Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Friday, May 12, 2006

In memoriam: Grant McLennan 1958-2006

I only found out today, and I can't believe it took me a week to do so. I am stunned.

On The Go-Betweens' message board, the shock is still palpable. The tributes are warm and heartfelt. The Guardian has the best of the obituaries I've seen so far.

What I have in mind right now:

1) Jo and 'Twin Layers of Lightning', but perhaps it should be 'In The Core Of A Flame', because that was the straight ahead love song, instead of the oblique.

2) I was that teenage Rasputin taking a sting from a gin. I still feel like I am.

3) Shepherd's Bush, in about 2001, with Shane; seeing them as they'd just reformed. I never thought I'd see some of those songs brought to life again. I'm so glad I did.

4) Love Goes On!

I still haven't played 'Bellavista' yet - it feels like it would be too painful. But maybe now.

Here's what I wrote about them nearly seven years ago now: GWMcL, we salute you.

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iconspotting

oldnewicon

the go-betweens

Shhh... I'm going to tell you a secret. About some unassuming heroes who didn't want it that way. Stars in their minds, but the charts disagreed with them over nine years.

The Go-Betweens were the best band you've never heard of. Throughout the course of the Eighties the reverential reviews they received pondered on the moment when the public would finally get it. At one point in 1986 it seemed as if they would take off into the stratosphere, sewing up the market for intelligent, heartfelt, melodic guitar rock with it. Some group called R.E.M. did instead.

And you have to wonder why. For one The Go-Betweens had not one but two charismatic front men, who happened to be the best songwriting partnership since some overrated Scouse chancers called Lennon and McCartney.

Grant McLennan was the realist, the passionate earthy one who found the very real drama in mundane situations and headstrong women. Robert Forster was the poet who knew it, the lanky dreamer who refused to be tied down to, whose distance from anyone and anything manifested itself in startlingly obtuse yet beautiful imagery. Ably supported by a changing cast of rhythm sections, they set the standard for a generation of singer-songwriters to come, and have very rarely been matched since.

Since their spilt in 1988 in the face of overwhelming commercial indifference, their reputation has grown steadily, and epithets such as Australia's finest export hang easily around their necks. The 'greatest hits' collection out soon, Bellavista Terrace, is a great introduction to the bright and breezy sound of some of the best love affairs you'll ever have. Trainspotters will quibble with the running order and omissions (no 'Twin Layers of Lightning', bastards) but, as ever, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe it's best they stay a secret - that way the romance will never end.

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