I’m fairly sure I was aware of The Go-Betweens before I landed at Uni in 1984. Aware of their existence, that is. I was reading enough of the music press to be aware of many bands from whom I’d heard no output – indeed in some cases, I probably still haven’t. But as I recall it, the press coverage around The Go-Betweens had always been fairly positive.
Therefore, I was rather delighted one day when browsing the Uni radio station record library, looking for something that I’d decided to play, when I stumbled across The Go-Betweens’ debut album, Send Me A Lullaby. Not that I realised at that point that it was their debut. I found some spare studio time to give it a listen at some point and quite enjoyed it, but no more than that. Nevertheless, it was good to see an album from a couple of years earlier released on Rough Trade in the collection, as there were still plenty of prog-rock loving Engineering students around, and the record library reflected this.
My next recollection of hearing The Go-Betweens was when I Just Get Caught Out appeared on an EP that came free with Sounds (research tells me this was on 28th February 1987). According to the sleeve notes, this had been specially recorded for the EP. This was the second track on the B-side of said EP, following offerings from The Cult, The Fall and The Adult Net (who may also feature in this series at some point). For a free EP, it was one of the better ones I’d acquired in this manner, but it was track B2 that I kept going back to for another listen.
That version of I Just Get Caught Out was not the version that ended up on their next album, Tallulah, which is a shame as I prefer it. But that album and follow-up, 16 Lovers Lane, cemented The Go-Betweens as the sort of band I’d enthuse about to other people – usually to complete indifference. I re-listened to Send Me A Lullaby and got a lot more from it this time, and I investigated the albums in between that I’d missed.
And then they only went and split. How dare they? I’d only just got into them. I felt royally cheated.
So that is why, upon learning of a debut solo release from Grant McLennan around 18 months later, I rushed out to purchase the album, without having heard anything from it. I can’t fully recall what the 25 year-old TGG was expecting from the album – I imagine it would have been something that picked up where The Go-Betweens left off. Listening to it now, it doesn’t exactly do that, and I guess that’s what I thought back then as well. The difference is that now I can appreciate the album on its own merits, but in 1991, in the context of the relatively recent demise of The Go-Betweens, I’m not entirely sure I would have been capable of doing that.
It’s certainly one that following the initial flurry of plays after buying it, didn’t trouble the cassette player of the Fiat Uno I had at the time. That, I think is the reason that I was keen to revisit this so early in this series. Basically, I don’t think I was mature enough to appreciate an album like this at that time.
The one song I did remember from the album without any prompting was “Haven’t I Been A Fool”, the first single taken from it, I now learn. I was however a little surprised that my memory had failed me, as I thought it was the lead track, but it isn’t – it’s the second track on side 1. This is one that I had added to a couple of playlists on Spotify as for whatever reason, it has stayed in my head despite not playing it for a number of years. The first track is actually Word Gets Around, which is a decent way to kick things off.
Listening through the album, the track Black Mule had me singing along to it well before the end, dredged from somewhere in the back of my brain – did I actually play this album more than I’d realised? Listening now, the standout track is Easy Come, Easy Go, which bizarrely, I had absolutely no recollection of whatsoever. This was also apparently a single. Once I’d played the album in its entirety, I went back and picked out favourite tracks for a further listen – all of the above plus Sally’s Revolution and Putting The Wheels Back On (which has surprisingly few plays on the aforementioned streaming service).
Overall then I was pleased to have revisited Watershed. It was never going to be a replacement for a new Go-Betweens album back in 1991 and if I did expect that perhaps it was me being the fool, but there is enough of their sound there (not really a shock), whilst to me, it does go somewhere slightly different.
What I didn’t do was purchase any further Grant McLennan solo albums – they have now joined the lengthy Things I Need To Listen To list (which exists only in my head – were I to write it down, I fear it would be a never-ending task). I was however fully on board for the Go-Betweens reunion in 2000, until Grant’s untimely death in 2006.
And what of Robert Forster? Somehow his pre-millennium solo output had avoided my radar until I started fact-checking this article. Guess what’s also now on that very long list.
There wasn’t meant to be such a long gap between the Taking Stock post and this one. Life.
I notice the colour on my photo isn’t the best – that’s down to me taking a shot in poor light rather than having left the cassette exposed to bright sunlight for a number of years!
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