Robert Forster – Grant & I: Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens (Literature Review)

Released late last year, Robert Forster’s Grant & I: Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens is a unique take on a band memoir, offering an insight to the endurance of friendship through the ups and downs of trying to succeed in the music industry.

The Go-Betweens are something of an enigma in terms of the traditional Australian music industry. Born in inner-city Brisbane by two guys trying to make something of themselves, they dreamed of conquering the world through song.

grant & i

Buy your copy of “Grant & I” at Book Depository.

While they were often subject to what could be referred to as industry red tape, constantly shuffled from one label to the next both nationally and internationally, the group is perhaps most well-remembered for the song writing partnership that was Robert Forster and his band-mate Grant McLennan, which spawned notable tracks such as Streets of Your Town, I Need Two Heads, Lee Remick and Cattle and Cane. It is for this reason that the group continues to have such a legacy in the Australian music industry.

The Go-Betweens were a unique band, with a strong focus on song writing and indie rock that was both ahead  and behind the times of a scene more focused on heavy punk sounds. While The Go-Betweens did ultimately dream of making it big, what mattered most to them was the purity of the music they created, despite often getting caught up in record label politics.

From the very beginning of the book, you can hear the way Forster admired his longstanding bandmate, and longs for his friend’s presence after his death in 2006. He’s honest about the band’s (as well as his own) short comings.  When describing the band’s success (and even their letdowns), Forster is humble and dedicated to his focus of telling the story as it was, rather than how he wanted it to be, which makes a nice change from other memoirs of its kind. Given the impact of Forster and McLennan’s unique take on song writing, it’s not surprising that Grant & I is, at times, poetic in nature, and that is what makes it so captivating.

Though I was aware of some of The Go-Betweens hits, it wasn’t until I read Grant & I that I discovered the influence they have had on Australian music as a whole, either with number one songs or simply those rare tracks full of potential. Whether you’re a fan of the band, or just a lover of music history, this is one book you can’t go past.

Grant & I: Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens by Robert Forster is published by Penguin Random House Australia. He is also the author of The Ten Rules of Rock and Roll and lent his talents to The Monthly, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald [click here to find out more].

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