The West

Quiet Heart still beats for icons
The Go Betweens. Picture: Supplied.

"We had 10 of the most incredibly creative and intense years together," Lindy Morrison says of her time drumming for iconic Brisbane band, the Go-Betweens, alongside singer-songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. "Those boys were songwriting geniuses and I was so lucky to play with them."

The memory of the Go-Betweens remains cherished even 23 years after they split. Formed at the University of Queensland in 1977 by Forster and McLennan (joined three years later by Morrison), their songs like Streets of Your Town, Cattle and Cane, Bachelor Kisses and Right Now are part of our national pop identity and were fundamental in bringing Australian music to a global audience.

Bypassing the traditional Australian pub circuit the band broke through, critically and commercially, in Britain, Europe and the US. In England, the NME called them "a real pop group...haunted by ghosts of long-lost lovers, musty attic rooms and Cash and Dylan on Nashville Skyline". Bands like Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian referenced them in songs.

Here in Australia the one thing that eluded them for the 12 years they were together was commercial success. The six albums they issued in the 80s only clocked-up a total of two weeks on the charts between them.

The break-up of the band's classic line-up in December 1989 was a combination of burn-out and the disappointing sales of their sixth album, 16 Lovers Lane. The split was so sudden and acrimonious that many of the members didn't speak to one another for 20 years. "We were just torn apart," Morrison admits.

Forster and McLennan stayed friends and occasionally toured together as each pursued their own solo careers, releasing a string of elegantly crafted albums, including Forster's Danger in the Past and McLennan’s Watershed and Fireboy.

In a strange reversal of fortunes, no sooner had the Go-Betweens called it a day than their fan base continued to grow steadily, largely due to word of mouth. It wasn't until 2000 — after 11 years apart — that the two songwriters agreed to re-form under the Go-Betweens' name and record a new album, The Friends of Rachel Worth. New members Adele Pickvance on bass and Glenn Thompson on drums were drafted in to record Bright Yellow, Bright Orange (2003) and Oceans Apart, that won their first ARIA in 2005 for best adult contemporary album.

Tragedy struck when McLennan died of a heart attack at his Brisbane home in May, 2006. He was only 48.

"Where we finally got over the break-up and the bonds started to heal was last year at the opening of a bridge in Brisbane, called the Go Between Bridge, that the city named after the band," Morrison says. "I had the most wonderful time that day seeing Robert Forster, Amanda (Brown, violin, guitar and backing vocals) and Robert Vickers, who flew in from New York."

The musical legacy of Forster and McLennan refuses to fade. To commemorate those heady years when the band released six brilliant albums in a row, record company EMI — who bought the band’s entire back catalogue in 2006 — today release Quiet Heart: The Best of the Go-Betweens.

The 18-track compilation, which features a photo of the four-lane Go Between Bridge on the back cover, was compiled by the surviving band members.

It's the first retrospective album to span the Go-Betweens entire working life and includes tracks from the three albums recorded after 2000.

"It was really very arduous making decisions about the tracks to be included on the record," Morrison says. "There are a lot of songs I wish were on but aren't on. There were too many good songs that didn't make the cut. Everyone had different opinions and we missed Grant's input, but working together on the album felt like we were a gang again."

Coupled with the album is a bonus live disc, Vienna Burns, that captures the classic line-up on stage in 1987. "The best tracks are on there," Morrison insists. "Things like Part Company, The Clark Sisters, The House Jack Kerouac Built."

'''Quiet Heart: The Best of the Go-Betweens is released today.

The West Australian

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