Tag Archives: Taking it to the Streets

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…

 

the_go-betweens-before_hollywood

 

 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

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Who Listens to the Radio – I’m Stranded

littlej’s comment on my recent post about Brisbane has had The Saints, ‘I’m Stranded’ playing on endless rotation in my head. In 2006, Museum of Brisbane put on an exhibition called ‘Taking it to the Streets’ and as part of that exhibition I was commissioned to write a number of short articles about the Brisbane music scene.

Immediately, the song ‘I’m Stranded’ demanded to be written about. Here’s what I came up with…

 

the-saints

 

Like a snake calling on the phone
I’ve got no time to be alone
There is someone coming at me all the time
Babe I think I’ll lose my mind
‘Cause I’m stranded on my own
Stranded far from home

‘I’m Stranded’ by The Saints

Hearing ‘I’m Stranded’ for the first time in the mid-80’s, almost ten years after its inception, was life changing. I didn’t know it was possible to write a song, that could, conceivably, be played on endless rotation, without wearing out its charm. But here it was… A song both rough and sweet with a fuzz pop sound that suffused my synapses. It was a growling masterpiece, lashing out at the stifling control of the Bjelke Petersen Government. For many it was the song that ensured the future of the Brisbane music scene. Chris Bailey could never have known what he was creating when he picked up his battered guitar and hammered out that chiming riff for the very first time, a riff that would reach across the world and plant a seed of discontent. Bailey was uncomfortable with how the world was moving. Political corruption was on every street corner wearing a police uniform, enforcing an anti-youth culture. Turn the clock forward more than a quarter of a century and we have almost come full circle. The politics are conservative, Bailey is prowling the stage with his latest incarnation of The Saints, on the ‘Burning Bush’ tour and ‘I’m Stranded’ has never sounded more potent.

 

Of course since I wrote that, The Saints have done what many thought would never happen… the original line up reformed and has played two gigs in Brisbane – one at the incredible Pig City concert at University of QLD and the other at the recent All Tommorrows Parties concert convened by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I was lucky enough to see them at Pig City and that night they were in snarling form.

But if anyone needs convincing that the song is a classic… check it out for yourself!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-GueNOKolo

and here’s a live version from 2009:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nLSH-9aSyU

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