Robert Forster and The Go-Betweens: a beautiful story. Live @ Rough Trade East on 6th September and review of his book “Grant & I”

Image result for robert forster grant and i

The story of The Go-Betweens is a very moving and beautiful one. They were a band from Brisbane, Australia that appeared in the late 70’s and that are probably associated with the London 80’s indie scene. They first published 6 albums from 1981 to 1988 before disbanding in 1989. They then reformed and published 3 records from 2000 to 2005. The core nucleus of the band was its two singer-songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster who both released beautiful solo albums as well. The band actually ended in 2006 with the sad and sudden death of Grant McLennan in 2006 at the young age of 48. Here it is for the cold-blooded facts…and now let’s hear what was really behind it all.

On a personal side, The Go-Betweens are a very important band for me as they were there when I started to develop a real passion for music. The first record I bought was the fantastic “Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express” (1986) LP which I listened to umpteenth of times and whose songs are part of those I cherished the most, in particular those blessed by the great voice of Everything But The Girl‘s Tracey Thorn. We were in the middle of the 80’s and what strikes and annoys me the most now is the short cut done by most, associating the 80’s with Kaja Googoo, Rick Springfield, Phil Collins or one of those synthetic bass sounding artists. But the 80’s were also the moment when bands such as The Smiths, R.E.M., Primal Scream, The Weather Prophets or Easterhouse to name but a few brought their Velvet Underground influences and produced records which sound today out of time. Beware of clichés my friends…


The Go-Betweens were amongst these bands and although I did saw them only once on stage (opening for R.E.M.), I have always considered them as a precious band. They also probably are one of the few bands whose post-reforming records are as good or sometimes even better than those done during mark I. So here I was again catching the tall Robert Forster a few months after the Bush Hall gig, talking about his new book and playing a few songs on his acoustic guitar in the warm and friendly atmosphere of the Rough Trade East store.

What struck me once again by reading the book and also listening to Robert Forster talk about it is the gap that existed between what fans like me were thinking at the time (“These guys are amazing and should be on a pedestal”) and the cruel material reality faced by the band: a different record company every year not helping in terms of promotion, excellent review but poor sales, miserable living conditions, and so on. Reading that Robert went back living in the late 80’s at his parents’ place in Australia, starting from scratch was really funny and depressing at the same time…


Of course, the most moving and beautiful pages of the book are about his relationship with his music partner and how Grant McLennan’s leaving the earth was perceived at the same time as a shock but also as a kind of natural consequence on the way the latter lived his life. The style of the book is very concise and precise and without any pathos. I felt I could literally hear Robert Forster’s very singular voice whilst reading the book. Great definition as well of their bound, explaining that writing with a partner in a band is probably the most romantic notion that could exist between two heterosexual males.

The acoustic show and the songs he played were amazing. The way he explained how he was finding chords’ sequences for a few of his classic songs was great and I enjoyed in particular when he described how he stole a few ideas from Aztec Camera‘s Roddy Frame. I had a bit of a chat during book signing time and the man was as usual humble and funny. I will probably do a “record by record” post about the Go-Betweens and Grant and Robert’s solo albums in 2018 so stay tuned!


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