Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Memorial post of the week- G.W. Mclennan

Toffeeboy floated the idea of doing a memorial post to ex Go-Between Grant Mclennan, who tragically died on May 6, 2006 of a heart attack, at the tender age of 48.
Mclennan had a rural upbringing in Queensland, Australia and co-founded the Go-Betweens with Robert Forster in 1977; after the break-up of the band in 1989 Mclennan began a solo career and also co-operated with The Church's Steve Kilby in Jack Frost, before reforming the Go-Betweens in 2000 with Forster for a successful series of tours and albums.
Between us we've selected a representative playlist, so here is our tribute to G.W. Mclennan, ordered roughly chronologically, and spanning his entire career.

Nilpferd's selection:
With the Go-betweens:
Cattle and cane
Captures perfectly the drowsiness of a warm summer day in a farming town, coupled with the hidden thrills of anticipating imminent adulthood.
Bachelor Kisses
Often there's a hard edge to his lyrics, but this is one of Mclennan's most empathetic songs, offering solace to a female friend unlucky in love. The ringing guitars and backing vocals brim over for the chorus.
Bye Bye Pride
Probably Mclennan's most perfectly realised song, this one has everything, from Amanda Brown's oboe to Mclennan's timeless lyrics, the stand-up-tall chorus and sublime playout.
Streets of your town
Brilliantly bittersweet, a perfectly breezy piece of pop- until the lyric kicks in with butcher's knives and battered wives.
As a solo artist:
Haven't I been a fool
Mclennan's first solo album kicked off with a couple of wry, Dylanesque tunes- this one blends a nice line in self deprecation with a toe tapping, country inflected beat and some twanging acoustic guitar.
Haunted House
Ethereal, and beautiful. Some of his best guitar work married to an achingly vulnerable vocal. The track of his which most readily brings a lump to my throat.
Easy come, easy go
His best solo single, irrepressible and upbeat. This one always gets Mara dancing around the room.
Surround me
Mclennan developed a more defiant tone in his second solo album, without losing his talent for wordsmithery or vulnerable sincerity. This was the single, oddly offbeat but still full of invention and energy.
Dark side of town
I think the side of Mclennan's songwriting best featured in his solo career was his ballad writing, and this is an exquisite heartbreaker, with perhaps his best vocal performance.
Perhaps too personal, but I relied on this song for a while, so it has a place in my heart. Poignant, in the light of Mclennan's too early death.

Toffeeboy's selection:
A couple of years ago I made a Grant McLennan memorial CD for my brother – it had 17 tracks on it and six of those 17 were chosen by nilpferd above. So I’ll add the other 11 here:

The Wrong Road
Taken from my favourite Go-Betweens album (Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express), this is probably my favourite McLennan lyric. Every verse is full of original, thoughtful and beautiful imagery. So many great lines to choose from but “Started out Oliver, ended up Fagin” probably just wins it for me.
Palm Sunday (On Board The SS Within)
A joyful pop song in the best McLennan traditions – complete with a rousing chorus that lifts you out of your seat.
Right Here
Ditto. One of only two Go-Betweens tracks to trouble the singles charts – the other being The Streets Of Your Town – and even then they only razed the lower reaches at 82 and 80 respectively. Should have been a worldwide smash!
You Won’t Find It Again
Taken from the 1978-1990 Go-Betweens compilation album (probably the best Best Of ever released) and if I could be bothered to walk upstairs, I’d have a look at the CD and tell you what it was originally released on. [previously unissued- Ed.] Gorgeous acoustic thingy.

Then we have the solo years which nilpferd has already covered superbly so I’ll skip on to the reunion years:

Magic In Here
Another lovely plaintive melody – sounds like a very personal lyric.
Orpheus Beach
A slow builder – stay with it.
Going Blind
One of the most upbeat starts to a song that you’ll ever hear. Like one of David Beckham’s penalties, it starts up and just keeps going in the same direction.
Crooked Lines
Without doubt the best song he ever wrote. Musical and lyrical perfection. Athens or Sparta? What do you think Abahachi?
Unfinished Business
A tragically pertinent title and another beautiful song – it’s difficult to listen to it knowing what we know and not shed a tear or two.
No Reason To Cry
Almost seems like the answer to the above song – but, of course, he didn’t know …
The Statue
A taste of what was to come and an encapsulation of everything that’s been stolen from us.

Grant McLennan – 1958-2006 RIP


sourpus said...

My favorite McLennan solo album (Horsebreaker Star) doesnt seem to be represented here. Just wondering why not? (Simone and Perry, Ice in Heaven, What went wrong, Open Invitation, Dropping you...a double album too...)

Meantime I will just say 'The House that Jack Karouac Built' and The Clarke Sisters...made to be classics!!

nilpferd said...

True re Horsebreaker Star- perhaps a serious omission.. I had the album once, but own it no more, sadly, and TB left the solo career to me.. if you feel like dropboxing a few highlights with some comments, I'll add them to the post..

sourpus said...

nilperd, will try to do that, although been unable to get it together before to drop any tracks for the Spill, due to a combination of unfixed circumstances and poor IT skills. I have the album with me in Budapest though and I will give it a go.

I was just thinking this morning that I probably have Andy ("Are you looking for trouble?")Kershaw to thank for having my awareness raised on The Go-Betweens - his having them in session and my habit of recording his show came together serendipitously there I think.

nilpferd said...

Great, Sourpus. I think it was a friend of mine who got me into the Go-Betweens- that was around the time we were both getting into the english and US 80's indie bands, and then discovered there were equally good bands closer to home. I'm kicking myself a bit that I never saw the GB's live, as they played numerous student gigs in New Zealand, although they broke up just as I was really starting to listen to them.
Will probably have to do a post soon featuring the great GB's songs that Robert Forster sang- I've only included the ones Grant sang and wrote here.
My fav. Forsters would be You tell me, Karen, and Man o sand to girl o sea.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ nilpferd - great work on the memorial post. What a fantastic body of work - and yes, let's do a Forster tribute just because we can. My number one recommendation would be Twin Layers Of Lightning and I would also include The Clarke Sisters (which I think is his) - I'll have a think about what else.

@ sourpus - I'm extremely embarassed to confess that I didn't know about Horsebreaker Star and In Your Bright Ray untill someone (you?) mentioned them on RR a few months back. And I call myself a Go-Betweens fan - I suppose I must have been sleeping ...

BalearicBeat said...

I've had quite a Go-BetweensFest today thanks to this thread. Many thanks for posting it, not only for the music, which I love, but also for the splendid song write-ups. Sterling effort!

TracyK said...

Just loving this music, knew Cattle and Cane but they are a bit of a mystery to me. Just my sort of thing though, I will investigate more. Cheers lovely Spillers!

steenbeck said...

I'm loving this list. As I've mentioned before, my brother's been trying to get me to listen to the Go Betweens for years. I have a couple of their cassettes (from him) but I can't listen to them any more. He always told me that Belle and Sebastian are big fans of the GO Betweens, and I can hear it, I think. GOtta go get Malcolm, but thanks for this post.

ToffeeBoy said...

Here's a little known fact: in May 2001, Cattle and Cane was selected as one of the top 30 Australian songs of all time.

Another factoid: the first five albums released by The Go-Betweens all had a double 'l' in the title: Send Me A Lullaby; Before Hollywood; Spring Hill Fair; Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express and Talullah. The sixth album was called 16 Lovers Lane - which also (sort of) had a double 'l'.

If I could have my life over again, I would go back to 14 May 2005 and instead of driving home from work as I did that Saturday, I would hop on the tube and go to the Shepherds Bush Empire and I would see the Go-Betweens. And it would be the best night ever...

snadfrod said...

Gents, I just want to thank you. I have just spent a tortuous hour or two filling in godawful forms and it has all been made utterly utterly enjoyable by those tunes.

I had, shamefully, never heard any Go Betweens before today, despite both your many recommendations. Reading your eloquent, insightful posts alongside the music really made it an engaging experience and the depth of feeling you both so clearly have for Grant only goes to suffuse the music with a little more appeal.

Fingers, for whatever reasons Nilpferd, really is a beautiful and moving song.

Massive, massive thanks for this and now where should I go next?...

Shoey said...

Great joint effort & picks, guys. The Tweens always remind me of James for some reason, I can't put my finger on why exactly - maybe because both write sharp pop-tunes and lyrics. No idea why one band caught the spotlight and the other didn't.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Shoey - I could do a great James post - but I don't want to upset DsD anymore than I have to ...

nilpferd said...

Thanks for the comments.. for anyone wanting a way in to the Go-Betweens I think as Toffeeboy mentioned above, The Singles: 1978-1990 is the best place to start- it has a little bit of everything from the first Go-Betweens band and has enough (great) unreleased and B-side material to still be enjoyable should you also invest in a few albums. Conversely avoid Bellavista Terrace- best of the Go-Betweens, which is eclipsed by the singles complilation and made redundant once you get the albums.
Solo-wise the compilation Intermission looks interesting, a two disc set with the best of Robert Forster's and Grant Mclennan's solo careers.

sourpus said...

Tried to share Horsebreaker stuff last night but failed miserably..give me time

Abahachi said...

Not really my sort of thing, but I can see the attraction; thanks for this. Can't make head or tail of the lyrics for 'Crooked Lines', so no idea what's intended by the Athens-Sparta contrast...