBO and OA for reappraisal while driving. Perhaps today is the day they become adorable.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Thursday, 25 January 2018 20:41 (five months ago) Permalink

any reason why a few but not all of their albums are on spotify? were they all on different labels originally?

in twelve parts (lamonti), Saturday, 27 January 2018 17:42 (five months ago) Permalink

Been on a BYBO binge recently, have grown to love it as much as any other GBs album with the exception of the peerless Liberty Belle. I think it's a better record than this thread would have you believe.

yugi ex, Saturday, 27 January 2018 20:40 (five months ago) Permalink

I have been digging it as well and concur that it is being undersold

The Sound of the City Slang (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 27 January 2018 21:34 (five months ago) Permalink

^ Gosh! I must only have heard the other Peel session.

BYBO *is* good! I listened to it several times this week. The overall sound of it is preferable to Oceans Apart, I think, whereas I would initially have agreed that it seemed a tad under-cooked.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Thursday, 1 February 2018 22:21 (five months ago) Permalink

three months pass...

I've been reading Forster's book, and not only is it extremely well written but it's making me think about the band in ways I've never really thought about before. That's partly because of how mysterious I've always found the Go-Betweens, which in the past made me as wary of revelations as leaning in too close to pick out discernible song meanings and specific lyrics - too special for scrutiny. All I know is that playing the band's albums on shuffle right now, it's kind of unbearable, especially those songs like "Spring Rain," "Cattle and Cane," Finding You" and "Clouds" (to name four songs shuffle has just given me in succession) that are almost too pretty for words.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 16 May 2018 00:16 (two months ago) Permalink

god "Finding You" and "Clouds"

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 16 May 2018 00:17 (two months ago) Permalink

The Go-Betweens is also one of the few bands which got back together years later (well Robert and Grant did in any case) and produced stuff that is as good as their earlier incarnation.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 16 May 2018 00:32 (two months ago) Permalink

Wishing Glen Campbell had done "No Reason to Cry." Forster says it could've happened--did Julian Raymond play it for Glen? Who had just come in from the golf course?

eddhurt, Wednesday, 16 May 2018 03:37 (two months ago) Permalink

Finished the book, which handles Grant's death in a really touching way. Something that surprised me - and I must admit to being attuned to this since the conspicuous exclusions in the Tom Petty bio(s) - is that there is very little specific stuff about substance abuse until the end, when Robert admits to casual needle use as the source of his Hep C. Apparently heroin (assuming that's what it was) abounded in the Aussie underground scene, maybe more than in most places - everyone from Nick Cave to Steve Kilbey to Paul Kelly (!) had heroin problems - but what surprised me is that I thought it was *Grant* who had been a longtime heroin user. But the book never brings it up at all, despite painting him as a pretty serious drinker, implied to be his excess of choice (though the book never blames alcohol for bad behavior or anything, just as a health concern, which indeed implies some heavy drinking). I guess I don't mind the missing bits, it's just curious.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 17 May 2018 21:52 (two months ago) Permalink

the anecdotes about McLennan nursing huge Long Island iced teas were depressing

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 17 May 2018 21:54 (two months ago) Permalink

There's a lot about him left (intentionally I think) vague. Plus revelations that, for example, Robert only met Grant's mom once before his funeral, and that Grant's mom never saw the band perform.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 17 May 2018 21:59 (two months ago) Permalink

Robert does hint at his own excesses throughout, with the quiet admission toward the end that in the scheme of things he was just another "bad" boy, a bad influence, that Grant hung around. But at one point Robert does say something about having been sober for a week. No casual drinker would ever tout their weeklong sobriety except someone for whom that stands as an exception to the rule.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 17 May 2018 22:01 (two months ago) Permalink

everyone from Nick Cave to Steve Kilbey to Paul Kelly (!) had heroin problems

Cave was in Berlin and London, Kilbey was in Sydney, and Kelly (in Melbourne) didn't have problems until he'd been using occasionally for two decades, at which point he gave up for good.

(By Kilbey's accounts, McLennan never had a problem either, which leaves a grand total of zero examples cited in the Australian underground, as Kilbey was a major-label charting artist. Kelly, too, for that matter.)

chilis=lyrics...hypocrits (sic), Friday, 18 May 2018 00:29 (two months ago) Permalink

David Nichols (The Cannanes; author of a 90s book on the GBs) was amongst quite a few expressing frustration re Forster's vagueness on the heroine issue. eg. half of his review dealt with it:

https://www.theliftedbrow.com/liftedbrow/twin-layers-of-lightning-a-review-of-robert

Kilbey spoke at some length in last year's documentary (or more likely the extra material, come to think of it) about them both using after McLennan introduced him to opiates. I think he said that McLennan mocked him for falling more deeply into dependence, such that the friendship disintegrated.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Friday, 18 May 2018 01:22 (two months ago) Permalink

xpost Fine. A few semi-popular Australian peers of Forster/McLennan, then.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 01:36 (two months ago) Permalink

xpost Hmm, yeah, that Nichols review gets at my objections. Re: what I said before, I was absolutely shocked when that third Tom Petty bio came out, after a 4 hour movie and another interview book, only to finally learn that not only was he into heroin, it was a serious problem for a while - in the '90s, no less. How could that have been omitted? Similar to when I saw the Paul Kelly doc and learned of his own use. As someone who more or less only knows about heroin from accounts like these, neither artist struck me as the type I associated with the drug (almost always in the Keith/Iggy, er, vein), and while I chalk that up to my own naiveté (esp. since I know regular folks who have died or gone to jail related to heroin), it was still eye-opening to learn about Forster/McLennan.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 01:54 (two months ago) Permalink

It seems reasonable that Forster chooses to focus on his artistic partner's art, vs what he might see as gossip -- especially as McLennan's main heroin period was when they were estranged? Perhaps the specific area of various health-neglects that ended his life isn't directly known, too, and thus even less relevant.



(I'm sure there was plenty of heroin use in the underground btw! - but people living 16,000 km apart are not sharing dealers, and the sheer cost of drugs in Australia, combined with the scantier opportunities to earn money as a musician, make it likely to be used less than in other continents-lumped-together-as-a-scene. if someone OCRs Blunt I'll do a ctrl+f.)

chilis=lyrics...hypocrits (sic), Friday, 18 May 2018 04:23 (two months ago) Permalink

My (by no means first-hand) understanding was that heroin, particularly, was cheap and of high quality in the early to mid 1990s Australia, which coincides with the time period under discussion. It was coming in from South-East Asia, not that far away (whereas the American junk was coming from Afghanistan iirc).

Vernon Locke, Friday, 18 May 2018 05:34 (two months ago) Permalink

I was living in inner-city Sydney in the late 80s/early 90s, in social circles that (very slightly) overlapped with those of the Go-Betweens. I can confirm that the scene was awash with drugs! Although by that time, I'd say everyone was off their faces on ecstasy rather than heroin.

Zelda Zonk, Friday, 18 May 2018 06:13 (two months ago) Permalink

McLennan did allegedly develop a taste for certain substances while hanging with The Birthday Party during either the Melbourne period (circa Send Me A Lullaby and Tuff Monks collaboration) or in shared London accommodation. They may well have shared sources at various times!

I can't comment on the relative incidence or the precise patterns of heroin usage but if you add the likes of David McComb (The Triffids) and Tim Hemensley (God, etc) -- both dead in their 30s -- the list certainly gets more depressing the longer one dwells on the matter.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Friday, 18 May 2018 06:24 (two months ago) Permalink

It seems reasonable that Forster chooses to focus on his artistic partner's art, vs what he might see as gossip -- especially as McLennan's main heroin period was when they were estranged?

It's implied Forster's own heroin use was from back when the Go Betweens were still a going concern (the first time around). Forster is unclear about this, though, but you'd still think they were using at the same time. Maybe they were both casual users, but McLennan's got more serious? At the least, you'd think Forster would know when McLennan started, given the closeness of their relationship. I suppose one theme of Forster's narrative is that there were always things about Grant that were unknowable, but that through line could be in there as an out.

Either way, as far as focusing exclusively on art goes, Forster does not shy away from gossip, whether the romantic sort or talk of McLennan's drinking. There are bits late in the book where Forster is worried about McLennan, or worried about the state he's in (set up for his surprise death) that he always chalks up to drinking specifically, and he doesn't shy away from doing so. I have no idea when McLennan's main heroin period was, because it's not in the book at all. So clearly that was a choice on Forster's part. Perhaps the family didn't want it in there and he left it out out of respect?

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 13:22 (two months ago) Permalink

I got the impression that neither was using in the 2000s and Forster had only flirted with it in the mid '80s.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 18 May 2018 13:24 (two months ago) Permalink

Forster was in a German farmhouse drinking beer

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 18 May 2018 13:24 (two months ago) Permalink

From the book it scans that for all their close collaboration and relationship they were often in different places/countries. Anyway, I guess lots of people have pointing it out:

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/lunch-with-robert-forster-i-wouldnt-write-about-anyones-drug-use-but-my-own-20161108-gskq72.html

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 13:25 (two months ago) Permalink

"I gave myself very few guidelines or rules when I went into writing the book, but one of them was that I was going to write about no one's drug experience but my own," he says. If not for having to deal with the hep C issue, he says, "I wouldn't have written about my own drug use in the '80s because it really didn't affect anything – there was no heroin in the recording studio, or on the road.
"For me it was an occasional thing, almost a social thing. I wasn't a sort of junkie who, as soon as I got in a city, needed a connection."
In terms of their relationship, writing about the hep C mattered because it was why he stopped drinking, and alcohol had been an important part of their lives.
"After shows, after a day of recording, I didn't go to the pub any more. I went to bed. And Grant was the one going out till 3 or 4am every night. A lot of things get said at midnight after you've had a bottle and a half of wine that don't get said over a cup of tea at 2 in the afternoon. That didn't happen any more, and that changed the dynamic. Our friendship was strong but a crucial thing was gone and I think Grant missed that."

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 13:26 (two months ago) Permalink

So the takeaway there - which is only implied in the book - is that both (or at the very least Forster) were casual heroin users, but heavy drinkers. When Forster stopped drinking and McLennan didn't - later in the interview Forster admits Grant may have been an alcoholic - that affected their personal and professional relationship more than anything else, and may have amplified Grant's depression. Which is so extra tragic to me, since I find his solo records so full of life and spirit.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 18 May 2018 13:30 (two months ago) Permalink


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