Before Hollywood – The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens were just beginning their big stay in London when I started going to see them. I remember first seeing them in 1983 at the Students Union in Kingston, lost upstairs somewhere in a small room. I had the first album, ‘Send Me A Lullaby’ and loved it. They played with no stage, so you had to move around the room to see them properly. That was the first of many times seeing them throughout the 80’s (and also as solo artists in the 90’s). My favourites were when they played a farewell gig at Adam’s club, Merlin’s Cave in King’s Cross. They were, reluctantly, going back to Australia and the mood that night was nostalgic, noone sure whether they’d ever be back. They did come back of course. The best they ever sounded was when they played a fairly big venue, The Clarendon Hotel, in Hammersmith. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a gig so sublime in my life. They were masters at subtlety and their use of guitars and vocals were matched by no-one at that time.

Their songs were amazing, immaculately planned works of art (Cattle and Cane has 11/10 time signature!) and beautifully put together. They had pop songs which spoke in a deeper way than almost any I have ever known. Their second album, Before Hollywood, is a masterpiece. But you could listen to any of the albums and find amazing gems of lyrics and tunes. Why they weren’t massive is a mystery to me. Their song titles alone were wonderful: Man O’ Sand to Girl O’ Sea, Dive For Your Memory, Bachelor Kisses.
The Go-Betweens actually came to a number of Jasmine Minks gigs in various combinations, I remember seeing just Robert, and one time Lindy Morrison. The first time they came to see us we were playing a pub called The Roebuck on Tottenham Court Road. We had just finished our soundcheck and came downstairs to the bar and Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were sitting there with my mate Big Mick, who had introduced himself to them and bought them beers. We joined them and spoked for ages, trading favourite groups. Great times. (Big Mick still has to pinch himself that that actually happened). Another time me and Tom got drunk while Lindy thrashed us at pool after a gig at Riverside Studios with Hurrah!
It’s difficult to pick a tune to represent The Go-Betweens. I could go for something off the wall like Karen, “she works in a library, she helps me find Joyce, she always makes the right choice” or literate, like Spring Rain, “I want surprises, just like spring rain”. But I’ll go for the absolute classic that is Cattle and Cane, “memory wastes”.


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