Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Go-Betweens: "Bye Bye Pride"

In July and August 1990, I was working at the DHSS in Loughborough just before my last year of university. It was a very hot, dry summer, with day after day of blue skies, and all things considered, the job (as a clerical assistant) wasn't a bad one. The work was generally interesting, and I spent large parts of each day walking from one office to another, so I was out in the open air. It was also reasonably good money.

The downside, where the latter was concerned, was that the office was directly opposite The Left-Legged Pineapple, Loughborough's legendary independent record store. Inevitably I spent most of my lunchtimes, and far too much of my wages, on various albums I dug out there.

In retrospect, by far my best find was a newly-released compilation, The Go-Betweens 1978-1990. Beforehand, I'd heard of the Aussie band, and heard and enjoyed a few tracks by them, but didn't know nearly enough. They were critical darlings (NME was fond of calling Grant McLennan and Robert Forster the Australian Lennon and McCartney), but that was pretty much all I knew.

So I bought a tape copy of the album (because it had a few more tracks than the CD), and played it to death all that summer. Perhaps it helped that the very un-British weather made their songs all the more evocative of the steamy, Queensland coast*, but mainly it was down to the fact that here were compact, often ridiculously catchy pop songs with literate lyrics. About a year later, the tape snapped, so I replaced it (by then I'd also started to buy my way through their back catalogue in secondhand record shops), and when that copy also wore out, a few years later, I bought the CD.

On the way to Australia the other week, the iPod's shuffle function threw up the track above - Bye Bye Pride, probably my favourite of theirs. Apart from not being able to believe that it's 20 years since that summer (my other main memory of it is watching a teenaged Sachin Tendulkar make a brilliant 100 against England - he's not aged badly), it reminded me that McLennan's no longer with us, sadly. He and Forster did belatedly get a little of the recognition they deserved, but never enough. Anyway, enjoy possibly the only rock song ever built round an oboe riff, and listen to McLennan's superb lyrics.

* A similar thing happened with my other Aussie favourites, The Triffids. I first heard them blasting out at a record shop on a blisteringly hot morning that perfectly fitted the setting for all their best songs. I sometimes wonder if I'd have been as instantly grabbed by them on a foggy morning in November.

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