Tuesday, December 01, 2009

me and the Go-Betweens

when i was a teenager
still living in El Paso
my one and only guilty pleasure was driving up to Sound Warehouse
on Mesa Street
and browsing the import records bin
they didn’t have much
but i had nothing else to do really
every now and then i would see an album cover that sparked my interest
i would pick it up
examine the front and back carefully
looking for clues
often i’d set it back in it’s place and make my way around the store
only to come back to it and examine it some more
you see
there were no mp3 samples
or listening stations back then
one had to carefully consider parting with their hard-earned 10 bucks
for a record that might end up being iffy
it was like a Las Vegas crapshoot
though the only payoff was music
it made those innocent days of record buying dangerous
especially compared to the consumer friendly i-tunes, etc. climate of today

sometime around 1985 in Sound Warehouse
i came across the Go-Betweens “Metal and Shells” LP
on the cover one of them was wearing a collarless Beatles nehru jacket
which tipped me off that they might be doing something i was interested in
still i carefully considered parting company with my small wad of cash
i may have even gone home to consult my Trouser Press new music bible
before finally deciding to take the plunge and buy it
after the deed was done
i crawled home in the baby blue Monte Carlo
and gently placed my black vinyl prize down onto the turntable
the record didn’t overwhelm me at first
but i liked it
2 tracks in particular
“Cattle and Cane”
and “Draing the Pool for You” were incredible
i listened casually to “Metal and Shells” after that
playing it maybe a dozen times overall
and didn’t think much more about the Go-Betweens until i moved to Denton

there was a little indie record shop on Fry St. that i would visit from time to time
it was called 14 records
and just like El Paso
there was nothing much for me to do other than browse the bins for something new to listen to
the owner was nice
his name was Bucks
and when i bought “Tantalized” by the Church
he struck up a conversation with me
he was a Church fan too and surprised that anyone in Denton had heard of them
20 years later
Bucks Burnett and i are still friends
sometime during ‘88
i was browsing 14 records when i came across
“Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express”
it had an inviting album cover
a simple black and white photo of the Go-Betweens
horsing around and smiling on a black couch
i bought it
this record ended up being much stronger than “Metal” (which i later found out was a mish-mash compilation)
i listened to “Liberty Belle” a lot that summer
especially the melodic and strange “Palm Sunday” and “Head Full of Steam”
i became a Go-Betweens fan
i knew next to nothing about them
in 1988 “16 Lovers Lane” came out
i bought it right away
i even got my brothers to listen to them
one muggy afternoon in ‘89 i picked up a Dallas Observer
and to my surprise
read that the Go-Betweens were coming to Dallas on April 28
they’d be at a club i’d never heard of before
it was called Club Clearview

around 6pm on that fateful night of April 28, 1989
i was sitting in an emergency room in Denton
with a freshly broken nose
going to the Go-Betweens concert had been thrown into jeopardy
bloodied, bandaged and dazed
i convinced Faris and Amy K. to still make the hour-long trek down to Clearview
what i remember from that from the sho is this…

the band had 2 lead singers
one was very tall
with black hair and a nice hollow body guitar
he also had a split up the backside of his black pants
so every time he turned around his white undies came peeking through
it was both endearing and distracting
they had 2 girls in the band
the drummer was one of them
she seemed very uncomfortable and almost like she barely
knew how to play the drums
there was a very small audience
maybe 25 people
mostly guys
the band didn’t say much in between songs
but Grant, the other singer
seemed like he might be very nice
after the show i wanted to stay and talk with to them
to let them know they had fans here
i felt like i should apologize for Dallas
and the terrible turn-out
but i felt too self-conscious with the bandages on my face
i thought they’d probably just be creeped out
so we left
the Go-Betweens would go on to break up within a year of playing Clearview
and i didn’t think too much more about them
other than occasionally playing their records

in 2001
my friend and CD World co-employee Johnny Christ
told me that the Go-Betweens had re-formed
we listened to “Friends of Rachel Worth” in the store one afternoon
i didn't love it but i was glad to hear the 2 songwriters
Robert and Grant were back together again
in June of 2003 i went to Japan to play with Rhett Miller
while jet-lagged i went for an early morning walk through the winding Tokyo streets
when i wearily re-entered the hotel lobby
i saw a tall, dark haired man
who looked a bit like Robyn Hitchcock
he glanced back at me and it seemed like for a split second
he might’ve thought i was someone he knew
he sort of looked at me like “is it YOU?…oh, wrong person…”
as i walked off i thought
“that man looked a lot like Robert Forster from the Go-Betweens...how strange...”
i wondered if i should’ve said something to him
later that day one of Rhett’s label reps said
“it’s too bad you’re going to Nagoya tonight – you could’ve gone to the Go-Betweens concert in Tokyo tonight”
i kicked myself a bit
i still feel foolish about not saying something to him
it would've been so nice and surreal to have had a conversation with Robert Forster in a Tokyo hotel

i just finished reading the Go-Betweens
by David Nichols http://books.google.com/books?id=-eMZkz3jMlAC&dq=go-betweens+david+nichols&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=ZzAVS4S1IcSxngfb4KnTBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=&f=false
it made me realize i never really knew much about them
or their history
i just liked their records
their story made me a bit sad
because Grant McLennan died in 2006
online i read a very touching piece that Robert wrote about him
the 2 of them had been friends and songwriting partners for 30 years
how do you recover from a loss like that?

yesterday i played my son “Liberty Belle” on the way home from school


Blogger daniel said...

i've only ever heard the stuff they released since '01, but i love their music.

8:10 AM  

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