Ashley Crawford Juke, 1982
How to produce a fashionable record Lesson 1: The Go-Betweens, Queensland's sole addition to Australia's trend-stricken fringe style of music, have managed to incorporate every possible element of the fringe elite for their new album, Send Me A Lullaby.
First of all you ensure that you have Tony Cohen engineering it in Melbourne's Richmond Studios. It was here, with Cohen that The Birthday Party produced Prayers On Fire, The Models produced Cut Lunch and the Ears produced their brilliant Scarecrow single.
Next it just so happens that the latest recruit to the Models, James Freud, happens to be at Richmond to throw in a touch of saxophone. Freud, it seems, has refound his cool status since rebuking Gary Numan and joining Models.
To top that, we have Ms Jenny Watson core of Melbourne's tight arty clique to do the front cover (it was she who produced the marvellous portraits of The Boys Next Door). To polish it all off we release the said album on the label with the utmost credibility: Missing Link.
The music? Well, that stands up brilliantly in such company.
"We hired a marketing company," claims Grant McLennan, the band's bassist and vocalist .
They obviously don't like the reference to the conglomeration being 'trendy'. Lindy Morrison says that the band had known Tony Cohen for some time, "James Freud was hanging around with Tony Cohen and Jenny Watson has been a friend of mine for some time." she says.
"She took some Polaroids of us and did the paintings over the period of about a month," says Robert Forster the guitarist/vocalist, "I saw the one she did of Nick (Cave) and that was completely different, it's only vaguely the same sort of style, but it doesn't have the same sort of obvious grid fashion that he did with us "
Robert describes the gridding as dividing the colours and shapes into pellets, abstracting the images.
"It was good that Jenny did the cover because it was part of the thing about living in Brisbane," says Grant. "We recorded the album while we were living up there and it was important that we had the cover done by someone who just lived down the road when all the managerial and business side went on down in Melbourne. It was just good that someone in Brisbane was contributing to the album as well as us," he said.
Robert says that any affiliation with Brisbane musically has died, since the band made their recent move to Melbourne. "It's still the home-town," he says, "but that's about all."
Lindy stresses that starting in Brisbane made the Go-Betweens career that much more difficult.
"Because of the political situation, the city is incredibly conservative and a conservative city does not want a sub-culture that is fairly active.
"There is nothing, I don't think 4ZZZ are interested," she says when I quote Brisbane's 'equivalent' to RRR and JJJ. The only other glimmer of hope I had seen in my last visit to Brisbane was the National Hotel where police watched bands like Midnight Oil and The Birthday Party.
"The only thing the National has done is bring up southern bands," says Lindy.
The Go-Betweens have established a reputation for being one of Australia's 'left of centre' bands along with such cohorts as The Laughing Clowns and The Birthday Party.
"I like those bands very much," says Robert, "I think both of them are world standard, they really are world class. Our association with the Birthday Party came through Missing Link and the Clowns through Clinton Walker. It was also good that the Clowns were Sydney, the Birthday Party were Melbourne and we were from Brisbane that was just a sort of wonderful coincidence."
The band considers Australia the site of an extremely healthy artistic sub-culture, from the cassette magazine concept of Fast Forward to the often bizarre fashion designs of Clarence Chai.
"It's a really good thing," says Grant, "Normally in Australia rock'n'roll has just been the domain of the pub band, so it's natural that when a new group of bands start up that they gravitate towards one another and you can see in places like New York and London, painters and hairdressers and book-sellers do come to rock gigs. That has never been the case in Australia. But now, particularly in Melbourne, that is the case, "and it's really good because they feed off each other. It doesn't make rock'n'roll such an isolated little enterprise."
Grant admits that there is little actual crossover in the average realm of the pub bands.
"I still think that it's important that the bands in the in the left of centre category should make a definite attempt to get into the charts," says Robert, "Otherwise their music would just stay in that clique. It just comes down of variety of experience. If it's possible to get chart success for those groups then it's really important.
Robert admits, however, that most bands in artistic or intellectual clique have to alter their music to find commercial success.
"The most obvious example is Hunters And Collectors," he says.
"I couldn't talk about Hunters and Collectors and the kind of sub culture we're talking about in one breath," breaks in Lindy, "I see Hunters and Collectors as a pub band.''
Lindy does agree however that Hunters And Collectors are particularly outspoken about their desire to initiate social/artistic change.
"I don't know the pedigree of the band,'' says Robert, "But I know Mark came out of the Jetsonnes. I just think that they've accrued a certain amount of power and push and I hope they use it wisely," he says.
"I don't think bands have to change all that much to achieve commercial success," states Lindy with finality. "It's just a matter of having an audience get used to different sounds."
The Go-Betweens feel that the only way this can happen in Australia is to get the media to come to the party, for new music to become a feature of 3XY and Countdown. It is already starting to happen, they say, through such things as 0/28's Rock Around The World.
"It's still just a cosmetic change," says Grant.
"The media is not picking up on bands that are young enough that are left of centre," says Lindy. "They may take three or four years to pick up on a group, they need to be picking up on them the first year that they're playing together."
The only television coverage the Go-Betweens have received was on Sounds with a rapid feature of the bands on Scotland's Postcard label: Josef K, Orange Juice and the Go-Betweens.
"We're in a position where we haven't got enough money to make a film clip for our new single," says Robert, "which is a horrible situation to be in."
"You need record company push," says Grant. "We're deluding ourselves if we think Countdown and Nightmoves are there to help small bands. I think there's been some kind of pop cosmetic revolution especially in England, and I think bands like The Human League, Altered Images, Soft Cell I think that people have realised that beside them Australian Crawl and Cold Chisel are absolute crap. So people are now looking for what those groups have got because in Australia we're still intent upon aping England."
Robert says that he feels that despite the cosmetics there is very little substance behind this 'revolution'. "It reveals the power of the English press. The music press doesn't have as much power here as it does over there."
Like most bands, the Go-Betweens are not overly happy with the proceedings of their record company in this case, Missing Link.
"Our relationship with Keith (Glass) has been rather stormy of late," says Robert.
"We've been rather anxious about getting the record out," says Lindy. "It was recorded in July or last year," she says.
"The fact that the Laughing Clowns can record an album in November, send the master tape off to LA, be part of an operation that is about a third of the size of Missing Link and then have their album out a month before us " says Robert.
"Australian rock'n'roll is the lowest form of entertainment," says Grant when we discuss the qualities of outer suburban pub bands. "Just above tent shows and slightly below massage parlours.
"It's not just the band's fault," he says "It's the public, they just love black tee-shirts and thongs."
The concept of playing in art galleries however is an equally evil extreme as far as the band is concerned. "You immediately become semi-precious," says Robert. "But I do enjoy playing parties."
Musically the band has some way to go, they've soared well above the quality of the 'pub' bands they had discussed and they should start building up a healthy following with the release, finally, of their album, Send Me A Lullaby.
The Go-Betweens are now on their way to London no doubt if success finds them there as it did with the Birthday Party, they'll make the front covers of the other rock publications in no time.