Tag Archives: Grant McLennan

The Grant McLennan Library

THE GRANT McLENNAN LIBRARY
Jessica Adams


I once met Grant McLennan for lunch in a Thai restaurant in Sydney in 1991 with Annette Shun-Wah (a Queenslander, like him). I didn’t realise he was compiling The Grant McLennan Library at the time.

Annette was hosting the Australian music TV show The Noise for SBS. I was writing about both music and astrology for Elle magazine. Grant was working with Steve Kilbey on Jack Frost.  

The restaurant was just down from The Bookshop at 207 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst – and Grant had a suspicious-looking bag under his arm. I suspect one of these mighty tomes, below – perhaps Outback Women? – may have been hidden within.  (These is just a small selection of the Grant McLennan library, below, featured on the band’s British website).

 

Grant's library - as seen on the band's UK site.
The Grant McLennan Library – a small selection.

 

THE MAN WITH THE SERIOUS BOOKSHOP HABIT
I’m fairly sure inside Grant’s bag that day, was a book. I know, I know, it might have been drugs.  People talk a lot about Grant McLennan’s use of heroin, after Steve Kilbey’s revelations. Never mind the drugs, though, what about the bookshop habit? We now know that Grant left  behind 1800 books in his 48 years on the planet, when he passed so suddenly in 2006.

 

Grant McLennan
Grant McLennan

 

PETER PAN AND PETER CAREY
Nobody knew about Grant’s vast library, until 600 books (many signed, or with autographed bookmarks from Robert Forster) were given away to early purchasers of the G Stands for Go-Betweens box set. Fans were then told there were 1200 more.

Those who were first in the queue to buy the box set sometimes ended up with not one – but two – of Grant’s paperbacks. On Twitter, one fan ended up with this, below  (Image @country_mile on Twitter).

 

England is Mine and One Day She Catches Fire from Grant McLennan's library.
England is Mine and One Day She Catches Fire from Grant McLennan’s library.

 

ADDICTED TO BOOKS
By my reckoning, that means Grant McLennan was buying one book every week – at least – from the time he first learned to read. Now, that’s quite an addiction.

When Grant’s stash of paperbacks and dog-eared hardbacks was given away, randomly, to the first purchases of the box set G Stands For Go-Betweens, writer Greg Adams was fortunate enough to end up with a signed Angela Carter novel.

Other people unwrapped everything from Peter Pan, to Peter Carey. Greg’s compiled a list of all the books here.

Grant McLennan was a songwriter’s writer. Also a reader’s songwriter. This was part of his one-time muse, partner and colleague Amanda Brown’s statement at his funeral:

“Grant’s songs captured an Australia that was influenced by his love for contemporary American writers like Cormac Macarthy, Richard Ford and Raymond Carver and songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. These writers inform his images of Australia, which range from the landscapes tinged with nostalgia and loss (Cattle and Cane and Bye Bye Pride), suburban life (Streets of Your Town), epic narratives (The Wrong Road, Black Mule) and of course, exquisite love songs like Quiet Heart, Stones for You, and Bachelor Kisses.” (The Sydney Morning Herald).

THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC HISTORY INSIDE GRANT’S LIBRARY
What is really interesting about Grant’s vast library is that it’s a window into Australian music history. His own, and the band’s. His interest in everything from the bush, to Ted Hughes, turns up in the songs too. And what songs.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard put a Go-Betweens single on an iPod for former President Barack Obama. The current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was in the audience for the last concert The Go-Betweens ever played.

Years after that lunch with Grant,  I found myself joining the campaign for an Australian Music Museum. It was 2013 and like so many other people I was concerned about the way historic venues were being demolished – and everything from rare singles, to rusty old badges – were ending up on eBay, rather than in the nation’s archives.

Grant had been gone for 7 years by then (although of course, the spirit remains).  By that time, a copy of People Say, the second single by The Go-Betweens, was selling for hundreds of dollars to private collectors. Not to the nation, though. By 2017 the asking price for People Say was $835. (The current asking price for a vinyl edition of the box set, G Stands For Go-Betweens, is over $2000).

Fortunately, as I write this, it now looks as though we may have a potential home for at least some of The Go-Betweens’ possessions. Melbourne and Sydney have at last begun finding permanent spaces for – what it’s hoped – will be a proper archive.

The Go-Betweens were so much more than a band. Yet –  11 years after he passed and left all those books behind, Grant McLennan’s only presence in Australian galleries, museums and the rest – is a recording of Cattle and Cane in the National Film and Sound Archive, and a handful of photographs held by the State Library of Queensland.  This is one of them, taken by Paul O’Brien. It’s wonderful. But really – is that it?

 

April 28th 1978. The Go-Betweens begin.
April 28th 1978. The Go-Betweens begin.

 

MUSIC FOR OUTSIDERS
One of the reasons The Go-Betweens matters, is their role as a channel for outsiders in Australia, from the 1970s onwards. Together with their feminist drummer Lindy Morrison, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan helped to change a nation.  Nobody had ever seen a female drummer on  the ABC-TV series Countdown until Lindy turned up. I don’t think anyone had seen a man reading what amounted to poetry on Countdown, either.

It went on. Robert dyed his hair Monroe-blonde and occasionally wore corsets. Grant read Angela Carter. We had songs about menstruation and bookshops. Finally, it seemed, Australia had a band to take its place alongside Germaine Greer, on the world stage.

Together with their remarkable drummer, The Go-Betweens were a Mod Squad all of their own, fighting an entire nation’s fixed ideas about what men and women should be.  This is another photograph from Paul O’ Brien’s archive, taken from that time.

 

Lindy Morrison
Lindy Morrison

THE BOOKS  BEHIND THE SONGS

Look around Grant’s library,  partly distributed with the box set – and it quickly becomes obvious that there are a lot of books behind those songs. I’m sure if you look at the books you will find something that speaks to you personally to the point where it gets you, where you live.

As an astrologer I have always been curious about the lyrics in Quiet Heart: How on earth could Grant McLennan have known so much about one particular sign of the Zodiac on the Ascendant of a natal chart? (Not to mention its association with the Eighth House and reincarnation).

Scorpio Rising
Doesn’t matter how far you come

You’ve always got further to go

Lindy Morrison has since confirmed that the Scorpio Rising lover in Quiet Heart was Amanda Brown. Both women were born in November under the zodiac sign of Scorpio.

Grant owned not only The Birthday Letters by the poet and astrologer Ted Hughes, he also owned at least two volumes in Anthony Powell’s cult series, A Dance to the Music of Time. 

Hughes was married to the Scorpio, Sylvia Plath. Powell’s central character in the final book in the series, Hearing Secret Harmonies, was an astrologer called Scorpio Murtlock.

The Birthday Letters is partly a collection of poems about fated twists and turns in the horoscopes and lives of Hughes and Plath. You can read more here, by my friend Neil Spencer, in The Guardian.
Neil, the former editor of NME later became the astrologer for The Observer.

The reason I am picking out this tiny detail which tells a long story,  is that Grant had a head like a library and someone will always find their life on a Go-Betweens’ old vinyl shelf.  He and Robert found each other and also found us, which is why people will queue – and queue – to talk to Robert today, about the band and about the music. At the Louder Than Words weekend event in Manchester in November 2017, Robert invited people in his audience to come and talk after his gig/interview – no matter if they bought a book or not. Needless to say, the queue stretched out of the door and the waiting time was long, because together with Grant, Robert had/has the personal touch. This is intimate music for people who are outsiders in some way.  In Manchester, Robert said he was looking for someone like him – and he found him in Grant. They were two students far, far outside the Queensland/Australian mainstream. Maybe that has something to do with the way so many fans of the music feel included. Both men knew what it was like to feel apart from what was around them.

 

BOOKS STARS POWELL

 

CHRISSY AMPHLETT’S LANE AND LINDY MORRISON’S DRUMS
When I met Lindy Morrison to talk about an Australian music museum in May 2014,  I was there to discuss Chrissy Amphlett’s Lane (Amphlett Lane, Melbourne) and the planned destruction of the historic Palace Theatre, backing onto the lane. Lindy had known Chrissy, of course. This photograph was taken in 1988 by Tony Mott (Sydney Morning Herald/Twitter). It’s just a moment, on a night, but it’s also this wonderful picture of a certain kind of wake-up call in Australian music, and Australia, at the time…

 

Deborah Conway, Chrissy Amphlett, Lindy Morrison 1988 (Tony Mott).
Deborah Conway, Chrissy Amphlett, Lindy Morrison 1988 (Tony Mott).

 

The Go-Betweens marched to the beat of a different drummer, literally. So – the conversation a while back, about a museum, in Sydney turned to Lindy’s Ludwig drum kit, and where to house it for posterity. This is a conversation which will go on for years in Australia, I guess – about so many other iconic drum kits, and guitars – not to mention wardrobe items, posters and photographs.

 

GRANT AND ROBERT

 

GRANT MCLENNAN, PAPERBACK WRITER

Speaking at The Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2017, Robert Forster noted, “Grant was going to write a novel and he never did.”

True, but he did become a paperback writer, in the end. My friend Nick Earls asked Grant to contribute a piece to our Penguin anthology  Big Night Out in aid of the charity War Child – and you can still read it today, in the latest anthology in the series, Girls’ Night In – The 10th Anniversary Collection. 

Party Piece is Grant’s tale of a party that never was.

Nick Earls’  stage adaptation of his  novel about a former rock idol, The True Story of Butterfish, features music from both Robert Forster and Adele Pickvance so the Go-Betweens beat goes on. It probably all started with Nick’s classic Bachelor Kisses, named after the song,  though – and you can find it here.

I have in my possession a small mountain of e-mails about Grant McLennan’s involvement in Big Night Out and I’m sure Penguin and Nick do too – but again – the question remains, where in Australia can we find a space to preserve these tiny bits of musical history?  There must be so many more. Thousands of saved memories about this crucially important band, some of which may be in your pocket.

 

Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls.
Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls.

 

Dorothy Parker and Grant’s Party Piece
Party Piece by Grant McLennan in our Penguin anthology for War Child, begins like this.

when dorothy parker and lord byron invite you over, you should arrive early and smell like an orchid, be sure to bring some peaches for your horse, because you can never have enough friends at these kinds of things.

Here Lies by Dorothy Parker was also on Grant’s shelves at the end.

BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM
In his tremendously sad/funny autobiography Grant and I (Penguin) Robert Forster remembers his old friend habitually carrying records, magazines, novels and poetry books under his arm at university. At the end, Robert remembers (in Manchester in November 2017) Grant ‘walking towards’ a particular destination, thanks to his drinking, noting that we all have friends like that. They get to their forties, and they don’t stop. Grant also had depression, Robert remembers, as so many songwriters, authors and painters do.

And yet –

Robert Forster’s article about Grant in The Monthly remembers –

“I’d drive over to his place to play guitar and he’d be lying on a bed reading a book. Grant never felt guilt about this. The world turned and worked; he read. That was the first message. He’d offer to make coffee, and I knew – and here’s one of the great luxuries of my life – I knew I could ask him anything, on any artistic frontier, and he’d have an answer. He had an encyclopaedic mind of the arts, with his own personal twist. So, as he worked on the coffee, I could toss in anything I liked – something that had popped up in my life that I needed his angle on. I’d say, “Tell me about Goya,” or, “What do you know about Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry?” or, “Is the Youth Group CD any good?”

The Little Something

Perhaps that is one of the many keys to the success of The Go-Betweens. They had a little something – and it was always intensely personal  –  no matter if it’s astrology, or Queensland farming, or Eighties haircuts, or heroin, or Frank Brunetti, or feminism – for everyone. When I first heard the line ‘Scorpio Rising’ in Quiet Heart I nearly fell off my chair.  And not only that, Grant McLennan actually seemed to know what it meant, as any astrologer would attest. This is one of so many, many personal song stories. I wonder what yours might be?  Because…

Australian surfers of a certain age who spent their youth wearing Lee Cooper Jeans and reading Tracks probably feel exactly the same way about the band’s later work – like Surfing Magazines.

It’s The Go-Betweens Effect. It’s from them, to you.  Even now, when Grant is physically gone from the world, the music still has that power. Robert and Grant thought the band would be a temporary activity before they moved onto other things, like films. In the end, fans put a stop to that idea. Even after Grant has gone, maybe partly as a result of that, the music seems even more personal and powerful than it ever did.

Queenslander Kriv Stenders’ documentary about The Go-Betweens with unforgettable interviews with later band members, John Willsteed and Robert Vickers, captures that personal touch, perfectly.

 

 


BUILDING BRIDGES AND SAVING BUILDINGS
Other bands have plaques. The Go-Betweens have not only a plaque in Brisbane, but also a bridge. The missing ‘s’ in the name is a minor source of regret for fans – and the band – but otherwise, as Robert Forster has said, it’s a beautiful thing.

Speaking to the ABC,  he reflected, “The Go-Between Bridge, it’s almost, well, you know, when Grant and I first sat around in 1978 thinking about the things we’d get from being a rock band, a bridge wasn’t one of them. I can’t remember him saying that. And a bridge is a beautiful thing. It’s better than the Go-Between Sewerage Works.”

At Grant’s funeral, Forster delivered a eulogy in which he said McLennan’s songs would last 1000 years. Acknowledging his friend’s presence in spirit at the service, he quickly added: “Grant’s just told me 10,000.”

It would be nice to think that in 1000 or 10,000 years from now, Australians could still see some of Grant’s mountain of 1800 signed books, safely under dim-lit glass.

The house where Grant McLennan lived, in Highgate Hill, may have gone by then. Nothing may remain of the foundations of 10 Golding Street, Toowong, where he began writing songs with Robert Forster. Even so – there are other ways, to make sure we’ll never forget the books that helped make The House That Jack Kerouac Built. Collect, collect and keep collecting.

Grant & I by Robert Forster is available at Booktopia.

 

 

 

 

 

The Go-Betweens on Rage

The Go-Betweens on Rage

Watching The Go-Betweens on Rage has been a rite of passage for Australians for years, no matter if it’s a vintage clip for Spring Rain or Streets of Your Town. There are two clips for the latter; one directed by Kriv Stenders capturing the places The Go-Betweens lived in, and played in.

Writing in The Guardian, Barry Divola commented,

“Whenever I hear Streets of Your Town, it’s the images from this video that play in my head – slabs of bright blue sky behind terrace houses, telephone lines, clock towers, apartment blocks and train stations. There are glimpses of the Sydney harbour bridge, overhead tram lines in Melbourne and buildings in central Brisbane. And lots of sun glittering on water.”

 

 

Streets of Your Town

The song was included on an iPod given to Barack Obama by former PM Julia Gillard. Taken from 16 Lovers Lane, it appeared in U2’s set list at the Brisbane concert during their Vertigo World Tour in dedication to Grant McLennan.

The 16mm Steenbeck Clip

Kriv Stenders has a YouTube channel showing this and other work, including the film Red Dog.  His work for The Go-Betweens on Rage sits alongside a second clip, commissioned by the record company.

“This was one my first ever music videos. I made it with Antony Clare, a friend from Brisbane and the idea was based on the photographic style of one his short films from art college. We shot this in my last year at film school and I remember we travelled by car from Brisbane, to Sydney and then Melbourne filming various members of the band in their favourite parts of each city. We were completely exhausted at the end of it all. It was shot on old 16mm reversal film and edited by hand on a Steenbeck by Annette Davey who is now an established feature film editor in New York…”

Programming Rage

Rage has a tradition of asking musicians to guest-program the show, and on Saturday 8th May 1999, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan sat in a hotel room and did just that.

Thanks to Golden Daze at YouTube for uploading clips from the program including the introduction by Robert and Grant, here. The Go-Betweens would program Rage again, with Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison, almost two decades later.

 

Chase the Dragon – Beasts of Bourbon

Robert programs The Beasts of Bourbon’s Chase the Dragon much to Grant’s amusement. You can see the song here.

 

The Go-Betweens on Rage – programming the Beasts of Bourbon.

Sexy Boy by Air

 

Raining Pleasure by The Triffids

Grant McLennan introduces one of his favourite tracks here, commenting: “One of the most beautiful songs about desire and longing that I’ve ever heard. And I’m going to miss – like we all should – David McComb.”

 

The Forster/McLennan Playlist

You can download the whole Go-Betweens Rage program, above,  on the ABC-TV website. This is the playlist from Saturday 8th May, 1999 (below).

Saturday 8th May 1999   Robert Forster and Grant McLennan guest program rage
11:50pm Sexy Boy – Air Virgin
Hand In Your Head – Money Mark Polydor
Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust Virgin
12:00am Be My Baby – Ronettes, The EMI
In The Flesh – Blondie EMI
Only Love Can Break Your Heart – St. Etienne Warner
Chase The Dragon – Beasts Of Bourbon Polydor
Jimmy Rogers – Fur Shock
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane Universal (MCA)
Long May You Run – Neil Young Warner
12:30am Some Kinda Angel – Mojave 3 Shock
Bathtime – Tindersticks Mercury
In The Neighbourhood – Tom Waits Mercury
The More You Ignore Me – Morrissey EMI
Sorrow – David Bowie EMI
So Young – Suede Sony
What Presence – Orange Juice Independent
Raining Pleasure – Triffids, The Festival
Las Vegas – Underground Lovers Polydor
1:00am Rachael’s Coming Home – Russell Morris Festival
Remedy – Black Crowes, The Sony
Summer Here Kids – Grandaddy V2
Goddess On A Hiway – Mercury Rev V2
Bobby Peru – Luna Shock
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan Sony
1:30am The Model – Kraftwerk Independent
Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush EMI
Slave To The Rhythm – Grace Jones EMI
Ray Of Light – Madonna Warner
I Love The Nightlife – Alicia Bridges Polydor
Trash – Suede Sony
2:00am I Love Women – Lou Reed BMG
Baby Stones – Robert Forster Universal (MCA)
Someone, Somewhere – Wannadies, The BMG
There She Goes – La’s, The Polydor
Friday I’m In Love – Cure, The Warner
Public Image – P.I.L. Virgin
The Lights Are Changing – Mary Lou Lord Sony
Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft – Carpenters, The Polydor
2:30am Cloudbusting – Kate Bush EMI
Soon – My Bloody Valentine Shock
Ohio River Boat Song – Palace Brothers Shock
Cattle And Cane – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Bachelor Kisses – Go-Betweens, The Warner
Spring Rain – Go-Betweens, The Polydor
Head Full Of Steam – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
3:00am Right Here – Go-Betweens, The BMG
Bye Bye Pride – Go-Betweens, The Polydor
Streets Of Your Town – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Was There Anything I Could Do – Go-Betweens, The Universal (MCA)
Cryin’ Love – Robert Forster Shock
Surround Me – G.W. McLennan BMG
Simone & Perry – Grant McLennan Shock
Don’t Blame The Beam – F.O.C. Polydor
3:30am If You Want Release – F.O.C. Universal (MCA)
Already Gone – Powderfinger Polydor
Don’t Wanna Be Left Out – Powderfinger Polydor
Good Day Ray – Powderfinger Polydor
The Day You Come – Powderfinger – Live On Recovery Polydor
JC – Powderfinger – Live on Recovery Polydor
D.A.F. – Powderfinger Polydor
Pick You – Powderfinger Polydor
Top 50
50. Westside – TQ Sony
4:00am 49. Millennium – Robbie Williams EMI
48. How Do I Deal With Love – Jennifer Love Hewitt Warner
47. Say It Once – Ultra Warner
46. Every You, Every Me – Placebo Virgin
45. Zorba’s Dance – LCD Virgin
43. Stay The Same – Joey McIntyre Sony
42. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill Sony
41. It’s Our Time – Ilanda Shock
4:30am 40. Praise You – Fatboy Slim Sony
39. All Torn Down – Living End, The EMI
38. 9pm (‘Til I Come) – ATB MDS
37. Right Here, Right Now – Fatboy Slim Sony
36. Last To Know – Human Nature Sony
35. End Of The Line – Honeyz Mercury
34. Put Your Hands Up – Black && White Brothers Central Station
5:00am 33. Girlfriend/Boyfriend – Blackstreet featuring Janet Jackson Universal (MCA)
32. Enjoy Yourself – A+ Universal (MCA)
31. Smile & Shine – Pandora Universal (MCA)
30. Lullaby – Shawn Mullins Sony
29. Stand By Me – 4 The Cause BMG
28. Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry Polydor
25. Livin’ La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin Sony
24. You Don’t Know Me – Armand Van Helden Polydor
5:30am 23. Tearin’ Up My Heart – N’Sync BMG
22. Have You Ever? – Brandy Warner
21. Angel Of Mine – Monica BMG
20. How Deep Is Your Love – Dru Hill Mercury
19. This Kiss – Faith Hill Warner
18. Protect Your Mind – DJ Sakin && Friends Central Station
17. Every Morning – Sugar Ray Warner
16. Thank Abba For The Music – Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched & Billie Sony
6:00am 15. Anthem For The Year 2000 – silverchair Murmur
13. You Get What You Give – New Radicals Universal (MCA)
12. No Matter What – Boyzone Polydor
11. Strong Enough – Cher Warner
10. Honey To The Bee – Billie Virgin
9. Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz Virgin
8. Until The Time Is Through – Five BMG
6:30am 7. Touch It – Monifah Universal (MCA)
6. That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain Mercury
5. The Animal Song – Savage Garden Roadshow
4. Baby One More Time – Britney Spears Mushroom
3. Why Don’t You Get A Job? – The Offspring Sony
2. We Like To Party – Vengaboys Central Station
1. No Scrubs – TLC BMG

 

Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison

 

Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison programmed Rage 18 years later, as The Go-Betweens Right Here  documentary launched in Sydney, in the wake of Robert Forster’s autobiography, Grant and I (Penguin).

 

Thanks to Samuel Tsige for uploading this on YouTube.

The Song List

Details on Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison’s song list, from 8th July 2017 can be found at the Rage website.  This is a small selection, along with the music mentioned in the clip.

THE KNIFE – Heartbeats
MONTAIGNE – I’m A Fantastic Wreck
TINA ARENA – Chains
DOLLY PARTON – 9 to 5
TALKING HEADS – And She Was
BEYONCE – Formation