May 8th, 2006
|09:20 am - Grant McLennan|
On Saturday 6th May, legendary Australian singer songwriter Grant W McLennan died in his sleep at his home in Brisbane.
McLennan was one of Australia’s greatest songwriters who created an outstanding musical legacy as a founder member of The Go-Betweens and as a solo artist. He was enjoying enormous acclaim for the band’s most recent album Oceans Apart, which has received five star reviews around the world and won a prestigious ARIA award.
McLennan was born in Rockhampton, Queensland on 12th February 1958. While attending university in Brisbane he met fellow student Robert Forster and together they formed The Go-Betweens. After releasing a string of singles the band recorded their debut album, Send Me A Lullaby, in 1981. The Go-Betweens recorded a series of exceptional albums that achieved widespread critical acclaim and were fundamental in bringing Australian music to a global audience. He was an unparalleled lyricist and a prolific and meticulous composer. His auto-biographical masterpiece ‘Cattle and Cane’ was recently voted by the Australian Performing Rights Association as one of the ten greatest Australian songs of all time.
In 1989 The Go-Betweens took a ten year sabbatical and McLennan recorded four powerful solo albums including the vivacious debut Watershed and the epic Horsebreaker Star as well as forming satellite groups like Jack Frost with Steve Kilbey of The Church and The Far Out Corporation with Ian Haug of Powderfinger.
When Robert Forster and Grant McLennan reformed The Go-Betweens in 2000, the band was greeted with adulation by a new generation of musicians like Belle and Sebastian, for whom their songs had been an inspirational teenage soundtrack. The three albums the band subsequently released were universally acknowledged as containing some of McLennan’s greatest compositions.
McLennan was a passionate supporter of the arts, extremely well-read and maintained a keen interest in all contemporary music, cinema and visual art. He was an exceptionally charming and polite man who endeared himself to everyone who met him and was one of the rare individuals worthy of the epithet ‘larger than life’.
His singular contribution to music and his commitment to his craft simply cannot be overstated. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him. He is survived by his mother, sister, brother, girlfriend Emma, bandmates Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson and lifetime musical colleague and friend Robert Forster.
Bernard MacMahon, Lo-Max Records, 6th May 2006"
Grant McLennan was a modest yet profound musician who will be sorely missed. I first saw the Go-Betweens perform at the first ever Livid Festival in 1988 on a stormy Brisbane afternoon at the Uni of Queensland grounds. Where Robbie Forster was the extravagant and outrageously ostentatious front man lapping up the applause, Grant tended to be the quiet achiever, maybe even looking quite embarrassed or uncomfortable with the accolade. I saw them again a few months later, playing at the student bar at Griffith Uni on their 16 Lovers Lane tour. Again, a drunken night filled with the awesome sounds of the Go-Bs. I was sold as a fan and subsequently devastated when Grant and Robert dissolved the band. During the next 10 years or so, I managed to see both perform as solo artists and in various incarnations. One of the memorable Grant gigs was a few days after Morrissey cruised through town. The stage was decorated with flowers and Grant quipped that Morrissey fans must have been in attendance and then proceeded into a most memorable night playing sounds off his Watershed album. Both Grant and Robert moved back to Brisbane in the years post-Bjelke-Petersen when Brisbane bloomed in the bright sunshine after the years of stormy ultra-conservatism. I remembered bumping into Robert at a primary school fete and ended up looking through second hand records with him. Then the day came when Grant and Robert finally had a show together. It wasn't billed as a Go-Bs show but instead was headlined as Robert Forster and Grant McLennan (of The Go-Betweens). It was a very cool evening at the Tivoli Theathre. Robert was resplendent in a canary yellow suit. Grant was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and by now trademark cap covering his thinning hair. The audience was stacked with Go-Between fans hoping and praying for a glimpse of their former glory. And the boys didn't disappoint. And again, after every song Robert strode forward to receive the rapturous applause in his extravagant way, with Grant stepping backwards and enjoyed watching Robert lapping up the glory. I remember reading in some long forgotten magazine that Grant was integral in naming their albums and quipped that the reason a double-ell appeared in the majority of the titles was a suspicion that because Thriller was such a huge album for Michael Jackson, that they hoped for the same sort of fame (and if you're not familiar with the Go-B's early albums, here they are: Send me a Lullaby, Libery Belle and the Black Diamond Express, Tallulah, Spring Hill Fair). The dynamism between Forster and McLennan was reflected in their compositions; Grant's songs tended toward introspection and self-discovery (Dusty in Here, Cattle and Cane, Bye Bye Pride) while Robert's were extravagant and borderline whimsical (ie. Lee Remick, Draining the Pool for You). The last time I saw the Go-Bs was at the Perth Festival in early 2003. I was horribly lonely and homesick for Queensland and went along and watched the Go-B's by myself. Sitting there drinking a beer listening to the reformed Go-B's was a melancholic affair and I teared up when they played Cattle and Cane, a song which is quintessentially North Queensland and one which you can't fully appreciate until you lived surround by "fields of cattle and fields of cane". It was one of my favorite traveling tunes when I did field work during my time residing in NQ and although I knew the song well before leaving Brisbane, it was driving the roads of NQ where it really struck home (so far from home). Every so often a pairing of musicians results in a truly unique song writing duo. Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Morrissey and Marr, and Forster and McLennan. The music world and the Brisbane scene has lost one of it's favorite and at some times underrated sons. RIP Grant, my rock and roll friend...
Current Mood: sad
Current Music: Anything by the Go-Betweens