Who Listens to the Radio: The Go-Bewteens

Here’s another of the articles I wrote for the Taking it to the Streets Exhibition that was held at the Museum of Brisbane. First up I posted my homage to The Saints – I’m Stranded and now…




 Before Hollywood – The Go-Betweens

Bursting onto the scene in 1977 as a Dylan infected, neo-pop band, The Go-Betweens were immediately at odds with Brisbane’s prevailing macho culture and the punk explosion created by hometown heroes, The Saints. Their lyrical genius, sweet harmonies, surprisingly intricate melodies and off kilter guitar sound stood them apart from anyone in the country at the time. Their sound had a melancholic intensity that had yet to be captured. By the time the band recorded their second album, ‘Before Hollywood’ (1983), they had relocated to England. They were critically recognised as an important band, but ‘Before Hollywood’ took things one-step further. For many, it was one song, ‘Cattle and Cane’ that made the breakthrough possible. The song is undeniably a classic, with its beautifully nostalgic lyric and elegant acoustic/electric arrangement. It is a song you can attach memories to, more like a painting than a story, and when it makes itself felt, it is never forgotten.

“I recall a bigger brighter world
A world of books
And silent times in thought
And then the railroad
The railroad takes him home
Through fields of cattle
Through fields of cane
From time to time
The waste memory-wastes
The waste memory-wastes”

This was the first sign of the real magic of The Go-Betweens. A magic that never faded throughout the recording of more than ten albums, a 12-year hiatus, several line up changes and too many tours to recall.


Sadly, since writing this article, Grant McLennan passed away on May 6, 2006.

Here is the poem I wrote for Grant after attending his funeral:


The Stillest Hour
 (for G.W. McLennan)

when the black car came
and took you away
the traffic lights
all turned red

suddenly the sound of a siren
a prolonged sound, the painful howl
of police or fire’s red engine
like the bellow of a mule in the night

it got closer and closer
over the streets and grey city buildings
it rose, like the complaining of cats
and like an animal, it died, wordlessly

leaving the gathering clouds black
and the day as well
not even a tear could make it rain
the salt of human hope

stirred by eulogies and the stories
that are now history
dry on our faces
shows us the air is troubled

this is the stillest hour
the quietest room
standing on the side of the road
with the cathedral looming

I don’t know whether to breathe
or sink …
now it’s you up there
lighting fires


Also if you need a reminder of just how magnificent Cattle and Cane is check these links out:

Film Clip: http://www.elfreebo.com/?module=View&id=ZCbyByY-A6w

Live on Rock Arena 1987: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay-qCCwKU4U


Filed under who listens to the radio?

2 responses to “Who Listens to the Radio: The Go-Bewteens

  1. enkanova

    That’s a touching and lovely poem for Grant M. And such a magical early clip. Robert the ordinary bloke and Grant the artistic one. They seemed to gradually change roles over the years.
    I too, was touched in my own way by Grant’s death and my tribute took a different form. If you’re interested, it’s “on my blog” (as Robert might have sang)
    Very best wishes from England.

    • gnunn

      Am glad you enjoyed the poem. Could you please send a link to your blog so I can check out your tribute as well. Cheers, G

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