For­ever groovy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

Kriv Sten­ders is a busy man. The writer-di­rec­tor-pro­ducer best known for the Red Dog ad­ven­tures has two films show­ing as we speak, the ur­ban drama Aus­tralia Day, which David Strat­ton re­viewed last week, and the one I am re­view­ing today, the rock ’n’ roll doc­u­men­tary The Go-Be­tweens: Right Here.

Some peo­ple thrive on be­ing busy and on the present ev­i­dence Sten­ders is one of them. This doc­u­men­tary, an el­e­gant, poignant take on the in­de­pen­dent Bris­bane band that never had a Top 40 hit but which is loved by lots of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly from gen­er­a­tion X, is one of the best mu­sic movies I have seen.

This is good news for an­other rea­son: it raises hopes that Sten­ders will pull off the al­most im­pos­si­ble when his minis­eries re­make of one of the great­est Aus­tralian films, Wake in Fright, starts on the Ten Net­work on Oc­to­ber 8.

The Go-Be­tweens: Right Here starts with the sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the orig­i­nal two-man band, the ur­bane, hand­some Robert Forster. As the liv­ing one, he guides us through the pow­er­ful, painful ups and downs of the band from its loose in­cep­tion at the Univer­sity of Queens­land in 1975, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was premier, to its fre­quent at­tempts to break into the Bri­tish mar­ket, to its late suc­cess back home.

It grad­u­ally be­comes clear, how­ever, that the re­mark­able, tragic cen­tre of this story is the one who can’t speak for him­self any longer, Grant McLen­nan, a “boy won­der”, an in­tro­vert, a drinker and drug user who died in 2006 aged 48. Forster has writ­ten about their chaotic life to­gether in his fine mem­oir Grant and I.

“You can’t imag­ine how far ahead of ev­ery­one else he was,’’ Forster says. “I hadn’t met any­one like him, not even close.”

While the Go-Be­tweens started as a duo, the band grew to four mem­bers and for a while five. All of them are in­ter­viewed, in­clud­ing the two women, drum­mer Lindy Mor­ri­son and vi­o­lin­ist Amanda Brown, who fell in love with Forster and McLen­nan re­spec­tively, and who were hurt and an­gry with their ex­clu­sion from the event- ual de­ci­sion to break up the band. “We re­ject be­ing de­fined as ‘girl­friends’,’’ Brown says.

Rock writer Clin­ton Walker, one of the fun­ni­est peo­ple in­ter­viewed, puts the case for the com­po­si­tion of the band with la­conic hu­mour. Aus­tralian rock was “all beef­cake” at the time, led by the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Mid­night Oil and the An­gels. Forster and McLen­nan “were two guys with acous­tic gui­tars, daggy shirts, daggy hair’’. They looked like “such poofters ... Of course they had to have a girl in the band!’’

A lot of now-fa­mous Aus­tralian mu­si­cians are in­ter­viewed, their thoughts mixed with file footage from gigs in the late 1970s and 80s. The clips from a night in Bris­bane in­volv­ing the GoBetweens, Ed Kuep­per and the Laugh­ing Clowns and the Nick Cave-led the Birth­day Party are a riot. Cave’s col­lab­o­ra­tor Mick Har­vey tells a droll story about the day Nick picked up McLel­lan’s gui­tar and couldn’t make it work.

Paul Kelly tells a mov­ing story about the first time he heard Cat­tle and Cane, one of the band’s great songs. He was driv­ing and “I had to pull over’’. He de­scribes the Go-Be­tweens as mak­ing a sort of pop that was “a beau­ti­ful, mu­tant thing, which is longer last­ing in the end”. Dave Graney pops up, with dry wit as al­ways, as does Lloyd Cole.

Away from the foot­lights, fam­ily mem­bers are in­ter­viewed too. McLen­nan’s sis­ter Sally is can­did and mov­ing. She lost not just a brother but the per­son who bound to­gether the fam­ily.

There are clips, too, from ra­dio and TV in­ter­views, in­clud­ing from land­mark ABC mu­sic show Count­down, and it is here we see and hear McLen­nan. “We’re not a trendy band,’’ he says, “we’re a groovy band, and I like that.” Groovy did not re­sult in hit records, and while the var­i­ous mem­bers had dif­fer­ent views on this, it does seem the con­sen­sus was that it didn’t mat­ter.

The best films open other doors. As last week’s I Am Not Your Ne­gro took me to the li­brary so I could read more of James Bald­win, this beau­ti­fully shot, thought­ful doc­u­men­tary has sent me to the mu­si­cal equiv­a­lent to lis­ten to the Go-Be­tweens and their con­tem­po­raries.

The Go-Be­tweens, from left: Amanda Brown, Grant McLen­nan, Lindy Mor­ri­son, Robert Vick­ers and Robert Forster

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.