The Go-Betweens

September 8, 2017

The next time you’re down the bounded boozer with your mates and there’s an afflictive abeyance in the conversation, accede arresting up a altercation based on the afterward catechism – which is the best bandage never to acquire had a top forty hit? Now, obviously, this is a adaptation of the age-old old chestnut that’s anesthetized abounding a bashed hour for the sports fan down the ages – who is the best footballer never to acquire played in the World Cup? The acknowledgment to that is a rather attainable one, of course, George Best. The agreeable aberration of this catechism may be added stimulating.

Whilst Robert Lloyd and the assorted re-incarnations of his Brummie post-punk combo, The Nightingales, would accomplish any admirable critics’ abbreviate list, his guttural, sub-Beefheart bleat was aimed added absolutely at the underground than at the mainstream. The aforementioned uncompromising mindset aswell rules out the brand of New York’s Suicide and David Thomas’ alpha avant-garage group, Pere Ubu.

Soon enough, however, somebody will afire aloft the alone absolutely adequate answer, at atomic the alone acknowledgment adequate to me, and a acceptable amount of added men and women of a assertive age, who are anniversary the appreciative possessors of a brace of rose-tinted glasses. It artlessly has to be those doyens of guitar pop, The Go-Betweens. The baffling absence from the singles blueprint of these Australian Indie-pop antecedents charcoal a abstruseness to this day. Not once, during their illustrious lifetime 1978-2006 (allowing for a aperture from 1989 to 2000) did their adapted epistles anytime abuse to bear them pop distinction here, or in America. Incredibly, they even bootless to defended a top 40 hit in their built-in Australia. This, surely, constitutes the greatest abortion in the history of accepted music aback the time Al Jolson blacked up for The Jazz Singer, declared aboveboard “you ain’t heard annihilation yet” and shamefacedly went on to accomplish his fortune.

Just how the Brisbane based guitar heroes, led by singer/songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan bootless to accomplish even one aloof anniversary in the top 75, admitting crafting a deluge of adorable pop songs that should acquire fabricated them domiciliary names on both abandon of the Atlantic, is a abstruseness that absolutely scrambles the brain. Indeed, it prompts the group’s connected time admirers to ask the age old question, the one that escapes our aperture every time we drunkenly blunder aloft a recording of Barry Manilow’s ‘Bermuda Triangle arrant out of a pub jukebox; ‘how could you let this happen, baby Lord, how?’

Consider some of the flotsam and jetsam that has (dis)graced the archive aback the appearance of Bedrock ‘n’ Roll. In no accurate order, I accord you Vanilla Ice, The Bay City Rollers, Duran Duran, Milli Vanilli, Arthur Mullard and Hilda Baker, Black Lace, MC Hammer and Sting. And, that’s just the tip of a actual awkward iceberg!

Even added abstruse was the approved attendance on the blueprint of bands that ability best be declared as additional amount Go-Betweens. The actual accustomed Deacon Blue springs to apperception here, as able-bodied as the Trashcan Sinatras. And, how on apple do you explain the connected attendance in the charts, throughout the eighties, of bands that fabricated commensurable music, both in agreement of actuality and appearance to The Go-Betweens themselves. Aztec Camera, for example, chalked up 12 hits and 74 weeks on the blueprint while Lloyd Cole, with or afterwards his Commotions recorded 15 hits advance over 62 weeks.

After the bandage breach up in 1989 Forster and McLennan anniversary took a ache at abandoned stardom, in approach acceleration their diplomacy of a hit, but still the almanac diplomacy attainable remained un-persuaded. McLennan in particular, bound a assumption of attractive ballads throughout the nineties, the best of which, ‘Black Mule’ (1991) and ‘Hot Water’ (1994) are arguably the finest of all his compositions.

Even the French, not absolutely acclaimed for accepting their feel on the pop pulse, acquire fabricated The Go-Betweens something of a could could cause celebre. A 1996 affair of arch bedrock annual Les Inrockuptibles pictured the bandage on its foreground awning with the strap-line ‘Le groupe le additional sous-estime de l’histoire du rock?’ Which, broadly translated as – The Go-Betweens the a lot of underrated bandage in the history of rock? The annual aswell ranked ’16 Lovers Lane’ in its annual of the best albums of the aeon from 1976-1996.

PubliƩ en novembre 1996.

1. The Smiths: The Queen Is Dead

2. Pixies: Doolittle

3. The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses

4. The Go-Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane

5. Portishead: Dummy

6. PJ Harvey: Dry

7. Tricky: Maxinquaye

8. Morrissey: Vauxhall & I

9. Massive Attack: Blue Lines

10. Beck: Mellow Gold

11. The Feelies: The Acceptable Earth

12. REM: Automatic For The People

13. James: Stutter

14. The Divine Comedy: Liberation

15. The Smiths: Strangeways, Actuality We Come

16. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

17. The La’s: The La’s

18. De La Soul: 3 Feet Top And Rising

19. Bjork: Debut

20. Jeff Buckley: Grace

This re-appraisal of the band’s standing, calm with an allurement to play at the magazine’s 10th Anniversary back-bite prompted Forster and McLennan to ameliorate the group.

For a abrupt moment accurate admirers of the accumulation accustomed themselves to acquire that a abundant amiss ability be righted. Conceivably the bandage ability bang advantageous and acquire a song included on the soundtrack of some mega Hollywood Rom-Com. There was a antecedent of sorts. The Triffids, their compatriots from Perth and themselves a seminal indie bandage of the eighties, about managed to accident a hit if their archetypal song, ‘Bury Me Deep In Love’, was called to play over the abominable marriage scenes of Harold and Marge on the accepted daytime soap, Neighbours. The band, contour appropriately raised, punched home their advantage; their chase up single, “Trick Of The Light”, spent a august anniversary in the charts, at no 73, in aboriginal 1988.

Sadly, admitting recording a accumulation of actual accomplished improvement albums, decidedly 2005′s ‘Oceans Apart’, with its standout advance ‘Here Comes A City’, ‘Born To A Family’ and ‘Darlinghurst Nights’, a accustomed arrangement anon re-emerged – analytical acclamation on the one duke and bartering alienation on the other. The Australian media wasn’t afraid to chastising the bandage for their perceived abortion either. ABC’S accepted diplomacy appearance The 7:30 Address appear their acknowledgment to the date in the afterward address -

“The Go-Betweens acquire been declared as the quintessential critics’ band. They fabricated an art anatomy of bartering failure. But as Bernard Brown reports, they’re blessed to acquire becoming the industry’s respect, even if the dollars didn’t follow.”

Good old Bernard assured his address with “But the band’s access far outweighed its almanac sales and they abrasion the tag of bartering failures”.

Any achievement that The Go-Betweens could somehow about-face the advance abolished already and for all with the abrupt casual of McLennan in May 2006 at the age of 48.

Any altercation of abundant song-writing partnerships in accepted music would accurately activate with the brand of Lennon and McCartney, Bacharach and David, Leiber and Stoller, or Jagger and Richards. You shouldn’t, though, acquire to attending too far down the annual afore advancing above the names of Forster and McLennan, apparently affiliated appropriate alongside Difford and Tilbrook or Morrissey and Marr.

Both were able of autograph chiefly addictive songs and both had the ability to pen an bright lyric. Grant McLennan’s ‘River Of Money’, from the ‘Springhill Fair’ album (Beggars Banquet, 1984) whilst rather aberant of his achievement (it’s added of a prose-poem than a pop song) is such a different lyric that it demands to be quoted in full.

River Of Money

It is neither fair nor reasonable to apprehend sadness

to confine itself to its causes. Like a river in flood,

when it subsides and the drowned bodies of

animals acquire been deposited in the treetops, there is

another affectionate of accident that takes abode above the torrent.

At first, it seemed as admitting she had alone left

the allowance to go into the garden and had been delayed by stray

chickens in the corn. Afresh he had anticipation she might

have eloped with the rodeo-boy from the neighbouring

property but it wasn’t till one afternoon, if he

had heard guitar arena advancing from her allowance and

had rushed admiral to accost her and had seen

that it was alone the wind in the curtains brushing

against the attainable strings, that he assuredly knew she

wasn’t advancing back. He had dealt with the deluge alright

but the watermark of her abrogation was still absolutely visible.

He had resorted to the ambit then, cerebration that

geography ability accomplishment him but afterwards one anniversary in the

Victorian Alps he came aback north, realising that snow which

he had never apparent before, was alone arctic water.

I’ll yield you to Hollywood

I’ll yield you to Mexico

I’ll yield you anywhere the

River of Money flows.

I’ll yield you to Hollywood

I’ll yield you to Mexico

I’ll yield you anywhere the

River of Money flows.

But was it absolutely attainable for him to cope with the

magnitude of her absence? The snow had bootless him.

Bottles had about emptied themselves afterwards effect.

The television, a Samaritan during added tribulations, had

been repossessed. She had larboard her travelling clock

though cerebration it butterfingers of activity in

another time-zone; so the connected abandoned canicule of big-ticket sunlight

were abounding with the complete of her minutes, with the barometer of

her hours.

Not the accepting of the three minute hero, I appreciate, but the brace were appropriately adequate autograph the accepted verse, chorus, ballad pop song that chimed in at a radio affable 2.56 and wouldn’t acquire abashed the horses. From ‘Springhill Fair’ they appear a leash of aboriginal singles. McLennan’s pop-by-numbers opener ‘Bachelor Kisses’ was the aboriginal to hit the shops (and breach there, in the arrangement bin) followed by Forster’s heart-achingly sad confessional, ‘Part Company’;

“That’s her handwriting, that’s the way she writes

From the aboriginal letter I got to this her Bill of Rights”

‘Man O Sand To Babe O Sea’, the final individual from the album, begin Forster in a added self- assured anatomy of mind;

“Feel so abiding of our love

I’ll address a song about us breaking up”.

This arrangement of abstruse singles should acquire apparent The Go-Betweens bound acquiescently to the bust of the pop establishment. Instead, they remained adopted in the wilderness, contrarily accepted as the John Peel show.

Still, at the time it seemed alone to be a amount of time, afore their bandage of bad luck would breach and the Brisbane boys would be basking in the sun kissed afterglow of blueprint success. Two able-bodied albums followed, ‘Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express’, (Beggars Banquet, 1986) and ‘Tallulah’, (Beggars Banquet, 1987) anniversary spawned accomplished singles in Forster’s ‘Spring Rain’, and ‘Head Abounding Of Pride’, as able-bodied as McLennan’s ‘Right Here’ and ‘Bye Bye Pride’.

The abundant British public, though, remained sceptical. Peel sessions, amphitheater tours in abutment of the band’s connected time admirers, R.E.M, acknowledged tie-ins with a host of top contour almanac companies including Rough Trade, Postcard and Capitol, fabricated not the aboriginal aberration to the band’s alien status. If a pop accumulation can be declared as persona non grata, afresh they were it! The annoyance was alpha to tell, active McLennan to animadversion that he’d;

“given up on the bartering success thing, which is actual acceptable for my accompaniment of mind”.

The absoluteness was, though, that their a lot of “commercial” album, absolutely their masterpiece, was still to appear but in attempting to breach into the archive the bandage would accomplish alone in breaking itself apart. The omens were not acceptable from the outset. Aboriginal off, bass guitarist Robert Vickers, who had been with the accumulation aback 1983, handed in his notice. His replacement, John Willsteed, seemed an upgrade, though, and his arena absolutely brought a accuracy and brightness to the band’s sound, in befitting with their new administration of travel. He is accustomed by some assembly as accepting played a amount of the added intricate guitar locations on ’16 Lovers Lane’.

Unfortunately, Willsteed was aswell aggressive a massive alcohol botheration and it didn’t yield him connected to accomplish enemies of the draft of the band.

Furthermore, Amanda Brown, recruited afterwards accidental violin to The Servants abstruse additional individual ‘The Sun, A Small Star’ began a accord with McLennan. Suddenly, chat leaked out that Forster and Morrison had been in a accord of sorts for years. Battle curve had been drawn.

At the exact aforementioned time as the Forster/McLennan friendship, amorphous connected ago in the Drama administration of the University of Queensland, was starting to disintegrate, the power-brokers at the group’s administration aggregation were aggravating to advance McLennan into the accent at the amount of Forster. Author David Nichols, in his book The Go-Betweens, is bright about the re-alignment that took abode “every promotional video from ‘Right Here’ advanced shows Forster absolutely back-grounded”. Apparent today the video for ‘Was There Annihilation I Could do’ makes a toe-curling Exhibit A, with McLennan and Brown antic centre date while Forster is stationed able-bodied to the rear. Morrison was acutely unhappy, decidedly about the accommodation to abstruse in ambassador Craig Leon. In an annual with Sydney’s ‘On The Street’ she was belittling about the about-face in emphasis;

“He was called to accomplish this individual attainable to people, to get us to clamber out of our bandage corner.”

Despite the recriminations that would accordingly follow, the next 5 Go-Betweens singles would all be McLennan compositions.

On a added absolute note, Forster and McLennan were alive on the songs for ’16 Lovers Lane’ together, rather than alive individually. The spirit of accord instead of antagonism at atomic continued to the song-writing! Appear in August 1988 (Beggars Banquet /Capitol) and produced by Mark Wallis, who’d formed with the brand of Marianne Faithful, Tom Jones and R.E.M, ’16 Lovers Lane’ was a abstruse accumulating of adumbration guitar ballads and sugar-spun indie anthems so bright and sun kissed that you had to abrasion aphotic glasses just to acquire to it.

On the absolution of their admission individual ‘Lee Remick’ aback in 1978, Forster and McLennan had talked about capturing “that striped sunlight sound” which Forster afterwards authentic as being;

“A adventurous phrase, but it is abstract. It could be the sun advancing through blinds as you play a record. It’s the blinking of a fender guitar. It’s harmonies and tough-minded pop songs. It’s lying on a bed beside a window annual a book in the afternoon. It’s the sun on a girl’s acquire breadth hair. It’s Buddy Holly in the arid the day they recorded ‘Maybe Baby’. It’s t-shirts and jeans. It’s Creedence. It’s Bob. It’s Chuck Berry.”

On ’16 Lovers Lane’, fabricated twenty years afterwards they aboriginal articulate the concept, they came abutting to perfecting its meaning.

Opening with the McLennan’s aboveboard mild ‘Love Goes On’;

“There’s a cat in the alleyway

Dreaming of birds that are blue

Sometimes babe if I’m lonely

This is how I anticipate about you”

and catastrophe with Forster’s majestically adventurous ‘Dive For Your Memory’

“I’d dive for you

Like a bird I’d descend

Deep down I’m lonely

And I absence my friend

So if I apprehend you saying

That we stood no chance

I’ll dive for your memory

We stood that chance,”

’16 Lovers Lane’ (once voted 24th greatest album of the eighties, by none added than Rolling Stone magazine) could aswell avowal addition brace of McLennan abstract in the ‘Streets Of Your Town’ – a song that should acquire active a abode in the nation’s pop alertness in the aforementioned way that The La’s ‘There She Goes’ or The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Wish Me Baby’ acquire done, and the wistful, affecting lament,’ Quiet Heart’.

“I approved to acquaint you

I can alone say it if we’re apart

About this storm central of me

And how I absence your quiet, quiet heart”

‘Streets Of Your Town’ was such an attainable best for a individual that they had two cracks with it, absolution it aboriginal in October 1988 and then, abnegation to acquire defeat, the afterward summer. Sandwiched in amid the accompanying versions of this alone archetypal were two added ‘easy on the ear’ contenders, ‘Was There Annihilation I Could Do’ (McLennan) and ‘Love Goes On’. Both met the aforementioned afflicted fate – they were deeply ignored.

The abortion to appulse on the charts, with such an acutely radio-friendly song as ‘Streets Of Your Town’, acquire to acquire appear as a crushing draft to Forster and McLennan and was apparently the final attach in The Go-Betweens’ coffin. Broke and anxious they went their abstracted ways.

That The Go-Betweens had swallowed their pride and danced to the tune of their paymasters, there could be no doubt. They’d bedfast out the kinks in their song structures, planed off the angular edges and automated their complete until, with anniversary casual record, they began to complete beneath and beneath like The Velvet Underground and added and added like Abba. Not that there is annihilation amiss with Abba or ’16 Lovers Lane’ itself, absolutely in locations it’s a breathtakingly admirable record. It’s just that 3/5ths of the bandage didn’t absolutely wish to accomplish that blazon of almanac anymore. The Go-Betweens awash their soul, but they still didn’t advertise any records!

To accomplish affairs worse there wasn’t even the alleviation of authoritative their mark in the album charts, area added complete bands could be accepted to acquire their egos massaged by a loyal fan base, auspiciously congenital up over a diffuse career. All The Go-Betweens could muster, though, was a anniversary at no. 91 in June 1987 with ‘Tallulah’, and one anniversary at no. 81 for ’16 Lovers Lane’ in September 1988.

The Go-Betweens, however, did accomplish accessory appropriate aloft the UK Independent Charts. Afore signing for Beggars Banquet the bandage had recorded for Rough Trade and Situation 2, condoning them for admittance in the Indie charts. Amid 83 and 86 they had three entries in the top 40. ‘Cattle and Cane’, an autobiographical McLennan song voted by the Australasian Performing Rights Association in 2001 as one of the country’s 30 greatest songs of all time, accomplished no. 4 in March 1983, while ‘Man O Sand To Babe O Sea’ charted at no. 24 adjoin the end of the aforementioned year. A 12 inch alone absolution of ‘Lee Remick’ ailing at no. 7 in November 1986. And there the aisle runs cold.

To speculate, now, on the amazing abortion of The Go-Betweens is to set oneself an cool task. Maybe, it was artlessly because they never absolutely accustomed a British fan base, maybe Australians appeared beneath air-conditioned than Americans or the activating duo just lacked sex appeal. It could be argued that both Forster and McLennan were not characteristic abundant as singers, even that they articulate too brainy at times, for daytime radio. Maybe it was Forster’s arguable accommodation to play a Capitol Annal promotional barrage of ’16 Lovers Lane’ in an olive blooming dress (the aggregation scaled down the record’s promotional annual the actual next day). Or, perhaps, it was just that fate was adjoin them all along.

In September 1985 the bandage had active with Elektra, acquisitive for bigger advance and administration of their work. Forster was in optimistic affection “We’ve gone with Elektra – alpha our LP in just over a week. Afterwards any agnosticism the songs are our best, we are arena our best, and with ourselves bearing this alien masterpiece, it ability be great.” Within weeks Elektra had gone abdomen up and the bandage was aback to aboveboard one again, abundant to Forster’s chagrin;

“I do anticipate we acquire a faculty of acrimony – no one’s anytime been able to present us to the British attainable in any array of adamant or able way.”

One affair is for sure, they had a fistful of abundant songs and in Forster they had anyone who gave the bandage personality. His art-rock accomplishments led him to pay accurate absorption to his date performance, although we can alone assume his argot was durably in his audacity with this assay of his ‘dancing’;

“Bobby Womack himself already told me that I am a physique man, and that as far as avant-garde music is anxious there are alone three physique men left: himself, me and Prince. Prince came to Brisbane and took the colours, the moves, his accomplished act from me. It’s true! He’s apparent my moves!”

Perhaps The Go-Betweens’ bagman Lindy Morrison, speaking in 1992 was nearer the accuracy than I, and others, would affliction to acquire if she offered this overview;

“We ability acquire been one of the a lot of acclaimed bands in the country, but we awash accoutrement all records. That’s a shame. So let’s not go on about it accepting one of the a lot of acclaimed bands in the country, could could cause who cares? We didn’t advertise records, we weren’t a accepted band, and I’m ailing of audition about the actuality that we were so aces – because if we were so fabulous, why didn’t anyone buy our records?”

Forster managed a hardly added breviloquent response;

“It was absolutely absolution to realise, our accumulation is so good, and we’re accepting nowhere. Afterwards a while, the abridgement of accepting was so cool it was funny”.

Following their antecedent breach up, the accumulation album ’1978-1990′ was appear and accustomed the music columnist to canyon their adjudication on the activity and times of The Go-Betweens. Melody Maker’s Dave Jennings could almost accommodate his anger; “The actuality that The Go-Betweens never became massive is a abominable injustice… yield The Go-Betweens to your heart, area they belong.” In 1996, autograph for Select annual Andrew Male wrote that “The alone botheration with alert to The Go-Betweens now is that they can’t advice admonish you of how applesauce the eighties were. The Go-Betweens produced annal of quiet accuracy and got nowhere. Sting sang about a sodding turtle and became a millionaire.”

Even now, though, there isn’t absolutely a analytical consensus. Simon Reynolds in his absolute annual of the post-punk years 1978-1984, “Rip It Up And Alpha Again”, devotes alone one book to our Antipodean protagonists; “The Go-Betweens, who hailed from Australia but had a spare, alliterative complete analogously abiding in Television and aboriginal Talking Heads”. It should be noted, of course, that at this date The Go- Betweens alone had ‘Send Me A Lullaby’ and ‘Before Hollywood’ beneath their belt. Bob Stanley in his broadly acclaimed book “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Story Of Avant-garde Pop” (2013) omits them absolutely from his 800 page anthology.

Any altercation of Literate Pop, though, if you are absorbed to acquire that the brand in fact exists, if you acquire abundant pop can be anticipation through, rather than aimlessly felt, be bookish rather than corporeal, would acquire to yield into annual The Go-Betweens’ aggregate physique of work. Their atypical anatomy of romanticism, their ablaze chorus’s, their quirky, appropriate lyrics and their wry pop affection all accumulated to accomplish them one of the abundant post-punk pop groups. They fabricated two albums, ‘Springhill Fair’ and ’16 Lovers Lane’ that would lose annihilation in allegory with Costello’s ‘King Of America’, Lloyd Cole’s ‘Rattlesnakes’, Scritti Politti’s ‘Songs To Remember’, Mickey Newbury’s ‘Look’s Like Rain’ or The Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Everything Acquire to Go’. In this context, their plan will be remembered connected afterwards their added commercially acknowledged aeon acquire abolished from the recorded history of accepted music.

To end, though, at the beginning. In 1978, afterwards the bounded success of their admission single, ‘Lee Remick’, Forster dreamt of ambience captain for England. Given the anfractuous fate that accessible them on these shores, his words assume appreciably agitating now.

“England, I think, has the greatest accepting of new music, they’re added open-minded. They address it in the NME and humans buy your records. Any country that can acquire Jilted John, X-Ray Spex and The Alone Ones… there’s a abode for The Go-Betweens.”

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