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Thursday 10 August 2023

Ten Leaves On A River Bank

One of the books I read on holiday was Tracey Thorn's My Rock 'n' Roll Friend, an account of Tracey's friendship with Lindy Morrison. Tracey first met Lindy backstage at a gig. Lindy marched into Everything But The Girl's dressing room looking for lipstick- Tracey describe's Lindy's entrance, Lindy depicted as a force of nature. She goes on to describe and dissect her thirty seven year friendship with Lindy and her part in story of The Go- Betweens. As the book goes on Tracy seethes with righteous anger about Lindy's role and position in the Australian band, how Lindy has been written out of the group's history- by journalists and when they reformed in 2000 by Robert Forster and Grant McLennan (a group she joined in 1980 and was an essential part of as a three piece and then five piece). Tracy articulates the way the music press played down Lindy's role, how it was often portrayed as being all about the two men, the songwriting partnership. Lindy was a key part in the band, not least visually- a tall, blonde, unconventional drummer playing behind two bookish men. 

The Go- Betweens moved to London, finding it a miserable, unfriendly, cold and wet place. They lived with Nick Cave and The Birthday Party- no one worked except Lindy, the men all falling into a life of being artists sitting around taking drugs and waiting for songwriting inspiration to strike. Lindy and Robert are in a relationship which implodes (and so does the band, the two men ending it in spectacularly sexist fashion, Robert sacking Lindy as simultaneously Grant sacked his girlfriend Amanda Brown- and was then surprised when Amanda left him). As I read the book I cringed slightly, wondering if I'd fallen into the same (male) trap when writing about The Go- Betweens. 

It's also a book about friendship and affection, the nature of female friendships especially, about connections and the passage of time, about the wild, frank and outgoing Lindy and the reserved and more cautious Tracey and what attracted them to each other. Lindy is the member of The Go- Betweens who is the most rock 'n' roll but as a woman she's criticised for her behaviour. She came from a feminist punk background and music journalists are terrified of her and describe her in ways they never would men. There is much food for thought within its pages. 

It's a book which requires little or no knowledge of anyone's bands either, of The Go- Betweens or Everything But The Girl, although it sits very well with having read Tracey's Bedsit Disco Queen and Robert Forster's Grant and I (Forster's book and its title alone support much of what Tracy is saying, Lindy once again written out of the story). Tracey writes really well, is incisive, self- aware and analytical. She is fairly fearless too in addressing aspects of relationships, her own as well as Lindy's. 

This song is on the 1984 album Spring Hill Fair, recorded in France. Producer John Brand used programmed drums on many of the songs and trying to get her to play to a click track which led to conflict with Lindy, conflict she didn't back away from. 

Draining The Pool For You

The second book I read was a novel, Benjamin Myers' The Perfect Golden Circle. It is the best novel I've read in years, an atmospheric, fully realised story of two men in the summer of 1989. One is Calvert, a traumatised Falklands veteran. The other is Redbone, a cider- punk veteran of free parties at Stonehenge and the Battle of the Beanfield living in a van. Their friendship is the core of the novel. In 1989 they are in their third summer of creating corn circles and through the long, hot summer of 89 they plan and carry off increasingly bold and intricate designs in farmer's fields in the south of England. Myers goes off into various places as the book unfolds, returning to the two men and the almost mystical aspects of their crop circles. It's a gentle and insightful book, beautifully written, poetic in parts and with characters that stick in the mind when the book is put down. 

In 1990 Led Zeppelin released a compilation box set with crop circles on the cover. I shared a house with someone who bought it and the front cover was eye catching even if I didn't care much for the music. On the whole I can live without Led Zeppelin- I like some of the first album and the folky, mystical songs on the third are good- but its a type of music that doesn't do a massive amount for me. Priapic cock rock- I can imagine Tracey and Lindy discussing it in those kinds of terms. I have a fondness for Kashmir though, ridiculous as it is. Maybe its the ridiculousness that appeals. 


Crop circles are probably better connected with The KLF. I'm sure Redbone in The Perfect Golden Circle would be a KLF fan. Kylie Said To Jason came out in July 1989, at the height of crop circle mania

Kylie Said To Jason (Full Length Version)


Anonymous said...

Great piece. Traceys books are brilliant aren't they?
Tomorrow on NBR is all about Tracey Thorn.
Plus on Sunday, Apollo 440 tell us why Kashmir would be the best soft rock record to be given a dance makeover. Swc.

Swiss Adam said...

A week of ongoing blogging coincidences. Almost a multi-verse, or something.